Thursday, October 29, 2009
Pillar of Strength
Tonight I was given the opportunity to ponder what it is that I gain from writing this blog. As I have realized during various periods in my life, I find it comforting, therapeutic, to write down my thoughts and feelings. During the past couple of years this expression emerged through my emails, and Caring Bridge web page, regarding the journey I walked with Michael.
So why not turn to a journal, where my thoughts and feelings would remain private? I have kept a journal in the past. And I have certainly used my journals as a wailing wall of sorts. A place where I could cry out when my pain was too strong to contain. This is clearly a time that would lend itself to a more private process.
So what is different about this time? What is moving me to put my grief, my pain, and my struggle out there for all to see? It is duality. The ability to express a complimentary side of myself. A side that I may have previously felt was in opposition to being strong.
Throughout my adulthood I have consistently been given the message that I am strong. I feel that I have been given this message so often that it has become a heavy burden. Being strong is not how I would have described myself as a child. Being strong is not how I would have described myself as a young adult. Actually, I used to think of myself as a bit of a runt. I have three brothers, all of whom stand much taller than I. Growing up gay also at times made me feel smaller, perhaps weaker, than other men. Yet as the years went by my life began to present many challenges. At times these were challenges that I consciously took on. I supposed it was the act of facing these challenges that earned me the reputation of being strong. But what happens when when the strong man feels weak? How does he ask for help? How does he get through another day when his own strength fails him?
This is my struggle. Michael recognized this, and called me on it in fact. During his final weeks of life Michael struggled to walk up and down the stairs. Even though he towered over me in size, there I was holding him up, trying desperately to insure his safety. After one final struggle to safely get him back down to our bedroom, he pulled me close to him, and with a grin he said "you think you are so strong, but when I'm better I am going to take you to a wrestling ring to show you different."
Well, Michael didn't get better, but he did show me different. He showed me, that not only do I not always have to be strong, I cannot always be strong. So here is my dilemma. What is the opposite of a pillar of strength? Is it weakness, dependency, vulnerability? Whatever it is, I know that I can only find it by exposing my struggle, exposing my pain. I need to break down this notion of a pillar of strength, if only for awhile. I need to find a complimentary side.