One of the Strong Ones

Yesterday morning about 8:30 am, I learn a good friend was killed in a car accident less than two hours previous. Derrick was a gentle giant of 6’8” and 500 pounds and nicknamed Darth. It was a well-earned nickname after single-handedly lifting me from the ground by my neck during a touch football game at a wedding reception (long story, but yeah, I deserved it). Considering I had just spoken to him and his wife on Saturday after the birth of their daughter, shock doesn’t begin to cover it. I’m sitting at my desk when I receive this news,  just as someone comes by and asks a question. Before the news can fully process, I shut off and respond to the query, because I don’t have time to give in to it right then and there. It is a useful trait that comes with being one of the strong ones.

As luck (hah!) would have it, Murphy’s Law rears its head in that yesterday was a training day. I’m the instructor; for a training scheduled to begin in less than an hour. 8:40 is about when I’m walking out of the door to go to my regular training venue. At 8:50 I was still sitting at my desk in semi-shock when my boss called about some urgent work related issue. Typical me – I take a deep breath, pull it somewhat together, compartmentalize, charge through and get things done. It is a useful trait that comes with being one of the strong ones.

As I set-out the training room materials, my mask must have slipped for a moment because only one person at the venue noticed I was off my game. I explained the situation briefly and went on about my business.  All during training, I’m ignoring my on-silent but constantly blinking cell phone. I know people want to talk to me, need to talk to me. I also know I had a class to teach. A class that any other day would run smoothly, but yesterday had back-to-back technical issues throwing the schedule off by a good forty-five minutes. I spent my lunch hour, not eating but on the phone putting out work and personal fires. It is a useful trait that comes with being one of the strong ones.

I get back to my office and everyone is in a titter over the approaching snowstorm. I quickly realize my original plans to be out the door on time are not going to happen. Nine hours from when I first received the news and an hour past my normal quitting time, I did something I never do. I lost my cool in front of a client. A well-meaning friend and co-worker who I had not had a chance to speak with came to chat and chose the wrong moment to be stubborn when I needed her to go away, while I was on the phone with a client. Let’s just say, not only did I forget about the hold button, but I owe my co-worker an apology. I know she’ll forgive me; because after twelve years of working together, I may yell a lot, but I do not out right snarl at someone, especially at work, without damn good reason. It is a useful trait that comes with being one of the strong ones.

I finally get home at 10:30pm. I am on the phone for another couple of hours, finally dealing with all things Darth. I’m fighting the desire to go and do everything I can to make it better, knowing all too well from personal experience, there really isn’t much I can do. But, I am also the only one in our age group who can provide that experience. The problem with being one of the strong ones is that nearly everyone accepts that of you 24/7/365.  Where do the strong ones go when they need to break down? Like when it’s two in the morning, and I’m caressing my neck in memory as I’m sitting up in the dark of my bedroom, the glow of my lap top watching me as I watch big fat juicy snow flakes fall and yet my tears can’t.

It is a not so useful trait that comes with being one of the strong ones.

6 thoughts on “One of the Strong Ones

  1. I can understand this, as I am considered to be one of the strong ones, at least in regard to certain fears shared by many, fears which I believe to be deliberately exaggerated by the media. (Don’t get me started on this!)

    At least, you can apologize to your co-worker and she will most likely forgive you, while I’ve had the experience of a few hangers-on who never get over it if you let your guard down even for a second.

    You will get over your friend’s death in time, and will remain one of the strong ones.

  2. I’ve been one of the strong ones, too.

    What I’ve learned this past year is that there is some cost to that. In my case I lost some health. Feeling that, and also losing some close friends, I’ve become more aware of my mortality and well being, and I’m working hard to maintain now.

    And, while that doesn’t preclude being strong for others, I feel that it’s caused me to be a bit more discerning about where my strength is spent.

    Hugs to you for your loss, and friend to friend, consider my story and how it may apply to you.

  3. Where? Right here, dear. You -know- I’ve seen yelling from people I love. 😉 Plus the whole up in the wee hours thing. Perhaps a time vortex would be healing, in addition to other qualities.

    I’m someone who gets very calm and level-headed in a true emergency, but I’d describe myself as emotionally fragile in situations
    not quite as dire. It’s what I dislike the most about myself.

    Given my own proclivities, I admire strength where I see it, and yes, I’ve seen your abundant resources in that department. But I never would (and never have) decided that has to be a personality constant. You are how you are, and that may change as appropriate for any given situation. There must be many others who share that outlook.

    If some people are rattled by seeing things get to you, then perhaps they ought to be. Assuming people are one-dimensional isn’t realistic or healthy. Rattle those cages!

    So- don’t let others’ expectations of you create a situation where you have that same expectation for yourself- and feel trapped by that.

    I’m truly sorry to hear about your friend. Do what you need to do, and be how you need to be. You have such a wealth of wonderful traits, you’ll always have admirers. True ones.

    Hugs and condolences from the hobbit and the golem.

  4. What Q wrote is right. Remember that with Yin comes yang. You can’t be as strong as you are without being in touch with your vulnerabilities. I hope the memories of your dear friend help you through the sorrow.

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