Right there. That’s how the world sees me. I’m the happy mom. I’m the I-don’t-know-how-she-does-it mom. I’m a strong woman and even stronger advocate for my children. People think I’m extremely positive, wildly outgoing, shirt-off-my-back friendly, and generally indestructible. I’m all of those things. I embrace them and see no reason why I should have to hide my confidence or pretend to be shy about what makes me amazing. So, I’m not. I learned, at an unnecessarily early age, that I have to believe in myself. I learned, through a categorically unfair childhood, that I am not a victim. I could blow a fuse right now if anyone wants to get into semantics over the word, victim. I have been victimized. I do not, will not, and should not see victim as my defining title. Ever.
I’m a strong woman who has fallen literally weak-in-the-knees to the ground, and cried out every tear within me. When a woman cries so hard and so long that her cheeks remain chaffed days after her last tear, the whole world should beware of that calm. It can only mean she is about to take it by storm. That’s how I’m feeling, right now, as I pound every faded letter of my keyboard, staring not at the screen, but across the room, in my momentary perfect-calm. I am void of thought and feeling, though I still hear the rapid tapping of the words rushing out of me with the force of a river crashing through a dam. There’s a storm coming. At various stages in my life, this happens. I always see it coming and feel that perfect-calm, like I do in this moment, right before it hits. The end of a chapter is imminent. A new chapter will follow and some friendships will not survive the transition. The dam will be broken. The debris will be washed away.
Self-reflection is fool’s gold when it’s not followed by self-change. It’s been about five years since the last storm. That was the only one I never saw coming. I was pregnant with the triplets. When I look back at these last five years, I am proud and humbled. I am also mad. I’m mad enough to do something about it. That’s usually what it takes. I won’t pretend that I don’t cry when I’m happy or sad, but the mad tears tell the story. Those are the game-changer tears.
So, why am I mad? I’ve given too much credit to other people and not enough to myself.
- I invest a lot of time into people who could care less but always swear by how important our relationship is. If I call a friend or family member 12, 15, 20 times to their one call to me, they aren’t the idiots, I am. Foolish!
- I say no to many people who I know will understand why I just can’t take on one more thing in the day. On the other hand, I say yes, all the time to people who feel so entitled to my time, they have even convinced my son to hand me the phone, while I’m in the shower, more than once! Narcissism at it’s
- I did it by myself! All of it. I breastfed three babies for a total of 24 times per day, while pumping, so I could add supplements into the milk and bottle feed them in addition to the rest of the feeding. I changed diapers, at least, 24 times per day. While I did this, I fed the rest of my family, got the other kids off to school, kept them active in Sports, and maintained my home in semi-order, while still trying to work from home, and meet the demands of near weekly medical appointments. I spent another 20-30 hours per week, (and sometimes still must) dealing with an endless cycle of beaurocracy that is the norm for parents of children with special needs. I did not have friends, family, or anyone who was able to come and stay with me, even to keep me company. I did have people who came over unannounced, with more visitors in tow, while I raced through the house, braless, leaking through my shirt, and so embarrassed that I still had not managed to take a shower and now had guests I had to entertain and pretend to be happy about seeing. People either assume I must have had tons of help, or they assume it must not have been that hard. What I did to care for my children shocked me to my core. I never knew what a strong woman I really am. I still can’t tell you how I did it, because it’s not something you think about or remember. It was a constant and instinctual go that got me through each day. I’m claiming that! I did that! Me.
- A strong woman should be able to be vulnerable without being seen as weak. We’re fierce!
- I WORK from home. I have a business. I take it seriously. I am determined and going to see it to success, based on my standards. I have to be flexible and figure it out it each day. As a WAHM, I am often undermined and assumed to have all the time in the world to do whatever I want with my day. No. I do what it takes each day.
- No one should ever make me feel weak, or less, or unworthy. I have no right to give them that power.
I’m mad. But, I’m not mad at the world. I’m mad at me. It’s time to make amends.
So, why did the dam break today?
When I look at everything that is wrong with the world, or simply, my life, I head directly to the metaphorical mirror. I’m not trying to change my friends, or family, or the world. At least, not directly. I change me. It’s what I do. It’s the only thing I know how to do. I take responsibility for my actions and reactions. I am accountable for my future. If I feel undervalued, then I must not be loving myself enough. If I can blame myself but can’t find a way to forgive myself, I’m setting myself up to fail. If I cannot learn from my failures, I cannot earn my success. If I cannot absorb constructive criticism with honest self-reflection, I am guilty of deflection. I cannot lead others until I am in charge of myself. When it comes down to nature versus nurture, and the natural circumstances of my life begin to interfere, I must nurture myself that much more. The dam has been weakening for a while.
Today was a pivotal moment because I scared myself. In the last six weeks, I’ve slowed my pace. I wasn’t being complacent. I was just unraveling. There are so many things going on. A lot of those things aren’t my story to tell, but they are wearing on my heart. They are wearing on my energy. I was ready to give up on something attainable that I consider to be the next step in my career. It CAN happen if I just get creative enough. I’m trying to go to BlogHer14. Initially, I didn’t think I could afford it due to some urgent financial priorities at home. Then I applied to be a volunteer. I was denied. Then, out of nowhere, they needed a few more people and a friend referred me. I was accepted. I never give up on anything that I want, when I want it badly enough. I just don’t. There are so many people I’ve built real relationships with who are going to be there, and it’s only 30 minutes away from my home. Yet, today, I was ready to throw in the towel. Really. There are so many other little details going on, especially trying to figure out childcare, that I was starting to chalk it up to impossible. ME? THOUGHTS OF IMPOSSIBLE? I even whined about it.
That’s when the dam broke! I can be sad, or stressed, or tired, or nervous, and overwhelmed. I can complain and cry, but not whine. It was an ugly internal whine. It was the sound of a quitter. I don’t quit on things or people, period. Quitting on myself disgraces everything I stand for. Being flexible, choosing another path, or adjusting my route is different. That’s not what I was doing though. I was quitting. I was straight up giving up! With that, I felt the emotional downward spiral of negativity, which is a magnetic gravity for most women. It can pull us down and hold us there, migrating to every aspect of our lives, if we let it. I couldn’t let that happen. So, I reflected. I cried. I got mad. I got calm.
I am a strong woman and I’m about to take my life by storm! My triplets aren’t babies anymore. They aren’t toddlers anymore. They are almost five-years-old. Antonio is going to High School. Pedro won’t sit on my lap anymore unless I beg or bribe him. They have all started new chapters in their own lives. I am, too!
This goes out in honor of every strong woman.
For the rest of the world:
Beware When a Strong Woman Weeps: It Might Be The Cry Before The Storm
By: Alicia Gonzalez