I hate when people call me strong. I know. That is so ungrateful. I know it’s about the biggest compliment I could ask for right now. But it’s also the most isolating and counterintuitive comment.
When someone tells me I am strong, I feel so very weak. Like someone almost… finally… got to see through to the real me… and then shied away at the last second. They don’t wanna see it. They want to have faith in me. They want to give me the benefit of the doubt.
I am not telling you to stop telling your grieving loved ones they are strong, and I am not faulting you for it. I think it’s unfair to ever fault you for trying. It’s more than a lot of people manage to do. Maybe just add an ackowledgement that you understand that what you percieve may not actually be the truth. That they may not be feeling capable and resilient, and that’s okay. That you recognize them. That you see them.
And I want to address it for a MUCH more important reason. This is for my fellow grievers- I don’t want you to compare your own feelings to the encouraging words you see me putting out there, or my big smile in pictures, or how you hear my bubbly voice in your head when we’re messaging. Don’t let that mask of mine cause you to feel insecure. I am right there with you- I’m simply working my hardest to cheerlead us BOTH on.
I am, after all, a professionally trained actor. Shoot, I may not have been the best up there on the stage, but I should win an oscar for the way I’ve acted my way through these past four years.
But that isn’t for you. I’m not trying to pretend I’m not hurting or to make you all think I am doing grief better than anyone else. That was all for me. I’m not pretending to be perfect, just trying to get by. Sometimes you have to grin and bear it just to make it through. You have to trick yourself into proceeding on. You have to fool even yourself that you are strong.
It’s only when someone gives me that comment… that I remember the truth.
So you know what? I’m gonna be honest with y’all. I haven’t been feeling strong. I left a party early. I declined going to a writer’s round last night. I spent more time in bed this week than out of it.
I don’t really know why, it could be that February might always be hard. In the energetic sprint of January, everything seems new, and the possibility is in the air. But then the reality hits in February- another year without her. And just a month until I turn another age at which she will never see me. Another year I will have to face new challenges and learn new lessons that I never got to ask her about.
I’m overworked from all the tasks I assigned myself last month and doing it all while overwrought with sadness.
So what do I do? I lean in… I cancel plans and explain to them why- so they know I just need time… I set small tasks with lots of breaks. I’m talking about like… doing something for just 30 minutes and then you can lay on the couch and cry until you are ready for another 30 minutes of work.
Take it slow. We’ve got all year. Shit, we’ve got all our lives. So sprint when you can, walk when you must, and sometimes admit you need a water break. K? I’ll try to do the same.