notes for my daughter: weak & strong

All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as water. And that's the tragedy of living.

Dear Orla,
I have been strong and I have been weak, and I have learnt that these words do not mean what we think.

Before you were born, I cried easily; a confrontation with friends, a passing criticism at work. I once cried at an episode of Supermarket Sweep, because I was just so happy for them when they won.
I could no more contain these tears than I could hold back a sneeze; sobs so huge they could wrench my throat apart, tears that could & would soak an entire roll of toilet paper, or, in an emergency once, my hastily-removed knickers (it’s a long story).

After you came, something changed. I’m not sure if it was hormonal, an adjustment to the new parameters in my life, or just the healing experience of growing my real family with my own body, but now those tears are rare. I didn’t cry when Rory proposed; I don’t cry at sad books or films, or when I overheard rude comments about me outside half-open doors at work. I feel sad, I feel like I might cry, and then is passes.

What this has made me realise is, people’s emotions are not really an indicator of their strength. It is a fallacy and a joke to believe that suppressing our true feelings is in some way admirable; that faking the same state of consciousness at all times is the best representation of a healthy mind.

When, a week after a suicide attempt, a friend can laugh about her own averted funeral; when a cruel & selfish manager repeatedly organises leaving parties for herself and fails to understand why nobody attends; when everybody starts out soft and kind and smiling, & only some end up brittle and cruel, then ‘strong’ is not what we were told, and ‘weakness’ is something we ought to hold onto with all of our might.

Read more notes for my daughter, here.