Strength in the Tenderest Places: You Are Not Broken (a guest post from Grace Quantock)
Today, I’m so pleased to present this guest post from my dear friend and colleague (friend-league?), Grace Quantock, an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, and motivational speaker.
My strength today is not something with which I was born. It was not simply bequeathed to me in my DNA, nor floated into my crib as a magical christening gift. I didn’t incarnate, fully formed, as a tower of tenacity and stamina.
To me, strength arrived as a circle.
It lives in the shape of a kind heart. In fact, of many loved ones, of many connections, of blessings in person.
It is community and connection that has helped me build resilience, to live with my tender heart, to lean into strength through the hardest times of my life.
The connections forged in the dark nights when there seems to be nothing left; no space for soul, no hope and no light coming; bonds built then live onwards, no matter what comes.
The circle, reaching out across the internet, across the world. I was 21 and we were all confined to bed. All desperately ill, but weaving from our beds, from our tender hearts, connections, cards and caring, that changed the world.
This circle was all I had to hold onto, my connection to the outside world, the women were my comrades and my fellow soldiers.
Our bodies felt like battle grounds and we fought with love. I write what I write now for all the ones who died and all the ones who didn’t.
My first business was birthed from the piles of parcels and letters which flew between us. I built a business to send boxes of goodies to those hurting and in need of comfort. There is a handwritten card in every box, just like the ones we sent all the way back in the beginning.
These women listened to me, comforted me, needed me and taught me how to have a full life without being able to move or lift my arms.
It can be easy to seem strong when we are standing tall, but what about when we feel broken?
I believe there is strength inherent in vulnerability.
What is vulnerability? It’s the minute I saw myself split open and I knew that in the pain, in the moment of breaking heart and breaking bones, there was true strength.
Because in the pain was the hope and the trust that I would heal and grow strong again, to know that if it all falls, there is something inside me that will pull me through as I start again.
I see strength there.
I don’t believe that vulnerability is weakness, that illness is failure, that death is a dysfunction of the productivity machine or ageing as built-in obsolescence. I recognise this fallacy we are fed and I resist it.
As Esme Wang writes, “Maybe you’re disabled or ill or both. You receive benefits. But that’s hazard pay–it’s the check in the mail that you get for the dangerous life of healing that you live.”
But vulnerability has a poor reputation, and there are those of us seeking to build resilience like it’s magic armour, or to jump on the next band wagon like it’s the last evacuation vehicle. Check in, how much of your practice (if any), is arising from this space?
Resilience does not make robots, and world-changers need self-care.
Not because bubble baths change the world, but because we do.
(REAL self-care is a different and very powerful matter.)
Few people are willing to truly accept that bad things happen to good people and that life involves pain and struggle. (Many people support us thinking that it’s something WE did. As Kimberley McGill writes,”They’ll diagnose you with mental blocks, spiritual blocks, emotional blocks. They will tell you that the Universe or God is teaching you a lesson and as soon as you learn it your desires will manifest.”)
I know part of me would rather believe that bad things only happen because I haven’t perfected manifestation yet, and that the next class/teacher/book will be the one that saves me. There’s (false) hope there and pressure.
If it’s my fault, there’s guilt, shame, pain but also perceived potential. Because if I think that if I change or fix the bad/broken part of myself that caused the difficult situation to occur, then maybe, just maybe I won’t have to suffer through it again. Or that’s the (false) promise, anyway.
If I challenge and try to change myself, I’m not challenging the system.
Why would I challenge the system? What system? It’s not like there’s institutionalised prejudice against certain genders, classes, nations of people, skin colours, work, sexualities, ages, health statuses, weight and sizes, religions… oh wait, yes there totally is! And people benefit from it. There are people invested in us blaming ourselves, and I’m not ok with that.
I am doing what I can to resist it, I lean into my circle for support.
Strong women freed me from the confines of my own mind. I was out of bed but stuck behind bars of old beliefs about my abilities. There are women out there changing the world from their laptops, from their beds.
Women in business are making beautiful changes and every women they empower and inspire leaves that place and goes on to help so many more. It is a secret, sweet sisterhood and I am so grateful to have been sheltered by these women as I grew my wings.
Strength comes wrapped in airmail paper, in blue smudge ink and is treasured. Letters, back and forth across the sea, between my best friend and me. We ink down our souls and figure out how to live and, after you didn’t die, how to keep living.
Strength is not carrying on despite the pain, it isn’t becoming hard and resisting.
Becoming harder does not mean growing stronger.
I wish the pain didn’t come, but if it does, I wish for you a circle.
We are strongest when we feel the pain and choose to keep on loving. When we are bowed and aching but still wear body glitter. When we can’t see the way forward but take the hand of the woman who walked this way before us, and step out.
I am building circles still, a hundred thousand threads of golden gossamer, reaching out to women wellness warriors, blazing trails across the world.
From my heart to yours, may you grow strong, and have a circle to hold you as you do.
Grace is recognised as a trailblazer by thousands of people who have seen her speak and participated in her programs. Currently living – and thriving – with often debilitating illness, she is the real deal and knows, firsthand, the emotional and physical rollercoaster that accompanies diagnosis and life struggle.
Living in the valleys of Wales, Grace loves reading, gardening and early mornings. She firmly believes that life is meant to be celebrated, and has made it her mission to help others do just that …joyfully and on their own terms. Read more at www.gracequantock.com and www.