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By: Teresa D. Cochran

When I think of the word “strength” I think about inner strength not just physical outer strength. In life changing difficult moments, how do you find your inner strength?

Most everyone, who was old enough to remember, remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. I was at the end of a two week vacation standing on top of a mountain at a monastery in Toledo, Spain. I was traveling with two Spanish women. I was the only blond American in my small traveling group and my Spanish speaking skills were and still are “un poquito” and not enough to pass me off as Spanish speaking in the least. When we returned to the charter bus down the road it was all over the radio, about the twin towers coming down after two planes crashed through them. All of this had to, of course, be translated to me by my traveling companions. Everyone was speaking Spanish around me and I had to rely on my friend to translate. It was difficult.

One of my travel companions, a very good friend of mine, was a flight attendant for US Airways at the time. I had flown over to Spain first class on what they call a buddy pass, which means I did not have an assigned seat and would agree to fly standby until a seat became available. We only had maybe two more days on our vacation before we were going to fly home. I had to get back to work. My friend and I decided to make the best of it and go out our last night in Madrid before we made our trip back to the airport to fly home.

While out that evening, my friend became angry at me and walked away from me down the streets of Madrid leaving me standing in the road by myself in a strange country where I did not know the language. I returned to the hotel room. Once she returned she angrily yelled at me. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I was seeing the person that I had known for years start to unravel in front of my eyes. I believe now it was because she was a flight attendant and was freaked out about the whole situation we were in and I was the moving target in front of her. What happened next I could not have ever anticipated or imagined.

We arrived to the airport on the date we were to fly out a few days after September 11th and there was only one US Airways flight out of Spain each day. We were turned away from a flight that day. For several days we continued to stay at a hotel near the airport and go back to the airport to attempt to board a plane. We were continuously turned away each day due to our buddy passes (a pass, by the way, I will never use again to fly). I realized then that not only was I not flying home first class I did not know when I would get home. Then all of these thoughts entered my head, of our country possibly going to war, my travel companions possibly getting a flight that I could not get on, and being an American overseas that cannot blend in as anything other than an American. I realized at that moment I had to “flip the switch” and make my trip home happen no matter what.

I started going to every ticket booth for every airline in the airport. I must have gone to twenty ticket booths. Some airlines could not say when they would start selling tickets. Some said it would be thirty days or more. Then, I finally came upon SpanAir. They had a flight the next day and, yes, it was flying into New York. I ran and told my friend, “We’ve got to buy these tickets to get home.” She said, “There is no way I’m flying into New York, no way.” I said alright but that I was going by myself. I bought the ticket and I got on the plane to New York by myself. I flew over the smoldering rubble of the twin towers just days after September 11th. I could have never imagined I would have ever been strong enough to make my trip home happen like that, but I was and I did.

We all have difficult challenges in our lives whether it be the job we do not like, the relationship we think we may not want to stay in or lose, the loss of a loved one, and for a lot of us all of the above. Other than the passing of my maternal grandmother last year, September 11th was the biggest life changing difficult moment of my life. I know all of us have stories about where we were on September 11th, the relationships we have, our jobs, and about the loved ones we have lost in our lives. Some of us have had to bear a heavier cross than others. Finding your strength in difficult moments, well it’s just difficult.

How do you move forward, how do you find your strength? For me, it was getting out of my own head and telling myself I was going to take action to make a change. I envisioned the change and I put it into action, and when I accomplished the action it felt amazing. This, of course, is only one area in my life. I took the action I’m talking about almost twelve years ago. I have other goals and changes I’m on my way to achieving them as we speak. Writing a series of articles themed on finding yourself, including this article, is one of them.

Having a goal and focusing on it can be a great strength builder. Even setting small daily goals each day makes a difference – whether that be walking around the block or cooking a healthy dinner at home instead of eating out. Visual reminders of your goals are always good. I have a cute pair of jeans that I have hanging on my closet door that I aspire to wear this fall. So I look at the jeans each day to remind myself of my goal. If you don’t make a goal, make a plan for yourself, or you can end up staying in the same place for a long time. A place you don’t necessarily want to be.

How do you find a goal? That’s easy. You have to want whatever that goal is and then take the daily steps to lead you to that goal. A lot of people will stay where they are in life because of past experiences and because it’s safe and safe is nice. But when you find your inner strength, take the leap, and take action in your life the feeling can be incredible. Think of the possible reward of taking that action. Step outside of your comfort zone, “flip the switch” and go after what you want, whatever that may be – that’s when you know you have found your inner strength.

Yours in good health,

Dr. Robert Koch

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