One of my first bosses told me she could always count on me as a positive pretender.

The two of us had been knee-deep in a variety of projects, and we were nearing the point of being overwhelmed. We’d been met head-on with a variety of trials, and as much as we wanted to throw the towel in and walk away, it seemed we had this unspoken pact to keep showing up with a smile on our face. To keep pushing through.

Since that time, I’ve always carried that comment as a bit of a skill. Like a badge of honor.

As if the positive pretending was an armor I wore.

And most of the time, it served me well. It would constantly have me looking for the silver lining. It would encourage me to smile when I felt like crying. It reminded me to stand tall when it felt easier to sit.

It would remind me that positivity was contagious.

But it also never really required me to feel the difficult feelings. To admit that something was hard. Or I was struggling. To say that everything wasn’t good.

It never let me be angry or come to the Lord with fists tightened and tears streaming down my face in frustration. To say I don’t have this or I don’t like this or this isn’t fair.

Until one day, that armor? Well, it cracked. 

I’d been so sure that my strength was in exuding only positivity. That every step opposite of fear and defeat made me superhuman. That to stand tall amidst rubble meant I couldn’t feel anything but hope and optimism. That every ounce of strength was dependent on me.

But that’s the funny thing about strength—when you base it solely on yourself, it tends to wear and crumble over time.

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Maybe 2020 has you wearing your mask of positive pretending (no pun intended). Maybe amidst the rubble of essential staff or homeschool parent or caregiver or quarantine, you’ve taken on the role of showing up with a smile on your face and determined to be the ray of positivity for those around you.

And if you have, I embrace you. And I certainly don’t diminish the strength you give to those around you.

But I also want to remind you (and myself) that it’s OK to have those moments where you allow yourself the opportunity to feel the weight of it all.

I want you to know that it’s OK to not have it all together.

And I also want you to know that it’s more than OK to say that this season, this storm, this boat that you’re on—it’s hard. 

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Those little segments of struggle or difficulty that you’re so sure are faults and cracks in your strength? They’re merely slivers of opportunity for love to pour into.

They’re the slivers of space that allow your neighbor to lend you a helping hand, for your friend to sit and listen to your worries or offer a prayer on your behalf, or for your spouse to step in and appreciate what you do for the family. They’re the slivers of space that don’t lessen your strength—they’re the ones that help grow it, help nurture it.

Don’t be afraid of those cracks. When given the opportunity, they can be filled with love and that’s the greatest strength of all.

Kathryn Bartling

Kathryn is a born and raised midwest girl, working to raise her twin toddlers to appreciate the world around them, dark chocolate and the beautifully ordinary moments in their lives. A stay-at-home mom after a career in marketing, she's learning to embrace the unique tidal wave of parenting, twins and toddlerhood.