Stainless Steel Woman? Not…

<April ‘09>

It is such an interesting life, is it not??

It’s an interesting & challenging time to be a human being on Planet Earth (shoot – due to our appalling human shenanigans it’s even challenging to be a critter or any kind of living anything these days…but I sort of digress).

My own life is certainly challenging – & in the past few years I’ve come to see quite clearly that my own little life is merely a microcosm of the macrocosm. I’m only a wee speck, but my wee speck-ness is infused with all the same…qualities & happenings & challenges…as the “big picture” is.

My challenges & problems & “issues” are not merely not unique – they’re utterly symbolic of the “big picture” problems & issues & challenges.

I’m a little walking Earth story – a little walking Human Being story (we all are) – it’s all, as they say, connected

Life has conspired to bring me certain experiences – certain lessons, certain learnings.

Paternal and/or male rejection has played a big role in my life. I’m not trying to gain anyone’s sympathies here, don’t misunderstand me (heck – it’s a common enough story, is it not??). I consider myself greatly, greatly blessed in this life & am super-super-super grateful that mine was not a case of maternal/female rejection, which I think is probably quite a good deal harder to transcend. Bear in mind here, I’ve worked in both the psychiatric & correctional fields, so I’ve seen quite a bit.

Okay. So, rejection happened (kind of like that other thing that is said to happen, hmm?).

Other large rejections have come my way, too, & somewhere along the way I sort of came to conceive of myself as “Stainless Steel Woman.”

Not just me. Many of the women I know are very, very strong. We’re a tough bunch. We’ve had to be, hmm? Patriarchy’s a tough gig, & we’ve been in its clutches for some 5000 years now (so I’ve heard, anyway, from the more scholarly folks).

Whatever you may think about patriarchy (I suspect most folks don’t think about it at all), we women generally have a whole lot of B.S. to contend with, right from birth on. (So do men, of course, but I’m happy to let men write about their end of the deal.)

Most of the women I know personally carry very, very heavy loads, one way & another. We carry a lot of crud, we fall into a lot of crud, we even get pushed into quite a bit of crud – & somehow, most of us (lots & lots of women I know personally) carry on with our heads held pretty darn high. We behave with class & generosity, we raise our children well (mostly), we love the men in our lives rather well, all things considered, & we do a quite astonishing amount of good in the world. We do so much, & so well, that in some cases I think we can come to feel – & be perceived as – Stainless Steel Women. Invulnerable. Impervious to pain & betrayal.

We’re so darn good at dealing with the s-it the world throws our way that we begin to fool ourselves – & the men around us – into thinking we are invulnerable. So they keep right on loading on the crud.

But guess what, ladies?

It isn’t stainless steel we’re made of. Nor, as my dear friend Anne points out, would we want to be. As she said to me in an e-mail message recently, it isn’t stainless steel we’re made of. She prefers to think of herself as being made of “soft white pine. I don’t avoid the stain of pain, I soak it up, absorb it and carry it along without it damaging me. Instead of rigidly withstanding any additional load with a fixed strength and intensity, the pine bends and stretches, reaches and supports, shades and protects as much or as little as needed. There is flexibility and resilience; even in times of sunshine there is the gentle whisper in the needles. I love the big trees and their ability to withstand all manner of weather and usage.  They are sometimes scarred or twisted by their journeys but they endure and endure and endure and are more interesting and beautiful for their individuality.”

I like this image very much. As it happens, I’m pretty crazy about trees myself. And a really big admirer of women & our special female qualities. (1)

Our very strength is our ability to bend. We don’t always “stand firm” – we bend with the wind/our circumstances. We bend, we fall down, we grieve, we cry – we feel & express the whole darn human range of emotions. And that’s why we don’t break. We’re not brittle – we’re flexible. We’re not unfeeling; we are not made out of stainless steel.

But oh goodness me, we are strong, aren’t we?

Janet


(1) There is a blog post called “Women Are Awesome” which you might enjoy...