Monday, November 1, 2010

Who wants to be a strong woman?

I have some to-be-respected forebears, most notably the formidable Hannah Dustin. She makes me look like mashed peas in the fortitude department. When life gets tough, it's useful having someone on the family tree with double the usual dose of frontier chutzpah. Kinda makes you ashamed to wimp out.

Last spring I read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Tough book, but full of hope. It's about women who have undergone -- and overcome -- hideous things: sexual slavery, acid in the face, utter ostracization because of a fistula. Having their stories as part of your mental repertoire of what people can survive is life-changing.

When you're familiar with strength like that, you start to realize that balancing what you want for your career with what you want for your child with what you want for yourself is barely a start. Being stoic when your kids are being impossible, or your spouse lets you down, or you make some humiliating mistake -- those are baby steps. Strength is about digging deep to get through whatever gets thrown at you, and maintaining your integrity in the process. Being a strong woman isn't at all glamorous; no one wants to have to be that strong.

But sometimes we do have to be that strong. Which argues for paying attention to how we spend our time and what we invest our energies in, so that if and when life gets rough, we'll already have a clear idea of what we value and which way we want to turn. There's a saying that character is revealed, not formed, in crisis. Here's hoping you have no great revelations any time soon... and that if you do, you find that you are quietly pleased to discover you are much stronger than you ever suspected.


  1. You ARE a strong woman, and I love reading your blog!
    family harper

  2. You? A mashed pea??? Hardly.....

  3. Hi Julia, I am Sebastian's mother, Monica. Congratulations with you blog, I didn't know, but I will recommend it to many. You parenting advice is always great. Best, Monica