Inner Strength: That Thing That Keeps Us Going

In 1966 Robert F Kennedy made a speech where he used the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.” I didn’t really understand the curse until recently. I thought it was a proverb but no, it’s a curse. We sure are living in an interesting time now.

Growing up I was an only child. I spent way more time with adults than children. I overheard a lot. I was a gatherer of intel. I think my parents thought it would go over my head or I was busy playing and wasn’t paying attention. In some cases I think they were naive about a situation. Here is a short list:

  • I’ve never not known that each of my parents have an uncle who was murdered. The murders were never solved.
  • My fathers brother worked for the C-eye-A (I don’t toy with that organization) in the 1950’s. He was killed while in their employ and my grandparents were told never to discuss it. A large article was placed in their local paper. Other than his name and the fact that he was dead the rest of the article is a lie. His death was an annual Christmas dinner conversation said in hushed tones, usually in the form of an argument. An aside: One of the greatest gifts I ever gave my father, besides his grandchildren, was a letter from one of the last people to see his brother alive. I contacted this agent after seeing my uncle’s name in a book. He wrote a letter telling the real story of what happened. People should never live their life without answers. Truth matters.
  • My grandmother’s brother and sister spent time off and on in the same state mental hospital between about 1960-1980. I can attest that the videos Geraldo Rivera shot in the 70’s showing the horrors of how these poor people lived is true. I saw it with my own eyes. I was about 8. I spent less than 3 minutes inside the building because my mother immediately dragged me out when she realized. Those images are forever in my brain. No one should live like that, not human, not animal.

So as you can see I wasn’t shielded from reality. Rightly or maybe wrongly I did shield my kids from the things I thought they didn’t need to know. We had the usual rules: don’t talk to strangers was a big one. H was a chatty friendly kid. She’d introduce herself to anyone and every kid was invited to play. As she got older and she and her friends got more independent I worried. I was well aware of the dangers in the world. This was the 90’s. So many children were abducted and murdered in the 80’s and 90’s. I was an overprotective mother. When H would push for more freedom to go and do things with her friends along with my stay safe speech I’d begun to add : There are things worse than ending up dead. Of course my comments were brushed off. She had that typical teenage attitude: I’m fine, I’m invincible. When Jaycee Lee Dugard returned after being abducted and held for 18 years in 2009 I said to H who was in college- “See there are worse things than ending up dead.” The look on her face said she finally understood.

When The Husband and I got married we moved 3000 miles away from everything and everyone we knew. It was a jarring experience to go from living at home with your parents to living with my husband and having no support system. I think it was the best thing for us. We had to rely on each other. We had to learn to be a team. I also had to learn to be not only a wife but a military wife.

Being part of the military family is different than being a civilian. Even the spouse who isn’t serving is part of the overall mission. When the service member goes off to do their job the spouse has to handle all the at home jobs while stressing over the work that their spouse does. Very quickly I learned to look to the other spouses for support, guidance and example. The most important lessons I learned was flexibility and resilience.

When The Husband finished his training (he was now a real B-52 navigator) we moved another 3000+ miles to our new home away from the support of our first group of military friends. This is where real military life started. I had to get used to monthly alert where The Husband would live in a bunker on the other side of the base for a week where they were ready to respond immediately to any need. FYI if a B-52 is needed immediately that isn’t good. I had to get used to schedules changing for any reason from illness to weather. More times than I can count The Husband went off for a simple day at work and I got a phone call later saying he was states away and would be home in a day or two. This is all the tougher when you have to explain to a child that Daddy won’t be home until later.,

A military spouse has to get used to hearing “I can’t tell you that or I’ll have to kill you”. Yes, it’s a joke of sorts but it’s true. There are a lot of secrets. The Husband had a top secret clearance. His job as a B-52 navigator involved bombing. It was the 80’s and 90’s. Yes. He was trained to drop nuclear weapons. On more than one occasion I was told something like I’m going away. I can’t tell you where. I’ll be gone for 24 hours. You’ll know where I was before I get back. Those times involved a lot of watching the news and hoping that everything went well. Once (thank God only once) on the weekend we were moving from one home to another on base The Husband learned he was leaving for an unknown amount of time and he couldn’t tell me where he was going. I knew things were ramping up in the Middle East. The Husband left me, a nearly 2 year old H in a new home full of boxes with furniture just dumped in any room. My mother jumped on a plane to come help. Mother’s just know when they’re needed. The Husband was gone for 7 months. A few weeks in I learned where he was on the cover of Time magazine. He could not confirm the information to me when I spoke to him on the phone.

After those big events in the early years of our marriage I felt strong. We had endured whatever came our way and we were enjoying our life. Yes there were difficult events but we survived and thrived. Then The Husband lost his job, a reduction in force. We moved in with my parents while The Husband looked for a job. The civilian world doesn’t have a need for his specialty so he had to change career field and start over. Through serendipity (I love that word-some might say through God’s guidance) when he started his new career at the post office he met someone who helped him reignite his old job, this time with the Air Force Reserve.

There have been lots of bumps in the road: cancer, 9/11, the death of our parents, and this pandemic. But with each challenge has come the lesson that I am strong. I may struggle. And I have struggled greatly- like the day my neighbor told me a plane from our base had crashed in Canada. Both of our husbands were flying at the time. We were lucky. Our husbands came home. Others didn’t.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. When we are tried we learn just how strong we can be. When we need help we just need to ask. When we see someone struggling we should offer help. Always remember that we are a culmination of everything that got us to where we are, we have endured and we are just getting stronger.

We can gain strength from each other. How are you strong? Please share in the comments what makes you the strong person that you are.

About nothingbutknit2

I'm a wife, mother and knitter. Watch out for my pointy sticks.
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33 Responses to Inner Strength: That Thing That Keeps Us Going

  1. Thank you for such an interesting and thought provoking blog. Stay safe and stay strong.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. robbiemct3 says:

    Parallels do exist in life. With you in thoughts and through the decades- wow.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. itwasjudith says:

    I was growing up in the 70s – we were shielded more than pre WWII children but not as much as today’s kids. Is shielding kids good or bad? when is shielding too much? Some problems can make us stronger (not talking of abduction, of course)
    My parents were a dysfunctional couple, and while we were given good things, we also witnessed and endured some very difficult interactions. My father positively left us down on more than one occasion – you learn to get up and fix the situation the best you can. The experience scars you, but you also learn and possibly get stronger. I think I’ve done well despite it.
    I think there’s something to be learnt from good and from bad. While we don’t wish bad things to happen, if they do, we ought to learn what we can from them. Learning and resilience are crucial skills in life.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I do think kids have been too shielded in the recent past (20-30 years). I also think they’ve been overindulged. They are the everyone gets a trophy generation. They expect to have the lifestyle they grew up with the moment they move out of their parent’s house. Losing and struggling are very valuable. They teach working harder to get the reward and make the reward so much more valuable.
      I’m sorry your childhood was difficult but getting through it made you who you are and that is a good thing.

      Liked by 6 people

  4. Goodness me what an interesting life you have had. You’ve had to deal with so much stuff. And thank you for sharing that with us.

    It’s lovely to hear that your mother helped when needed. I did not get on with mine, at all, throughout my life, and when my father died suddenly when I was 24 there was nobody to curb her excesses. She physically attacked me when I was four months pregnant (a straight-fingered hard poke in the stomach) and never forgave me for four things: marrying someone she didn’t approve of, divorcing him, not going to university, and not being a nurse like she was. My overwhelming feeling when she died, and still, is relief.

    I don’t think I shielded my children. They are now almost 37 and 39. Being a single mother for ten years taught them that you need to work for a living, make sure you have somewhere to live, put food on the table, and take no shit but do no harm. One is now a chartered accountant, one is a social worker. I am very proud of who they are and what they do.

    While being badly bullied working for a local authority I had a nervous breakdown. Unsurprising really. I was so angry when I went back to work there, which felt great. And then I got another job. Thankfully. A much happier place to be.

    And we are certainly living in “interesting” aka “worrying” times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry your mother was, um, difficult. It’s hard enough to live in this world but to have a mother who doesn’t support you 100% makes it even harder. I know I was very lucky to have a good relationship with my mother and I appreciate that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bobbie Jean says:

        Sometimes even mothers are so broken they cannot do better. Parents are the products of their raising also. Most of them do the best they can, while they can. We grow up to become adults who either drag the baggage with them, or they seek help. I did. It has taken years of therapy to repair the damage done, but I am better for it. And I know that my parents did the best they could. We can overcome, rise up and thrive.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. ReginaMary says:

    I read this post in amazement. I feel honored when someone brings me into their lives. Thank you for sharing this.
    What makes me stronger is my faith. My family. Delivering a child who was not breathing is an experience that caused me to take inventory on priorities and not take life for granted. My friends who love and support me with all my warts…unconditionally.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Meg Hanson says:

    Wow. Your time memories of your family sound like the makings of a memoir that I would read. And thank you to your husband (and you) for his service for our country.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have always thought my life was small and pretty boring. People in my family told such interesting stories of their life. A quick example. After my grandmother’s parents passed away from TB 3 weeks apart leaving behind 5 children my grandmother’s sister who was about 14 was taken in by a family of missionaries. She traveled with them by boat to Guam where she would be teaching English. On the boat she met a man she didn’t care for. She thought of him as an ass. His name was L Ron Hubbard who went on to start the Church of Scientology. That sounds so much more exciting than my life. The only famous person I ever met was less than welcoming of the hand knit socks I’d made him. I did think less of him after that.

      Liked by 4 people

      • This was such a fascinating post to read. Thanks for sharing. I just love hearing people’s stories. Your family’s are very interesting! It sounds like you and your husband have overcome a lot together. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been when he was in the military.

        I love the story about your relative on the boat and her impression of Hubbard. Though he died in the late 80’s, I went to one of his birthday parties in the 90’s with my “family.” (Not blood relations but they took care of me when my mom was sick). Yes, that’s right. Scientologists have these bizarre annual gatherings where they watch videos of L Ron speaking, serve cake, and celebrate his life. I was the only person there who wasn’t part of the cult, though they tried hard to recruit me.

        I had to be self-reliant from an early age because my mother was unstable (clinically depressed, a recovered alcoholic), and I’ve never met my dad. I was an only child too and know exactly what you mean about absorbing inappropriate info from adults. My mother and grandmother openly talked about my grandfather’s murder and other traumatic events within my earshot. I had to be strong to survive poverty, racism (biracial raised by white people), and other hardships. My own kids are way too sheltered, but I’d rather have it that way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It sounds like you’ve overcome a lot! You are a boss!
        I’ve had a weird fascination with Scientology. My BS meter is finely tuned so I’ve always thought it was a cult. I never realized how cruel they were until Leah Remini left.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Scientology is fascinating. Some aspects make sense but there’s also a lot of weird stuff. Initially I could see the positive influences it had on my “sister.” She called me that because her parents helped raise me and we shared a room together. I loved her like a sister and went to her Scientology funeral at the Florida headquarters in 2009. She and her husband became high up in the church and she even babysat Tom Cruise’s kids. They’re very secretive about the church. When we were younger she’d confide in me a lot, but then they relocated to be near HQs. Our relationship eventually suffered because I wouldn’t join. At one point she forbid her mom access to her grandchildren because she wasn’t a member. Under the pressure, she joined both of her daughters as Scientologists. I’ve learned a lot about it through them, but I don’t have good things to say about Scientology anymore. I’ll have to check out Leah Remini’s memoir. I haven’t seen her documentary but would be interested to hear what she has to say.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Leah Remini and Mike Rinder have a podcast now too. They interview a lot of ex members. I think that the original intent of Scientology was probably good but like anything, when the wrong people are in charge the original intent is lost and people suffer because of it. I’m so sorry you lost someone who you cared so deeply about.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. nanacathy2 says:

    Wow, my goodness me, what a colourful past, and what a lot you went through yourself. I had an idyliic childhood in the 50s and 60s, and then my Dad walked out on us when I was 17, it was totally unexpected as my parents never rowed. Consequently I didn’t know how to disagree without feeling things must be all my fault, and I must have done something wrong. I learned!
    What makes me stronger than most is that I am an optimist , and I can always find the silver lining. Downside is of course I am often surprised with how badly things turn out.. but then there is always a silver lining.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know just how that works. I too am an optimist always expecting the best. Sometimes getting the worst. I can’t imagine living any other way. How sad to expect for things to always be bad and surprised when they’re not.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Laura Kate says:

    Reading your life story was an eye-opener, especially the part about the murdered uncles. We are of the same generation, so the historical events that you witnessed framed my life too. And while I have experienced no hardships or real violence, I don’t believe I was overly sheltered during my formative years. As one of six kids, we were expected to behave and look after each other without a lot of parental interference. It’s probably the best thing that my parents gave us.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Krysia K says:

    Wow! What an interesting and eventful life you have led! I really enjoyed this glimpse into your experiences and thank you for sharing it. I follow your blog from the UK, having come across it some time ago quite by chance – it’s a great read!
    Very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Stefanie says:

    Man, what an interesting life you’ve had so far!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was sheltered as a kid – I’m the youngest of 5 and one of the youngest of a plethora of grandchilren on both sides – so I was always the kid that had to be taken care of, watched out for, protected. Nonetheless, I think I was less protected than kids today. If I failed at something, it was because I did something wrong, not because someone didn’t like me, or my skin was the wrong color, or I voted for the wrong person. I think we’re seeing a lot of the things we are right now because the people in power are getting revenge on anyone who dared say no to them in the past years. I’m also very cynical tonight. To answer your question about strength – from memories of my parents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so easy to be cynical with all that’s going on. I can’t believe that they impeached Trump with no evidence. It was all feelings. I hope that doesn’t become the new standard for courtrooms. If it is we’ll see a lot of “hungry” people walking out of restaurants without paying and using their feel as a defense, you know, if the restaurants ever open.
      I’m feeling a little snarky tonight:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agree with you. I honestly alternate between crying over what’s become of this country and anger over what’s become of this country. It took them 8 months to pass a crappy bill that gave us all a slap in the face $600 and they could impeach with no evidence in a week? Give me a break!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. chrisknits says:

    I sheltered my kids too much because of things I experienced as a kid. It’s just what you do. But I don’t think I am stronger, sometimes I fight demons all day long. Other days I just go with the flow. Right now the demons are fighting harder, so I just trust God will fight them for me. Have cousins who were Secret Service and Air Force, you speak many truths about not knowing where a spouse is at any time. So glad my spouse was plain old civilian!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. When we are tried we learn just how strong we can be. When we need help we just need to ask. When we see someone struggling we should offer help.”
    This is the part that really struck me. I’m glad that you didn’t learn that being strong means you shouldn’t ask for help. And that offering help is not a statement that you feel the other person isn’t strong enough.
    In my mid-teens (mid-60’s) one of the family babysitters was raped and murdered by the husband of our small town librarian. We weren’t shielded from this information, nor was it used as an object lesson. It was just part of learning that not everyone was trustworthy.
    We were raised in a family with a strong “maiden aunt” on each side (public health nurse and insurance sales), and adventurous grandparents (one set traveled from Maryland through New England, driving a car of the time and changing lots of tires, in the early 1920s), and parents who believed in individual outdoor sports, so we learned to ski and skate, and hike and camp, and all helped build the family home. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

    Like

  14. Wow – you have had a lot of interesting experiences and a lot of trying times! Thanks to both your husband and to you for your service!
    I was also not sheltered very much as a kid in some ways, but then in other ways was. My parents were always trying to make my brother and I as self-reliant as was reasonable for our ages, and though I sometimes resented it as a kid, I’m glad for it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. randomlyerin says:

    Our survival rate so far is 100%, so we can handle this too. I just remind myself of all the things I’ve lived through when I thought I couldn’t possibly, and I tell myself that I’ll live through this, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Well, if ever there was a post that would trigger me, this one was it. We share a lot, and in spite of it I have found that I can pull myself together, face it down, and take action. I also have a family with mental illness, violent death (my father was murdered), and a military history. My life has been defined by the alcoholism of people that I love. I was also a military wife separated from a husband, living overseas and cut off from my family; twice his ship was reported sunk in the Japanese press. After 30 years of marriage I divorced my husband and put myself back together. My children have life threatening medical conditions and unknown futures. I have been diagnosed with fatal complications of my autoimmune disease more than once, and at one point was sent to palliative care. Now we are doing a pandemic, there is civil unrest, and the very stability of our government is in question.

    What have I learned from all this? To be as fearless as possible, and to force myself into action even when I am afraid. The future is unknown and I need to take reasonable precautions to protect myself, but when the rubber hits the road I am capable of springing into action. I was a first responder to a shooting at my school. You always wonder how you respond; I started screaming at kids to get back into the school, banged on the hoods of the cars of parents at pickup to force them to move their cars to allow the fire trucks in, and didn’t go into the building until the police forced me to. I don’t know how many lockdowns I have dealt with: maybe a dozen. I have had students with guns at least 4 times that I know of, and one day I taught class with police stationed outside my door. I have had students die, and have had police sent out after a parent who removed a student from my class against her will.

    It is impossible to anticipate the future, and worrying about it won’t change anything. Take as much action as you can to be proactive (wear a mask, write/call your congressman, stock up on essentials, keep emergency equipment in your car), and then just trust that when you have to you will know what to do. Most of the time, I have discovered, without even thinking it over the exact course of action will present itself to you.

    We are so much stronger then we think. I did learn from Columbine that it helps to try to plan ahead as much as you can, but then just put things to rest and trust that you have it within you to rise to the needs of the moment, because the truth is you can.

    I do have to say that I still have trouble standing up to bullies, but I’m working on it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a warrior! You have battled and survived. I think you should write a book. You have valuable lessons to teach. Don’t feel pressured though;)
      Thank you for sharing. I have known you were strong but I now understand the full reason why.

      Liked by 1 person

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