What is strength? It's one of those words I use without really thinking about what it means. I mean strong is strong, and strength comes from being strong. But what is being strong? Where does our strength come from? Is it merely physical? Mental? Emotional? Spiritual? Or all of the above, or even some of the above at different times? How do we know we are strong? When do we need to be strong? And why strong? Is it the same as being powerful, forceful? What does being strong give us? Why is it necessary? What happens if you're not strong? Is not being strong the same as being weak?
Even as I begin this post, I am aware that I actually have a very strange or perhaps more accurately, an estranged, relationship with "strength". It feels like I get it, I understand it, but at the same time and simultaneously, I don't. It's a concept, a definition, a word, but that I don't actually feel and know it in my body. It's as though there's a huge area of the relationship that I don't know, and that I don't know that I don't know. Having written that, I see that this article/post is going to be an exploration into what I don't know that I don't know about strength, and opening to the possibilities and potential of deepening into, and most especially, about embodying strength.
I feel nervous and scared as I begin the dive into strength, as though I am entering into a forbidden territory, a room with a locked door whose key has been hidden away, or even thrown away. I even keep wanting to find another word to explore, such as "power" but as I attempt to veer off in that direction, I am pulled back to the word "strength". Key. This image of the key appeared as I typed it. I immediately remembered that last summer I was given a key by my dear friend, Lys. I started a post about this unexpected gift and perhaps will have to finish it now before I continue on with this here.
I finished the post on The Key...you can read it here.
It was necessary for me to return to that post and finish before I continued here. As I wrote the post, I immediately returned to my journey with Chiron and my sacred wound. At the end of the post, I committed to going on this descent into and through my sacred wound, to allow the pain and embrace the wound without getting stuck into it, so that I may step into my soul's destiny and contribute to the transformation of our world.
So when I ask the question, "Why strength and why now?", I can feel deep in my being that to go on this journey into the darkness requires a certain foundation of strength and courage. And in all truth, I'm not totally sure that I have that kind of strength in me.
So it seems that the first steps of this journey demand that I connect with the strength that I have and build my strength as I take this journey. Perhaps building my strength is actually an essential part of the journey.
I don't feel strong. I would never consider myself a strong person, emotionally or physically. Actually, until recently, I have learned how to hide this conclusion from even myself. I am a master compensator and a master avoider.
Years ago, I was told I had "no core." I know that I have written about this before, most likely many times, but when I was told this, I actually had no idea what the person meant when she said this. How is that possible? That diagnosis has plagued me for years. Even more, it has catalyzed me, motivated me, shamed me, confused me, tormented me, and stopped me. All of the above. Paradoxically, being told that I had no core has been the core of my inner journey, exploration and transformation!
As if peeling away another layer of the proverbial onion, I am just coming to understand that my core has very little strength. No matter what I seem to do - Pilates, healing the split exercises, yoga, exercise for 100 days, walk hundreds of miles on a pilgrimage - I still experience an inherent and fundamental weakness and lack of strength in the core of my being and body. It's as though no matter what I do, nothing touches the core of my core. I may cycle hundreds of miles in France and England (back in 1981-82 when I was 22-23 years old) and have super strong and toned legs, but somehow my belly was still not strong. I may walk a 100+ mile pilgrimage, and feel strong and toned, vibrant and alive, but somehow my pelvic muscles are still not engaged or strong. I can exercise every day for 100 days, and feel good, but not strong.
The experience, feeling, sensation of being strong eludes me. What does feeling and being strong feel like?
Being with and feeling into STRENGTH, I have come to realize a few things over this past week or so.
Physically speaking, my movements do not originate from my core. Rather, my movements start from extremities and as a result, are not strong or very centered. I use my hip muscles to do many activities that others would most likely use their core muscles. I tighten up in my shoulders and upper back to move my arms. I've been noticing this when I walk, especially when I use my Nordic Walking poles. When I do yoga poses, there are certain ones where my hips cramp and I simply cannot do the pose. I try to come from my core, but it's as though my body only knows how to do things from my hips, back and shoulders.
That reminds me of when I was giving birth (four times!), and I felt excruciating pain in my back and up in my upper back. It's as though I was holding on and trying to birth using the strength in my shoulders. Crazy! And, I can assure you, that it didn't work very well!
Even after months of focusing on and doing diastasis rehabilitation exercises (healing the split in my abdominal recti muscles), I still did not feel strong. I felt better, but I have to say that I still did not feel strength emanating from my belly.
After years of trying to "fix" and heal my belly, fix and heal myself, I guess I have to admit that I had in some ways given up hope and was working to just accepting myself as I am, surrendering to a belly that doesn't feel strong and is bigger than I like, wondering what and how I was going to do physically to keep active as I grow older and still want to keep walking. Quite honestly, and quite sadly, I have been slowly giving up hope to ever feel truly strong and connected in my belly. I was accepting that it's just the way things are. Just the way I am. And accepting that I am just going to have to figure out how to keep walking no matter what.
But my body is aging. I will be 56 in 2 months, and I am noticing a huge difference from even 6 years ago as I was preparing to walk the Camino for the first time.
Also, I am aware of a creeping resignation coming into my being. I don't feel sexual and passionate. Oh, well. I guess that's what happens when you get older. Perhaps sex won't get better or more frequent as I age. As I was counting on. Oh well. Too bad. My joints creak and are stiff. Oh, well. At least I can still walk. I thought I was going to make a difference in the world. Create something beautiful that was going to contribute to the world being a better place. Well....maybe not. I guess I'll just focus on my family and my kids and support them to be all that they can be. Not that's that is bad. It's not. It's just that I always thought I would do that, and more. Dreamer. Be grateful for all the blessings and the love you do have in your life. It's okay that you're getting older, and your dreams are getting further away. Focus on what's here and now. England? Well, that was a pretty crazy dream anyway? Did you really think that you were going to create that? I mean, seriously? Oh, and that somehow your work was going to fund this crazy dream, and that you were actually going to make enough money to contribute to your family and create your dreams? It's okay...you're a big dreamer. Just be okay with what is, let it go, and come back to here and now. It's okay that you don't feel strong. Or even successful. Because look at your kids. They're amazing. And look at what they're doing in the world. They are all doing such amazing things and are successful and creative each in their own right. You have been an amazing mother and have contributed and supported each of them so beautifully. Let that be enough. It's their turn now.
Ahhh. So this is the place that has been beckoning to get my attention. That I am becoming an older woman whose prime has past and now it's their turn. I lost my chance. I was never strong enough or able enough to create my dreams.
I am becoming resigned.
Resigned from ever being strong and vibrant from my core, or even knowing what that feels like. Is this what happens to old people? They just sort of give up on their own lives and let themselves become old?
DAMN IT. NO. NO. NO.
I am not ready to be old. I am not ready to give up on my dreams. I am not ready to give up on myself or ever finding or knowing my core. Connecting to my core and having a strong, vibrant, alive, pulsating, soul-connected, sexually alive core is my birthright. Finding my core. Feeling my core. Knowing my core. Strengthening my core. Loving from my core. Moving from my core. Having my core and having it move me, guide me, provide for me, love me. This is my journey. My purpose. My focus. My mission.
My core is my roots. My core is my tap root.
It may have been severed. I may have lost it. I may have become disconnected. But that was the deal my soul made.
I had to lose that which is most essential to who I am, with the promise that I would find it. No matter what. No matter when. No matter how far I have to travel, walk, search for it.
Because the truth is...it is here, within me all along.
And I'm just beginning to understand this...that the split is not my core. That my abdominal muscles and the ones focused on in Pilates and yoga are not my core. That all these places and areas that I focused on, searched and explored have been masquerading as the core. Diverting my attention from the core, my core.
What if the strength at the core of my being, the tap root within my body, has been hidden in plain sight all along?