Strong mind, strong spirit
“Those people who don’t cry aren’t strong, they just don’t feel it as much. It’s them that feel the pain and push through anyway, they are the strong ones.”
I believe awareness and strength are interwoven treads of the same patchwork. Having the courage to be aware, to notice, to own up and be vulnerable is an incredibly strong act and is something which I do not take to easily. After years of repressed emotions, trauma, bad coping habits and an OCD diagnosis, being aware and present isn’t really something that I thought was ever possible for me; month long stints of disassociation will do that to you, I guess.
I started building my awareness practice a couple of years ago and I rushed into it, naivety charging my haste. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for or how the awareness would bleed out from those quiet moments and slowly seep into the other parts of my life, like beetroot juice on a countertop.
It crept into a decision about a new tattoo. There I was, naked in a tattoo studio window in the middle of Plymouth getting sized up for a full day session. I was nervous, not speaking and painfully aware that I had started my period that morning (having your tattooist have to cut your knickers in half which have period stains in them is not fun, fyi). As the session started I immediately wanted to stop. It was so painful, so much more painful than any tattoo I had ever had. I was in a place I had never been with people I had never met, I was scared, sensitive and hurting. I lasted for about 20 minutes and asked for a break, I just couldn’t handle it.
Even though it was a horribly uncomfortable experience, after the 6 hours of tattooing I left feeling elated. I put it down to an adrenaline rush, soon to dissipate as I crashed onto the train. Instead, days later I still felt energised.
I felt powerful.
I felt unstoppable.
The more I thought about this the more I understood.
For the first time in a tattooing session I spoke up for myself. I asked for the breaks I needed to be able to manage it. I wasn’t worrying about what I looked like or impressing anybody, I was properly in my body and was riding the waves as they came. I had gone out of my way to put myself in a position which was both uncomfortable and painful and I survived.
This experience taught me that being strong isn’t an absence of weakness, but it’s sinking into that space of vulnerability. It’s standing up in spite of your weaknesses and carrying on. It’s the person who joins the class as a beginner and sticks it through to the end without being able to get up into one Downward Dog and coming back next week.
Strength isn’t a given, it’s earned.