Yes, you are strong. But you don't have to be.

Yes, you are strong. But you don't have to be.
"You are strong, but you don't have to be".

My friend whispered this in my ear while hugging me long and tight after I cried through our brunch. It rang through me like an echo and I realized it was because it was not the first time someone had said those exact words to me. The last time was several years ago when I cried at the office and a young, wise, coworker I had hired said to me, “You are so strong Kena. But you don’t always have to be.” I remember that made me cry more. 
Do you consider yourself to be strong? I have been through many difficult experiences at a relatively young age and throughout it all I’ve taken pride in my strength. The word strong has at least sixteen different definitions. Beyond the obvious ones that don’t apply (strong odor or physically strong), the ones that I relate to the most are “not mild or weak” and “not easily upset”. Being strong has allowed me to focus, persevere, to take charge and also to take care of myself even through stressful situations. It is good to be strong. Strong is good.’s not. There is a time and place for strong. I have exercised that muscle well. My strong muscle is, well, very strong. But all muscles need rest. They need replenishment, they need support. They need to be held tightly in the middle of a busy restaurant at brunch-time.  And they need to be reminded that they don’t have to be strong all the time.
I kept myself together with sheer force until I didn’t realize I was even doing it anymore. I started to pay attention when I went for a massage and the therapist who was cradling my head in her hands asked me to let go, to relax my head into her hands. “I am.” I said to her, “No, you’re not,” she said back. I was taking strong too far. 
As much as being strong has helped me, I’m starting to realize that there is a time and place for it. When you take strong too far, you lose touch with yourself. You are more focused on appearing ok than actually being ok. You gloss past feelings that need your nurturing and attention. And absolutely worst of all, you don’t ask for or allow yourself to receive help or support. Help is for the weak. I can do it ALL MYSELF (sounds a little like my five-year-old daughter - eek!).
I write those words and I feel exhausted. It is exhausting to be strong all the time. It feels like you’re perpetually hanging on at the end of a cliff, your fingers digging into the dirt even when you’re watching Netflix on the couch or out for dinner with a friend. 
Finally, finally, after that cry at brunch with my loving and open friends and that hug afterwards I think I’m getting it. I am strong. I was SO strong, when I had to be. But there is more to me than being strong. And now begins my journey to choose another way, a softer and more gentle way.
So this is a very important message for all my strong women out there, especially now (Lord knows have we ever had to be strong). 
Yes, you are strong. But you don’t have to be. 
I love you.
xo Kena