“Gather strength out of what you have left,” is a rough translation from the Spanish phrase, “Sacar fuerza de flaqueza,” which I learned from my friend Oscar. I don’t speak Spanish, so I hope I’ve transcribed it accurately.
I like the image it gives me: “Gather,” as if you’re holding a basket, looking around you to see what you can put in it. Like counting your blessings, and then harnessing them.
We’ve both had need of such a motto.
When Oscar was 6, his mother dropped him off at an orphanage in Buenos Aires. He grew up a street urchin, earning money by running errands for the prostitutes who lived next door. I was no better off. My mother’s boyfriend would have had me be one of those prostitutes. To bring in an income at 12.
We both survived our childhoods and thrived—Oscar became a salon owner and I had a rewarding career as an executive in a bookstore company.
Over the two decades that Oscar has been styling my hair (except for parts of last years when I didn’t have any!) we’ve shared our stories of being abandoned kids, struggling to make it on our own. I think “gathering strength” was coded into us early.
When my husband died young when my kids were little, I didn’t think I could face my life. I didn’t think I had anything left. Somehow, I pushed through.
Oscar had another phrase for that: “Happy people step over pain.”
Stepping over pain—I like that. We can let pain put up a barrier, or we can move through it. We can get to the other side. We can gather strength.