“What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger” - Friedrich Nietzsche. This quote is so ingrained within our society that it’s become a stock phrase for hard times. I know that I, myself, have said it and as much as it annoys me, there’s actual truth in those words. Yes, any time that I overcome an obstacle, a travesty, I am stronger, savvier. Here’s the thing, my point of contention, I’m so frigging strong as is who needs to be stronger?
It’s not surprising that I've belabored the point while grieving. Any time you interact with someone that is dealing with extreme circumstances like death, divorce and abandonment, it’s awkward even in the best case scenario. I most certainly appreciate it when people remind me that my strength will carry me through because let’s face it; we all need the reminder at one time or another. So, why does Nietzsche’s clichéd expression have the opposite effect on me?
While at my mother’s celebration, someone that I vaguely knew offered an earnest attempt to commiserate with my pain; “What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger” tumbled out their mouth in a single breath. I knew that their condolences were well intended but this didn't stop the words from grating on my broken heart. Although I gave a brief smile, I couldn't think of anything to say. I unintentionally turned awkward into aching discomfort.
Most of us know that only time can heal these types of wounds and it’s only natural to turn to clichés to understand why such tragedy occurs. I recognized this but below my placid smile, I felt anger at the cliché. To my credit, I was able to separate the quote from the person and amended my response with courtesy and appreciation, yet still lingering was my resentment at the stupid saying.
Why am I personalizing this? What’s going on in the deep machinations of my sub-conscious? Talk about the things that make you go hmmm…
Truth be told, I’m angry that I learn more from my difficult times than from my happy moments. It pisses me off that I achieve more emotional growth from hardships than from ease. Is the only way to become a better person by overcoming travesty? Why does this anger me so? Am I one tragedy away from jaded?
When I first started writing this blog, it was all fairy dust and poignant reality. I appeared like an apparition of grace in the muckety muck of life’s travesties. But, this wasn't real. If it was, then I wouldn't have been so upset by the cliché; I wouldn't have been so angry that I develop in the darkest of times rather than the best of times. So, why am I trying to spread a bunch of bologna?
That’s the thing about honesty; when you admit the truth about your feelings, even when you’re not your best self, you can see what is actually at the root, the core of these feelings. For me, it’s fear. Fear that one day during another inevitable pit fall of life, I’ll not bounce back. I’ll stay in a state of perpetual anger, eternally embittered.
Here’s the thing about this fear, it’s not real. It’s not based on my past and most certainly, is not based on the here and now. I fear something that hasn't even happened and that’s silly.
The reality is that I don’t know if I’ll always become stronger or more mature in every difficult situation. All I can do is hope. What I do know is that the only thing that I actually have control over is my reaction to life. Really, that’s all any of us have. We can either be the victims of our stories or its unlikely heroes. In the end, the choice is ours to make.