I love stories about brave, heroic people. I live for stories about brave, heroic people. I don’t watch very many movies without falling asleep, but if I do happen to make it through one with my eyes still open, there is a very good chance it was about some brave, heroic person. I don’t know why, exactly, I’m so into that stuff. I just am. It inspires me, makes me feel good, gets me to ugly-cry a little bit, in a good way. Disney is great at these stories. Disney’s ability to tell these stories transcends gender and generation and “yanny” vs. “laurel” and all the other major cultural divides. When I was growing up, I remember how much I loved to love Disney’s brave, heroic people.

Then I got older. And life started happening. And all those painstaking journeys and emotional struggles and hardships that had been in book pages and on TV screens for as long as I could remember shape-shifted into reality. They started happening to people I know. They started happening to people I love. They started happening to me.

And when they started happening, I started thinking. About strength. And what it is. Or what I think it is, at least.

Let’s start with what I think it’s not.

It’s not not caring when bad things happen. It’s not not being scared when someone gets sick. It’s not not crying when you get your heartbroken, or you lose someone who meant the world, or when life does the opposite of everything you planned. It’s not always knowing what to do, or what you want, or who you are. It’s not not feeling lost. It’s not sticking with everything you start and it’s not winning at everything you try.

It’s not.

It’s carrying on. It’s believing, and hoping, and praying, and wishing, and dreaming about the moment when things are better; the moment that’s undoubtedly on its way. It’s getting out of bed. It’s doing what you have to do and being where you need to be on the days when it’s really, really, crazy hard. It’s loving yourself – loving every nuanced, awkward, freckled, dazed and confused little piece of who you are.

How do the strong survive? I don’t think it’s that simple and I don’t think it’s that complicated. I don’t think it’s certain actions and I don’t think it’s not certain actions. There isn’t a ten-step guide to being the people we see in the Disney movies.

How do the strong survive? They just do. We just do. You just do. And I’m realizing now that it’s just as beautiful and amazing and inspiring on us as it is in any book or on any screen. We’re our own amazing story. We survive by surviving. The survivors are the brave, heroic ones. Not the other way around.

And the craziest part? You’ve done it before. And you will do it again.

Each time, gracefully.