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Lessons Learned/Learning: Strength

Sometimes, I wish I were still this person. A woman could throw on a 50-lb backpack and conquer the Rockies.

Dotty Backpacking in Colorado Rockies July 1982

But then I remind myself I still am that person, a woman who now tosses on snowshoes and goes trekking in Canada.

Dotty snowshoeing in Ottawa Feb 2017

Or holds 10 lbs of camera aloft while photographing birds all over the world.

Photographing birds in Indonesia, 2017

Sometimes, I long for the days when I was a jock, playing a different sport every season through high school, college, and into my 20s.

Dotty at Lacrosse Nationals 1981

Then I remember I can still hold my own, even with my weight-lifting daughters.

Dotty, Helen, and Ruth showing off our muscles, 2017

I have spent my life wanting to be strong. To not be wimpy. To prove I could do anything a boy or man could do.

Leading three successive 12-day canoe trips on the Allagash River in northern Maine one summer, I vowed I would not let my two guy co-leaders best me. I would lift one of the long aluminum canoes over my head, rest it on my shoulders, my head buried inside, portage it along the 1/3-mile trail around Allagash Falls, then jog back and get another.

One morning, at the end of the portage trail, a man asked if I wanted help getting the canoe down, and I said, "No, I'm fine," and slung it off. He just stared at me and said, "Whoa, you're a girl!"

Dotty at Lacrosse Nationals, 1981

Yes. A girl. A woman. A woman who is not afraid of hard work, of pushing herself. Okay, maybe I do have a bit of a competitive streak (stop laughing, Jonathan--okay, okay, maybe more than "a bit") but it comes from my years of sports and my years of fighting to not let being "a girl" stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

I worry sometimes I will lose who I am as changes present themselves. I have to remember that even as I get older, my fundamental self remains. Even as life throws curves--for me, altered health and aging--I am still the same person, that girl who wants to be strong.

Eagle Owl, Sandwich State Fair 2015

And, "strong" is a multi-faceted word.

There's physical strength, but what about strength of character, of heart? What of determination, of willingness to not back down, to stand up for what is right?

What happens when I need to ask for help? When I need to remind myself I can't do it all? (Whew, those two are tough.)

Today's post marks the beginning of a new series called Lessons Learned/Learning. In many cases, I am definitely in the "learning" stage!

Tune in next Tuesday!

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