Lesson # 2: We are stronger than we think
Much like the peony bush that seems more fragile than an oak tree, we are stronger than we believe we are. The peony stems grow straight up until they bear flowers, get rained on and face strong wind, then they get bent out of shape, and eventually die. Sometimes even before all the buds get a chance to bloom. Sometimes, the bush becomes riddled with disease and doesn't do too well that year. When these unfortunate events happen, it may seem that it succumb to its fate, and yet they always recover the next year, ready to do it all over again.
Such is the strength we have within us. We truly are resilient. When we don’t entertain any other option such as giving up, giving in, avoiding, or letting others (or external events) decide for us, we become aware of how strong we can really be.
It doesn’t matter what kind of loss we’ve experienced (loss of a job, relationship, financial security, health, etc.), when we decide that the only option is to keep going, we suddenly find the strength to do so. Not only that, but miraculously, we also run into people and circumstances that support our decision. This happens all the time.
Consider this: when my husband died, the social worker at the hospital asked me if there was anyone I could call. My family was in Indonesia and his was in Ohio. His best friend was in Texas. I didn’t have friends yet in Peoria since we just moved here. So I called the massage therapist I just saw a couple of days earlier, and a mother I met in a local support group for mothers with young children. They were the only two people I had met in Peoria at that time. But they knew people who knew more people, and just like that, I gained so many new friends who were ready to help. I learned quickly how to plan for a funeral. I had people helping with food, finance, childcare, emotional support, etc.
When I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s degree, helpful people appeared just in time to help me with the registration, testing, and eventually going through the courses, all the way to graduation. People helped me with the correct pronunciation of complicated psychological jargon. Friends taught me how to use a computer for school work. Others watched my daughter while I attended classes. There was a professor who allowed me to record lectures so I could take notes at home. The list goes on.
Here’s another example: when my apartment was shut down by the city back in 2006 and all the residents had to move out within seventy-two hours, the same thing happened. Helpful people appeared seemingly out of nowhere. A group of church members came to pack my belongings to make sure they were ready to go into a storage unit within hours. A good friend offered a temporary place to stay. Our vet offered to board my dogs for free. So it all worked out somehow.
There are many more examples I could tell you, but I think you get the picture. I didn’t know how I would get through all of those events, but I did. So I know for sure, I am stronger that I had thought.
Don’t get me wrong, it was not that I never got upset when unfortunate/challenging events happened, or that I never doubted myself. Oh yes, I did that a lot. In fact, I made plenty of mistakes (some were quite embarrassing!). I failed more than I care to admit. I was not perfect. I just did my best to not dwell on it too long. I did what I could, then moved on.
These days when I don’t feel strong, I purposely look back and collect evidence to helps me realize: I am strong, and, the right people and circumstances will always show up at the right time to help me do what I need to do to keep going.
So go ahead, declare that you are strong, that you can succeed, then watch what happens…