I first began to truly understand my own inner strength when my mother was dying. Despite the anguish of watching her slowly weaken and wither away, becoming just a shell of the person she once was, I somehow still was able to carry on. I would have a good cry in the car on my way to work in between visiting her at the hospital and arriving at the restaurant for my night shift where I would don a smile and play the friendly hostess.
After she died, it was as if something tore open inside me. There was a deep, black void inside that threatened to consume me and everything around it. I did not want to go on honestly; I couldn’t imagine a life without her in it. Who would laugh and cry with me on my wedding day? Who would hold my hand in pregnancy, and beam with pride as they cooed and cuddled over my newborn babies? No, I did not want to go on. Did not want to be part of a world where her light and brightness were no longer in it. Yet she would want me to carry on, I knew. And so I looked deep within and somehow found the strength to carry on. Even to eventually be grateful for the experience, though it took months of soul searching and grieving for that to come.
On the topic of strength, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
Finding and accepting our strength is a very important aspect of knowing ourselves as women. Adolescents do not usually know their own strength, but women do. When we deny our strength, we give up pieces of who we are. When we use our strength for power over others, we deny who they are. Either way, we lose.
Much of our strength comes from knowing and accepting ourselves and accepting that we are not the center of the universe. As we accept ourselves, we come to realize that our strength is directly connected with and one with a power greater than ourselves. When we tap into that power, we know that we have all the strength we need for whatever comes.
During that difficult time, I clung to the phrase, “This too shall pass” like a life preserver. When I looked within, I connected with a deeper, more spiritual part of myself. A still and quiet part that was seemingly older and wiser than I. I sensed a greater power that was somehow connected to and a part of me. I remember reading a quote from Albert Camus during this time that resonated deeply with me: “In the depths of my darkest winter, I learned that within me lay an infinite summer.” Nothing more perfectly described the way I felt. As a result of that ordeal, I realized my own strength to carry on even in the absolute darkest hour of my life. I realized that in life, no matter how many people we love and are loved by, we are ultimately alone. You can only really rely on yourself, and you must form the basis of your own happiness. It is not a lonely thought, but rather a powerful one. One that comes from realizing your own strength, embracing it, and staying in tune with it. It serves us well to tap into that feeling.