prompt this week reads "When in your life did you feel the most powerful? Was it childhood? College? Now? What is that feeling like; what does it mean? Do you have power over your own life, or are you not feeling that so much these days? If you don't want to get serious, you might imagine superhero powers, and what you would do with them
As a child, I believed I had power, that I was clever and pretty. An uncle crushed me of the illusion that I could sing when I was about four years old. A pair of aunts made me self-conscious about using big words when I was maybe eight. Precocity was what they saw, and that wasn't considered good. While at my core, I felt ok about myself, I became more and more unsure about where and when it was ok to actually express myself, be myself. Power unexpressed is a pretty useless power. But when power is hidden, it is still there, just waiting for its chance to emerge.
In my teen years I suffered unfair criticism from teachers without defending myself, I allowed boyfriends to treat me unkindly without challenging them. I didn't realise that I actually had power within myself. And then, in my 21st year, after I had left home, was living away and really responsible for myself for the first time in my life, I discovered feminism. I found a copy of The Female Eunuch
in a second-hand bookstore, read it and began to understand the silencing I had been subject to.
My boyfriend of that time was living at the other side of the country. For a few months, we sustained a long-distance, weekends-only relationship, and then, at a certain stage, his visits slowed down, he began to make excuses as to why I shouldn't come visit. When he did arrive, he was silent, uncommunicative. I was confused. But what should I do? My previous self would have just waited. Waited for him to speak. But it seemed he felt even less powerful than I did. He couldn't name what he wanted. He didn't have the courage to say he wanted to end it. So I named it for him. His relief was obvious. Yes. He wanted to end it. "OK", I said. "Now we know that's what you want. Fine"
And then... he came out with the line I'd heard before, so many times before - at the end of every previous relationship. "But we'll still be friends?" and I found something coming out of me that really surprised me. "I don't think so" I said. "You've treated me badly. Hurt me, confused me, treated me with very little respect, and you didn't even have the courage to tell me what was going on. No. You haven't acted like a friend. I don't want friends like that."
I declined his offer of friendship! And I felt good about it. When he was gone, I sat there, absolutely amazed that my boyfriend had just broken up with me, and I felt good. I was happy. I realised that the happiness came from feeling powerful. I had defended myself, refused to be forced to be "nice". I hadn't wanted the relationship to end, but if it had to, I was glad that I had stood up for myself and spoken out.
Since then, I've had my moments. Times of power, times of powerlessness. Times of fear. Times of courage, but that moment, that emergence of myself as a woman who would claim her right to self-respect and assertively say "No" remains one of the key turning points in my life. One that I celebrate. One that I am so very glad of.
..... and a footnote to the story. Interestingly, although I had promised friendship to many previous boyfriends, there were few of them with whom I continued any form of contact, so the "We'll still be friends" proved to be a hollow promise (on both sides), but this man, a few years later, reappeared briefly in my life (when we were both married and had children), and we had a really easy, natural and friendly time together!
There will be more tales of power over at Sunday Scribblings HERE
Labels: power, relationships, Sunday Scribbling., Teen years