“… It’s from my lowly perspective that I know your grand ideas. The grandeur, your grandiose gestures, the whiff of superior grandness. Your grand total. But from down here I am planning your Grand Finale…“
I will be in your head, long after you have forgotten my face.
Months from here, years.
Your happy will be punctuated with tiny whispers of “what if”.
The detail of my smile, fades even now. But my voice will hook around your ears. My thoughts will poke at your conscience. An echo of my laugh will remind you.
I am in your head.
I will be in your heart, long after you have forgotten my touch.
Months from here, years.
Your quiet moments will be teased with whispers of “what if”.
The heat of that last embrace, faded already. But the taste of our first kisses will press at your lips. Our connection, like a pulse through your blood. The memory of our shared laughter will remind you.
I am in your heart.
Hmmm… That was all a bit maudlin. Caught off guard, I guess. Old triggers, and sadness. Wasn’t supposed to sound so melodramatic. Re-read last night’s post again in the fresh, beautiful, winter’s sunlight. I never want to be woe-is-me, that’s not who I am. But we all have moments when our history collides with our present and the words of someone we trusted can connect with old wounds.
I am a strong woman. And sometimes that means I am a victim of my own success; it can mean that others do not see how much we may want to be looked after for a change, or be given permission to relax, or take the weight off our shoulders every now and again. It is a little exhausting being so staunch. And it means people in our lives sometimes have to put in a little effort. Use a different set of skills. Have patience. To find our softness.
I look at my close female friends, and wonder at their strength. They are a beautiful mix of energy and wisdom and inner-resource. Business Women of the Year, each one. Mothers, and partners, and community leaders. Over-achievers, financially solvent, and accessing great opportunities. And I am in awe of them. They are my heroines now. They are the ones that stand tall and strong, even as the avalanche of life’s rubble falls down around their ears. The inevitable tumbling rain of heartache and hardship. They are my examplars. And they have helped me realise it is ok to be a woman of substance. Of intelligence and independence.
But I also see them in their quiet, lost, moments. When their eyes tell me what they cannot say; that they need help, or love, or a silent person in the background giving support, asking nothing in return. They don’t need someone to fix or assemble… just someone to carry a little of the load for a few paces. They will not ask for it. They simply trudge through the rocky parts. And you know what else they all have in common? These women from different countries, and backgrounds, and education? They each put on their happy face to the outside world, whether they are feeling it or not. They don’t make excuses, they are self-aware enough to know that’s what it takes. But none of them will let you see them break.
So while I love my girls dearly, I am learning from them too. I am learning to ask for help. To let people in. To take a risk on a man’s word. To trust that if I let myself bend a little to make room for those I respect and am attracted to, then maybe, just maybe… one of them will see through the bluster and tough exterior and reach out a hand to steady me on my way. To accept my past, to embrace my passion, laugh at my outspoken, rambly nonsense. Give me some rein. Understand that humour is my coping strategy. But he is going to have to be strong too. Because I will never be the pretty, feminine, unquestioning, woman that boys’ dreams are made of.
Why are we even having this conversation still?
The article (linked below) from a couple of years ago, hit my Facebook feed this morning. And I usually ignore the pap these guys publish. But reading it, I oscillated from righteous indignation to vehement nodding. It’s pushed a button or two.
Read Good Men Project article: The pros and cons of loving a ‘strong woman’…
If you have been reading my blog, you will know that someone who I was starting to care about, walked away leaving the parting suggestion in his wake, that I am “too headstrong.” And I was bewildered and saddened and confused by the seemingly barbed accusation. Still am. I don’t know what he meant. I know it was important enough to guarantee the demise of a short-lived entanglement. And I cried. I cried because he called me headstrong. That doesn’t seem very strong to me. I cried because I think I know what English men mean when they say this kind of thing about a woman. And it is never a compliment.
I was sad because I spent well into my 30s wanting to be the exact opposite of this horrible thing he had leveled at me. What I would have given to be soft and compliant and little and vulnerable, non-threatening… to appear like I needed protection, to be that perfect blend of needy and nurturing. I have never been able to strike this balance. I am not needy. I am independent and come out fighting more often than I should. I know this. I wont ask for help, rarely give ground – not because I am right, but if I admit a chink in the armour, I can be hurt. I have scars far too deep to let that happen again. The battle cry stays just at my throat. Not because I want to, but because this is what I have learned from life.
And as I type this I am weeping big ol’ silly slow tears. Because here I sit more vulnerable and scared and in need, than any one I know. Not many people have ever seen me cry. That is not something I do in public.
My Mother is a wonderful mix of resilience and resourcefulness. She is also beautiful, and petite, and feminine. She was sophisticated and elegant. In my child’s eye, I remember watching her; coquettish, complimentary, she would tilt her head back laughing prettily. Men were enamoured with her. I’m not sure she ever knew that. She only had eyes for my Father. Still. Still. Almost 50 years later. And I was so jealous of her. Her dark skin and big eyes and tininess. Men wanted to help her and rescue her, and fell in love with her. And I was a wobbly giraffe-like giant – I towered over her so quickly that it feels like it was always me giving her hugs not the other way around. Like we’d flipped roles. I was tall and ugly and clumsy, gorky and questioning and clever. And a lot of the time I was scratchy, like a wounded cat, terrified and backed into a corner. Least, that’s how it felt in my teens. Like I had to fight for myself, because no one had my back. Even as a little kid, no one seemed to believe the best in my intentions or support my dreams. I was a good girl without a voice, and no one seemed to know that.
I wont paint the detail into the picture here. It’s not the time. Lets just say I was bullied at school for being different. Even at 5 and 6 years old, sometimes physically. Taunted and ostracised. Add to that, the feeling that I never had the full or unconditional support of my parents. I always seemed to be the one in the wrong, the one being told off… even when I had done my very best. And I repeat, I was a good girl. My very best was usually for someone else, not for my own benefit. Anyway, they seem small things, these two contributors. But in a sensitive and innately empathic little girl, this was an anxiety-causing combination. I had to be my own hero, as the adults in my life had life happening. So I toughened up. I was financially supporting myself at 17, had been kicked out of home, had little contact with my parents. This is unusual where I come from. Rare in the community I grew up in. I was pretty young. So I got tougher. But on the inside, to my inner circle of trusted friends, still a softie who wore her heart on her sleeve.
So then add in that I am a Kiwi chick. A product of a country where equality is a bedrock of our culture. The pioneer spirit. Gender equality. We are expected to be independent thinkers, practical and pragmatic of attitude, partners in the true sense – not possessive or possessions. I like my space, I have an opinion, I have found my voice. I am sure of myself and am fully formed. Finally embracing the strong, confident, woman I have become, and being proud of the wise, thoughtful, sensitive little girl I was.
So yes, I am headstrong. Strong. In all the negative ways the article lists. In the unwanted, unbidden, ways the Lover implied. I am not what most English men have been looking for. I will not bend to their whim, or pretend a submission. I challenge status quo and have a fire in my belly. I speak up for an injustice – be it my own or others’ – in the bedroom or boardroom. But I am also the wonderful things that having a true partner offers; trust and loyalty and laughter and great sex. A confident woman will still have days when she feels frumpy and inelegant and not good enough. And she will speak too loud or too quickly when she is tired or scared. But she will be honest and open and want the best for her man.
But isn’t that the problem? All of this means there is a need for a man to step up and match the energy and faith a strong woman offers. And how scary is that?
You know when you have one of those crystalising moments? When everything else around you is in flux; flotsam and jetsam floating in your space, mixed with the important and precious and fragile. Creating low-fi noise and distracting static. And you valiantly welcome the detritus that throws itself at your head, barely missing your heart. But in a small, stalled, glimpse through time, you are gifted a learning that puts pause to everything. All the mess and overgrown paths and closed doors segue away. You are certain. A punch-in-the-stomach conviction. Like a message has fought it’s way through the hubbub and melee and confusion. A knowledge formed and made real in an instant.
It builds instinctively. Like a perfect wave. And as powerful. Filled with joy and fear and momentum – you are transfixed by the beauty of it. The energy, the strength. You collect an image, to keep it safe. Blue-print the feeling. Preserve the wisdom.
And in the knowing, comes the release.
“Oh, take a turn with me
Around the misty lake.
Hold my hand and lead
Ever you may take.
Pay me heed, incline your head
At all my non-sense.
Pace me slow and bring
To heighten my suspense.
Promise me a sailboat ride
Just an evening stroll.
And I shall smile at your
Even while I count it’s toll.
One day in Summer, you decry
Or walk the dunes?
A concert in the park,
With all our favourite tunes!
You craft a charming promise
Seducing with your eyes.
But I have been here so before
Already know your lies.
So take my hand and walk
Around this pretty pond.
Shower me with kindness
Feign that I’ve been conned.
Make it feel sincere
Like a line you have believed.
Then part your way again,
– We’ll pretend you’re not relieved.”