Steel Magnolias

They’re not going to lick me!

“Scarlett O’Hara had a lot of flaws,” I pondered as I watched Gone With the Wind for the sixth time this weekend. She was greedy, envious, selfish, and loved money above all else. But one trait I can’t help but admire, that I wish I could cultivate for myself, is her core of steel. Even when coming home to Tara to find it ransacked and blighted, her mother dead and her father “turned idiot,” she grieved and despaired … but only for moments. She pushed the hopelessness aside and set about doing what she could to improve their fortunes … even if that meant planting cotton and harvesting it herself. She stiffened her spine with absolute resolve and refused — angrily, patently refused — to give up.

I had a bad week last week. Surviving a stroke has impacted every area of my present life, from what I eat to desperately trying to control my stress. Not easy when you have been switched jobs at work against your will, haven’t gotten a raise in nearly seven years, are suffering physical pain, and there’s almost nothing in the house to eat. I plodded through the week until Friday … and then, I just didn’t have any more resolve.

One of the most embarrassing things for a woman in a business setting is to burst into tears at her workplace. At least, I think most women feel this way. I sure do. It undermines your capability and reinforces the awful, stereotypical “emotional female.” Especially if your workplace is 98% strapping men who go about risking their lives, and you don’t feel up to scratch in their presence anyway. The least you can do is be the capable “girl at the desk,” ready to assist in whatever way they need.

The pressures of the week mounted up so much that I twice had to retreat to the bathroom to cry unobserved. The main flaw in this plan is that you emerge red-eyed and clearly Not Okay. I have cried many, many times in bathrooms over the years. I once held in tears for eight hours doing front desk duty. I always lie and tell people it’s allergies. Usually I get away with it. Not this time.

My supervisor asked if I had a minute and to come to his office. I don’t know about you, but no matter how old I get, going into the supervisor’s office always makes me feel like a bad kid going to the principal’s office. (Or what I imagine that’s like — I was a perfect kid and therefore never got sent to the principal’s office).

“I just want to know if you’re okay, and if you need anything.”

God bless him.

There are a lot of things I think I need. There are a lot of things I think I deserve. Life seems to be a tightrope between “reach for your dreams” and “bloom where you’re planted.” When do you stop striving and be content, if you still feel you can better yourself? But, that is complicated — at least in my life — as I get older, by wondering if I have the strength and focus to keep starting over, to adjust to new challenges, to confront my mortality as people die and pieces of my body break.

Nobody told me adulting would be so damn hard.

Friday night I went to bed and slept for about 14 hours. When I opened my eyes the next morning, my first thought was, “As God as my witness, they’re not going to lick me!” I tightened my lips, got out of bed, went to the gym, and did my personal best on the elliptical.

If fighting depression all my life has taught me one thing, it’s that there is a little core of steel inside me. It’s certainly not as pronounced as Scarlett’s, but it is unequivocally there. I know because I have not given up completely. Some days I give up for the day. But I have not given up on hope for the rest of my life. God did not save me from a gruesome death for me to live a miserable life. There are so many factors in life to wear you down and mess up your thinking and focus. Depression — literally — makes you not think straight sometimes. That is a very frightening thing, to not think straight.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” That is now the first thing I say to myself every morning.

One good thing about getting older is that the more I go through and survive, the steel increases. I want to be someone everyone in my circles can count on. I don’t want to be dissolved. I wish I could be a tower of strength, but if that never happens, I am happy to have a filament of steel.

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