One of my very closest friends, Laurie, sent me this poem this morning. A friend had sent it to her. Ah the blessings of the internet! It’s a poem written by Marge Piercy,and it made me start in surprise. It’s like someone read my journal, and validated my struggle. I’m still crying.
As a woman who is considered strong, I have long been troubled by the way my friends and family see me, but don’t really see me. I guess we don’t want to worry about each other. We want the people we care about to be ok. The fact I am ‘strong’, capable, driven…all this makes me someone who can ‘take it’. When I crash and burn, like I have been doing lately, I feel like folks don’t get it. Why is Pat so weak, why isn’t she handling this better? Why is she banging her head against all these closed doors? Doesn’t she see all the good in her life? Get over it already.
Why can’t I?
I worry that I am petty, self indulgent and completely undeserving of any compliment or hug. My efforts to create happy, healthy, productive environments in my home and business are shit. Unsuccessful, I’m very aware of the decaying house, the dirt on the floors, the lack of income, when all I want to see is the gleam of joy and mischief in my son’s eyes.
My amazing friend, Azim Khamisa, wrote in his newsletter this month that his goal in 2012 was to have fun. Azim’s journey has been one that no one wants to take. His son murdered, Azim’s crusade is one of forgiveness and healing. He has touched countless lives with his work since his son’t death. I met him when he spoke at a Department of Peace conference many years ago. In Washington DC a couple of years ago,I was lobbying on the Hill for the DoP, Azim spoke again, and we ended up walking the Mall for a couple of hours one afternoon. Intelligent, gentle,giving, well traveled and thoughtful, he’s incredible company. But I can see why he wants to have fun. Tragedy alters us on a molecular level. Azim is a very serious man. Who wouldn’t be? He’s done his work to heal and help, and now he wants to have fun. I do too.
My soul sister, Cindi Bailey, said to me last night “I want to be joyful for all the rest of the years in my life.” And she is! I want that too.
Ok, here’s the poem that set off this blog storm.
For Strong Women
A strong woman is a woman who is straining
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing “Boris Godunov.”
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.
A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why aren’t you dead?
A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.
A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.
Right now, I am loving strongly and weeping strongly and am strongly
terrified and have BIG strong needs. I guess that’s part of being strong. I am not stone. I will enact strength again when I can. I am so thankful for my ‘sisters’ Cindi & Laurie, friends like Azim, and all of you. Truely the blessings of the internet.
You can read more about Azim’s work here:
( and I strongly recommend that you do! 😉 )
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