I wish I had a pound for every time someone has told me I'm strong in the last few weeks. And I know I am-in the sense they mean- but sometimes it's used in a way that makes me want to ask for permission not to be strong sometimes!
"Strong" evokes an impression of rippling muscles and a stiff upper lip. And anyone who knows me knows that's not me! Definitely not the rippling muscles sadly and I'm the person who can't watch sad films or even adverts. I bubble at a sad story at the best of times. Show me an emotion and I'm in it! OK it may be true that when I was nursing, I could hold it together to provide care and support in the moment but when I got home the slightest sad story and all my withheld emotions would flow. I have cried reading out poetry and I have moved others and myself to tears speaking at events in Scottish parliament even; so I'm an old hand at emotion. More and more I'm willing to show my vulnerabilities at times and that feels like a strength rather than a weakness. In some ways my blog has helped me with that.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
― Brené Brown
I have really enjoyed a family time over Christmas and felt truly blessed and I have also had to make space for the maelstrom of emotions I'm working through. I have dreamed of breast feeding a baby from the breast I'm about to lose. I awakened with a deep sense of sadness and loss. It's a preparation for loss and I'm recognising the importance of that. It seems loss isn't always predictable, after all I haven't fed a baby for several decades but it was precious time for me as a mother. I have a date for surgery a little earlier than I had thought which has brought it into sharp focus. Seeing the reality reflected on others faces, especially my children has left me tearful. Leaving family after Christmas has been hard, I want to hug them close.
I haven't told my Mum about my new diagnosis, she won't retain the information because of her short term memory and I can spare her that pain. So saying to my Mum, "I will see you in a few weeks", when my reality is somewhat different, was tough, to say the least. There are so many emotions to unpick with that one. I have shed a good few tears this last week and I have also had a truly special time. Leaving space for sadness, leaves space too for joy.
So am I strong, yes to be sure I am, but maybe a less laden word would be resilient.
Resilient means you can withstand and recover from difficult conditions. I have learned to be better at that, it's one of the things cancer diagnoses have taught me. I don't doubt I will learn some more things along the way with this diagnosis too. I will keep you posted....