The Strong Ones

November 2015 / Deadlift 345 lbs

I started this entry out as a quick-ish synopsis of my experience with weightlifting and how its lessons translated into so many other areas of my life. It really got me thinking, though, and that is a dangerous thing. This is when we find ourselves in “short story long” territory. My husband has always been patient in my story telling, but he will also encourage me to “make the point” when I stray off course. In the case of “the strong ones,” there was simply too much to keep it readable for one post but over the past couple of days I have realized this was the direction I have been headed all along.

A few years ago I asked a group of ten people who, at the time I felt knew me well, to describe me in one word. Eight of them said “strong.” That came about during a time when I was feeling everything but strong. Here’s an excerpt of something I wrote then: 

I cried. Every time I saw that word, I felt like a fraud… and yes, we are strong, but we are also human and in the moments that I read that same word over and over again all I could think was how tired I was of being strong... We all have to go through some tough times, make hard decisions, and experience a little heartache in our lives. Those lessons are the ones that teach us the most about who we really are & can be. I don’t think that process has an end in sight for me, but I’m learning to respect it, enjoy it, and believe in the promises it brings. Recognizing when you’ve had enough is one (thing) I’m not so good at – you know, because I’m strong.

I’m chuckling at the girl who wrote that. True, she had had enough but there has been so much more since, it makes me curious… how do we continue on when life gets hard? Well, the answer is we find the strength. And that has me down a deep dark rabbit hole of wondering over the meanings and types of strength. What are some specific scenarios where I felt strong? The answers surprised me because they ranged from a high school weight room to a delivery room, then to a flooded basement or a NICU, the end of a year-long deployment (and then another), even further on to a 345 lb deadlift, to walking away from a toxic environment, to helping my friend bury her dog, and to burying friends, marrying friends, moving… and moving… and moving… All of these examples made me realize that strength isn’t just as defined: “1. the quality or state of being physically strong or 2. the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.” There has to be more to it! So we have come to the ‘short story long’ version of “The Strong Ones…”

This year has been what I have termed my “snow globe year.” My whole world got turned upside down and then shaken vigorously. The beauty in that level of “falling apart” is that in the righting and settling of the world, everything changes. Nothing will ever look the same, feel the same, BE the same. Once you get right side up again, you have a choice to either keep looking at the world as what you lost in the change or you can walk in the knowledge that you are STRONG enough to withstand the ‘snow globing’ of your world and not only continue on, but find purpose in the changes, gratitude in the small moments, and faith of greater days to come. The strong ones put all the burdens of life on their backs and keep moving forward.

One step at a time.

Why? Because they know that their legs aren’t strong enough to carry them by accident. They know that their eyes were designed to focus on what’s ahead of them, not what they are passing through or have left behind. They know that they have and will see worse, but their desire to keep moving forward is stronger than the load they carry. STRENGTH does not come to anyone in any form easily or by accident. In this season of life my strength has been earned with the pain of disappointment, the sting of failure, the tears of betrayal, the fear of being left behind, and the risk of losing. The strong ones know all of those things well, but they also know that what lies on the other side of disappointment, failure, and betrayal is greater…

As Maya Angelou said “…the price is high, but the reward is great.”

As I like to say, “Life is going to be hard… be strong anyway.” It’s worth it.

Strong Anyway

The first time I remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up was in the second grade. My response:  “Author.”  For a second grader, it wasn’t a very exciting choice and I cant remember why I chose that, but it stuck with me through most of elementary school.  I also wrote my first book in the second grade. I don’t remember what it was about but I bet I could dig it out of my mom’s basement.  I do remember that computers were extremely new and barely in use at school but the technology teacher helped me print my pages out and bound it for me. Gosh I was so proud of that. In fourth and fifth grade I wrote more stories, one with my friend about a girl who traveled to Hawaii to visit her dad and one in the fifth grade about a girl whose sister was killed in a car crash… kind of heavy stuff for a fifth grader.  Throughout middle and high school I kept journals and diaries, writing out my feelings, fears, tragedies, and secrets. In my senior year of high school I wrote a novel for my senior project. I still have it and recently bought a floppy disk converter so I could start reading through it.  In 2009 when my daughter was born, I used to sit up with her for hours at night – she required absolute silence to sleep and would do so only if I was holding her. I wrote a book in my head that I have written over and over for ten years – it’s a trilogy by now – but I’ve never written it down. 

All of my life, for as long as I can remember, I have loved to read stories, write stories, and have written about my own life and experiences. I have no idea why I didn’t pursue that passion as a college student and often wonder what I might be doing if I had.  For most of my adult life, people have told me I should blog or write a book, but truthfully, I’ve never felt sure that anyone would read anything that I wrote. Blogging is so common and any story I can tell has probably already been told, right? I have had myself convinced that (a) nobody cares and (b) it’s already been done and (c) a lot of people wont like what you have to say – you can do without that kind of rejection in your life. The steps I’ve taken in the past year towards “putting my stuff out there” have been less like cute wobbly baby steps and more like being dragged through mud by your teeth. This year, I have found myself in great need of wisdom, guidance, understanding, affirmation, truth, purging, and peace. That describes what? 99.9% of us (if we’re honest)? 

In the past two months the last two steps towards this beginning were planted firmly in front of me:  First a friend who is a wizard at all things websites graciously said “I can help you with that.”  And then… she did.  Second, in a “Target moment” (you know, when you go to Target to buy toilet paper but then buy everything else?) I picked up Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness” because I was sick of hearing how great she was and desperate for something relevant and life altering.  The first chapter is called “Everywhere and Nowhere” (ding!) and the first line says how fearful she is every time she sits down to write (ding! ding!)  She clearly wrote anyway, despite her fears, and she’s changed so many lives for the better – because of her fear. My takeaway from the first few chapters of that book was that it doesn’t matter who reads what I write, what I say or don’t say, or what anyone thinks of it. Write it anyway.

So to Chandler, who is patient, kind, funny, REAL, and a true wizard… thank you for the push. I bet you didn’t even know you did that, but I needed it and I’m grateful. 

To Dr Brene Brown… you already know your work matters, but your chapter “Everywhere and Nowhere” changed my life. At a time in my life where I felt so desperately insignificant, inadequate, and invisible, your words made me feel seen. Thank you.  

I am a big advocate for expectation management… so here’s what you can expect from me:

I can be funny, so it won’t be somber and serious all the time. 

My husband is going to do some writing with me. HE. IS. AWESOME. I know you probably think that I’m biased but in this case I’m also right. He is. 

I have been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist for 12 years and have worked with the very young, the very old, and everyone in between. My experiences as a professional working with kids, their parents, and adults in this field have provided a wealth of teaching and learning experiences that have added so much value and countless stories to my life.

I’m kind of into fitness. The story of this journey is pretty cool.  You’ll hear from both of us on this topic!

I am a mother to two kids. Parenthood is a hot topic and one I am very passionate about. There is plenty of room to laugh, learn, and share stories here.

I am a military spouse. I sort of cringe at that label, but our lifestyle has provided so many opportunities to learn about ourselves. I promise not to be a cliché. 

I have dogs. Two. They are ridiculous. Or I am ridiculous. Yes, I’m that “dog person,” but they are wildly entertaining so you’re welcome in advance. 

I guess that’s a good start as far as introductions go?

It took me 37 years to ‘grow up’ but I’m determined to make my second grade-self proud… here we go…   lets write it anyway.

~KPAL