“Some women fear the fire, Some women simply become it..” r.h.sin.
It is not always easy to remember who you were before parents, society, the church, school, changed you. We who grew up before the ability to capture every moment of every day; before we could broadcast every first smile and each cute pose; before each memorable event could be saved indefinitely; we must rely on that most unreliable of activities: remembering. Sometimes we don’t even remember the event itself, we recall the retelling of the event, when it is pulled out and rehashed at family get-togethers: ‘Remember that time when…’
I have a clear memory of myself as a seven-year-old, determined that I had to deliver a farewell speech at the going-away party the church held for my family (well, for my father most of all), when we were leaving England to set sail to a new world, Jamaica. In my head, not only was it something I had to do, I knew it was expected of me. Despite the fact that absolutely no-one (that I can recall) had suggested that any speeches were called for! It was your typical English affair; sandwiches, cake and tea, and laughter and good conversation. Probably a presentation (I don’t know if this was when my parents were given a table-cloth with all of the church members signatures embroidered on it), almost certainly a prayer or two, no doubt some heartfelt words. And a farewell speech, written in pencil on an assortment of colored paper, delivered by moi.
I am not sure at what stage in life girls in particular absorb the message that they should be reticent, that they should wait their turn, that they should not be outspoken or make their needs known. Fortunately we have a wealth of more recent examples of a new generation of strong women who are not hearing that message. Whether it was Malala as a fifteen-year-old victim of bigotry and oppression who continues today to fight for the rights of girls worldwide; or a take-no-prisoners Emma Gonzalez who now symbolizes the power of David taking on Goliath; we have shining examples of females who are not scared of upsetting the status quo.
Like discarded first wives appalled at the nerve of second wives, who manage to get the husband to do things poor wife number one never even dared to ask for, many of us older females can only look on in wonder. Was there something I could have done/said/demanded in my youth that I assumed was beyond my reach? The brave one of our era, the one who dared to stand up and stand out, who drew attention to herself, and appeared unafraid of public opinion was often considered arrogant, over-confident, full of airs. And it was usually other women that were the most judgmental. Or jealous?
Those of us who stand on the sidelines while others take the risks, we have no idea how hard it is to take chances, to put yourself out there. We assume that the other person must have different qualities, it must come easy to them. And perhaps they are blessed with something special, some inner drive or spark that will not let them be still. I know that by the time I was a teenager, I had no desire to be a public speaker. As ‘deputy head-girl’ in high school, I often had to come on stage at the end of assembly to dismiss the students from the hall, and minimal though my lines were, my knees would knock, and I would be so self-conscious I thought everyone could see them jumping! Somewhere between seven and seventeen my spirit had been tamed, I had become a comformist.
The author Neale Donald Walsch wrote that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and it is only by facing our fears that we discover what we are capable of. I have a bunch of friends (to be honest, I may not have met them face-to-face, but we are firm friends none-the-less!) who are self-declared introverts. And yet they deliver the most powerful, provocative pieces on social media. They have been provided with a platform for their inner thoughts, a stage from which to proclaim their hidden feelings without anyone seeing that their knees are knocking! Some may only pass on an inspirational word, an eye-opening plea, or a cartoon to amuse, but we all can be stars in our own world now! With our family and friends as supporting actors!
Whether it is through procrastination or the weight of daily commitments, many of us choose to ignore a call to do more, an itch to do that which makes us uncomfortable. It is far easier to get on with the business of everyday life, the routine of earning a living and raising a family. Yet those who overcome their fears and nerves have the same commitments, and somehow manage to stretch the hours to fit their second life.
This Friday morning I would like to send out messages of appreciation to all of those ‘kick-ass’ women who have inspired me along the way. It may just have been that time I saw you assertively speak out on behalf of yourself or others, calling out a bully for his intimidation tactics. I applaud the women who defy society’s expectations and dress, or wear their hair, or take a job that draws negative attention to them. I look forward to the woman my granddaughter may become, as she learns from role models who appear unafraid and vocal. And I call on women of my age who may still be dwelling in patterns of accepting the norm, of staying in the shadows to embrace the power and the fire of who you truly are.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family! And as we embark on Poetry Month, I ask all of the poets out there who inspire us and speak the truth to us, write on!