Strength when not worn as armor.
Armor is a form of protection. Ancient Warriors wore it to protect their bodies in battle.
For my most honorable ancestors, it was the shield that protected their hearts from spiritual warfare and supported them in surviving, despite the traumas inflicted from living under constant attack.
As a descendant of strong, resilient, warrior women, strength for me has been my armor. Culturally, it's the badge of honor we wear proudly; proving to ourselves (and others) that we can endure whatever life throws our way. And while I am grateful for the ways it’s helped me navigate my experiences, I wish my folx told me that being strong didn't equate to the absence of suffering. Through their actions, they conveyed quite the opposite. They taught me to smile, walk with my head held high, and to NEVER show weakness; no matter what.
Practicing mindfulness has made me aware of how for most of my life, my definition of strength has been synonymous with being unaffected by hard things. Yes, inner-strength fuels my existence and is what helps me to endure challenging times. However, strength as performance has been the mask I've worn to cover-up both the pain and complexities of being hardened by life.
Despite appearing to others as if I had it all together, there've been plenty of times where I've been incredibly overwhelmed. On the outside, I was powering through meanwhile on the inside, I was suffering. I've experienced war zones within my being and in hindsight, I understand that trying to block the pain also blocked me from healing.
The good stuff I yearned for (peace, love, contentment), felt so, so far away. Eventually, I learned that in order to experience joy, I had to first give myself permission to feel the pain.
Fast forward to December 18, 2020, where my world shattered right before my eyes. This time, when my spirit felt destroyed, I gave myself permission to fall apart.
Learning that my daughter wouldn’t join me earth-side opened a portal where I tapped into newfound strength. While giving birth to Nya, I vowed to be a higher version of myself. I promised to use our relationship as testimony. I promised to acknowledge the pain, without shame, and to let myself be seen in it.
Fully. Holy. And in all of my brokenness.
What I'm learning from opening to life in this way is that strength isn't an absence of pain rather, it's walking through the fire and living to see another day.
It's summoning up the courage to share my story with others. It's being honest about my experiences without feeling bad about them. It's having hard conversations and giving voice to the things I'd much rather forget even existed. It’s doing what needs to be done and simultaneously saying, “this really hurts & I need help."
Most clearly, I've learned that strength, when not worn as armor, is vulnerability. It's giving ourselves permission to be seen & held exactly where we are.
Knowing deeply, that in our truth, we are more than enough.