by Avery Thatcher
My partner and I were getting ready to leave the Boston Pizza restaurant we just had dinner in before joining a group of people to go see the Blue Jays baseball team play at Rogers Center in Toronto. My sister was getting married in a few days, and everyone who was either family or part of the wedding party were getting together to watch the game. Just before we left the restaurant I slipped away to the washroom. There were three stalls, and so I picked one of the available ones and immediately heard someone crying in the stall beside me.
I could feel her heavy emotions through the wall and it was heartbreaking. Having ugly cried in a bathroom by myself before, I could relate to her.
So I said “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m sending you some love. I know we don’t know each other, and I know it may not be easy, but I do know you will figure out a way to get through this.”
I chose my words very carefully because: number one, I know the power of words and the importance of meaning what you say and saying what you mean. And number two: I hate being told “you’re stronger than you know.”
Let me tell you why.
My partner and I were talking in the kitchen one day while doing the dishes and I was trying to get some help with adjusting my core values words that I read every morning. I felt that my current list of three wasn’t resonating quite as well anymore, so I was asking for some input.
He suggested the word resilient because I have been through so much emotionally, physically and health-wise over the course of my 38 almost 39 years. Despite all of the struggle, he suggested the word resilient to celebrate the fact that I made it through it all and came out still able to smile.
The poor guy wasn’t ready for my response to that.
The truth is, I have a very strong dislike for the word “resilient.”
Resilience seems to be something people celebrate. Maybe that’s because, for some people, resilience is a choice. For me, I don’t see it as a choice. Resilience for me has been something dumped on me multiple times throughout my life leaving me no choice but to figure out how to carry this new struggle and move forward despite it.
Tree’s don’t choose to be resilient to the wind – they have to bend in order to not break.
Desert plants don’t choose to be resilient to drought – they figure out a way to make due with less water because they have to.
I don’t see resilience as a flag to wave above my head proudly.
I see it as a battle scar for a war not yet over.
I know that might sound melodramatic, and maybe it is. But sometimes I feel like a fighter waking up to a battle they thought was won, but still continues on. So I get up, put on my armor and fight another day.
With that definition of resilience, my partner understood why I had such a strong visceral reaction to his suggestion.
This ties into why I don’t like people saying “you’re stronger than you know”.
When someone says that to me I feel like saying “bitch please, I know how strong I am. I’m just freaking tired and don’t want to have to figure out how to be stronger than I already am.”
There’s a difference, and maybe you can relate to that.
This is where my yoga asana practice comes in for me. Even when I’m struggling to maintain my balance, struggling to stay grounded, or feeling limited by my lack of flexibility – I remind myself that the struggle is temporary.
Don’t get me wrong, not everything is temporary. My disability and chronic illness in all likely-hood isn’t temporary. It’s probably going to be my friend for the rest of my life. But like I talked about in the episode called “Let me hurt” it was really me resisting the illness that was causing suffering – not as much the illness and disability itself.
The struggle is temporary – and acceptance and compassion are the key to releasing it.
Of course that’s not always easy to remember when something new and heavy lands in my lap and I’m not sure how I’m going to figure out how to move forward with it. This is why I have some regular practices in the morning to help remind myself of this fact. That line I just shared, in fact, is one of a few others that I read every morning to set myself up with the right perspective for the day.
The struggle is temporary.
I like to envision the struggle as a wave. It rises up, we notice it, it gets higher and more intense, and then it subsides and comes back into the ocean. This is the fastest way to move through struggle – yet we’re programmed as humans to avoid suffering and this makes it more difficult.
When we feel that wave of discomfort or pain rise up to the point that we notice, we try to avoid it, push it back down, or ignore it. This keeps that experience trapped – unable to return to the ocean and settle again.
Yes, I know it sucks to sit back in the struggle and let it feel worse for a bit.
This is where, for me, music can make a huge difference and allow me to hold space for the wave so that it can ride out. Because, like all humans, I don’t enjoy feeling like dirt and would rather avoid it.
One of those songs is called You’re Going to Be Okay by Jenn Johnson. It is just so good at meeting me where I’m at when I’m deep in the struggles and reminding myself that I’m going to figure this out.
Fair warning – it does say “you’re stronger than you know” but I just ignore that part and connect to the rest of the lyrics, haha. Just like everything in life, it’s perfectly imperfect.
Have a listen! Just be prepared with some tissues … just in case.
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