Being strong is easy, for a while.
Then suddenly it’s not.
It wears you out to be responsible, strong, steady.
There was a time, many years ago, when I was not so strong; I certainly didn’t think I was. I think strength builds when you’re not looking and sometimes surprises the heck out of you when you finally catch on.
I was a single mom when I met the love of my life.
The week we got married, Hubby lost his local job, we bought our first home, and Hubby locked in a new job. Whew!
Right after we returned from our honeymoon, Hubby left for the job on a road crew. He would be gone for two or three weeks, then home for three nights and two days. It took some time, but we adjusted to the schedule. Added to that, we took in our toddler niece and nephew, temporarily, while their mom found employment and living quarters. Life was pretty hectic as a married-but-without-partner mom, and new homeowner. Oh, the energy and resilience of youth!
Then life changed. Hubby’s Mom died in our second year of marriage.
We had just been through two basement floods in the new house, and Hubby’s road job had become destructive to household harmony. I was tired of doing it all for two to three weeks at a time. Plus, losing a parent changes you, leaves you feeling a bit like a bag of bones. Hubby reeled from his loss.
So, he found a job in town, and life changed a bit more.
We had frequent casual family functions at our home, we also had several adult parties. We hosted a few short-term living arrangements for family and friends. Friends would stop by to visit regularly and without notice. Family members came in and out. We had a revolving door, and life moved so fast sometimes.
Although I could be quite reckless and irresponsible at times, at the end of the day, I was the party gal holding the hair for the estranged friend while she “lost her cookies”. I had the “shape up and walk straight” gene highly developed at a young age.
Then Hubby’s sister had her second bout with cancer. It didn’t look good this time. I had been attending night classes to build a career, and suddenly it seemed more important to focus on life. I coerced Hubby into allowing me to quit work and focus on education, my son, our home, and his sister.
One thing that’s misunderstood about moms who don’t work outside the home is that they become the target for every family member, every friend, and every school function. Anything that needs done gets presented to the mom who’s not working. I did family baby-sitting, I was a room mother, an elderly neighbor began calling on me for little needs, I spent time assisting my disabled mother, I ran my SIL to her chemo and blood work appointments, we managed a rental for family. It was non-stop. I kept the calendar from that period of time to remind myself how busy I was. It was crazy. Not a soap opera watching, bon-bon eating sort of experience, let me tell you!
Then she died, my dear friend, Hubby’s sister. Then my mom lost more function due to MS. Life collapsed around me. I had been so strong for so long, and it enveloped and swallowed me.
It didn’t take long to recover from the nervous breakdown.
Hubby sent me back to work. The set day-to-day routine was therapeutic, somehow.
I began learning how to say “no”. It’s not easy to say, at first!
I regained my strength. I found myself, and I found God. Just in time, because we added a son to the family then, a son four months younger than mine. Renewed strength would be required to pull this new family unit together.
That was seventeen years ago. A lot of storms were weathered during that time. A lot of changes happened, good and bad. Life rolled on, as life does.
We’ve added an adult son, new daughter-in-law and grandson, and we’re still working hard.
Strength builds when you’re not looking.
I know now how strength can wear on you.
I know the warning signs, and I have learned how to take time to recharge and get my balance when life gets out of hand.