It was one of those moments, epiphanies they’re called. I don’t even know now if it was a conscious or unconscious thing but I saw that my Dad held all the power in my family and my mother seemed weak and subservient. I wasn’t going to end up like her, my teenage self said, and so I began to nurture the masculine within me because I had made a connection between masculine and power.
I became strong, outwardly confident, courageous. All those words have been used to describe me. I couldn’t tolerate weakness. I wore tailored clothing, anything else was too soft. I was forceful in my opinions and decisive in my actions. Yet, I considered myself a feminist, not a masculinist. I wanted to pull women up by their bootstraps and make them strong and certainly not subservient. I disdained those who seemed stuck in those domestic roles and who actually seemed to like it. Poor lost souls.
I lived like that for many years; occasionally succumbing to the pain I really felt when my strength, which covered up an inability to really connect, to be vulnerable, resulted in another lost relationship. “I don’’t need you,” I would scream to the departing back of another lover. I would not sit and just be with the pain for long, oh no, that would be weak and so I would be off again, remaking myself into yet another image.
And then what was it that changed? The realization I guess, that if I didn’t get real, I would die. Living so one-sided, so much a lie. Denying so great a part of who I really was. It seems obvious that if you are a woman, you are not a man and physically that’s easier to understand but what was harder for me was that it is also true psychically and emotionally. No matter how I tried, I did not fit in a man’s world.
Tentatively, I let in some of those desires that had lain dormant so long. To be creative instead of decisive and not be seen as weak. I found a community to support that. To be loved, to give love, and not be seen as weak. I found a mate who knew that. To invite children into my life and not be seen as subservient. That was harder.
One day, there I was, just like my mother. The grinding day to day struggle to meet small persons’ needs and demands, the rigors and routines of keeping house. I had not chosen, or didn’t think I had, chosen this. I was being swallowed up. The old ways weren’t working anymore. None of those masculine qualities I had so carefully nurtured.
In desperation I turned to my mother. I had new respect for her, now knowing how incredibly difficult
being a mother was. “How did she do it?” I asked. Acceptance was her reply. I ran away from it. It was a dirty word to my masculine mind. You never just accepted what life handed to you, you went out there and kicked butt and made life yield to your will. Acceptance indeed. How weak and subservient.
And so I came again to a place where I was near death. I couldn’t see how I could go on, how I could continue to live. I was in denial of the reality of my life and there in that hole, that pit I had dug, I called out for help, for an answer as to how to deal with my pain and the answer came. Acceptance. Accept your life for what it is. A feminine way, gift, trait. Acceptance.
So I did and found a new kind of strength, a new sense of joy in the everyday, which led to discovery of many other parts of my psyche that had been buried underneath society’s limited vocabulary. Now, I even wear softer clothes. They’re more comfortable, less restricting.
I still retain my masculine qualities. They’re useful in certain situations. Now, though, I feel like I have an advantage, because I can draw on so many other qualities as well. I feel fortunate that I didn’t swing too much the other way. I know it’s okay to have both and in fact it’s probably best. My life, I feel, I think, is in balance.
Author: Kate Harrington