I Am Grateful to be a Woman

 In Inspiration, Weekly Forum Discussion

This will seem like a tangent but I’m feeling passionate about this today for several reasons and know you wouldn’t want me to apologize:

I am grateful for being a woman.  We often talk about celebrating being a woman but it seems like this formless concept we don’t truly understand.  Sometimes we are trying so hard to be positive about being a woman that we lose sight of what we’re actually celebrating.

As females, we go through many phases and although all biological phases are inevitable for those around long enough, there is much more to being a woman.  One of the most critical phases is when we hit ‘that age’.  The age may be different for all of us, but it’s often that age where we are also losing that dewy, youthful wrinkle-free skin, when we start wondering if we’re seeing things or if our lush hair is shedding more than we remember and looking a little less vibrant.  We start feeling things are getting a little more lacklustre.  It is the age when things start shifting a little south, even if we still remain in proximity to the equator through mean workouts and a little extra care.  It is the age when we get more “Ma’am” than we do “Miss”.  We are … wait for the ugly word … aging.  We are always aging, but I mean the kind of aging that keeps us up when we’re trying to get some shuteye and leaves us wondering if we’re as cool, bad ass, attractive and capable as we once were.  Yes, there are many phases, but for me, this is one of the most critical in a female’s life.

The other day I was in a line-up at a supermarket to get one of those roasted chicken dinners and the young man behind the counter said “What can I get for you, ma’am?” I’m getting a lot more of this so it no longer surprises me but it still feels so foreign at times.  I don’t know of anyone that enjoys being called “ma’am” and I can’t pretend I took it as a compliment.

So, we end up secretly asking ourselves what the heck we’re really celebrating if we’re ‘aging’, yet we nod in agreement when we read something on how great it is to be a woman or hear someone reiterate something that was said by Maria Shriver at a women’s empowerment conference.  I’m not knocking Maria – I quite like her.  What I am saying is that sometimes we’re looking for these big powerful statements when all we need to do is consider who we are and how we came to be.  It wasn’t from being a princess with a life of inexperience – sheltered from pain, loss, resistance, adversity or even real bliss.  You don’t really know bliss until you know misery.

All we need to do is look at our very own fiber.  You can argue we were born with the fibre or fabric that makes us who we are, but it isn’t the brand spanking new blanket, sweater or pair of jeans that we go about trashing the house for.  We will look everywhere, however, for the artifacts with tears, frays, and spots. We’ll search infinity and beyond for that faded relic.  Nothing has more character than that thing you wash a billion times and the colour wears out but not that stain.  The stain remains!  We live for that worn out jacket or the pair of boots passed their prime, because there is this defiant quality these things exude.  These are objects marked by time and use, and are appreciated because they’ve had a full life yet keep on ‘giving’, and I believe being marred by time, real use of mind and body, and having the fire within to keep going makes a female worthy of being called a woman.  This is the ultimate defiance against throwing in the towel on living and rolling over.

We get up every morning, and we do what needs to get done for our children, best friends, partners, parents, pets, bosses, clients, the PTA, ourselves, etc., etc., etc.  The list just goes on, and on, and on.  We get up every morning!  Really think about that.

We lose sleep from stress, worry and the lack of time.  It may be overwhelming when we stop to think about everything and everyone we’re accountable for and the goals we set out to accomplish for the day, let alone the year.   Especially in our thirties and forties, depending on who we are and what kind of life we’re leading, things get complicated to varying degrees, but they are always more complicated, even when they’re more enjoyable.  Our hormonal bodies are in a state of mayhem.  We get surprised when we react a certain way to particular incidents and we are shocked when the white hairs seem to multiply.  Pull it out and you’ll find two the next morning! It’s all ebb and flow but from second to second if it isn’t complete chaos.  Fun.

So, what are we really celebrating?

In all that aging throws at us, something may start showing up.   If this something does start sprouting, it will manifest itself unexpectedly into a real beast that thrives the more we embrace who we are, even if we aren’t wrapping our arms around that nuisance we call aging.  Worrying less about certain aspects that are rather superficial means other things sneak their way into forming who we become.  We can continue obsessing or we can ‘woman up’, so to speak.  Some females opt out of the latter.  From fraying and tearing and even finding the strength to sew ourselves up at times, we get stronger in spirit and become ultimate sentinels.  With great care we protect those we love because that is what we do and who we are: women.

I can go into a big speech about how we accept aging, stop trying to live up to some beauty industry standard, yet all the while refusing to give into the aging process.  This is all really fabulous but we already know we aren’t quitters. These aspects of women aging is often mentioned. It’s the other stuff that gets lost and it really boils down to this: what distinguishes women and men from girls and boys is having the heart and guts to take life on full force with a sense of purpose, courage, responsibility, and compassion.

What we often forget is the immaculate trade off of being, well, less than immaculate.  We begin to recognize there is no benefit in obsessing over perfection, but even more importantly is that perfection becomes the last thing on our list.  We start feeling this amplified strength, and this need for perfection is replaced with greater qualities. We go, “Where the heck did that come from?” I’ll tell you where it came from – it came from every tear, fray and stain within you and in appreciating the defiance they hold.  It came from you.  We start wondering how we manage to get done what we do in a day.  Some don’t have time to wonder, but somewhere in a driving chamber of the mind, there’s this sense of being tougher than we used to be.  We figuratively crush metal with our teeth by living the lives we lead: the bullies we take down for our kids or the less capable, the superiors we set straight and demand respect from, the hearty jobs we tackle and businesses we run, the cupcakes we stay up baking for a school event or just to cheer up someone older.  We keep our families together and when that isn’t possible, some of us recognize it, pick up the pieces and do the best we can to do right by our children so they can still feel whole.  We act with dignity and class, even when we’re scorched by someone else’s insensitivity or some form of injustice.  We lead by example.

We think up even longer lists of things we still want to tackle, sometimes with the naysayers rolling their eyes or the so-called well-intended saying, “Really?  Now?  Why?  I mean, maybe fifteen years ago but why start now?”  Because we can!  We’ve been through some trying times and there will be many more ahead of us but we’re here knowing that even if we don’t always get through the list, we no longer see it as unachievable.  In fact, in some cases, we’re better equipped to do certain things than when we were young.  We do more and care less what other people think is right because we have decided to do right by our own code of ethics, our sense of self and what is right and wrong.  We are willing to go against the popular vote.  We can meet our own set of eyes in the mirror.  We build each other up, because the success of another is no threat to how we feel about our own place in the world.  We can fight for ourselves and be strong for those we love.  We can be brave.

I’m not going to pretend that every female is tough, honourable, courageous, or principled all of the time – and some females don’t possess any of these qualities any of the time.  What does this mean?  Being a woman means saying goodbye to being a girl. I don’t mean avoiding the use of the word “girl” – I mean to say that being a woman is not a title that should be held by females intentionally acting flakey, doing things solely to win the affections of others, pretending to be stupid, expecting to be taken care of instead of building a life for themselves, waiting to be saved and acting like damsels in distress in some desperate attempt to be perceived as a fragile girl. It means getting over the hangups of fewer people calling you pretty and opening doors for you, and taking immense pride in being treated with respect and like an intelligent human being that may even evoke a little fear now and again.  It means feeling incredible after taking that mixed martial class and driving with the windows down.  It may even mean eating a tub of ice cream and sitting on the couch doing nothing now and again because you want to.  It means moving your ass in a moment of need without batting an eye at what we look like and what others think.  This is what we’re celebrating because if every female became a woman than it would just be some biological process.  This is actually the point: there would be nothing to celebrate. It would be a lot like celebrating existence, which is great but hardly our own personal accomplishment.  When we celebrate being women, we aren’t just saying, we’re okay getting older, because we really have no choice and the truth is no one would jump at the opportunity to feel or look older.  There is all this talk about being comfortable in our skin and how everyone is a woman after a certain age and that actually downplays the achievements of those of us that are women.  If I were a man instead of a boy I’d be celebrating that, because the ‘us’ and ‘them’ isn’t really between the sexes, its between the intrepid spirits and the mediocre.  Yes, I’m referencing Magellan.

We don’t have to wonder if we’re as cool, bad ass, attractive and capable as we once were at 18 or 21 because in some ways we are more so and in other ways the comparison is rather ridiculous.  Like a very good friend of mine who hasn’t hit THAT phase yet said, “You aren’t ‘high school cool’.  That isn’t really cool.  You’re the ‘real’ kind of cool.  You’re solid and steadfast.”  Are we bad ass?  Hell, we’d make Walter White nod his beautiful bald head in admiration and accept it when we say “I am the danger.  I am the one who knocks.”  We keep the order and without real women and men, everything just implodes.  Are we attractive?  Maybe not in that ‘hot little butt’ kind of way, but we may be even more attractive than we ever were to the kind of people we want to attract, and hopefully ourselves.  Are we capable?  Do we really need to ask?

Today, I am feeling very grateful for being a woman and being surrounded by you dynamite women I’m fortunate to now know… and better still, when I say it, I feel it means something.

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