Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Stories of Wounds and Weaknesses: Strengths from Within

Filed in Memoir, Stories, voices, Writing :: November 21, 2010

SupportStoriesButtonThis has turned into a tricky post of “yes, buts,” “no, ands,” and “well, maybes.”

You may remember that I committed to NaNoWriMo.  A few days ago I realized that not only was I not going to finish 50,000 words, I wasn’t going to come close.

I had to admit that I can’t do “everything,” so I put the novel away and embarked on a weekend of intense and productive memoir editing. A small part of me says I shouldn’t have “quit,” but I know that the decision to choose what’s really important to me over what was for me a “sparkly” (thanks, Jeanne) was driven by Strength from Within.

Deep in the memoir, I asked myself, Had I found Strength from Within on Christmas Eve of 2002, when my then-husband left the Waldorf-Astoria to barhop, returning  early Christmas morning drunk enough to vomit all over our bed? Did I find Strength from Within when I asked the housekeeper for more linens, then joined my family for breakfast and cheerfully wished everyone a Merry Christmas?

I did not make a scene, cause embarrassment, spoil the holiday for others. Some people say “Strength from Within” means bearing more–more weight, more trouble, more pain–with determined stoicism.  To them, yes, I exhibited Strength from Within.  But in hindsight, I know that with a little more Strength from Within, I might have spoken out publicly, might have asked for help.

Later, still editing, I asked myself, Did I exhibit Strength from Within for four more years of that marriage, including Christmas Eve, 2006,  which I spent sitting alone in my car at the beach, while at home he slept off his vodka-and-Gatorade, followed by a Christmas morning AA meeting before we joined the family festivities?

Maybe.  I persevered and hoped and prayed for his change of heart. Maybe not.  I should have made him leave sooner than I did.

Does Strength from Within mean eternally pushing a giant rock up a hill, a la Sisyphus (thanks, Julie)?

I say now that Strength from Within means knowing when to put the weight down.

It means trusting yourself enough to stop pushing the rock, allowing that maybe it will roll onto you and knock you down, but looking forward to slipping out from under it and walking away.

It means embracing my wounds, accepting my limitations, and appreciating the strength that comes from admitting my weakness and embracing my power.

My wounds, limitations, weaknesses, power: these are my Strengths from Within.  What are yours?

This post is inspired by Square Peg Karen‘s blog round-robin Support Stories–Strength from Within.