Thoughts on Being Strong

Bristlecone pine grove

This mountainside cradles a grove of bristlecone pines about 1600 years old. They epitomize strength to me; they are so soft yet endure in a harsh climate.

  • When you are strong, things happen for you. Through grit and determination, you meet goals that others said were impossible. (Yup, I started law school as a single mother of three, ended as a married mother of four. And I still passed the bar exam the first time.)
  • When you are strong, others lean on you. If you are on a team with people who are not strong performers, they let you do more and no one notices that they didn’t do their share. (Yup, but I’m afraid to tell my teammates that I noticed their lack of performance. I did more than my share just so that the psychological beatings for all of us would lessen, if you know what I mean.)


Ancient bristlecone pine grove

Ancient bristlecone pine grove

  • You are given harder and more interesting projects because others see you can do it! (This was true in previous jobs and in my home life. Bonus!)
  • When the tough gets going, you go it alone. (After all, everyone knows you can do it. They didn’t sign up for something that, so what did you expect?)
Bristlecone Elder

Strong and apart from the new young upstarts.

  • The best way to motivate you is to tell you that you can’t do it! (Your doubts evaporate and your determination doubles.)
  • When you can’t handle things, others get scared. (Because you are supposed to be super-human. If you can’t handle it, then they know they are in trouble.)

Bristlecone pine

  • When you speak your truth and it reveals your pain, people don’t believe you. They make excuses for you and figure you’re just having a bad day. (Because, after all, you seem to have no problems; that can’t be the way you REALLY)
  • You take responsibility for everything that happens, only to find that not everything is within your control. After all, those around you are responsible for their actions, not you. (Yup, your feelings can still be hurt, even when you take care of yourself. The only other option is to never let other people into your world.)
Bristlecone Elder

This elder is experienced in moving with the wind. It stands strong and apart from the new young upstarts.


  • Weak people want to be near you, knowing that you will shoulder your burdens. (Ex-husband proved this to me.)
  • Strong people want to be near you because they know you are low-maintenance. They don’t have to be strong for you because you obviously can be strong enough for everyone. (Vacation for them – even when it isn’t a vacation for you.)



bristlecone pine stumps

A field of weathered stumps are evidence of pines that succumbed to age and the elements. New growth aspens thrive in a depression in the slope.

  • Other strong people respect you because they know just how much it takes. (And you respect them in return.)
  • Others think it’s okay to hurt your feelings because they know that you are mature enough that you will come to peace with what happened. (Yes, but then what? Trust comes harder and harder.)
ancient bristlecone pine

This tree elder is barely hanging on. Strong though it may be, it appears more dead than alive.

Rather than feel victimized by those around me, I see that I am a victim of my own strength. I have led others astray, and they feel that I am always okay with whatever they do (or don’t do). After all, I always soldier on. I always fall into line. I always excuse insensitive behavior by showing that it doesn’t matter – they can’t hurt me. Yet they can. So why do I feel apologetic for a moment in which I feel very human?

My mother was strong this way, but different. Ditto for my daughters. How do we break loose from being so strong that we are unwilling to request that our unfulfilled needs be met?


The strong, ancient trees continue to produce pine cones. Even these are old and touched by lichen. These trees are old, but still productive, contributing food for the squirrels and birds. When I tried to collect fallen pine cones from the ground, a raven warned me away. I could see that even the fallen cones were considered to be sacred space.

7 replies »

  1. Awesome post. i have the same problem in my life. Sometimes I think people need to see a little chink in the strength that we exude so that they understand us better. xoxo Sending you hugs. I see your heartlight shining! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post is a great first step. Admitting all of this yourself (as you have already done) is another great step. I would start by acknowledging that you are already taking steps to change the situation.

    Here’s another perspective on strength and leadership. Warriors do not fight alone. They are most effective when they have a leader. The leader also has a second in command. This is a person whom he can count on and run ideas by and they lead together. The other people on the team now have a clear leader and know what is expected of them. They know they either perform to their best ability or they die.

    How can you create a model like that (albeit a less dramatic one) in your life? Is there an obvious “second in command” available to you? It may be a different person for different areas of your life. IMHO, letting the Universe know you are ready for your second in command and keeping your eyes open for possibilities would be a great next step.

    Sending you much love and peace always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this refreshing perspective! I’m not what you would call a “born leader,” but I’ve been stepping up in this role more and more in recent years. I thought I had a good team together, but it is rather fluid. The team is shifting, as is appropriate for their lives. I appreciate your view that a second-in-command could be coming!

      Liked by 1 person

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