Posted by: Kate | July 10, 2010

So Strong

“You’ve been through so much,” they tell me.  My face arranges itself into a wry smile, and I nod.  No argument there.

“What an amazing, awful story.”  Again, agreed.  If I hadn’t had an on-stage role in much of it, I would doubt some of it had even happened.

“It’s almost too much to bear.”  Uh-huh.  And there have been days, many of them, when I would have instantly volunteered to stop bearing it,  to break down and crumble and give in, if only I could come up with a way to do so that was remotely compatible with my few, remaining priorities (namely, making my children happy and trying not to bring undue misery to my loved ones).  Most of my other priorities got washed away during one of my in-bed-because-you-can’t-stand-up sponge baths, or perhaps when my wounds were reopened, re-exposed, and then re-closed.  Maybe just by tears; I’ve certainly shed enough of those to wash away a priority or two; things like dignity and privacy, at the very least.

“I don’t know what I would do if it happened to me.”  Nobody does.  And frankly, I have no idea what I would do if it happened to me again.  See above re: willingness to quit.

“You’re so strong.”  And that’s where I tune out.  Start thinking about a snack, maybe, or doing a mental checklist of the day’s medications to make sure I didn’t forget anything.  Wondering what’s saved in the TV’s DVR list, or thinking about which sort of knitting project I feel like picking up next.  I try to stay polite, and attuned enough to be able to rejoin the conversation when the topic changes, but this is a verbal gambit for which I have no return play.

It’s just not something I can speak about in a way that is both socially acceptable and honest.  If I tell the truth, it sounds like I’m contrary or maybe just crabby.  Sometimes people, when confronted with that truth, feel obligated to argue their point, as though I’m being unbearably humble and they just need to build me up a little.

Because the true, honest answer is, “No, I’m really not.”  It wasn’t strength that pulled me through, from gravely ill to coma to freakishly fast recovery.  That was medicine, and good decisions on the part of many, very smart doctors, and passivity on my part.  And it hasn’t been strength that has continued to propel me along, but medications and obedience to doctor’s orders, and a husband that does absolutely everything in his power to take care of me and run the house and remind me when I’m trying to do too much.

I don’t consider myself weak, or pathetic… not every day, anyway.  I do have days in which I just crumble, when I simply cannot come up with enough positive aspects of myself to reach a full hand’s worth of fingers when I could them.  When I use words like “useless,”  or “burden,” and mean them.

But on the better days, when I’m not wallowing in angst and self-criticism, I’m just me.  Just wandering through my life, enjoying my kids, loving my husband, mentally embracing my friends and family, reminding myself to appreciate the number of true, strong, lasting positives that surround me.  Is that strength, to try and maintain focus on the good stuff?  If so, then, sure, many days I’m strong.  But I think that, really, I’m not particularly strong.  I’m just extremely lucky to be surrounded by good people who are heart-breakingly willing to care for me, personally and professionally.  And I’m smart enough to let them.



  1. I’m just glad you’re okay. Strong, not strong, whatever. Just that you’re still around to share your experiences with us is good enough for me.

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