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Being “Strong”

March 2012 091

Photo by Eva; Old House in Pennsylvania, Sch. County

Growing up, “being strong” was a necessary trait…”you’re tough, you can handle it.” “Never cry in public”, “Don’t let people see how you feel.”

I remember our dentist when I was growing up…Dr. Harvey…never gave novacaine for routine dental procedures. “you’re tough, you can handle this”.  I’d be clenching on to the handles of the chair, screaming inside.  (He did my wisdom teeth with novacaine…in the office…we’re not even going to go there….)

When you didn’t exactly fit in at school…it was a “grin and bear it” attitude…you’d walk home being brave and strong, keeping the tears inside until you walked into the house and got quickly to the bathroom and bawled your eyes out.

I’d have to walk through the bakery(the store) before being able to get upstairs.  It was protocol that I always greet whoever the customer was with my mother at the time (I remember one time just walking through and not saying anything…I got a rare tongue lashing that time…NEVER did that again).  My dad would be waiting in the back for me to come and talk…usually my Dad would catch that something was wrong and get it out of me.  Then Mom would come back after the store was cleared and I would get my needed sympathy as well as a glass of milk and whatever was in the store that afternoon..usually a cupcake for me.  (I loved when my Dad made the Butterfly cupcakes…you take a cupcake, cut the top part off, put a swirl of buttercream frosting on the cupcake, take the cut off bit and cut into two to be the wings.  Stick the wings in and dust with powdered sugar.  They looked really pretty in pastel colors.)

I remember when getting the various cuts and scrapes I was prone to, the “be strong” and stoic attitude actually benefitted the situation cause there would be no hysterics.  One time I remember having a minor accident that required going to the ER for stitches…I would go to my Dad because he’d say, “Oh, that’s nothing…let’s just put some ice on it and go…quickly.”  My mother on the other hand would have run around like a chicken without a head and make me even more nervous.

I used this procedure with my daughter as well…when she would have a cut or scrape, inside I’m thinking, “Oh my, that looks bad…” but to her, I’d smile, brush it off and say, “oh, that’s not bad…let’s go in and clean that off and put a bandage on it.”  And she would always smile through a tear or two and my dear little curly redhead would then say softly after getting the bandaid, “yes, that wasen’t bad.” (and in reality I could hear her mentally saying, “boy did that hurt!)  A snack of some kind was always required and many times she would be quite content to stay inside and let me read a story for her or she would sit quietly and play with her toys.

I noticed in later years that she did the same thing to her friends…the strong and stoic attitude.  Her friends would have a scrape and start to cry.  She’d go over, look at it intently and say, “oh, that’s nothing.  Go inside and get it cleaned up and put a bandaid on it.”  The crying would stop immediately and when the child came back out, there were usually popsicles for everyone.

I’ve been strong pretty much my whole life to the detriment sometimes of not being able to ask for help.  In fact, it’s painful asking for help because I feel like I’m losing control.  Kind of it being a sign of failure.  And I do believe I need to start thinking differently about it all…what if, just what if people actually want to help and all this time I’ve been  too stubborn and proud to let them?  Maybe it’s time to let go.   Food for thought…

til next time…Eva