Where Does Strength Come From?

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“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”  ~Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

“You’re a strong woman,” I’ve heard too many times. I honestly don’t know what strong means. People are people. We are all making our way.

I don’t see strength or weakness. I see humanness.

I don’t see broken people. I see moments of falling apart before the coming together begins again for the zillionth time.

I see life.

Perhaps what I have is a unique perspective? Maybe we have the same one?

Some say that strength comes when you believe…in God, a Higher Power, etc. I possess that knowledge, but that alone doesn’t strengthen me.

I believe my strength comes from a Knowledge of God’s character…at least the beginning of an understanding: I have a desire to know why things are the way they are and what’s LOVE got to do with it anyways? I have found a way that makes sense to me and makes sense of life.

I no longer feel like life happens to me or even for me as if my job is just to show up and make the best of it.

In other words, I’m not a victim.

Believe what you will about your life, but that’s my truth.

I believe we were all given the opportunity to see the intricate patterns of intersecting lives before we were born. I believe we understood what we were coming to and saw how the perfect people and situations would come into our lives to be our teachers. We knew they would  give us opportunities to practice the many faces of love. We saw how so many people’s choices would appear random, but would actually be miniscule and necessary parts of a larger tapestry that was, is, and always will be a beautiful work of art. We agreed that experiencing a life was the only way to understand. I believe that we also understood completely that even though there is one goal – understanding and growing into the love of God – there are as many paths as there are people.

I’ve come to the conclusion (aka  “the truth”) after watching patterns outside of myself trigger patterns inside of me that I’m the author of my life. I’m a co creator of it with God, and it’s creation started long before I was born. My life is the manifestation of sacred agreements designed out of my awareness of my desire to understand how and why God thinks and acts as a god thinks and acts, and to put myself in situations where I could figure that out. My only weakness is my humanness, and my only strength is found in my ability to find love (God) everywhere.

Love is an incredible subject to study. Everyone has issues with many parts of it. But we can all be masters of it when we use our life’s moments of uncertainty, disappointments, cruelty, meanness, as well as moments of joy, happiness, ease, and peace as tools to learn more about this enabling power. I have found that ofttimes that is the only good choice I have – the only one that frees me from despair and cyclical blame and complaining.

My lessons in love have taken me down paths mostly of self-love.

The prerequisite to that course is coming to terms with how your life choices reflect the amount of self-love you’ve mastered. I can love (see the godliness) in anyone. That’s not hard for me. What’s hard is understanding the strength of love for self  that is required to walk away from anything and anyone as a gift (of love) to them as well as myself – when too much collateral damage stares you in the face and refuses to move – when you have to stand in that place that can’t deny any longer that this is one of the faces of love that  God has mastered and patiently waits for all of His children to understand – boundaries.

Sometimes love isn’t all that pretty. But it’s always kind. I’ve learned that I’ve made excellent choices to put myself right in the middle of what I refused to believe was true. I say I had no idea because of my innocence or ignorance, but the truth is I have needed the experiences I’ve been through to know what I now know. So, I’m kinder when I look back now. I say, “Good job! Now move on!”

In all of my experiences I’ve learned a basic truth about love:  I truly feel stronger and like a better version of myself when I know I’m loved for the person I am in the world. I don’t mean the generic love that’s cast like a wide net over humanity. I mean the looking deep into my soul kind of thing that says, “I know you. You’re cool. I wouldn’t change a thing about you because I know you have that handled. Wanna go for a walk?”  kind of love. Lao Tzu put it plainly:

“Being loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Yes, I’m all over the place with this one. I know. But if you take anything away, take this: you are not a victim. You are a student. You chose your curriculum and teachers. Have fun with it and don’t forget lunch and recess. Find someone to love because it make the journey better.

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