22.9.09

Unbroken

“I wish I was as strong as you,” my friend laments, stirring her coffee wistfully. “Look at me – mine did it twice and still I stayed but you– you were straight out.”

She is, of course, talking about her husband who was unfaithful. Twice. Unlike mine. Who was unfaithful once (or not depending on who you believe*).

But she’s right – I was straight out. I wasn’t interested in recriminations or mediation or denials and accusations. I was straight out. Because when someone as neurotic, distant and emotionally claustrophobic as me lets you in, you damn well better not expect forgiveness when you screw up. We don’t do forgiveness. We do bitterness, resentment, anger and a whole host of other less-than-charming things. But we don’t do forgiveness.

And so to a late afternoon gathering with a close friend in Costa Coffee, where she continually expresses amazement at how strong I am; a sentiment echoed by all the friends that have learnt of this latest unravelling in my life.

And it’s strange because, even though I like to think that I am indeed a strong person, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to think what strength actually is. Is it being able to exist without financial and emotional dependence? Is it as facile as ‘not crying’? Is it not feeling the need to weep to the friends you confide in?

One says it’s “not giving up”, but what does that mean? Not giving up what? Your job? Your social life? Your will to live? I mean, people go through all sorts – bereavement, abuse, crime – and they experience all sorts of consequences – depression, apathy, fear, loneliness, sadness – and they survive. So are they strong only once they have stopped feeling those emotions or are they deemed to be so regardless of how they react simply because of what happened in the first place?

What I mean is, if I was crying every day and weeping and feeling lonely and depressed, would I still be strong? Is the mere fact that I’m still here enough to warrant that label or do I have to be as focused, determined and normal as I ever was to earn it?



* Yes, I can hear Ross Geller whispering “Whom, whom”.