We don’t always notice the strong ones. Or more accurately, we sometimes only notice their strength and the way that they seem to keep going no matter what is happening to them. We watch them keep going, keep smiling, keep striving, keep standing and we shake our heads thinking “How do they do it? They always seem okay. That could never be me.”
As one who has walked through far more than I would ever have imagined I could, with people often commenting on how strong I am, I can tell you that we keep going because we simply must. And I can tell you that there is so much that you don’t see. Even with me who has shared so much of my journey with grief and loss and letting go, there is so much that you haven’t seen. The underground river of emotions has knocked me off my feet and left me wondering if I can continue so many times.
For me, it’s not because I think showing you the harder pieces is something I shouldn’t or can’t do. It’s that by the time I have found the words to describe how dark and scary and out of control I have felt at times, that time has passed and the words are simply my own. But today, for whatever reason, the words flow and I find I need to share.
After I turned over the ownership of Avalon Horse Farm in the summer of 2019, I knew there would be a period of grieving letting go of that space and that dream. I knew that it would take me a while to untwine all the parts of me that I had woven into the fabric of that business and that community. How could there not be when what I created was more than a horse farm? It was a lifelong dream realized of a sacred space for horses and their humans.
What I didn’t know was the depths of grief & healing I would enter into. I didn’t know that all of the unhealed parts of me still moving through things from Russell’s death would come flying into the mix. I didn’t know how much I had “set aside” as I managed a large farm community and prioritized my kids’ healing needs. I didn’t know that my breath could be sucked out of my lungs any more than it already had been during the early years of mourning after Russell’s death. I didn’t know that simply being around people who were farm friends & treasured parts of my community would make my heart hurt so much as I figured out how to relate in new ways. I didn’t know that being strong meant I would feel I needed to be silent in my grief, because I chose to walk away from Avalon towards something ambiguous new dream thingy. I didn’t know that the silence I imposed on myself out of some silly notion that grieving a place as deeply as I did was foolishness would slow down my ability to move through my emotions rather than get stuck in them. And I definitely didn’t know that the grief I would experience letting go of Avalon would twine up with new layers of grief about Russell.
I spent months and months and months just feeling it all. Only a very few folks saw the pain within the “strength shield” I wrapped around myself. Outside I showed more of the “this is what I am dreaming of and what I am creating” energy – the strong one. Inside I was weeping and doubting and second-guessing and running away and beating myself up for “dropping” people because my grief was so strong & confusing and struggling to give myself restful, patient healing space. Like I said before – an underground river of emotions!
It took me probably a full year before I fully understood what I was walking through. It was a full year of unintentionally pushing people away. It was a full year of questioning my “right” to grieve the letting of Avalon. It was a full year of untwining the dreams for my life from the dreams Russell and I had when we said yes to Avalon. It was a full year of feeling swirly, overwhelmed with emotions, and often confused. It was a full year of continuing to dream of more & different for my life without the true emotional energy to open the doors to the new things waiting for me. It was a full year of “being strong” while also quietly hoping people would see behind that strength shield, or wall, and simply say “I see you & I am here & you don’t have to be strong right now.”
Today, I can honestly say that with the help of friends, family, and my own life coach, and tapping into all of the energetic processing tools I’ve picked up over the years, I am in a really, really good space. I’ve gotten a lot better at letting down my strength shield before it becomes a wall to others. I’ve gotten a lot better at not questioning why am I feeling this way and instead asking what message this feeling has for me. I’ve gotten a lot better at asking for help when I don’t feel strong but I am projecting that. I’ve gotten a lot better at allowing others to handle their own healing & not expecting myself to be their strength too. I’ve gotten a lot better at loving myself right where I am and trusting each step of my journey.
For those of you who have people in your life who always seem strong – See them! Be there for them! Let them know it’s okay to not always be strong!
For those of you who are the strong ones – I see you! I am here! You don’t always have to be strong!