Finding Strength Where the Wind Blows

by Belinda Munoz on July 7, 2010

strength

Is it just me or is it true that many important lessons in life are hard to learn, execute then commit to memory?  Often it seems we luck out and stumble past them only to find later that we haven’t learned a thing and vow to re-learn the same elusive lessons.

Some lessons seem to contradict each other that it’s difficult to remember which rule applies when.

THERE’S HOLDING ON VS. LETTING GO.

We’re told to be in the moment no matter how crazy our lives are and to let go of the past regardless of how much pain there is still to work through.  It sounds rudimentary until we’re in the thick of it.  Because sometimes, our feet just aren’t on solid ground and our knees get wobbly.  So, we invariably confuse the two by holding on to the past and letting the moment slip away.  Where do we end up?  Where else other than on muddy terrain that’s both a pain to stand up out of and slippery to walk in.

THERE’S FITTING IN VERSUS STANDING OUT.

We come across this dilemma in our early years.  Some among us who already fit in will pull out a touch of meanness (from our otherwise mostly good hearts) to marginalize those who stand out.  If we have outcast-y tendencies and we catch it early, we rub, scrub or wrap ourselves, and I don’t mean in a pampering day spa kind of way, to obscure said quality.  Then, years go by and the rubbing, scrubbing and wrapping have gone on so long that individuality has become a faint memory and we’re beyond recognition.

THERE’S TRUST VS. CHECKING THE FACTS.

Do I follow my gut or should I think twice before I take the next step, whatever it may be?  If it feels right, does it make it right?  If it looks and sounds right but it doesn’t feel right, then what?  (What is gut anyway, and don’t fact-checkers make mistakes, too?) And if I take any more time asking questions that no one can (or cares to) answer, the facts begin to blur and my gut starts to think twice.

THERE’S PLAYING TO OUR STRENGTHS VS BUSTING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE.

One is pragmatic and straight, the other risk-taking and exciting.  When do we pick one over the other?  How do we appreciate our strengths if we don’t test them?  How do we discover more strengths if we don’t take risks?  Who says we have to do either if we’d rather sit in the sun reading a good book?

THERE’S WISING UP VS. NOT TAKING OURSELVES SERIOUSLY.

We’re told to grow up, work hard, play well with others and become productive members of society.  That’s the wising up part.  Then we get in a bind, crash into a wall and run out of gas for who knows how long.  Some will walk by or kick us while we’re down.  Others will laugh or spread rumors about what happened.  Still others will mock us or tell us our problems aren’t real.  This is the part where we’re told not to take ourselves seriously.

Challenging?  No doubt.  Confusing?  For sure.  Makes us throw in the towel?  On occasion (okay, more often than that).

ONLY…

Only there’s a way through all this.  How?  By cultivating strength.  Again, how?  By getting past it.  Vague, you say?  You’ve heard of Nietzsche saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Cliche though it is, who can argue that it’s not true?  What I love about this piece of wisdom is we can start with zero strength, right at the very beginning.  At wimp factory level.  No boots, no armor.  Just as we are.

I take comfort in Nietzsche’s words.  The wind will blow.  Hard.  Every which way.  Then it will blow over because no wind can outlast time.  If we’re still standing, I’d like to believe that we will have gained some strength.  Strength enough to weather the next wind.  Even if we haven’t learned our lesson.

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Do we honor and trust in our inner strength enough?

Are some lessons over-rated?

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Image by maistora

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July 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TheKitchenWitch July 7, 2010 at 4:46 am

The weird thing with inner strength is that we don’t realize how much of it we have until we hit some kind of shitstorm. And then, after the dust settles, we think, “Wow. I’m strong enough to endure.”

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2 Tony Single July 7, 2010 at 5:12 am

It’s kinda like a couple years ago here in Oz when the scientists said drinking milk was bad for you. Then they said that it was good for you. They flip flopped in the same way about eggs. I gave up listening to them and continued to eat in moderation anyway.

So when it comes to the conflicting lessons that you outlined above… well, I try not to learn lessons any more. I just try to navigate my way between all that (or around it) and make the choices I think I might need to make. I might be right, I’m often wrong, but at least I can own these choices instead of filling my head with the confusing mish mash of what he said she said they said! 😛

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3 Meg July 7, 2010 at 6:57 am

I’ve gone through the whole litany of life crap, abusive relationships, financial woes, business failures, health problems, and losing half my family to death in the space of three years. Good things arose, but sometimes I had to look hard for them. And there was a HUGE lesson learned from all of this:

Life happens. I’m not special. Deal with it. The strength I had to find in all of this is the strength that damned near everyone has to find for one thing or another, and pales in comparison to what millions must deal with in parts of the world where there is famine or war or genocide.

I don’t think it is a matter of honoring our individual strength as it is honoring human strength as a whole. It is a rare individual who goes through life completely sheltered from troubles. So I would agree with Nietzsche, up to a point.

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4 Indigo July 7, 2010 at 9:47 am

“Nietzsche saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I’m living proof of this. You truly don’t realize how strong you are, how defiant the human spirit is…until you’ve come out on the other side and realized you had the strength all along. (Hugs)Indigo

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5 Katie July 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

I think I’ve always trusted that I have the strength to create the life I want. But I’ve also not been “hit by a shit storm” like TheKitchenWitch has so maybe my true strength just hasn’t been tested. I think we all have it in varying degrees, but like your paradoxes, I find strength seems to be most useful when easy, gentleness accompanies it.

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6 Corinne July 7, 2010 at 11:08 am

We all need to give our inner strength more credit, I think. It’s an incredible thing.

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7 Aging Mommy July 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I think we can only really and truly harness our inner strength to full advantage when we truly believe in ourselves and that only comes from being confident and happy about who we are and where we are in life. I also agree with TKW that when we encounter some kind of shit storm we discover how strong we really are.

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8 Aileen July 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm

What a wonderful post! I do find myself between pieces of wisdom “hold on vs. let go” and “play to our strength vs get out of comfort zone” – and I agree that over time with consciousness we can gain the strength to steer our course.

Perhaps some lesson are overrated, others are imperative for a fulfilling life.

The wind does knock us down and it’s all kinds of nasty but the moment of getting back up is phenomenal.

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9 Davina July 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm

As I was considering your question about lessons I had the thought that just as we are so focused on outcomes, we are also focused on lessons… the destination as opposed to journey. I read a quote to that effect today and it really turned on a light. I wonder why there has to be an either or of all these choices you mentioned? We always seem to do one or the other. Maybe it’s just being on the journey that is the middle ground? 🙂

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10 Tess The Bold Life July 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

I like the first comment about not knowing our strength until the storm. Also Davina is spot on about the middle ground being the journey. I love where I am today. And I’ll feel the same tomorrow. My mom had a 6th grade education and I’m one of 10 children. She used Nietzsche’s saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger all the time. She is going to be 90 in October. She would know! Thanks for you thought out post.

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11 The Exception July 8, 2010 at 11:15 am

The conflict is part of our lives as my daughter is a serous ballet student. She is just ten and asked to “focus” and often told she is “playing around” due to her not being fully focused. She is determined to dance, to dance she must focus, and yet… she is just a child. I don’t want her to give up her childhood and the joy of play and imagination and creativity – and yet she must find a way to focus to fulfill her dream of dancing.
So often we learn lessons to give up the joy and the play in our lives and then we spend our days trying to find a way to add those aspects back. We are asked to grow up and be responsible while we are encouraged to go out and play and create. A society of contradictions…

I love the picture and quote… and this tree will still be standing

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12 BigLittleWolf July 8, 2010 at 11:44 am

There’s so much wisdom in all these examples, Belinda. And again, you’ve written this so eloquently.

Experience guides us. Inner strength gets us through. But we all know it’s much more than “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.” It’s a great saying but it isn’t really that black and white. Too much of an onslaught kills us off in bits. I guess the trick is a combination of inner strength and support systems – to prevent that from happening.

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13 Maggie July 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm

What a thought-provoking post. You’re right, so much advice seems conflicting that it can really be hard to figure out how to proceed when you face an obstacle. One of my favorite quotes relating to this is “A man who doesn’t stand for something will fall for anything.” I’m not sure who said it, but I try to live my life by that idea. Once we develop our convictions, we may choose to follow reason or our instinct differently in different situations, but the main point is that our convictions are still the same. I think that making a choice to live a certain way and sticking to it is the ultimate display of strength, and the people I most respect in life are those people who stay true to themselves and their beliefs, no matter what the situation.

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14 Walter July 8, 2010 at 7:36 pm

How do cultivate our inner strength? Perhaps it is in our capacity to go on despite the beleaguering of circumstances and belief in our capacity to be strong. 🙂

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15 Sibyl - alternaview July 8, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Belinda: What a great post and thanks for sharing your wisdom. I really appreciated what you had to say about the challenges and lessons that come our way. It is easy to think that the best thing that could happen to us is a life of smooth sailing, however, life really is about weathering the storm and transforming the challenges that come our way. That is how we really learn and grow. Thanks for this post.

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16 Justine July 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm

The push and pull, heart versus mind, logic versus instinct – yes, it’s the epitome of our struggles. The constant having to decide and not fully sure of our decisions.

I love that you used Nietzsche’s quote because it’s a mantra of mine that weathered me through very long and tough days. And battles. And yes, I am stronger an I’m grateful to have appeared triumphant. But sometimes I wonder – at what price?

Great piece as usual Belinda.

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17 Christine LaRocque July 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

This post speaks to my heart and mind Belinda. I’m good and not very good at all of it. I’m a moving forward kind of person, but I alway do so with hesitation. I’m not very good at taking the knocks, and yet if given enough time I think I always learn and grow. It’s a constant internal battle, and perhaps the argument is that this is what makes us human. There are no right or wrong answers, there’s only trusting in ourselves, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do I think.

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