Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Posts Tagged ‘life’

A Word About Strength

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on April 14, 2017 at 10:46 am

These are two of my favourite quotes:

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and1435760421-heres to strong women

Strength. Who doesn’t love the idea of being strong?

It’s just … how do we get there?

Luckily for you I googled it.

How to get strong …

So … what do you want to know about: Strong arms? Strong abs? Strong legs? Glutes? Pecs? Biceps? Or how about hair and fingernails? Bones? Teeth and gums? Social media connections? There’s lots of info on those, too.

A quick search of “how to get strong,” yields pages and pages of ways to strengthen your physical body; tons of ways to get ripped, shredded, sexy, and toned. All interspersed with tips on how to build your social media influence, avoid hair splits and nail breakage, and how to keep your bones solid, your gums pink, and your teeth rooted inside your head.

How to get strong …

Scrolling … scrolling … scrolling …

Ah! Page six. Here’s something different: How to get strong Pokemon!

Scrolling … scrolling … scrolling …

Ooooo … Page eight, onwards – now we’re forging into new territory: Steroid alternatives, wi-fi and cell phone signals, magnets, brews from your K-cup, marijuana roots, adhesives, sperm, and eyebrows like Rihanna. You can even get strong on E-Bay!*

Hmmmm … not exactly sure that search answered my question. Not sure those results are what my two favourite quotes are talking about.

So, what is it about those quotes anyway? Why are they so appealing to me? Why do I want to be like those women? What do they have that I don’t?

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe the question isn’t “How do we get strong,” maybe the real question is, “Why do we think we aren’t?”

After my blog post last week a friend that I’ve known since college messaged me and told me she’s in the arena, too. One of her comments during our conversation was: “I thought I was way stronger than that!”

Don’t we all? Don’t we all think we are – or at least hope we are – “stronger than that?”

But stronger than what, exactly? What have we all been measuring our strength against? The condition of our abs? Rihanna’s eyebrows?

Or do we think strength is

having clout? The upper hand? The loudest voice, the wittiest comebacks, the most cutting remarks?

Or do we think it’s maintaining a packed schedule? Having our hand in as many committees, social clubs, teams, groups, opportunities as possible?

Or is it the ability to prove ourselves? To be independent, self-sufficient, not put up with any BS?

Or is it quite simply what google tells us: That if you strengthen your physical body all will be as it should be? Everything else will magically fall into place?

No matter which definition of strength we hold to, it’s no wonder we often feel we can’t measure up. It’s no wonder we think we aren’t strong. That we feel we need to be strong. Maybe it’s the tears that betray us. Or the need to take a break. Or not having an equally witty or cutting comeback. Or needing help. Or needing space. Or maybe it’s just feeling like we’re being swallowed alive by our own humanity.

Humanity. That’s the culprit! Our humanness! That’s what kicks in and gets in the way of us being strong! Our tendencies to think, feel, and respond are what trip us up. Especially those stupid feelings. Feelings make us weak. If only we didn’t have them. If only we could shut them off – then we’d be unstoppable.

But what if …

What if we were unstoppable? What if we could shut our feelings off? Would we be strong then? I’m not sure. But I am pretty sure we’d stop being human.

We don’t operate primarily on instinct, like animals do. We aren’t controlled by programming like technology is. We don’t even fall in with the hard-drawn laws of physics (and whatever other laws there are) like the rest of the universe does. We’re human and therefore we function at a very different capacity. A capacity that encompasses not only the ability to feel and think and respond, but also to develop character. Integrity. Self-control. Perseverance. Spirit. Grit. Tenacity. Confidence. Chutzpah!

(Or you may prefer to call it Inner Strength)

Aha! Something my google search on “how to get strong” didn’t find.

So how is this Inner Strength achieved? By feeling. By thinking. By enduring hardship and times of weakness. The very things we think betray us and take away our strength are what actually make us strong. Another two-sided coin, like darkness and light; another unsplittable part of our existence and growth as human beings. You can’t have light without darkness; you can’t have strength without weakness. Darkness makes the light possible; weakness makes strength possible. Strength achieved by any other means is a counterfeit. It’s hot air. It’s shallow and pompous and false. It’s self-seeking. Devoid of feeling. And it does more harm than good.

On this, Good Friday, I’m reminded of Jesus. Standing before Pilate, when accused, he said nothing. He was mocked, and remained silent. He walked the Green Mile as he walked his life: Humbly. Graciously. Assuredly. He didn’t try to prove himself. He didn’t incite violence or demand respect. He embodied Inner Strength. He taught us how to be human. How to feel deeply. He led this quiet, peaceful revolution that resulted in his death. But it was one that turned the world upside down. One that makes the darkness light. One that makes the weak strong. One that makes the dead alive.

As I write these words, I don’t feel particularly strong. Not in the popular understanding of the word, anyhow. But I live in an upside down world where the weak are strong and the dead have life. No googling required.

 

*I wonder if different countries yield different results. How many pages does it take before the focus blurs from the physical realm in other parts of the world?

Respect Your Darkness

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on April 12, 2017 at 10:23 am

When my mom was around my age, she said to me, “Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be. And the sooner we get used to that idea, the better it will be for us.”

I didn’t understand what she was talking about at the time. I guess I hadn’t been face-down in enough arenas up to that point. Either that, or I hadn’t learned what I was supposed to learn while I was there. But I think I’m learning now. Or at least I think I might be starting to figure some stuff out.

She didn’t say if we get used to the idea, life will be easier for us – she said it will be better for us.

Better.

As in (as I’m starting to figure out)

it’s better to be awake to what’s going on.

It’s better to learn about yourself.

It’s better to face things (including what you learn about yourself!)

It’s better to be realistic.

As in,

it’s better to not get everything you want; for things to not always turn out the way you want.

As in,

it’s better to know and respect your darkness.

Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be.

That’s how I’m starting to reframe my thoughts. My perspective. My worldview. My prayers.

I pray. A lot, throughout the day, conversationally. And I love the thought of people praying for me, knowing I have people in my corner. Knowing God is interested and invested in what’s going on in my life.

But

I don’t expect it will fix everything. I don’t believe it should.

Imagine if a parent, each time they were petitioned by their child(ren), gave them everything they wanted. What if that parent protected their child from every single thing, so they’d never feel pain or hurt or disappointment? What if that parent rescued their child from any consequences related to their actions or inactions?

That child’s life would be pretty darn easy, that’s what. But it would grow up to be spoiled. Self-centered. Entitled.

But what if, on the other hand, that parent gave good gifts to their child(ren), but refrained every now and then? What if that parent, instead of protecting their child from every single thing, stood by them through their times of pain or hurt or disappointment? What if, instead of rescuing them, that parent required their child to endure consequences related to their actions and inactions?

That child’s life wouldn’t be terribly easy, to be sure. But it would grow up to be grateful. Considerate. Confident.

Better.

Just like a good parent, God doesn’t make things easier for us. But better. Not by removing our trials. Not by erasing our problems. Not by paving a yellow brick road of blessings before us.

Rather, he chooses to grow us. To strengthen us. To teach us. By refraining from giving us what we want from time to time. By standing beside us through our pain and hurt and disappointment. By requiring us to endure consequences of our actions and inactions. He lets us feel what it’s like to struggle, to regret, to long for, to be empty, to be in the dark. So we can recognize the light when it comes. So we can appreciate the light when it comes.

So we can be grateful. Considerate. Confident.

So we’ll have something to remember the next time. Something to refer back to. To hold on to.

So we can earn the right to enter the arena with others. To show up and be seen.

To just be.

I think we’ve been conditioned/culturalized/trained into believing we must avoid our darkness. To run from it. Hide it. Deny it. Try to pray it away. But why? Why do we think life should be easy? Easier? More comfortable? Why don’t we simply accept hardship as … part of life? Why do we assume it’s bad? That it means there’s something wrong? Why don’t we embrace it as part of the big picture of who we are; that it’s an integral, unsplittable part of our existence and growth as human beings?

Why do we think our darkness sucks so much?

Because easier is more appealing than better.

The danger, there, being that when easier doesn’t come, despair most certainly will.

You know what I’ve loved most? Those who’ve messaged and spoken to me to let me know they’re in the arena, too. Or that they have been there. Having people you can question things with, get angry with, cry with, relate with, be silent with, be loud with, be confused with is worth more than all the beautifully-crafted inspirational memes in the universe. Having someone to lock arms and do the hard work of life with can help change perspectives and ward off being overwhelmed by despair. But sometimes reaching out to lock arms with someone is hard, too.

Not everyone will understand where you are – just like I didn’t understand my mom all those years ago. And that’s okay. What matters most is being awake to the difference between easier and better. And choosing which to pursue, wisely.

Respect your darkness. Without it there can be no light.

 

 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed.

            ~ James, from the Bible

 

 

Show Up. Be Seen.

In a peek inside my head, ruminating on April 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

I’m an internal processor. This means it usually takes me several days to process stuff like a new concept, a conversation, what’s going on in my life – pretty much anything. Whereas some people can talk through these things to figure out where they stand, I need to climb inside my own head to figure it out – taking into account everything that’s said by the external processors – before I’ll even have the words to use to express anything remotely related to the topic.

Just the other day I had a conversation with my husband that started like this: “Hey. I need to talk to you about something. I think I have the words for it now.” It was about something that happened three days before.

Now before you go and think “Wow, is she ever in tune with herself, has she ever got her shtick figured out!” let me tell you that that’s the very first time I’ve ever used those words. It’s taken lots of intentionality, self-talk, and therapy to get me to the point where I actually got myself to say that the other day. My usual routine is that by the time three days have passed and I’ve had enough time to process what I think, I start believing that whatever it was that happened is no longer a big deal because everyone else has moved on and so there’s no use in bringing it up again. So I stuff it. And try to move on, too.

Well, maybe that gig works for the external processors because they’ve already voiced what they think, but it doesn’t work for me. I might have had the time to process my thoughts, but I haven’t had the chance to verbalize them. Even internal processors need to verbalize externally at some point or the fear/stress/worry/hurt/jealousy/anger/misunderstanding/sadness/confusion… will start to eat them alive from the inside out.

A brief aside to the external processors: Please give acknowledgement, space, time, and value to the internal processors in your life. Realize they don’t operate in the same way and at the same pace you do. This does not give you the upper hand, nor does it in anyway indicate they don’t care about something as much as you do. Often they don’t say anything in the moment because they literally don’t have the words to string together. But be patient. Give them the time they need to formulate those sentences, and let them know you’re there for them when they do. And help them know their thoughts are just as valid days later as they would have been if they’d been able to verbalize them in the moment. Deeply valid, in fact, because they’ve taken the time to think things through before saying them. Know this: Internal processors are serious about their words and rarely speak off the cuff. And they will often offer perspectives on things that others don’t see.

I’ve had some time to think lately. I mean, as an internal processor I’m always thinking, but I’m talking about real, quality, silent time. And this is what I’ve been thinking about: We (I) need to be careful our life doesn’t become one giant internal process, with no external expression: Where we face difficult things and don’t let anyone know. Where we struggle in silence and try to carry on like nothing’s wrong. Where we choose to smile because telling the truth is too hard.

Maybe we don’t have the words. Maybe we’re afraid of what peoples’ reactions will be. Maybe we feel we can’t express what’s going on until we have a better handle on it or we’ll risk appearing out of control or weak. Maybe we feel like everyone else has moved on and we don’t want to be a bother and bring it up again. Or maybe we just don’t want anyone to know. Period. So we stuff it.

But if there’s one thing we can be certain about in this life, one thing that every single one of us has in common, it’s that we all will fall.

We all

will fall

It’s not a matter of if but when. And how many times.

Every. Single. One of us.

In her book, RISING STRONG, Brene Brown talks about “being in the arena” and lying flat on your face, covered in dust and sweat and tears. She talks about how you get to that place (by being brave, by risking vulnerability, by showing up and being seen when you have no control over the outcome) and she talks about being selective with whose feedback you let in while you’re there: “If you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, (too) I’m not interested in your feedback.”

In the arena

Risking vulnerability

Showing up

Being seen

Not having control of the outcome.

She also says, in the same book, We’ve all fallen, and we have the skinned knees and bruised hearts to prove it. But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show; with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt, or if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.

We so desperately want to control the outcome, don’t we? So we’ve created a culture where lives are very carefully curated in public spaces. To make people look at, not look away.

Scars are easier to talk about than they are to show.

Rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing.

But we all will fall. Every single one of us. So why do we continue to pretend that we won’t? Or that we don’t? Or that we haven’t? Why do we continue to highlight our happy side, when all that does is underscore the feeling we all have that we need to keep our scars hidden? To process alone and in silence? Do we really believe we’re the only one?

Well, I’m here to say that I’m in the arena. Getting my ass kicked.

This is my arena: My doctor has put me on a short medical leave – circumstances of the past few years in my life, both emotional and physical, have led up to this desperate need for rest; desperate need to step back and disconnect. To heal. Those who know me have seen the gradual decline, the slow creep away from “me” towards … something else. Somewhere else. Neither who nor where I want to be.

Kind hands on the shoulder, out-of-the-blue texts, concerned glances that catch my eye:

“How are you?” “You alright?”

“Eh, I’ll be okay.”

But I’m not. I’m lying face-down, dusty and sweaty and teary-eyed.

I’ve been internally processing, which is totally fine, but I’ve not been intentional (or brave) enough to risk external expression. To risk vulnerability. To show up and be seen. To work towards finding words to express what’s happening in my body internally, externally. I’ve been stuffing it. Because I want control of the outcome.

Until now.

Sure. I mean I do still want control of the outcome. And I’m not particularly sure I actually want people to see my intimate process of healing – my internal processing. But I am sure that I’m not alone. I am sure that if I risk showing up and being seen, someone will be able to relate; someone will be grateful there is another person lying face-down in the arena with them, both of us dusty and sweaty and trying to string words together to make sense of what we’re going through. And I’m also sure that level of showing up can only happen now. Not after. Not “there was this time when …”

Even internal processors need to verbalize externally at some point, most of us generally preferring to write over speaking. So I’m not suggesting I’m going to suddenly become an extrovert and share my healing scars over coffee with everyone I meet. But what I am suggesting is that I will write posts about my process. I will commit my thoughts to paper.

I won’t promise that my posts will be consistent, because I’m not the consistent type.

I won’t promise that my posts will always make complete sense, because I’m in the middle of processing.

I won’t promise that my posts will inspire you. I haven’t the energy for that.

But I will promise that when I’m here I will show up and be seen. Even though I have no control of the outcome. I’m choosing to show my scars while they’re healing so those of you who are healing, too, will know you have someone in the arena with you.

I want to Rise Strong. This time.

I want to learn how to Rise Strong for next time.

And I want to share my experiences so you, my brothers and sisters who are in the arena with me, will know you have someone by your side who will lock arms and Rise Strong with you.