I am strong, some days. I am weak most days. I am fragile everyday.
A friend recently told me she couldn’t live the way I live. She just couldn’t do it. She insisted she isn’t strong like me and continued to repeat, I am just not like you. I can’t even imagine how I would survive.
Here’s the thing. When I was ten and making lists of baby names and husband names and dog names and places I wanted to live and jobs I wanted to have, I assure you, I did not include a lists of wheelchairs I would like to use. I did not include a list of ways to be so ill you’re life is a blur for an entire decade. Or lists of surgeries and IV antibiotics I would like to try. Nope. Not even on my radar.
And then it happened. I woke up in a hospital bed paralyzed from the waist down and spent the next fifteen years learning how to cope with my new body. I still learn. It’s not an education that ends with a diploma. And this coping and caring doesn’t stop at five o’clock each day and on weekends. My body is always with me, always begging for my attention, and always paralyzed.
I learned to be strong when I need to be strong. And even then, that so-called strength, is full of fear and full of tears. I used to be ashamed of the tears and try to portray a stoic confidence. But the thing is, pretending to be confident, that really isn’t confidence. The definition of confidence is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. This feeling or belief part of the definition is the true essence of confidence. Before I could show up and look strong, I had to feel and believe I was strong. I learned my confidence doesn't simply rely on the outcome of whatever bad or good thing happened; it has to come from me. It is a muscle I learn to build.
This is why I don’t give up, even when I want to. It isn’t because I am strong or mature or some super person. It is because I feel and believe I am worthy to live a good and full life. Even just writing that sentence reduces me to tears. It took my a very long time to realize my worthiness comes from within. It took me an even longer time to feel and believe I was worthy. And it still takes time to learn this worthiness comes with tears and doubt and fear. And that’s okay. Strength and fragility aren’t mutually exclusive. They go together.
I am not cut out for this life anymore than anyone is cut out for this life. I choose to keep going and living. That’s it. I make the choice and work to move in the direction I choose. If something throws me off course. I might sit and mourn the other route for a minute, but I always get back up and try again. I do this because I learned no one is born with the confidence to overcome every hardship that happens. I do this because I learned I am worthy, just like you are worthy. None of us is stronger than the other. We are all worthy of a good and full life. We just have to believe it and feel it.