Promoting each of my weekly columns requires some thoughtful planning. Posts are shared on my social media accounts with trending — relevant — hashtags and individuals tagged who have expressed an appreciation and enjoyment of my writing. Among them is a dear friend and former work colleague who recently messaged me privately on Facebook with this simple question: “How do you stay so focused and strong all the time?”
I could not answer him at the moment I received it. Messenger with its white field where thoughts pop up in colorful bubbles, dots pulse with the anticipation of yet another bubble, emojis in neat rows promote their easy clichéd meaning, just lacked the dignity to convey my answer, a consciousness that had been taking shape for decades. So, dear friend, I decided to respond to your question on my blog.
With each verse of my life, this question has been a faithful refrain spoken in private conversations with certain friends. My responses — a part of that refrain — tended to be uncomplicated and, more importantly, uninvolved: “I don’t know. I just do. I don’t really have a choice.” This tempered answer was for me, actually. I knew my friends and others observed my truth, the strength, intelligence and compassion I threaded into each decision, the confidence I brought to every situation, the openness I showered on new people, places and ideas. Some loved and respected me. Others despised and resented me.
I suppose I did not want to admit who I knew myself to be, the Wild Woman I was becoming, a being with creative energy, strength and passion. I lacked the words, maturity and courage to call out and celebrate this creature. In the meantime, I endured many life experiences, painful, difficult, beautiful, so much of which I embraced quietly. However, I began to realize that I needed to be free, be fully alive, to flourish. This self-awareness occurred a few years after my son was born. His new life with its boundless potential inspired me to reflect on the life that has been within me since my birth and beyond.
The cruelty of human nature can burrow into us, hollowing us out, creating deep holes, and I was no exception. I filled my emptiness mainly with work, academics and friendships, neglecting the profound needs of my heart, making me vulnerable to controlling men and destructive relationships. My Wild Woman knew I needed her wise counsel and strength to leave the threatening situations I found myself in, and eventually, I would hear her and follow her direction to safety. I did, indeed, need her, but I resented her. Through her very existence, she revealed to me my inadequacies, my deficiencies, my weaknesses, the other truth that was my truth.
Why could I not welcome her strength and insight and become the woman I wanted or knew myself to be?
Why had I exiled this part of myself from my consciousness for years?
Why would I hurt myself more than others have by alienating this Wild Woman?
How could I overcome my anger toward myself and embrace her?
For many years, I was distracted with various preoccupations and fulfilling diversions, all of which sufficiently numbed the pain in this emptiness. However, I realized this lifestyle was not sustainable. The news industry where I built a career as an editor was undergoing several changes, among which was the hemorrhaging of positions to save money through downsizing. I realized I needed to be and do more for my son and myself.
A few years after my son was born and his custody had been settled, I began to see a therapist named Kathleen. Her warmth, sincerity and insight soothed me, easing me into the harder therapeutic work that was required. At the end of one session, she gave me some homework for our meeting the following week.
“I want you to envision your anger. What does it look like? Where is it? And then, if you can, I want you to try and communicate with it. You may not be able to or want to, but if you can, try it.”
Envision my anger? Talk to it? At the time, this assignment seemed rather weird. I was expecting some journaling or reading a recommended book or article for discussion. However, this simple exercise helped change my life.
To reach my anger, I had to walk through a dark, wet cave with shards of glass embedded in the walls, visible when illuminated by an occasional light that streamed from nowhere behind me. My anger — a werewolf type of creature with white, matted fur; its wrists, ankles and waist chained against the wall — was silent until it raised its head to see the stranger who approached. I was no stranger to my anger and it growled ferociously and knowingly at me, pulling at its chain as it struggled to come toward me. I was terrified and shocked at what I saw. This creature was my anger? Yes, this creature was my anger and she had so much to tell me.
Listening to my anger and making changes within myself over the past 10 years have involved a patience and compassion within me that surprised me. I have discovered and confronted many weaknesses within myself, those shortcomings that would prefer to be hidden from our consciousness so they can destroy us from within. I realized that I needed to be honest with myself about the people in my life and determine the value they added to my and my son’s lives. I also learned that I must accept people for where they are in their own personal development as they do me. I understood that beating myself up for my past mistakes and those wrongs committed against me would further destroy me and prevent me from becoming the Wild Woman I am meant to be. I knew I needed to forgive myself, be kind to myself and let go of my self-loathing and frustration to make way for the woman I am becoming today.
So in answer to your question, dear friend, I remain focused and strong because I am a Wild Woman who can do and be anything. I have found the words to speak my truth and to inspire and embolden others to find theirs. I have some wisdom to impart and childlike curiosity to sustain my search for meaning and magic in the world. I am filled with hope and ideas. And I’m not afraid to be myself.
For this verse in my life, I think I want my response to the question in the refrain to be: “I’m a Wild Woman and no one or nothing can shut me up!”
Editor’s note: This photo was taken by Alex Sheldon and posted on Unsplash.com.
On Thursdays I will be sharing a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I will put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.