The Fallacy of “Strength”

When Adam was sick, the word came to me that he was worried for our children but not for me, because I was “strong.” I resented this a lot. Did he think my so-called strength made me immune to suffering? Did he think that because I was “strong” I wouldn’t be brought to my knees by the pain of his death? I could go on.

Today I feel it necessary to talk about this so-called strength that I exhibited, that supposedly made me immune to pain, to a need for worry, to whatever “strength” is supposed to shield one from.

I had the opportunity today to redefine what that word means, and I’d like to share that with you, dear readers.

Strength, as I see it, is not an immunity to devastation, is not a stoic reaction to bad fortune. Instead, strength is a recognition that one needs help. Strength says, I can’t do/survive this alone and please help me. Strength says I am devastated and have held out as long as possible, but now I am weak and I need you to tell me what to do.

One who supresses feelings, thinking that time will obviate them without the benefit of examination, rumination, and hard and excrutiating work to deal with them is the one who is weak. The person who is embarrassed to be consumed by devastation is the one who finds no comfort and who is weak, and weakened by circumstances. The one who is strong begs on bended knee for whatever help is available. We strengthen each other; no one gains strength by becoming isolated, by depending on the self. Strength comes from dependence.

Meandering and unguided

Here I am, at my happy place.

But parts of it aren’t happy. Adam was out of the country when he realized something unresolvable was wrong with him. I now know that’s what he knew. You may have read, here, that he asked me to pick him up at the airport, even though he’d driven himself there and, so, had his car, and insisted that we drive right to our little beach shack. We sat on the porch, although it was January, and he spoke to me as if he were someone I didn’t know.

It was Superbowl weekend, and we bought a flat-screen tv at Walmart. He was short-tempered with the clerks. Unlike him.

So I come into this place, This Place, and it is a salve and a burden. I’ve changed some things in its interior that make it solely mine. But things remain. And things go undone because he isn’t here. We were a well-tuned machine.

And so, the grass is unkempt. Decorative things fall off the walls. The porch floor is dirty. Hairy (thanks, AB; also, sandy.).

I was sifting through the pictures on my computer for a particular one, and something became obvious. I don’t just love my husband still; I am still in love with him. But I am lonely. I really don’t know what to do about this.

My hesitant and truncated experience tells me that if I spend time with a man, even at this late age, he expects the outcome to be more than hanging out. I just need a break with this. I went to dinner with a friend, her husband, and their married colleague a few weeks ago. Magic! So fun! Four of us, an apparent matched set, but he had no designs and neither did I, and we had a great time! Well I did. Intellectual conversation. That was the most required of the evening. Like I said, magic.

It’s depressing.