At an early age I knew I was going to have be strong. Strong in physical endurance to run or stand tall, eventually I would learn when to do which too, though sometimes I do struggle on this one. Strong in determination and grit. Strong to carry on when others gave up on me, themselves and the situation. Simply strong.
Failure meant debts I couldn’t afford and circumstances that were dire. It was a slippery quick slope that would land me in a bottomless pit where there would be a low chance of getting out of it again. Failure meant living like I did growing up in poverty, abuse, drugs and and violence. It was an option and an easier way but my heart wouldn’t hear that. If others could figure this out so could I. The odds may be against me but that’s where the strength came from too. That’s the deep calling that would wake me in the middle of the night pushing me to find another way.
So much of life is about surviving. The circumstances we find ourselves are not always of our choosing but ours nonetheless to navigate. There are lots of inspirational sayings about overcoming adversities in life and yet it always comes down to personal survival. We most certainly will survive it too but what that looks like and where it leads us is what makes the difference. I often think of the times I wanted to be a victim so someone, anyone, would help and yet I couldn’t afford to wait on them either. I had to figure it out.
Life turned out alright as a result of my strength. It wasn’t always easy and there are still times I worry but that sixth sense of survival kicks in every time. There will be tears, frustration, screams of why but I don’t stay down long. I can’t. Now instead of just me at risk there is a family depending on me. The slope feels even slipper and faster as a result. The days I’m really tired from it all I peer down there and imagine what it would be like and then I realize that still is not the right way for me at least.
A friend of mine once told me I was the strongest person he had ever known. That intimidated me but explained why I struggled with finding others who could relate to me as friends. It was uncommon and it made me unique as in an example to others of what was possible. I didn’t go out looking for that recognition; I was just trying to live. To make it in this big world in some way that was better than what I knew. The circumstances I have faced ended up making me courageous out of necessity rather than bravery. While his comment about my character was sincerely complimentary it made me reflect on how much my journey has shaped me into this warrior people see.
When things get tough in my life, and they most certainly do at times, I quickly step into my old habits of surviving. There are little things I do like look at my financial budget adjusting things to shift in ready mode, stock up on basics, update my resume, think about the strategy and options. This shoring up and batting down is automatic for me like preparations made before a major storm. Whenever I feel a tinge of fear I go through many of these activities as an assurance of where I am and what this impact may result in. I became a saver in life carefully constructing my own safety net with a plan a, b and c of layers holding up what I think I need to survive.
With every single circumstance and storm I have been through in life, I can accurately say I did survive it and most of the time well. It wasn’t luck as I don’t believe in that anymore than thinking someone will save me when I need them. It was my own strong nature refined by my journey and a good amount of higher power faith. When that storm would pass, rather than seeing it as a victory it made me even more determined to be better next time, have more strength and technique to not have the same situation bite me twice. That too has paid off when trouble has knocked. It also made me stronger still.
The hardest part of being strong is in not letting yourself become hardened. This continues to be an area of growth for me. My strong created my skeptical, mistrusting, and reserved outlook on most people and situations. IT was like always waiting for the other shoe to drop because sooner or later it would and I’d be in the thick of a mess and risk as a result. The best approach I though was just to prepare for it and expect it any moment all the time.
The shift for me comes in realizing our mindset greatly influences what we find as true. If we are looking for the bad we will surely find it. When you are strong like I have had to be it can be challenging to keep the perspective that not everything is out to take advantage of you. I continue to struggle with letting go of mistrusting others. My gut instinct hasn’t been wrong much but it has created limitations that prevented me from developing relationships as deeply as I would have liked. The trick is keeping enough reserve as protection but taking enough risk to provide a reasonable amount of assuming positive intent and well meaningfulness. There may still be pain but perhaps not as badly that way.
It is interesting to me being this way to consider what it means to live naturally. I had this vision that to live naturally means all is good in life and I’m happy all the time. The truth is there is an ideal vision and there is reality with living naturally too. Even a naturalist must pay their electric bill and buy food. There is still the balance of modern world needs and obligations where surviving is critical against the perfection of nature. The point where those two blend is where I have learned the most about not only living naturally but in having more peace in my life as well.
I think often we get lost in the utopian ideals of what the outcomes should look like that we miss the unfolding of them before our eyes. I didn’t realize how strong I had become and sometimes still don’t. I didn’t appreciate the transformation in me that represented the shaping of this strength and how it was helping me in life. My focus was on getting to the other side of the problems I was facing, to find calmer waters thinking then life will be enjoyable because I won’t have to worry. This is where living natural and being a warrior have the best opportunity to blossom because we can use our strength to define and shape that to fit our own needs to create that outcome. Most importantly we can use it now in the middle of a messy life.
Being strong for so long has become ingrained in my character that I know I cannot separate from it and must accept I will never be able to retire it. It is a part of me that I have learned to love and respect with a generous amount of appreciation for where it has brought me in life. It has also afforded me the point where I am now to be able to explore and learn what it may look like to evolve from simply strong to strong and at peace or strong and beautiful in life. The strong in me that doesn’t feel intimidation when others notice this about me. That place in the world where I can live with peace in my soul over who I am and how it happened. That is what living naturally ultimately looks like for me.
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