In the years since my husband died, many times I have heard the phrase “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” uttered. I’ve been thinking about that lately and am not sure if I agree or disagree. There are so many different endings I could add to the phrase that would fit better for me…what doesn’t kill you…only nearly kills you…or what doesn’t kill you…you wish would kill you…or what doesn’t kill you only brings you to your knees and beats the crap out of you…all of these have fit my life since Dave’s death. There are the positive endings too…what doesn’t kill you, shows you how much pain you can endure…what doesn’t kill you, changes you into someone new…or what doesn’t kill you, killed parts of you not needed anymore.
All that said – I don’t really like the phrase. All that said – I know more people will say it to me. When they say it, it is never negative and many times means they believe I am a stronger person having survived my husband’s death. They mean well. They mean to help me. All I can ever think of is – what didn’t kill me taught me surrender.
Surviving tragedy is often associated with strength. I imagine that people see my changes and my ability to keep going as strength. They often say that to me. They often admire my ability to move on with life, raise my children alone and get up every day as strength. To me, it is surrender. I have learned that for me, what didn’t kill me taught me that I had very little control of this life I lead. It has taught me to surrender my life every day. I wake up, I realize another day has come and I live that day. I don’t often live tomorrow or yesterday, I live today. To me, that is surrender. I was a control freak in my previous life. I talked the talk of living in the moment, but I’m not convinced I walked the walk. I am now a recovering control freak and now I know that really the only thing I can control is me…and even some things about me I won’t be able to control…just like my husband wasn’t able to control the fact that he got pancreas cancer and died. If it was his choice, his option to control, his moment that didn’t kill him…he’d be here today. He too learned surrender as he faced his disease and his death…maybe surrender was a lesson we were both on a journey to learn. His grace through his journey definitely started me on the path toward peaceful surrender.
I have spoken of peace many times in my writings. This “what doesn’t kill me” peace is something that has only come to me since his death. The concerns I used to have about daily doodahs, whatever they may be, don’t get under my skin as much. Now, I did mention I am a recovering control freak…so, some stuff still does get me, but this peace I do not equate with strength. I equate this peace with my nearly unbearable weakness that came when my husband died. That feeling that life was spinning completely out of control. That anger I faced every day as the sun rose…I was so angry that I was left to face another day alone. Day after day I faced my anger, my weakness, my sadness, my heartbreak and I was reminded that the only reason I felt any of these things was because I dared to love with all my heart. When I surrendered to the fact that my pain was only another fruit of my love, I could surrender to it. I could surrender to it every day because I knew that with love at the core I would survive.
So, what didn’t kill me…maybe didn’t make me stronger, but more aware that love really is the way through our lives. Love is the healing ale that keeps me moving, breathing, surviving and surrendering every day. So, for this love, this particular love for my husband that didn’t kill me…it made me more capable of loving more deeply, humbly, honestly and completely.