Where Strength Comes From, Both Emotional and Physical

Yesterday's post "Fuck The Fuckers" got a LOT of response via email, Facebook, Twitter and comments (and is still getting some...) You guys are incredibly supportive and I thank you so very much for your support.

But more than the support, I thank you for opening up to me with your own experiences. I seem to have struck a nerve with a lot of people. I know that we've all experienced our fair share of pain, doubt, suffering and abuse in our lives, but I think the idea that someone would stand forward and take it all on really hit a lot of people hard.

One commenter, Cat Campbell, said:

"Fake it til you make it", that's the advice I was always given. And I have tried, with great success, for so long. But it has become almost impossible to fight anymore.
I wish to god I had even a portion of your strength. I wish I knew where it comes fr:om. How to cultivate it. There are very few nights where I don't hope that I just won't wake up the next day. I know it's what "they" want, but when you have run out of strength, and run out of will and run out of hope, what is there left beside the "easy way"?

Cultivating strength is pretty easy. It just sucks.

In weight lifting, strength is developed by the systematic tearing down of the muscles. You lift weights and the process of doing so tears the individual fibers of the muscle. When it heals, it heals back bigger and tougher. This allows you to do more weight, which tears more, which heals back stronger, which allows you to do more weight... So on and so on.

The same is true with emotions. You survive hard experiences and you heal. This enables you to survive harder experiences.

And much like weight lifting, emotional healing is where actual strength is developed. You do not build strength  while exercising -- that's where you tear things down. You build strength while you rest. If you don't rest, you cannot develop strength, because you cannot heal the damaged tissue. The same is true of your emotions. If you don't take the time to heal, you cannot get stronger.

That's the problem, though. We don't treat our emotional pain the way we treat our physical pain. I've written about this in the past, and it's highly relevant to this post.

How I choose to heal may be different from how you choose to heal. As I explained, writing is a massive part of my healing. Writing what I wrote last night was active healing. I was hurting so bad last night, and have been hurting this week... This month... This year. It's been a painful time for me. And there are times I want to collapse and give up.

When I feel that happening; when I feel the weakness and the tiredness and the pain, I imagine it like when I'm sore after a workout. I choose to see hardship and pain and suffering as training. And when I feel that feeling, instead of giving up, I begin healing.

I feel the darkness swirl and become thick, like being enveloped in a cloak made of sap. And rather than collapse into it, I light a candle in my heart. It's amazing how quickly the darkness can be vanquished with but a single light. Imagine being in a room that has grown dark. You cannot see anything. The room is vast. Maybe it's a stadium. Maybe it's the size of an entire forest. But no matter how large and how dark, the second you light a candle, the light cannot be denied, nor can it be squashed. It might be small... But there it is, glowing.

That's what writing is for me. It's lighting a candle. It's a hope that my pain and my anguish and my experiences can help someone else. Maybe it shows them a way to move forward. Maybe it simply reaches out and says "You are not alone. Take my hand." Maybe no one reads it at all, ever. But it doesn't matter. I begin writing, knowing that maybe it could help someone someday, even if that only someone is me.

And with that, that candle is lit. And in the light, I begin to heal. And the more I heal, the stronger I get. And as I get stronger, I gain the power to stand in the face of darkness and scream defiantly "COME AT ME BRO."

Maybe I'm standing in your darkness when I do it. Maybe I'm standing in your best friend's darkness, who you sent my writing to. Maybe it's my friends or maybe it's my own. But there I stand, bruised, battered and scarred but hard... Torch in hand, ready to take it on.

It might hurt. But so does any other form of training. And at the end of it, I'll just be stronger.