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What is personal strength? Do you feel like you are a strong woman? I have lived my life with a desire, almost a desperation, to be a strong woman.

What that meant to me was being strong enough, set in my ways enough, not needing to listen to others, needing anyone’s help, or letting myself be controlled by someone else. 

Working in the stock brokerage world, strength and perfection were highly valued. I was able to keep up the illusion of perfection until I gave birth to twins. A beautiful little boy and girl, Alex and Katy. My husband and I already had a seven-year-old daughter, Allison, at home. Having twins is a humbling experience with many unknown challenges. The fact that our son, Alex, also had Down syndrome added an additional layer of uncertainty. I was afraid of not knowing what he would require, not knowing what our lives would look like with someone with Down syndrome in it, and not knowing if I was capable of being a good parent to him. 

But you know what? I learned about Down syndrome and what he needed at that moment. I realized that I didn’t have to know everything that would be necessary as he grew up, just what was important to have now. I learned about the hole in his heart that healed on its own when he was about one year old. As he grew and more labels were added, like autism, mood disorder, and diabetes, I could gain an understanding of those things, too, one day at a time. Some days, I just had fun! Some days, I was sad and didn’t do much at all. I also tried to balance Alex’s needs with those of Katy and Allison; it was not an easy task! 

I accepted that I would need to ask for help every step of the way. Often, in the beginning, I would do this from the perspective of being a victim, that place where I tried to manipulate people instead of just asking from a place of personal power. That is where I would say things like, “Oh no, I’m fine!” When in my mind, I was thinking, “Why can’t they see I need help? Can’t they offer to help me?” Then, would be mad at them as if it was their fault. Sometimes, I asked from a place of personal strength and gratitude where the request was straightforward, like “Catherine, could you help me pick up my kids from daycare every day and take them to preschool? I must work at that time, and I won’t be able to keep my job if I do.” That was a real question that led to a beautiful mom taking my twins to preschool every day, which allowed me to keep my job. I was so grateful! 

One of the practices that has allowed me to be strong through all the challenges I have faced is my faith in a higher power that I call Source/God. This faith comes from lessons taught by my parents and grandparents, years of going to the Methodist church, reading books like the Conversations with God series, and life.

Alex’s twin sister Katy has life-threatening allergies. In her first year of college, she had a severe anaphylactic reaction to eating fish. She was unable to breathe, and they had to intubate her (that is when they inserted a tube down her windpipe, which allowed her to breathe). She was intubated for three days; the swelling in her throat just wouldn’t go down. The night before the third day, I got on my knees and surrendered to God/Source. I gave up the worry and the fear of God. It was then that I realized the power of releasing our fears and surrendering to the Source. I don’t believe that the prayer put God into action, but it focused healing and loving energy on Katy and opened me up to the grace flowing through me, allowing me to find the lesson or gift in my own journey. I could feel the love of God, which is always there – that love that can give us personal strength throughout our lives. The next day, they were able to take the tube out, and she could breathe on her own. Such a relief!

In October of 2022, my husband, Fred, passed away. He was Alex’s primary caregiver and my support. When he passed, it was necessary for me to quit my job and become Alex’s main caregiver. My husband was a good man; he was also an alcoholic who died from the disease. One of the good things about alcoholism is that I have learned over the years that I am strong enough to handle many things. My husband taught me how to unclog a toilet, how to change a car tire, and replace furnace filters, as well as other things. He gave me the confidence to try things on my own. This helped me to deal with his passing and know I could make it if I was strong enough and vulnerable enough to reach out for help when I needed it. I will talk about grief in another article. 

Now that I am a stay-at-home caregiver for Alex, I have had time to reflect on my life. I understand that seeing strength as not needing anyone is a cowardly type of strength. A type of strength that fears vulnerability. I am learning that real personal strength is having the courage to be awake to who I authentically am in each moment. Knowing that there are moments of vulnerability where the strongest thing I can do is lean into those I love, and allow their strength to support me, even if just for a moment. Lean into my higher power to know that I am never alone, and it is not my job to fix anyone, just to love them. 

Allowing myself the courage to not be the person who has to ‘fix’ everyone’s problems, not even my family’s, has been empowering. Indeed, none of us are here to ‘fix’ anyone else. We can hold their hand and walk beside them through the challenges they are going through. We can let go of judgment and love them on their journey. 

We are here to raise our children and give them the tools they need to be the best they can be. I am here to be the best version of myself that I can be. I can allow the personal strength of others to lift me up. I can be open and know my own worthiness, even in the most vulnerable of moments, to allow in all the good the Universe/God/Source has waiting for me. Knowing I am worthy, being grateful, releasing any doubt and fear, allowing all the good to flow in, and being able to accept it. My intention is to open that door with a deep appreciation of all I truly am, knowing that I am authentically strong, vulnerable, and worthy of love. I hope that you will realize you are too!  

Sending you love and blessings! Lynda Drake 

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