Friday, March 7, 2014

I Am Woman

I was eight years old when my girlfriends and I strutted proudly around our living room singing into our hairbrush faux-microphones:
"Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman"
In 1972, Helen Reddy co-wrote the song I Am Woman, which became a worldwide #1 hit, feminist anthem and cultural icon of the times. Here's a YouTube of the song:
(Note: RSS and email subscribers - you'll need to click to my blog to view it)

OK, I am woman. 35 years later, what does this song mean to me today? What impact has being a woman had on my life? What kind of woman do I strive to be?
"I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore"
When I have something important to say, I don't sit quietly with my hands folded demurely on my lap. I am not afraid to speak out or to advocate for those who can't. Sometimes I spread my message in a big way, like blogging or appearing on national television.
I used to think I had to roar. But do you know what happened? People covered their ears and tuned me out. So I learned to purr instead. Incessant, impossible to ignore purring when necessary - but I've learned to deliver my message in a pleasant way, so that others want to listen.
"And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again"
I've been sad, squashed and small. I've been a victim and I've hit rock bottom. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, I had an abusive boyfriend, I've been poor and hungry.
As a newlywed, my in-laws chastised me for "wearing the pants" in our new marriage. They said my husband was the star and I should play the supporting role. They bought me a sewing machine, cookbooks and an iron. They tried to put me in my place.
I strive to reflect, learn and grow from each life experience. I keep an open mind. I choose not to stay stuck. I understand that the only person I can change is me.
"Oh yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything"
Because I reflect, learn and grow, I am wiser with each passing moment. I've learned from conflict and difficult experiences. I change what I can and peacefully accept what I cannot.
Because "I can do anything" (and despite the rough start with my chauvinistic in-laws), I've been happily married to the same man, my best friend, for over 21 years. We are not the same; we are equals and we compliment one another's strengths.
Because I've felt loneliness, I cherish my friends.
Because I've been penniless and hungry, I've learned how to make enough money and I savor nourishing food.
Because I missed spending quality time with my workaholic father when I was a child, I chose to be financially free before I became a parent.
Because I am wise and strong and a nurturing woman, I share my life and my unconditional love with our beautiful daughter -- who was abandoned at birth simply because she is a girl.
"I am strong (strong)"
Yes, I am unabashedly strong. And I embrace my feminine qualities: I am soft, gentle, loving, nurturing and beautiful. Strength and femininity are compatible. Strength doesn't need to be heavy-handed; in fact, gentle strength is far more effective. Purr.
"I am invincible (invincible)"
By definition, I refuse to be overcome or subdued. But I'm not Super Woman, either, nor do I strive to be.
Women today are expected to possess super-human powers: Get Jill and Johnny dressed while cooking a hot breakfast between loads of laundry while conducting an important business conference call before heading to the airport for an out-of-state conference. Don't forget to drop the dog off at the groomer's on the way. And wear lingerie under your business suit so you can enjoy sexy intimacy with your husband when you get home tonight - after helping the kids with their homework and putting them to bed, of course. Oops, did you forget to pick up the dog?
I recognize my limits. I can't do everything and I'm not skilled at every task. When I was a teenager, my siblings and I pitched in our allowance to pay for a house cleaner so we could have our weekends free to do as we wanted. Today, I do my own laundry and my husband does his. And despite my "way" with money, I have a bookkeeper that makes sure my bills are paid on time.
"I am woman
You can bend but never break me
'Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul"
When I respect myself, others can't walk all over me. I believe in what I believe, because I believe in me.
"I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long, long way to go"
I am not done. Every experience, every relationship, every thought is an opportunity for personal growth. And I am willing to share my journey with others. I won't allow you to step on my toes and I promise not to step on yours. I will look you straight in the eye, toe to toe, and share my truth with a warm smile. I am open, nurturing and loving. I love me, I love you, I love life.
"Until I make my brother understand"
Women and men are different in several obvious ways. But regardless of our gender-specific hormonal soup and X/Y chromosomes, I believe that we are more alike than we are different.
I am willing to open myself up to the world. I dream of universal acceptance, peace and understanding, beyond all stereotypes. I am your sister. Purr.
"Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong"
Note: This post is my response to Steve Pavlina’s How to Be a Man and his provocative invitation to write "How to Be a Woman".

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