Friday, September 9, 2011

Don't Cry...Be Strong...

During the last few months of my mother's life, she lived with Ross and I.

We took care of her physical and emotional needs.  We were her nurse and sometimes doctor.
Along with the loving, caring support of the women of Hospice,  we made sure she was comfortable and not in pain.

During her illness, everyone kept telling me that my priority was to take care of myself so that I could be strong for my Mom.

I never quite understood what was meant by that.

What does "taking care of yourself mean"?

And for that matter what does "being strong" mean?

Last weekend I was supposed to attend a wedding. This  involved a 2-1/2 hour car trip.  It was to be a three day affair.   Friday night rehearsal dinner, Saturday all day wedding, and Sunday Brunch.

I had all intentions of going.  But the Wednesday before the Wedding I got some upsetting news.

Suddenly I was not up for whooping and partying.

The groom's parents were very understanding.  But they thought it might do me some good to attend the wedding..."you know it might take you mind off things", they said.

I also had to let a couple of the other guests know I just wasn't up to going.   "Oh come on", they said.
"You can't just sit around all weekend."   "It will do you good to get away."  "You should come."

And then there were those phrases again..."You have to take care of yourself"  "You have to be strong".

Did they mean that by joining in the celebration of a young couple starting out their life would take my mind off of my son, his wife and their soon to be one year old son and the difficult time they were going through?

Would going to the wedding mean that I would be "taking care of myself"?  Did it mean that I was "being strong"?

Somewhere along the line, early on, I suppose, I was taught that not crying was being strong.

I was taught that you carry on, even if your head feels like it is going to explode from a migraine.

You don't let anything get you down.   There were no such thing as sleeping in or taking naps, or staying in bed with a cold.

You always fulfill your obligations and stick to your commitments.

Is that what being strong means?

After having a good long talk with myself I made the decision.  So, we didn't attend the wedding.

But what I did do was have a quiet breakfast with Ross at a place on the Island called "The Sandbox Cafe".

We had been trying to get in all summer.  We finally made it.

It's quite a quaint little outdoor dining place.

What we did do was buy a pull out sofa for our den so that when our kids and grandkids come to visit at least two of them won't have to sleep on the floor.

It needs a cozy new knitted afghan, don't you think?

What we did do was spend an afternoon with Jen, Derek, Ryan and Bella.

What I did do was start a new shawl LGG's Duchess.

What I did do was cry a lot, reflect somewhat,  listen to the new book I have been waiting for "A Trick of the Light" by Louise Penny,  knit, and spend quiet time with Ross.

I was perfectly happy to "hear all about the wedding.  It sounded quite lovely.

I think I now understand what "taking care of myself" means.

But what does "being strong" mean?

I do know that somehow I found the strength when I needed it most to take care of my Mom.

It wasn't anything I consciously did, I  just DID.

Ross was right there with me while taking care of my Mom and I know he will always be there for me as  I will be for him.

But sometimes I think we both need to do a little "taking care of ourselves."

Perhaps admitting that we need a little help and support and asking for it is what "being strong" really means.


  1. I am so proud of you for standing your ground and doing what YOU needed, even if others might judge your decision. You are getting what LIFE is all about. We must listen to the inner voice and trust it.

  2. I agree with you about trusting our inner voice, even if sometimes it is only a whisper.  

  3. It sounds like you did exactly what you needed to. When my dad died last year, people kept telling me that I was strong... I didn't feel like I was being strong, I just kept going because what else could I do? A lot of people thought I went back to work too soon, but I went when I needed to, and supported my mum who needed a lot longer before she was ready. I think that the words people say don't always match what they mean/what we need to do for ourselves. I'm not sure if I'm making any sense here, but I wanted to write something about how your post touched me and then started rambling!

  4. I don't know you but I see you as a very strong woman.  I am a strong woman too, and sometimes I hate being strong.  I am the oldest of 7 children.  Well, originally there were 7.  There are 5 now.  And sometimes I just want to roll in the floor and wallow in self pity, but I don't.  I just keep going.  You are heavy on my heart.  I can't imagine.  

  5. I think you did the perfect thing for you, and letting people know you were doing that means that you were being strong. And I admire you for doing it.

  6. I am also the oldest of 6.  I absolutely think that birth position plays a huge part in how a child develops and what kinds of roles they assume later in life.  
    We first borns take on a lot don't we?  

    I don't see myself as the typical tough strong woman.  I am pretty shy and reserved.  But I guess the strength is somewhere in there because I have had to tap into quite often lately. 

    I want to let you know, as you said, even though you don't know me, you continue to offer support and kind words.   It means a lot to me.
    Thank you. 

  7. I know people are just trying to be helpful and comforting.  And maybe sometimes the words themselves don't really matter.   Having people around you who care enough to offer support is probably what really counts.  
    Hmm, now I feel like I am rambling.  But I understood what you meant, and I know that you understood  how I felt.