Strength and Courage
By Donna McKee
Back in November of 2009, when The EX decided he wanted out of our marriage, I felt like my world had ended. I could never have imagined that it would happen to me, and I certainly did not think that I was going to ever feel happy again. All of my friends and family kept telling me I was strong and I would get through it. And while I appreciated their support and love, I wanted to punch the next person who told me I was strong.The last thing in the world I felt was strong. Strong women don’t spend hours crying on the kitchen floor, hoping their kid won’t see them and ask what’s wrong. Strong women don’t require a prescription for anti-anxiety pills just to be able to breathe normally. And strong women certainly don’t wish with their whole hearts that the man who betrayed them would come back. And I was doing all those things.
It did finally dawn on me a couple of months ago that strength has nothing to do with how you feel, and everything to do with what you do. It doesn’t matter why you do the things that take strength, it only matters that you do them. I wanted to lie in bed all day with the covers pulled up over my head and cry. But I couldn’t. I had a daughter to take care of. If I didn’t get out of bed to feed her and care for her, I would lose her. So while the thought of just getting out of bed seemed like more than I could handle, the consequences of what would happen if I didn’t get out of bed scared me so much that I had to do it.
Strength also entails asking for help and taking help. For me, the help I was offered was most often a shoulder to cry on, or just the presence of someone who loved me. I got fairly good at that part. When I could see myself starting to falter, I would reach out to a girlfriend and ask to meet for lunch, or I’d go to my parents’ house and let them take care of me for a while.
I still stumbled. I still cried in the kitchen or in the garage or in the shower. But I was living my life too. And eventually I was doing more living and less crying. I do have strength after all. Who knew? I guess everyone around me who saw it in me before I knew I had it.
Courage is another matter. I am a huge coward. Or I used to be. I’m trying to embrace a new mantra of “Be Brave!” Being brave is what got me to New Orleans for a conference last week, when no one I knew was going. I’m not exactly a shy person, but I’m also not comfortable with being the odd man out. But it was something I was scared of, and doing it made me feel better. I’m really trying to live my life without fear, but it’s so hard for a recovering control freak.
Of course bravery isn’t the lack of fear. Bravery is being scared of something and doing it anyway. I’ve gotten over a lot of hurdles in the past year and a half, and it’s scared the shit out of me many times. I still have a couple more that I’m staring down the barrel of right now.
Strength and courage are in all of us. They are choices we make. We make them every day, in a million small ways. I’m going to work hard to Be Brave, and I hope that some of you out there will make the choice to do it to.
Donna McKee is a single mom trying to get her feet back under her. She has one four year old daughter who keeps things just crazy enough to be hilarious. Donna keeps herself sane with vodka and handbags. You can find her at PhatDonna.