This time of year, I spy many posts reminding people to check on their strong friend. I don’t really like this prompt for three reasons: 1. If we truly are friends, shouldn’t you be checking for me throughout the year, not just the holiday season? 2. Why do we have a strong friend? Even if it’s a man, he is allowed to be vulnerable, need help or feel weak, right? So why even label him as such? and 3. I am the very recently reformed strong friend.
I had “friends” that would call me, dump their pain and drama and unhappiness and run off without even a breath of well, enough about me. How are you? Even when I did go to them in need of a listening ear, I got fed with “I know you can handle it”, “you’re the strongest woman I know” or a rebuttal of how my hurdles compare nothing to theirs. And then the conversation is back on them. Seriously?
Yea……………. seriously. I realized that even though I try to be open and vulnerable, some people still perceived me as superhuman and having it all together.
Maybe it’s my heavy use of sarcasm. I had to check myself; the energy I thought I gave off was not the same as what was being received. But newsflash: NO ONE has it all together all the time. Duh. No one can do it on her own e v e r y time and no one should have to. Just because someone doesn’t allow her current circumstance consume her or is usually in a genuinely great mood does not mean she has it all together or that she is quote unquote strong. I think we’ve been using the wrong term, y’all; instead, we should be describing the strong friend as self-sufficient, optimistic and astute. Strong, by Google’s definition, is when you can carry in 17 grocery bags in one trip or bench 300. I have never been known to do either.
I shed a little deadweight last year and in 2016. I feel lighter. There are no hard feelings, but I realized I could not go on being a baggage carrier or dumpster. It was draining. I felt used and unappreciated. I also know that they could not be the friends I know I need and deserve. Calling your smart friend strong is like calling a fat girl thick. We gotta stop it! My name actually means strong warrior, but I rebuke this strong label LOL! I mean look at the foremost definitions of the word, you guys. I don’t want this to be what comes to mind when you think of me or any Black woman. We’ve only been labeled strong because we’ve had to come to our own rescue and do things alone that should’ve been accomplished together. We should be leaning on each other. (There’s a song about that.)
I understand; positivity, creativity, keeping a circle tight and right, journaling, recognizing the good in life and, when necessary, creating a clear path out of a hardship, has made some of us appear strong when we are merely doing the best that we can with what we have. Let’s replace being strong with vulnerability. Accountability. Someone who asks for help. Confidence. Humility. Softness. Kindness. Patience. Putting herself first. Knowing when to let go and move on.
So, if we must give her a title, check on your reliable, sensible friend. And if you are her, check on yourself.