Alley in Kayserberg, Alsace, France by Martien
“Very jaded and tired and depressed and cross, and so take the liberty of expressing my feelings here . . . I’m brain fagged and must resist the desire to tear up and cross out—must fill my mind with air and light; and walk and blanket it in fog. Rubber boots help. I can flounder over the marsh.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 30 November 1939
Saturday evening. Sunny and hot.
Of course because I wrote about how I’m sleeping better, I slept horribly last night. My head ached, and I was very sound sensitive, which meant that the AC in our bedroom began to make this lovely, loud grinding noise. So I couldn’t fall asleep. Then when I finally did around 4 a.m., I awoke frequently.
The Virginia Woolf quote is quite apropos as I am brain fagged and cross. I love the British usage of the word cross; it’s a much stronger way of saying angry, or mad, or perturbed. I am quite cross and have no particular reason for being so. I just am. Possibly it’s the tightness in my forehead. On days such as these it’s best to keep to myself so as not to pick fights unnecessarily. So I’ll write for a bit and then read or watch a movie.
Corey has to go in at 7 tonight and work until 7 in the morning—a long shift, but at least he’s getting better hours this week. In the past few weeks his shifts have been scarce. Currently, he’s filling out applications for city and state positions. Before he was a merchant marine he had very good training in the Coast Guard in acquisitions and reconciliation. If he can get a position that allows him to use this training, it might actually work out better for his planned return to school. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
“To be a strong woman, to be a fierce woman, to be a true woman, to be a leader, to be truly powerful, you have to get to place where you can tolerate people not liking you. And know that when you actually do that, you have to fall back on your own moral imperative in your own moral trunk and say, ‘I don’t care, this is what I believe. This is who I am.’” ~ Eve Ensler, Beautiful Daughters
This quote showed up on my Tumblr dash, and I immediately grabbed it. I love it for several reasons:
- It talks about being a strong woman.
- It incorporates one of my favorite words: fierce.
- It speaks of moral imperatives.
- It references being able to move past the desire to have all people like you.
I’ve discussed all of these items before in other posts, but this particular quote takes four things in which I believe strongly and combines them into one perfect quote.
Even in my weakened physical state, I still consider myself to be a very strong woman. Most people who know me would agree. I’m not boasting; rather, I’m merely stating a fact. I have a steel backbone, metaphorically. I have withstood much, and I’m still here, still spouting my beliefs, still standing up for those things that I hold dear. In my mind, I am a fierce, powerful woman, a natural leader. I do not think that my beliefs are delusional.
Consider the word fierce:
mid-13c., “proud, noble, bold,” from O.Fr. fers, nom. form of fer, fier “strong, overwhelming, violent, fierce, wild; proud, mighty, great, impressive” (Mod.Fr. fier “proud, haughty”), from L. ferus “wild, untamed,” from PIE base *ghwer- “wild, wild animal” (cf. Gk. ther, O.C.S. zveri, Lith. zveris “wild beast”). Original English sense of “brave, proud” died out 16c., but caused the word at first to be commonly used as an epithet, which accounts for the rare instance of a French word entering English in the nominative case. Meaning “ferocious, wild, savage” is from c.1300. Related: Fiercely; fierceness. (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)
I love etymology, finding out exactly how a word came into the lexicon, what its origins are. Few people today would relate fierce to being proud, noble, or bold. I think that more people are familiar with the colloquial definition of fierce: savage, intense, ferocious. I also believe that fierce is not a word traditionally associated with women, but in reality, I think that it’s a very apt description of many women, especially mothers.
Most mothers are fierce protectors of their offspring, whether human or other. But how many women would actually describe themselves as fierce? Politicians? Perhaps. Although I cannot think of many female politicians who I view as being fierce, at least not in the true sense. I do think that there is a crop of young women who are coming into their own who would willingly take on the mantle of being fierce. These young women know what they want, and they aren’t afraid to do what it takes to get it. I only hope that they learn to temper that fierceness with compassion.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up . . . This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.” ~ Terence McKenna
But what about the phrase moral imperative? For some people, that would translate as morality as prescribed by a religion. Not so for me.
I view my moral imperatives in life as being rather simplistic, if you will. I believe that I should—
- Do no harm to others.
- Protect those who need protection.
- Be honest, honorable, and forthright.
- Love freely, truly, and completely.
- Stay true to myself, my beliefs.
- Blame less and forgive more.
- Know glitter for what it is.
- Keep my expectations realistic.
- Fight for what is right.
- Use the Golden Rule.
Even though I think that these elements of my moral compass are all fairly straightforward, they are not always easy to adhere to, and it has taken me years to get to this point. Perhaps you are wondering what I mean by glitter . . . those things that appear to be beautiful on the outside but which are not necessarily beautiful on the inside, whether that is in a person, a place, or a thing.
I know that when I was younger, I would be taken in by the shiny and pretty—beautiful people, for example—only to find that inside there existed a deep ugliness. When I worked in northern Virginia, I remember becoming friends very quickly with a young man who had the most disarming smile. At first, I found him to be intriguing. That is until I realized that there was nothing underneath. He was one of the most shallow individuals that I have ever met. When I told him that he strutted like a peacock, he was actually insulted.
“Nobody is going to pour truth in your brain. It’s something you have to find out yourself.” ~ Noam Chomsky
As I’ve said before, women are conditioned to believe that they should make themselves affable, that they need to be liked by everyone. I have mentioned how when we returned from England I had such a hard time in my grade school: proper British accent, almond-shaped eyes, olive skin, funny name.
Oh how I wanted to have blonde hair and blue eyes and to be named Patty. I hated who I was, and I thought that no one would ever like the person I was. Conformity—that was the answer.
How can a child of seven or eight understand that it is our very differences that make us who we are, our differences that make us strong, our differences that teach us how to understand others? At that age, all that matters is that we are not different, not in any way. Different is bad. Difference doesn’t get your name called at recess for kickball. Different does not get you invited to birthday parties.
But different I was, and I knew it. At my very core, I knew that I was different. I would ride my bike to the library in the summer and stay for hours, pulling books of the shelves, flipping through them, deciding which four I would take home with me, for four was the maximum allowed. And then I would ride home, and I would immediately immerse myself in the pages. Other young girls in the summer joined softball teams or went to camp. Not me.
Certainly I had my friends, and we did the things that kids do: we went roller skating, and we built forts, and we played with Barbies. We put on music and pretended to be in bands, and we brushed each other’s hair. My friends didn’t care that I wasn’t named Patty, and after a while, neither did I.
Perhaps I reached a point at which I used my very otherness to my advantage.
“The most dangerous of all falsehoods is a slightly distorted truth” ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
In the past few years, I have actually encountered more than my share of individuals for whom truth is not a constant but rather a variable. What I mean is that for these people, truth was subjective, was dependent upon circumstances, was malleable.
This way of thinking baffles me. One woman I worked with truly believed that she was a victim, even though she went behind my back to my boss constantly, told tall tales that may have initially had a basis in truth but that truth had become so skewed that it was unrecognizable. This woman always had a crisis—with her son, with her husband, with her lover, with her lover’s girlfriend, with her health.
When she told me that her cancer had returned, I was overwhelmed with sadness for her. I offered to drive her places, bought her little presents to cheer her. Tried to be a friend to her. She stopped eating. She lost so much weight that she looked skeletal. Everything focused on her. I become so embroiled in her life and all of its problems that I found myself not eating. It was strange, weird, and definitely, not healthy.
It was not until my boss actually told me who had been talking about me that I faced the truth, the real, verifiable truth. It never occurred to me that my friend, this woman with whom I spoke all of the time on the telephone when I was not at work, that she was actually the one sabotaging me.
Need I say that things ended badly? A few years removed, and Corey, ever the voice of reason, asked me a question: Did she really have cancer? Was it possible that she had made up the whole thing.
I know. It’s a horrible thing to think, but the fact is that this woman was so delusional and felt such a need to control every situation that it is entirely within the realm of possibility that she made up the whole thing. The very thought sickens me.
I vowed that once I was away from that situation that I would be more discerning, that I would not accept readily things that I was being spoon fed. This decision has served me well, especially in the last six months or so, when I find that I am once again at odds with someone whose reality is continually shifting.
Truth should not be subjective. Reality may be subjective, dependent upon our roots, our families, our communities. Civil wars are viable proof that one person’s reality can be another person’s lie. But truth? That my friends, should be constant.
Whether or not we can accept truth as reality is another story.
More later. Peace.
Music by Glass Pear, “Say it Once”
no matter what you give them,
still want the moon.
white meat and dark,
The marriage bed
and the cradle,
still empty arms.
You give them land,
their own earth under their feet,
still they take to the roads.
And water: dig them the deepest well,
still it’s not deep enough
to drink the moon from.
~ Denise Levertov
5 thoughts on ““Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” ~ Lawrence Clark Powell”
My dear friend,
I cannot tell you how much I Have enjoyed this post because it is you. The woman I know;fierce, strong, loving, compansionate and generous. There are times when I feel sorry for myself, full of self pity and then I visit here. You pick me up as if with your own arms and embrace me with your loving nature and generous spirit. I have known you when you have been down and tthe world has thrown you nothing but curveballsbut you have an amazing inner strength which you draw on to make the best of any situation. You inspire me to be a better person though your writing and outlook on life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. …always.
Why thank you. I’m so glad that I could help you in some small way. One day we will be able to give each other a hug and have a long conversation over a cup of tea. One day . . .
We’ve been on a similar brainwave of late, I think.
I love your moral imperatives list! I love “Know glitter for what it is”! They should give that list to every graduating high school senior. I would have liked it then, too. But… although I had basically good aspirations back then, I fell into such sticky mud that the truth seemed false sometimes and up seemed like down and vice versa – ironically because of people somewhat like you describe above – although perhaps through no fault of their own. (Now I try and view people as being at the end of a wave… each generation often passes a wave down to the next, sometimes the waves bathe the people in good, admirable, healthy stuff – and sometimes they don’t.) And, I guess I came out of the whirlpool okay after all…
Kind of amazing how, even though you are cross and recovering from a migraine and lack of sleep, you can still weave up this wonderful magic for us: this wonderful post full of beauty, music, and poetry. I’m in awe that you do this for us! You slay a lot of dragons and still you take the time to give beauty to all your readers… I, for one, say: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I appreciate you, Lita.
That was so sweet, and it made me smile to myself.
If someone had handed me that list of moral imperatives when I graduated from high school, I don’t think that I would have understood it, let alone have adhered to it. Age and experience really are the best teachers. You can tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do, but only by the doing or not doing do we really understand why. I am afraid that I failed to recognize glitter more than a few times, being taken in by the packaging and not looking beyond.
I really like your wave metaphor. I think that it describes life very accurately.