Strengths and Weaknesses

I have always been a ‘strong person’.

I have always seen this as a positive quality.

Recently I find myself questioning what this actually means. Am I really that strong? Is it really such a positive trait?

Physically, I am definitely strong. I ride a cargo bike, often loaded with two not-so-small children and all the stuff which seems to be required when leaving the house with two children. Not to mention that the three year old is currently refusing to go anywhere on the bike unless she is carrying several stones from the driveway.

But physical strength is not really what I mean by a strong person.

I have a strong character. I have a good idea of what I am and what I am not. On the whole, I am happy with who I am. The things I do, I do for myself and my family. I don’t do things ‘for show’. My husband has a similar outlook which made for a wonderful wedding day. We kept all the bits of a wedding which we liked and skipped all the bits that we didn’t. It was very much ‘our day’ and we both loved it.

But strength of character isn’t entirely it either.

I am a strong person because I am balanced and stable and not easily overwhelmed by emotions and that means I can be emotionally strong for others.

I think that is a big part of what people mean when they describe me as ‘strong’.

But it’s not true.

But it’s not real.

But I am not even sure it is possible.

The same as everyone, I am balanced and stable sometimes and unbalanced and chaotic others. I do get overwhelmed by emotions. I get overwhelmed by my emotions. I get overwhelmed by the emotions of others that I love, especially my children.

But I don’t often show it.

I have mentioned my parents’ divorce before.  It was a time of huge emotions. Huge emotions for me. Huge emotions for the people I loved the most. The kind of huge emotions which can leave you struggling to see anything positive in life.

It was the time when I learned to be emotionally strong for others.

It was the time when I learnt to detach myself from my own emotions in order to deal with other peoples’.

More than twenty years later, I am realising that this is not a positive quality.

More than twenty years later, I am realising that I still have not re-connected with my own emotions.

I realise that I have not just detached myself from the emotions I felt more than twenty years ago. I have perfected the art of squashing any emotions which threaten to overwhelm me.

I think about this now because I think about my children.

I think about their emotional life.

Young childrens’ emotions are so out in the open. They haven’t yet learnt to worry about how their displays of emotion impact on others. They feel extremes of emotions over the most seemingly trivial issues. They display every emotion they have.

As a stay at home mum I deal with my childrens’ emotions all the time. As frustrating as that can be, I love that they wear their hearts on their sleeves. It means that I can know every part of them. It means that I can really connect with them.

But can they really connect with me?

Should I show my emotions to them like they show their emotions to me?

My immediate answer is no. I know how it feels to see your mum crying and trust me, it feels horrible.

But does that mean I should never cry in front of my children? If so then I have failed.

Like any mother, I do not want to see my children in distress. But we cannot protect our children from everything and they will inevitably feel distress in their lives. So I want them to learn how to cope through distress.

I want my children to know that it is ok to feel whatever they are feeling. I want them to know that they do not have to control their emotions, they just have to control how they act on those feelings. I want them to know that I will do what I can to help them when they do not like how they are feeling.

I tell them this now. Usually along the lines of “It is ok to feel angry, it is not ok to hit your sister/brother”. I show them by accepting their anger and giving them a cuddle (on the days when I get it right).

So maybe it is ok to cry in front of our children. To cry and to tell them “I feel sad”. To show them that the world doesn’t end when we feel sad. To show them what a difference they can make to somebody who feels sad with the healing power of a cuddle.

My first experiences with club cycling

I cycled alone for years, for transport mostly. After three years living in the back of beyond and getting more and more into road biking, I was keen to be part of something bigger and join a club. Cycle clubs were one of the first things I looked into when I left the back of beyond and moved to a city.

Time to head along to my first club run. As a large club there were several rides on offer for the Saturday run so I went on the slowest. It was ok. I enjoyed it. There were only 5 of us and it was fairly sedate so I felt confident to go along again the following week and join the middle group.

The middle group was far larger and far faster. It was far less friendly. It was the last club ride I did for some years.

I started chatting to the rider next to me, as you do. He confidently informed me that I had my training aims all wrong as I had just been cycling in Majorca. This threw me a little as I had been to Majorca for fun and to meet my brother. I’d had a great week. I didn’t have any training aims at the time. I hadn’t realised I needed any.

Never mind. It takes all sorts. On with the ride.

Ok, so I hadn’t realised that a chaingang would be involved. Fortunately a kind soul in the group explained to me what was happening. Fine. I could give that a go. We hit around 28mph and I started to turn somewhat purple. Fortunately (again) another kind soul explained that it was ok (well, sort of ok) to sit on the back and attempt to hang in there if I was struggling. Then we hit a very slight incline. This was pre- wisdom of Bob for me. Sadly, I did not have the energy left to wave as the group disappeared over the horizon.

I rode home alone. This was a route I knew so this wasn’t a problem.

I felt a bit down. I felt a bit disappointed. I felt like I wasn’t really a cyclist. It was ok because I enjoyed riding alone. I had kind of wanted to be part of something though.

I found that something a few weeks later when I joined a running club.