Enough already.

I am physically strong. I can lift things, fix other things, my cardio could be better, but I can begrudgingly run a 5k without throwing up or dying. I am mentally acute, and in many aspects I am emotionally strong. When it comes to defending myself and my ideals, I am undaunted. Strangers with differing opinions don’t scare me, and I am always ready to go to bat for those I love at any moment. This does not, however, mean that when I do need help, when I am scared and vulnerable and feeling weak, that a simple “you can handle it, you’re tough” will make all of my problems disappear. 

Telling me I’m strong is, in my opinion, a brush off of my concerns/fears/anxiety etc. You care so little about my wellbeing that you end the conversation before it starts. One sentence and TA-DA! I’ve been reminded that I can deal with it, so I should shut up and make sure there’s nothing that I can do for you. The worst part of this for me is that nearly every time I’ve been given the “you’re strong” conversation ender, it’s been someone I consider myself close to. I don’t latch onto strangers and force my sob story upon them, I keep my emotions for the people I think I can trust with them. 

And thus begins a whole new sub-cycle of anxiety and fear. Are my problems that easy? When I struggle, should I keep it under my vest so as not to burden my loved ones? Why is it that I am willing to repeatedly help those who cannot offer me even a feigned interest in my life?

I am strong. I kick ass on the regular. But strength still requires maintenance, validation, and gentle care. If you leave the rebar exposed to the elements it becomes warped by the wind and rusted by the rain. It needs to be built upon, encased, secured with foundation, and protected so that it remains a a useful part of the structure as a whole. The point is, we all need to support each other, whether you’re the rebar, the windows, the support beams…because if one breaks down, the whole structure suffers. 

So please, I beg you, don’t brush ANYONE off by “reminding” them that they are strong. They know they are. What you need to remind them that you can be strong on their behalf when they need a break. You may see your statement as uplifting, but to people like me it indicates complacency. Treat me how I treat you. 

That’s all. 

Two songs to go with the post: 

Apple Blossom by The White Stripes https://youtu.be/y8gU1zhzJ2E

Bloody Motherfucking Asshole by Martha Wainwright http://youtu.be/pX-bIr8dr6U

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For the first time in my life I am choosing not to attend a Remembrance Day service, and I have received a lot of flak because of this decision. I would like now to explain  myself, in the hopes that for those of you who have judged me may understand what I am thinking and feeling. 

I have never missed a service. I have sat with dignitaries, laid wreaths alongside veterans, marched in parades, and cried while holding photos of my loved ones. I have drank with légionnaires, and argued with my husband over wearing his uniform. I have held hands with  strangers, shaken hands with people who served alongside my grandfather, and argued with people who celebrate Christmas before commemorating Remembrance Day. 

Each year I put on the equivalent of my Sunday best, do my makeup, pin poppies on my  daughters, and carry a photo of my husband and my uncle, to the service at the legislative grounds. I have gone in every kind of weather imaginable, and have tried my best to present the façade of the strong, elegant, cornerstone of the military family that is the military spouse. It is exhausting, and this year I am too tired to carry on. 

This year I will sit on the couch with my daughters, and the photos of our loved ones, and we will watch the Ottawa service on tv. If I feel like crying, I will cry. I will hug my babies and we will talk about our loved ones, their daddy, and why this day matters to us above all else. We will talk about all of the mom’s and dad’s of my children’s friends who are currently deployed or away for various reasons, and we will count every one of our blessings, made possible by all of these heroes. I won’t put on makeup, I will not present myself as anything that strangers or friends expect me to be. I will watch the service from the comfort of my home, where I am free to feel and express myself without feeling as though I have to “keep it together” for the sake of those around me. 

After the service, we are going for a walk. Maybe we will go to the park, or perhaps the lagoon. From there we can see where their daddy works when he is alongside, and we will count the days until he is home, together. This year I am not doing this for anyone but my family. For too long I have placed too much importance on  appearances, and trust me, keeping them up on a day like today is more exhausting than running a marathon. 

After a decade of being a military wife, and a lifetime of being a military family member, I think I have earned the right to observe this day in a way that is healthy for both me and my girls. My love has missed countless birthdays, holidays, moments that cannot be recreated – including the birth of one of our daughters. He will spend the next year away from us, and I will be strong while I wipe the tears away from my daughters’ eyes, check their homework, take them to lacrosse, doctors appointments, and read them emails from their daddy. I spend 364 days of the year being strong, today I would like, even if only for a few hours, to let my guard down, and feel what I try to avoid the rest of the year. 

So no, I’m not going to a service today, and if you disagree with my decision, I respect your opinion. I am not a bad wife, I am a tired one. If you don’t agree that I deserve to observe how I choose, I suggest you reread this post, or any of my posts, until you feel empathy for what I have to do to survive. If that doesn’t work, I will politely ask you to mind your own damned business – but I’ll only be polite once.