photo credit Lin Mei

Being Strong

I was brought up in a family that allowed me to be pretty expressive, but our society, from the toys we were “supposed to” play with (dolls for girls, guns and trucks for boys), to the images we saw on TV, with women staying home to cook and the men being the primary breadwinners, to even our friends making fun of us for crying. It was a sign of weakness.

I can remember the day it all changed for me. I was sitting at my desk in Shelbyville, IN, when I got a call from my sister telling me our dad had died. I was in shock, although I was thinking how calm I was after I hung up. He wasn’t ill and we had just seen him a few weeks before over the holidays. It wasn’t until a few minutes later, after my boss asked me if I wanted to go home, to which I said, “Why?” Then realized exactly why. Grieving was about to hit and that had no place in the workplace. I didn’t start crying until his funeral. My grandmother walked into the funeral home before the wake and started balling. I had never seen her cry before. She was a strong woman but the thought of outliving her son was enough for her to let out that burst. It was over almost as soon as it started. By the time the first guests had arrived, She was back to the person I knew my entire life: strong.

It happened to me as I gave my dad’s eulogy. I recounted the lessons he he taught us all, the impact that he had had on so many, as evident by who showed up, and the trouble that I had caused him as a teenager. But when I recounted had he had mentioned something to me just a few months before, that his proudest accomplishment was that me, my brother and my sister, all turned out ok. I lost it. The tears welled up, just as they are now as I write the. It was such a simple thing and we all had so much more to offer, but my dad was proud of getting us to that point and that was his enough.

After that day, I became much more emotional. I cry during movies. I cry when there is a remarkable story about someone doing something against all the odds. I cry when I get sad and feel I have disappointed someone.

Today was a tough day. We are facing a situation where neither my wife or I have a steady stream of income coming in. She had an interview earlier this week that she was excited about and it doesn’t seem like she’s going to get it. It prompted her to question if we made the right move coming to Tampa. She would still have her good paying job in NY, and the prospects for me would be better. Knowing she is not happy, makes me unhappy. I shared this on Facebook. Not all the details, but just about how I was feeling.

What happened, as you will see if you click the link above, is that so many reached out and told me how it was perfectly fine to share that I wasn’t feeling happy. That it was only human to have those feelings and share them. I even had many suggestions on how not to feel sad or unhappy. As I was writing, I actually began to see why I was feeling that way. I was holding on to a feeling that wasn’t serving me, only holding me back in a place I didn’t need to stay. Some may call me crazy, but it was almost like an out of body experience. I was seeing how I was acting and feeling and knew that only by reframing how I was handling the situation would it change.

Never since my dad died, have I viewed crying as a weakness. As a matter of fact I view it as a strength. Strength in the fact I am willing to embrace it. Strength in the fact I’m able to start altering my behavior by being mindful of how I’m responding to the things in my head. As I was talking with a friend, who reached out when she read this, she shared as, how a woman, many look at her being vulnerable as a weakness. It made me think, what is being strong? I believe being strong is what we are each comfortable with. We don’t have to let society tell us how we should feel or what makes us strong. We should listen to our heart.

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