You Need an Inner Strength Reminder

Life’s trials are often unexpected. Always changing. Never ending.

Think of a time in your life that presented more challenging circumstances than any other. Pause to remember a specific obstacle you overcame. Or chapter so demanding, it’s hard to believe you made it to the conclusion.

Next, think of a memento you possess from that time or event. It could be a picture, trinket, or any object that personifies the arduous path you traveled. Now, go and retrieve the thing. (I’ll wait.)

Okay, got it? Put it in a visible place. Somewhere you’ll see it often. Why, you ask?

Because you’re going through something difficult right now, and you need a reminder that you are strong. You’ve been through worse. You pushed forward once before, emerging victoriously over a laborious challenge. And you can do it again. God will see you through. One of my favorite quotes says: “Things will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end.”

My own personal reminder is a faded green coffee mug. The gold emblem with the name of a school I worked for in Silicon Valley is nearly worn off. But it serves its purpose as a token. Representing a time I don’t want to forget.

A new adventure and bold decisions brought me and my husband to California in January of 2004. I was thankful to find a teaching job in the middle of the school year, at a prestigious institution filled with Harvard-bound students. My schedule included five different preps. Algebra, Pre-Algebra, Geometry, Computer Science, and one so miserable I purposely erased it from my memory. (No, it wasn’t underwater basket weaving.) I taught all day and graded all night. A typical day beginning at 7 am and ending at 11 pm.

Unlike kids I taught previously, many of my students were excessively studious. Way too serious about life for thirteen. Can you imagine a group of teenagers needing encouragement to goof off once in a while? I know, right?!? One morning I was desperate to liven things up, so I performed a cartwheel in pre-algebra class. Thank God nobody caught that on video.

Being new in town and having a husband who traveled for work meant I had no life. And I had never felt so alone.

My dogs destroyed something in our corporate apartment daily. A low point was the time they ate the leg of the dining table, threw up on the bed, and someone stole the comforter after I hung it on the porch to dry. (It was hideous, anyway.)

A train charged by, just 30 yards from our sliding glass door, whistle blowing promptly at 2:00 AM every morning.

Our house in Texas sat on the market for 7 months. I cried for days when our realtor showed us a house well outside our price range that literally backed up to the interstate.

No individual situation was debilitating. But add them all up, and it was a hard time.

In the midst of all this, the phone rang one cold Spring afternoon. Heartbreaking news traveled thousands of miles. I had lost my uncle at a tragically young age.

Life is hard. And that year was a particularly awful time.

I don’t believe in lamenting the past. I don’t suggest dwelling there, either. But I do think, from time to time, we need to remember our battle scars.

So on mornings when I’m discouraged by a current struggle, I get out that green mug and drink my coffee from it. Knowing very well, if I made it through that time in my life, I can make it through this too.

 Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – Plato

What about you? Do you have something you use as a reminder of your inner strength?

 
 
  • Heidi

    I am a firm believer in artifacts. In remembering the stories they
    represent – and in sharing them. I have a simple pair of silver hoop
    earrings I wear almost every day. My husband bought them for me at
    Tiffany’s the day after our daughter came home from the hospital. No,
    not when she was born; but after she’d survived her open-heart surgery
    and endured more in her 14 months than many of us do in a lifetime.
    During the time she was sick, I didn’t want any gifts. No reminders.
    No mementos. Nothing that could be a painful reminder later if…

    But
    she was fine! She came home and we celebrated. We still do, every
    year. I celebrate a little every day when I put on my earrings. They
    are a tangible reminder that life is a gift, my girls are on loan to me,
    and that when life doesn’t make sense, it is because we are part of a
    much bigger story than we can see. Your post is a good
    reminder to tell Kennedy the story of the earrings all over again. She
    loves that story and I am guessing her sister will too. In the telling
    of the story, the artifact becomes theirs as well; and with it maybe some
    of that hard-won strength gets passed on too.

    • I love this story, Heidi. And I’m all for earrings as artifacts. Yes!

      You are one of the strongest women I know. xoxoxo

  • Anna

    I love this post, Tracy! It’s very thought provoking! I think the first thing that comes to mind is my biggest struggle in life…when my husband had cancer and I was pregnant with my youngest. My husband endured 12 months of treatment…it was brutal. I was
    pregnant and had some complications (to say the least). We also had a
    raging 2 year old at home. Yikes, right? It was traumatic…life
    changing. I felt like I had been chewed up and spit out. It shaped and
    molded me without choice. I’m a different person now. For the better?
    For the most part, yes. But I’m also a bit of a cynic now. But I’m
    learning to use that “gift” positively. Is that possible? I think so:)
    Thankfully, that was 5.5 years ago. My husband has had clean scans since
    then and will be released from oncologist care in January:) I went on to have a safe, happy and healthy birth – all natural/no drugs! I use both of our journeys as bench marks in my life…

    On to your question about an artifact…I don’t have an artifact from that time…but I do have a ritual. Does that count? Every time I go with him to an appointment, I get depressed a bit. So I do the opposite of what I feel….wear heels…rock the skinny jeans…put my favorite eyeshadow on…slap on that extra lipgloss…put on the extra dangling earrings. Basically, I look hot;) Or sometimes I wear a shirt that stands for what I/we believe in…like my favorite one that says “Herbivore”. Obviously, I know the doctors and nurses aren’t the enemy…but doing something as silly as getting a little extra “dolled up” makes me feel like I have the upper hand. I feel empowered. I feel in control. I feel good.

    My husband has been healthy since his treatment some 5 years ago…but he has to have his gall bladder removed on October 11th. We have to be there at 6am. I’ll be rockin’ it, ya’ll!

    • Thank you, Anna. I can relate to your dressing up strategy. A friend of mine in high school used to dress up on days she had a major test, and I always loved it. I’m glad I stole the idea from her. You rock those skinny jeans!

  • I use a keyring with the GPS coordinates of a certain peaceful place I found in the mountains of Colorado a few years ago. Every year I head west for a few days to rest and reconnect myself to God. That particular location holds a special place in my heart. And the keyring reminds me of that every time i touch it.