The words on the front of the memorabilia shirt I got from the Celine Dion concert we went to a couple weeks ago. In a way, those words are a good catch phrase for my life. Not the end all be all phrase, but a good one. You see, I persevere. I’m a soldier, tough cookie. I can be a daisy, but when push comes to shove, I march forward. Think about it, when you see an obstacle, does it stop you, or do you go MacGyver on it and figure out not only a way around but re-engineer it so it’s now an advantage to you? Yeah, I’m usually MacGyver. I take pride in making opportunities out of challenges. It’s the soldier thing.
I remember a time when I was probably 15 and my mom and stepdad took us kids on a backpacking trip. Being a teenager filled with angst, I was having none of it. I bitterly marched on, stone faced, determined not to have fun. After reaching the campsite and dropping our gear, we decided to go up to Summit Lake. A lake, in hindsight, that was beautiful. It sits at the border of the Hoover Wilderness and Yosemite. Along the way we had to cross what I think was a beaver dam across a river. As I went across, my left leg, prosthetic and all, went through the dam, up to my thigh in ice cold water.
Oh really beaver? Game on…
I pulled my leg out and with complete resolve went the rest of the way to Summit Lake. Beaver be dammed (pun not so much intended, but oh so convenient). I wanted no help, nada. The show must go on. I can actually still remember the route to that lake in my head. I think I’d enjoy it a lot more now since nature is my jam, but then? I was a soldier.
So this week, I’ve had an illness trying to get hold of me. True to form, I marched forward. No, I’m not sick…kept going to work…sure I could beat it. Not going to get me down, until I had no choice. I took a death spiral Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday to the point where I started to get a little worried. Fever, coughing, not able to breathe…and worst of all, no appetite. I’m one of those people who never loses their appetite so I knew something must be wrong. It got to the point where when my husband suggested taking me to urgent care late in the day, I agreed. And sure enough, bronchitis. Good thing is I got on drugs and should be getting to the other side soon.
But this really isn’t about my illness, it’s about that mindset. At some point, I’ve realized that perseverance is good. Hard headedness is not. Self-compassion? It’s a strength. Truth is, I need to ask myself, what are you trying to prove? And more importantly, to who? What is it in me that has a hard time admitting frailty, with being seen as anything other than strong and one tough cookie?
The challenge is, I’ve been seen as this person for so long, it’s how people know me. So there’s a small voice in me that questions if they’d still like me if I actually showed the weakness when it arises. When the mask comes off. It’s not that the soldier isn’t part of who I am, but it’s part of authenticity. The authentic me gets sick sometimes. Isn’t always strong. Needs to be carried rather than doing the carrying at times. Authenticity leans on being brave to be self-compassionate, and lets others see all the parts. It’s part of the journey my friends and if it resonates with you, I encourage you to think about what mask you could put down today. I’m walking right along with you.