Thanks, Christopher Robin and Dr. Spock.

No matter what you call them: curveballs, detours, the unexpected or shitstorms, we all get ‘em.  Having experienced a fair number of whatever-you-want-to-call-them I have come to have a certain philosophy by which to tackle whatever lands on your lap: we are stronger than we think we are.*

I am also (or, perhaps however would be more appropriate?) all about the post-experience freak out.  When faced with an emergency (or an unforeseen something or other) I am the person you want around.  I will rally with the best of them and am sure to get the involved parties from A to B without incident.  (Provided there is no vomit involved.)  It will not be until days, weeks, months or, often years later that I, at the hands of the most benign provocation, lose my shit.  It has happened with enough regularity for me to consider it a core element of my personality.  And I don’t actually mind it.  I see it as my own personal version of strength.  (Don’t judge…it works for me.)

When Harrison was a newborn, my mother bought me a copy of the book which was the bible when she had babies; “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare”.  Still fresh in her mind, some thirty years after having had her youngest child (me), she still recalled the opening line of the book: “You know more than you think you do.”  Over the years, I have morphed this mantra into “you are stronger than you think you are”…and have yet to be proven wrong.

Two weeks ago, a dear friend brought herself to the doctor having grown tired of the vague but annoying symptoms she had been experiencing.  She was sluggish.  She was weak.  Her gait was off.  Her strength was inexplicably depleted despite going to the gym five days a week.  Something was wrong, but we all, her included, suspected it was nothing.  Well, (and you know where this is headed) it wasn’t nothing.  It was a mass on her brain (the best place to have one, apparently) which had taken up residence twenty years ago and finally became so enormous as to saddle her with said vague and annoying symptoms.  By day’s end she was scheduled for a twelve-hour (which turned into a fifteen hour) surgery, with high hopes for a full recovery.  Talk about a curveball  (or detour or the unexpected or shitstorm!)

In the few days she had to get her head around things (pun intended) we went to lunch.  I handed her a gigantic box of chocolates (because of their medicinal qualities) and a note in which I told her that she is stronger than she thinks she is.  She vehemently disagreed and quietly sat through the rest of lunch, freaking out inside.

She is home now, sporting a row of Frankenstein-esque staples across the top of her nearly bald head.  Her gait is back to normal, but her movements slow.  She told me that she hadn’t cried yet and wondered when she would.  I shared that it was a full year after my mastectomy that I found myself sitting on the floor of the shower sobbing, unable to discern which was falling harder – the water from the spout or my tears.  (I have no idea what set me off.  I suspect it was nothing.) Her abject fear has abated, but not disappeared.  And she has already proven that she is indeed stronger than she thought she was.

I tell everyonesolicited or not (and, as it happens, have written about on this blog: )…scars and the curveballs (or detours, or unexpected or shitstorms)  which cause them are a sign of strength.  A sign of what we have had hurled at us and responded to by mustering that strength that we didn’t know we had.  Sometimes we are just driving along, giving little thought to the path in mind, maybe even on auto-pilot, when suddenly we happen upon a sign (or a CT scan as the case may be) which indicates other (unexpected, curveball-type) things are in store.  We never anticipate it.   But we always face it down, get through it and maybe even kick some ass in the process.

It isn’t appropriate to liken the experience of tackling a brain tumor with addressing the needs of a transgender child.  It doesn’t even feel right to utter the two in the same sentence.  However, both do require us to listen to (and hear) what other people tell us:  we are stronger than we think we are and that we can do (fill in the blank).

So the next time you find yourself on the receiving end of a curveball, a detour, the unexpected or a shitstorm, remind yourself of your strength.  You can do this.

p.s. Love, prayers and healing wishes to JS.

*creds to Christopher Robin, oh, and Pooh.

8 thoughts on “Thanks, Christopher Robin and Dr. Spock.

  1. Thanks Julie, these are words I needed to read right now. I am not currently in any major shit storms, just seem to have been in a fairly ugly funk for a while. I needed to remember that I AM stronger than these dark clouds!!

  2. I had the same Spock book…along with Brazelton and Penelope Leach. Couldn’t read enough parenting “manuals” back then. So sorry about your friend and believe me I know how awful that scenario is. Sending prayers her way- We are stronger than we think because we have to be. Thanks for sharing! xo

  3. Just reading this beautiful and empowering posting on, coincidentally, the very same day my Mom told me about her situation. I’d seen her posts on your FB page and always wondered if it was the same person I have known, mostly through her folks, my parents’ good friends, for most of my own childhood but haven’t seen for many years, possibly even since our camp days. Mom has always kept me up to date on her and her sister’s “status” in life, as with the kids of her other friends, so when I heard about her surgery this afternoon I was deeply saddened. She may not remember me, but if she does, please tell J that my thoughts are with her and sending along best wishes for a very speedy and complete recovery and a fast return to hirsute-ness! I have seen her sister D over the years, now and then, so will pass along my best via that route as well.

  4. Julie,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and have often thought about responding, having been moved by so much of your story, your forthright way of facing problems, and your beautiful writing. I guess today’s the day, (finally!), as I write to thank you for “We are stronger than we think we are.” I wonder why it takes facing serious illness, great life challenges and changes, or various other types of “shitstorms” to learn about our own strength, but I guess these lessons may the silver lining to trauma, pain, and suffering. I am reminded by a quote from Hemingway, told by Richard Cohen, who lives with MS and Cancer, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places” and a statement by Helen Keller, “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.”

    Thank you.


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