Two weeks after I graduated from high school, my dad had a heart attack. I remember the day vividly – I remember my mom waking me up and asking me to sit with my dad while she got ready, I remember going to the hospital and sitting in the waiting room, I remember leaving to go home to get a few things and going in to see my dad, I remember that being one of the only times I can recall that he said “I love you” to me, I remember sitting in a room after his surgery with all of our friends and feeling like I was having an out of body experience, I remember the doctor telling us that he had passed away and I remember sitting outside the hospital with a couple of my friends talking about how my dad would never see me graduate from college, get married or meet my kids.
My dad was a pretty healthy guy – he had just played in a tennis tournament the weekend before, so as you can imagine, we were shocked and devastated. My mom was completely torn up and I remember as family friends would come to visit, they would tell me that I needed to be strong for my mom. Over and over at the funeral, friends gave hugs and condolences and again, told me to be strong for my mom. Didn’t they know I was only 17? I wasn’t even an adult yet. Who was going to be strong for me?
Maybe that’s where it all started…
Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to be strong. Growing up and even as an adult, I felt like it meant not showing your emotions, that even when things are really hard, you stuff your feelings down and just keeping going on like it’s a normal day. I’ve done that for years. I may get upset and cry, but most likely it’s at home by myself or alone while I’m driving in the car, but when you see me at work or at the grocery store or at my kids’ school, you see what you would expect to see – a seemingly happy, friendly person.
When problems were happening in my marriage, most people had no idea. I was strong on the outside, even if I was falling apart on the inside. There were a couple times where I slipped up and started crying at work, but I quickly pulled myself together and kept moving ahead the best that I could. Even now, three years later, I still have my days. Days when I would like to just curl into a ball and stay under the covers for a day or two and cry the tears that I’ve been holding in for months. But, I don’t have the luxury of doing that; I have two girls who need me – they need me to drive them places and make them food and help with homework and comfort them when they have a problem. Sometimes, all I want is to be the one with the problem and have someone comfort me and tell me that everything is going to be ok.
My friend and I talk about this topic a lot. We are both similar – we don’t wear our emotions on our sleeves, we listen to other people’s issues and we find ways to fix them, we don’t like to dwell in negativity. We are considered strong by others, but that also means that people don’t think we ever have a problem or have a bad day and that’s just not true. The truth is, we are both sensitive and take things to heart; we may just not talk about it openly. Thank goodness we have each other; she’s the one I call when I need to talk about a bad day and she’s the one that I can cry to when I’m frustrated or down.
The more that I think about it …. I don’t know that being strong is a strength, it’s more like a mask of your true feelings. Over the last few years, I’ve learned that it’s ok to be vulnerable with the right people and that being vulnerable is more courageous than being strong and holding your feelings in.
That’s part of the reason I started this blog; much of it is for me and to get my feelings out, but it’s also to hopefully help someone else who might be feeling the same way. I hope they can understand that their feelings are valid and it’s ok to talk about them instead of stuffing them deep down inside and that they’re being extremely brave and courageous by doing so.
You can follow Laxmi at her blog, https://onedesigirlsjourney.wordpress.com/.