Strength is a subject that’s been running through my mind lately. It’s one that has many layers and interpretations. So many, I’d argue, that I can’t sum up into a singular blog post. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about what strength looks like in a lot of various ways. But for today, let's start with the basics.
I’ve spoken openly about the fact that I walked into a season of grief a few months ago. Since my mind was overworked trying to process things the way a garbage disposal would look trying to process an all-you-can-eat buffet, I didn’t always remember to do a lot of normal, everyday things. So I did the best I could to get by.
I remember everyone stressing how important it was to give myself grace. To do whatever I wanted. “If you want to stay in yoga pants all day, stay in yoga pants all day. If you want to watch reruns or eat ice cream for dinner or get your nails done… you just do whatever you need to get through one day at a time.” I really wrestled with the idea of "doing whatever I want". I saw it as playing the victim card or finding excuses to spoil myself. Until I realized that their words had legitimacy. That binge eating chips and guacamole or spending a small fortune on smoothies everyday was sometimes the only way I could guarantee I’d eat anything at all. That spending the night with friends that fed me melatonin and talked me to sleep was sometimes the only way I’d get any sleep. Doing all this - though it may seem so on another day, wasn't an act of frivolity. It was an act of necessity.
I had a laundry list of friends who invited me to stay with them each night- which I now realize was deeper than emotional support. I needed a baby sitter. I needed someone point out the seemingly obvious things I was neglecting to do.
"Eat this. I can hear your stomach growling."
"Don't forget to turn the curling iron off."
"Your phone? Whit, sweetie- it's in your hand."
One week into everything, I was already afraid of the weeks and months down the road when life went back to normal for everyone else. I couldn’t wrap my head around not having this level of support all of the time. I was convinced I was going to burn my house down or drive off the wrong side of the road, or try to dry my hair with the toaster. I wanted to crawl up in a little ball under my down comforter and fall asleep and not wake up until everything went away. I was too overwhelmed to eat or sleep. I felt physically weak- lightheaded, tired and exhausted.
Maybe you think this sounds dramatic. And sure, it's easy to think someone is over-reacting or stuck when you're simply observing. Grief is funny that way. Until it happens to you. Because when grief happens to you, you realize that it makes you feel small. It doesn't leave you alone. It tells you that you’re weak and pathetic, and rubs the pain in your face. I was angry at myself for feeling this way, and I was beginning to worry I wouldn’t ever feel strong again.
But then I did. And it didn’t take me months. It didn’t even take me that many weeks. Soon, I was ready for MY bed. For some room to breathe. I was tired of talking about it all the time. I wanted to start taking some steps forward. The grief was still there, it’s just that my resilience started to show up. I started eating solid food again. I started sleeping more. I slowly started writing the story of my new normal.
After a few weeks, I went to my personal trainer again for the first time in months (I had been slacking even before the grief came along). I knew I had lost some muscle because of everything, but I didn’t realize how much. He scolded me, told me I had lost weight and had a lot of catching up to do to get back on track.
I was pissed off. I was mad that grief had robbed me of my physical strength. But I realized that while it may have done so to my exterior self, the grief was showing my internal self she was tougher than I ever gave her credit to be. Was I still hurting? Obviously. Was I still sad? You know it. Did I still need my support system regularly? 100% (and I still do today). But I realized that I wasn't the weak little girl whose brain permanently stopped working and who became stuck in hopelessness. I was the girl who was strong.
I was the girl who could squash the she-devil voice in my head that tried to tell me I should be happy I was getting thinner and thinner. That said "But if you keep this up, you'll weight even LESS." I was the girl who was channeling my pain and trying things I had been putting off (like finally booking that trip to Paris I've always talked about.) I was the girl who was looking to God to meet my needs according to the riches of His glory.
These days, I'm eating 3 meals again (and snacks… and usually dessert). I’ve been lifting weights. I’ve been gaining muscle mass. The number on the scale is climbing again, but so is my physical strength. I’m starting to relate more physically to how I’m feeling emotionally.
It is true, what they say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I know my journey isn’t over. I know I’ve had moments of relapse and weakness. But it is without question I’m progressively getting stronger. Every. Single. Day. I know that I’m not done having seasons that feel like they’re killing me slowly and painfully, but what I do know is that I will get through them- just like I'm getting through this one. And I fully intend on beating the $#!% out of them.
A special thanks to Lululemon for featuring Blonde Atlas in this week’s product email! I had a blast shooting with Sarah Catherine Design.