I see her, benching more than I weigh as sweat pours out of her pores

She says she wants to be strong

But she doesn't realize that she already is

In her belly she grew three babies, one for 10 months, one for 9, and one who never made it

Her body has absorbed the bruises that used to mar her beautiful brown skin

I wonder how she could ever think she isn't strong enough

Maybe this is why I feel so small

As she benches and lifts and runs, I type out another paragraph or poem

She says that I'm strong too, but standing next to her, I feel like a weakling, a dwarf standing next to a giant in terms of power and feeling like I could never do all of the things she's done, because I will never be as strong as her

Her mother, my Nanay, is the same;

She doesn't bench, but she cooks and cleans and sews and raised three children alone

My Abuelo went away to war while Nanay waged her own battle of raising children, caring for the other foreign fighters' wives, and the judgement of the white wives who couldn't understand her english

And I feel cursed to be a weak woman in a lineage of those who are strong

Lifting worlds on their backs

Never cracking under pressure.

I was told to be strong

My mother stands strong like an ox

I stand in her shadow

"Why won't you do sports?" She asks, frustrated, as I respond with my usual excuse of just not wanting to, because I don't want to tell her how weak I feel.

I want to shout: I'm broken and I can't be like you

You were taught discipline

I was given freedom

You found a way to get your anger out, your anger at the world and your mother and having to raise your brothers and always having to move

I learned to hide

I saw a strong woman reduced to weakness by a man

I learned to stay quiet and run away from my problems and always put on a good face

And I never meant to become so different, but

When you see someone so strong, made so weak, you doubt your own ability to be strong

That's why, out of all the strong women in our family, I am weak

They learned from each other how to create and stand and build and carry the weight of worlds

But despite being one of them, certain situations made me weaker

A lineage of strong women ended by a broken link

A role I fear I have

Wishing I could've picked up on the better habits, the stronger habits

I walk into a weight room and feel angry

Partners ask me how much I want to lift and I give them my mother's best

I struggle and push and lift

But I'm never as strong as her

During this struggle I either envy or hate her

But I don't want to be weighed down by these emotions

Though the pull towards the strong follows me

I stepped into a gym the other day and was disgusted with myself when I couldn't even squat my weight, because my knee hurt too bad

Wishing to be strong in a way I fear I never can

Our lineage of women are strong

Looking down at me with disappointment as I try to get my release from writing this poem.

This poem is about: 
My family


Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741