Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Scribblings. Power

Sunday Scribblings' 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

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At 30/9/07 3:06 pm, Blogger Jo said...

A wonderful moment to remember. I also find feminism empowering.....though sadly the theory often falls short of the practice -- though it has at least raised my expectations LOL.

At 30/9/07 4:16 pm, Blogger Elspeth said...

Your post very true. Standing up for your own self respect is very empowering. Unfortunately it's also true that grown ups silence children's power and children grow up with that belief and try to undo it when older. What would happen if that never happened to anyone and we all grew up with our full powers and beliefs understood and experienced in a conscious way?

At 30/9/07 4:34 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

The power to say no is a critical one, especially to us women. We should all be thankful for feminism but the work is not done.
Nice post.

At 30/9/07 5:49 pm, Blogger Bubbie said...

Hello. Happy to have stumbled upon your Blog today. Powerful post today.It gave me pause for contemplations of my own moments of unearthing and reclaiming my own personal power.The lesson for me came later in life when I found myself with a chronic illness. Sadly it is all to common that women find themselves weakened physically after years of giving away their power.

At 30/9/07 6:58 pm, Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

Yes feminism is empowering and finding that personal power in relationships is so important.

At 30/9/07 7:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I forget how powerful the word "no" can women, I think we collectively forget as well. Thanks for the reminder, and you know, I have always meant to read that book!

Thanks for sharing the powerful moment when you decided to choose your truth instead of just the desire to please someone else. :)

At 30/9/07 8:14 pm, Blogger Just Meg said...

I, too, feel that women especially give their power away. I am a Southern Belle, and we are bred to be polite while smiling, and avoid disputes; something I've found challenging for myself!
I do not wish to assert my opinions on others while expecting them to agree, however, I do expect each individual's opinion to be considered, despite sex, race, age, or any other difference.
If we do not have open dialogue with one another, then we simply live in a box.
"We have nothing to fear, but fear, itself."
Because I often pull for "the underdog" I am overlooked because I do not share the opinions of others. However, I strive to "judge not, lest ye be judged", which is a thought that stays at the forefront of my mind.
I enjoyed your post, very much!

At 30/9/07 10:33 pm, Blogger Tumblewords: said...

Well done! So many of these feelings were experienced by women (and probably men). You did a great job of writing this with clarity, some hindsight and some foresight as well. Nice!

At 30/9/07 10:52 pm, Blogger Amber said...

Whoop Whoop! Yes! An d you know something? I bet your honesty taught him something powerful abotu himself, too. I bet it was a gift to him.


At 1/10/07 1:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect. In fact, I'm debating the need for that speech for myself and a situation in my life.

It's very true, too. It's not a negative at all - I've reached that point with others, and not regretted.

Perfect post.

At 1/10/07 2:48 am, Blogger gma said...

Hi...Thanks for stopping by
a desert garden with a birthday wish for me. Very good post.
Claiming your own power regardless of anyones good or bad opinion...and standing up for yourself! BRAVO!

At 1/10/07 4:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in a family that really worried about me because I marched to my own tune. They meant well, bit they squashed my hopes of being an artist at a very young age.
Thank goodness for the Internet, blogging and digital cameras!

RE:the (finally, finally, after 47 failed attempts) supreme achievement of programming the video to record 2 programs on different channels on the same night (Yay, Yay, victory dance!)

If I did something this big I would rent ad space in the New York times and write about it!

Have a wonderful week.

At 1/10/07 7:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember a couple of similar unfortunate childhood incidents. If only adults realized how disempowering that can be - it doesn't just prevent a child from 'getting a big head' as my relatives would have put it - it can prevent them from feeling empowered enough to speak up for themselves when they need to...

I'm glad you found the inner power to speak up for yourself. What a powerful post, Imelda.

At 2/10/07 6:02 pm, Blogger paris parfait said...

Such a bittersweet post. I think the "let's be friends" line is what boys used to think was the kind way to extricate themselves from the relationship. But nine out of ten times, friendship with a former love doesn't work. It does feel powerful when one realises they've made the right choice and stood strong for their beliefs, doesn't it?

At 2/10/07 7:28 pm, Blogger MAHIMA said...

i post that made me feel good just reading it!

At 4/10/07 1:42 pm, Blogger Cherie said...

Brilliant post. Reminds me of how blokes seem to think they're doing you the big "friends" favour and you're right, NO is the most powerful word ... Thank YOU!


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