I have been surrounded by so much love and understanding in the last month. It’s truly amazing to me that I have so many people who love me, support me, rage for me, feel sad for me, and are just there for me. My tribe.
The good thing about having this type of family is that I can be feeling any emotion, but I never feel alone. I know there is always someone there who has my back and better yet, those same someones know and understand when I need time away and alone. They check in but don’t smother. They send love but don’t demand it in return. These are my people.
I’ve been getting a lot of messages from friends sending me love. Among the many amazing things they say, are: “You are so strong.” “You are the strongest person I know.” “I can’t believe how strong you are.” “Your strength amazes me.”
I like being strong. It was an intricate part of my self-identity for a long time. Strong, independent, opinionated, resourceful….etc, etc. But always “strong”. Here’s the thing. Much of my strength came from not being able to turn towards others for support. For doing things alone. Starting in my teenage years with a highly dysfunctional father and an alcoholic step-mother, until they kicked me out of home and I was living “independently” in my last year of high school. I had support of my mom, but I was resistant to her helping me. I got myself in a lot of scrapes. Then I moved to finish my degree and did my PhD and lived and worked independently. Then I met and eventually married F. In our relationship, I was emotional support for him, but he wasn’t support for me. I looked the other way in many situations and got past (or blatantly ignored) some pretty abusive behaviours. I was “strong” because I had to be. It was me dealing with things alone and not asking for the help I needed, probably suffering more than necessary because I didn’t have the support system that everyone needs and couldn’t ask for help.
Being strong is idolized. My friends mean it as a compliment. It is a compliment. I’m just not sure that my old version of being strong was a good one. I think I had to be. But also, what it created was the inability to ask for help when I needed it. Or even recognize when I needed help. I had this self-reflective epiphany months ago with O’s help. I realized I was bad at asking for what I needed in favour of filling other’s needs, because when he asked me what I needed, I would deflect with a question or trying to choose what would make him happiest. It was a huge realization of a major personality flaw. I wasn’t just strong, I was trying to be my own fortress. The thing is, I can’t do that. No one can. We need others. I have four kids to think about, and when I’m trying to manage everything on my own, it doesn’t help them. It means I’m focused inwards when I need to be there for them. So, going it alone, because I’m strong and don’t *need* help, isn’t the healthy thing to do.
The thing is, I’m in a situation now where I have a plethora of people who want to support me. They want to be there for me. They want me to ask them for help and support. This is why, when I asked S to first postpone a date and then cancel a date so I could process, she said ‘yes’ without hesitation. This is why I could ask A for what I needed in way of distraction from my emotional state, and he provided it in the most amazing way possible (Seriously, subspace for 2 hours solid and at least 8 orgasms. Amazing!) This is why I have friends checking on me and asking if they can do anything and just telling me they are thinking of me.
Vulnerability is hard for me. Asking for help and support is vulnerable, even with people we know who care. Being vulnerable has been a thing of weakness for me for so long, since F exploited my vulnerability to make my issues about him. But in this case, being “weak” is actually being so strong. The strong realize that they are not stand alone fortresses, and ask for help from the foundation that holds them up.
My tribe. My people. My support. My loves. My foundation.