A strong woman

A strong woman is a woman
who loves strongly
and weeps strongly
and is strongly terrified
and has strong needs.

~ Marge Piercy, “For Strong Women

I learned this poem in college, and the above lines have stuck with me all through the years since. I use them to remind myself that who I am and how I am are nothing of which to be ashamed. My strength is my salvation.

The impetus for this post comes from an image currently circulating on Facebook that showed up in my newsfeed.

This may well be just a harmless sentiment, but I found my hackles rising when I read it. Because I DO consider myself to be a strong person, and as such, do not require anybody else to “make it better” for me. It seems to me that many people need other people as emotional crutches when they reach the limit of their own coping skills, which is one big reason why so many single people want to find a partner. They want someone who will soothe and comfort them, be strong when they are weak, and provide reassurance and security and warmth in the cold, dark night. This scenario does not in any way appeal to me (well, except maybe the warmth part).

All the reasons I like being single is a whole other post for another day, but I will say this right now: The only reason I’d want a partner is to have the opportunity to love another person to the absolute best of my ability and the fullest capacity of my heart, mind, body and soul. And I would want that partner to offer me the same in return as well as unconditional trust that I am the person I say I am, and hold me rigorously accountable to that standard.

Whether or not “things are alright” in my life depends mostly, if not entirely, on me. If I appreciate somebody telling me, “You can do this,” it is not so much because it encourages me, but rather because it affirms their faith in me. Because I can “do this,” and I will. Nobody has to tell me that.

When my mother was going through a hard time several years ago, she called her mother  in another state and told her the story. Her mother said to her, “You’re a strong woman and I know you’ll get through this. But if you need me to, I will come.” My mother has said the same words to me at times that I have struggled, but, like her, I have found my own strength to make it through. This is what we’re really praying for when we ask God to help us: access to our own inner strength, our own courage, our own love. We might think the resources we need the most lie outside ourselves–in God, or in a partner–but in truth, everything we need to “make things alright” is either within us or it is not, and if it is not, nobody else can give it to us. Not even God.

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