Melina Kantor

We Are Already Strong

The board and cinder block at broke when I received my self-defense instructor certification

How many times over the past six weeks have we heard the following phrases?

  1. Be strong.
  2. Stay strong.
  3. You don’t always have to be strong.

Like so many of my feelings about so many things, my opinions about these three phrases are likely unpopular.

But I stand by them, and will take the risk of sharing them here.

The first one is easy: Please don’t tell me to “be” anything.

See? Done.

The second one, though not quite as simple is the first, isn’t so complicated either. Telling me to “stay strong” implies that being strong has an on/off switch.

It does not.

You wouldn’t tell me to “stay a brunette” would you? My hair color is part of my DNA. (Stop. I know I could dye my hair, but that does not change the fact that I will always be a brunette no matter how successful my attempts to appear otherwise.)

My strength, just like everyone’s strength, is already part of who I am. I was born strong. You were born strong.

We’re all already strong.

So let’s just stop this nonsense. Okay?

And now for that pesky third one.

But first, a quick review.

  1. Strength doesn’t have an on/off switch.
  2. We’re already strong. Always have been. Always will be.

Moving on.

We describe being awake, functional, and stoic as strong. (Related point: We praise ourselves and others for working when they’re sick. But that’s a rant for another day.)

Why don’t we also describe curling up on the bathroom floor and sobbing, or curling up in bed when we need to, as strong?

Maybe that sounds odd, but hear me out. Doesn’t taking care of our needs and facing and working through our emotions take a metric ton of strength? I’m no neuroscientist, but isn’t crying notorious for making people tired?

Elizabeth Gilbert cried on her bathroom floor, and that’s what gave her the strength to go on the adventure that led to “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Just saying.

That said, I am certainly not saying that during this horrific time we should all spend twenty-four hours a day sobbing.

I’m the first to say that spending a day working, volunteering, and taking care of whoever depends on us can be healthy. Connecting with and using our strength feels good.

But in those moments when we’re sobbing, or when we just can’t imagine washing the mixing bowl that’s been in the sink since you baked a cake for a Shabbat you can barely remember? We’re not “breaking down.”

We’re just exhibiting another type of strength.

Even super strong creatures like Sofie need love and support.

Crying and resting don’t equal broken. There’s nothing broken about us. Ever.

The point? Strength manifests itself in an infinite number of ways.

As one of my wonderful, extremely wise friends who’s currently in miluim has been telling me for years, “You do you.”

Tonight, I’m taking her advice. I was going to write a Facebook post about Gaza and ceasefires. My decision not to isn’t evidence of a lack of strength. It’s a sign that I’m strong enough to know what’s healthy for me right now and what’s not.

Now if you’ll excuse me. My dog Sofie, one of the strongest living beings I have ever met, is asking me to hold her paw.

I think it’s time for us to snuggle up with a baking show.

As always, I’m sending you love from Jerusalem. But not strength.

Because that, you already have in spades.

About the Author
Melina is a writer, violence prevention educator, and certified empowerment self-defense instructor. She lives in Jerusalem with her two special needs rescue dogs. She loves daffodils, baking, and breaking boards.