I am struggling to feel competent in my physical strength. I think I have always struggled with this, possibly because I do not hail from a line of gracefully coordinated or athletic types. I do not see myself as physically strong. Doing physical therapy for my core goo has proven to me that I am, indeed, not exceptionally strong. I’m getting stronger, but comparatively it feels subtle.

And it doesn’t help that I just read a Robin McKinley book. Her protagonists are women who literally slay dragons. They can live alone in the woods through a winter, with only a knife and a dog for company. They face beasts and violence with bravery and fortitude. It usually comes close to killing them, and yet, it doesn’t.

I feel my mortal limitations. I am a woman. I feel weak, not emotionally or mentally or spiritually. Just my physical self.

There have been eras of my life where I haven’t felt weak, such as a) when I was a kid on the swim team, toasting my peers in the breaststroke and freestyle, and b) in the years when I had no kids, or just two kids, and I walked basically every day. I tromped around parks, hiked trails, and wore an imaginary footpath through my neighborhood. I exhausted three jogging strollers, though to be frank, I do not actually jog. During these periods, I found pleasure in moving and felt rejuvenated rather than inadequate in my fitness attempts.

Is it that I’m older now? Is it that I have four children, whose demands on my time sometimes feel like fetters? Is it the comprehensive nature of special needs parenting, which places constant pressure on my neck and shoulders? Is it that I am a mortal woman and not a Robin McKinley heroine, who is ostensibly mortal but suspiciously superhuman in her strength?

The physical therapist tells me that I am getting stronger. I can feel it, too. Really, there is so much I can do, but these days I do it with more pain. I can walk and lift my five-year-old and carry groceries and laundry. I can do things like vacuum the church of a Saturday morning for a solid hour and restrain a violent Jack on the floor, keeping out of the way of his teeth and hard, hard head.

I am capable of doing what I need to do. I am emotionally unafraid of facing the realities of life with a nonverbal, mentally disabled preteen. I am spiritually astute in that I have trained myself to listen. I spend less time trying to validate disobedience and more time rushing to be obedient and then looking around expectantly for the blessings. In a cognitive sense, writing, reading, and teaching keep me from stagnation and lift my mood. I feel capable in those aspects of my life.

Maybe I’m sufficiently strong, with the potential for improvement.

Maybe facing my physical limitations is my next baby dragon to face.


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