She is Fierce

There’s an overused quote (well, let’s call it a quote particle, since like many other quotes it is rarely used in full context).  You’ve probably seen it on t-shirts and Facebook pages and inspirational Instagram posts:

“…and though she be but little, she is fierce.”

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[[Yes, the nerd in me – the scholar that I imagine I am – the bookworm who spent a few months in college – does get annoyed when people say things without truly understanding them.  When quotes are pulled from the sky without any kind of appreciation for the words that encapsulate them.  When some of history’s most talented authors are reduced to snappy pink lettering in a mere 1080 pixels by people who may never discover the masterful works they belong to.

This misused morsel of verse currently making the rounds as a girl power anthem is actually part of a comedy by William Shakespeare called A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It isn’t as much a statement on a woman’s strength as it is an insult to a certain character’s (Hermia) diminutive size.   Her sister describes her as a vixen (a hellcat) in their school years.  She is a hot head.  A brawler.

Once insulted, she objects to being called “little” or “tiny” and is subsequently referred to as a “dwarf” and a “minimus of hindering knotgrass (a weed)”.  A bead.  An acorn.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that’s certainly not how this powerful woman would like to be described.

For the purposes of this blog, though, I am willing to put all that aside, so please keep reading…]]

I took a gentle vinyasa yoga class this morning and enjoyed it immensely.  It’s a class unlike most of the others I take at the gym, because instead of intense exercise and lots of sweat, vinyasa is more about finding my center, focusing, and learning to balance.  It’s a class I deeply appreciate because all my other classes are pretty brutal, and it gives me a chance to re-connect with my body and check in with myself while still working my muscles. It’s a challenging class, too, because while the other classes concentrate on strength and agility, gentle vinyasa is all about the core – the part that keeps me stable and holds me up when things get hard.

What makes a person fierce?

As I squeezed my eyes shut tight in some desperate attempt to concentrate and steady myself in Half Moon Pose, I thought about the importance of repose, especially in the midst of struggle.  Gentleness as essential for fighting.  Peace as a means to win wars.  The ability to stop and re-center, to take inventory and  in order to prepare for what lies ahead and recover from what has already been accomplished.

Warriors have that. Leaders have that.

I talk a lot about having the heart of a lion, or the raging fire that burns inside me and drives me forward, but so seldom do I mention the stillness.  The wise man.  He is not the thunderous voice that yells at me to keep fighting.  He is the low, barely detectable whisper that summons my spirit to simply continue living.  He is my perseverance.  Perhaps surprisingly, he is the most important part of my inner workings.  Every day I seek him out – whether to read a book, to take a walk, to sit with myself and take deep breaths – I know that I need him if I am to continue to conquer and reach my goals.

Reflecting on some conversations I’ve had this week, I keep coming back to this quote.

…and though she be but little, she is fierce. 

Little and fierce.  Yes, I am. Have I always been fierce?  Undoubtedly.  Both of my parents tell stories of my defiant nature, my strong will, my refusal to accept that something is true just because someone else says so.  Is fierce something I became after years of feeling underestimated and discounted because of my size, or my lack of experience, or my gender?  Yes, absolutely.  I know what it’s like to be underestimated, ignored, dismissed.  The truth, then, is both – my fierce is a healthy mix of nature and nurture.

Similarly, three-year-old son is a bear to deal with sometimes and I honestly think part of his rage stems from being the smallest in the family.  He wants so much to be big like his brother and he just isn’t yet – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable, or smart, or brave, and he will make damn sure you don’t forget it.  He is wild, and loud, and so very confident.  He’s got a walk that’s so self-assured most grown men would be envious.  He has much to prove and yet he does not want your approval.

The other side of that coin, the side that few people get to see, is the sweet and curious boy who seeks out his mommy at night in order to climb into her lap and sit.  He doesn’t want anything else – just to be still, together.  Gentle and quiet and safe, he snuggles up against me to be reminded that he is protected, and to rest before the next day of wrestling giants begins.  As is true with all the world-changers that have gone before him, he needs a time of respite and a place to feel grounded in order to find his fearlessness.

I believe this is a common thread woven in the stories of history’s overcomers.  The one quality that separates losers from victors.  Stillness.  Perseverance.  A willingness –  a compulsion, even – to come back to ourselves, to re-align and re-group.  To “huddle up”, as my dad says.  This is the calm, stable part that holds us up when things get hard.  The well from which courage is drawn.  It is almost indescribable to those who do not know it, and invaluable to those who do.

Fierceness is about so much more than fighting, and size is irrelevant to heart.  It has nothing to do with being combative or loud and everything to do with quiet stillness.  It is not the obvious drawing of a sword on the battlefield.  It is in the moments we don’t talk about enough – the in-between times when we reflect on how far we’ve come and steel ourselves for what is next.  It is in the ability to pause, reflect, balance, breathe, and focus.

In life, as in vinyasa, it is not the arms or the legs that keep me balanced, but the core.  My inner workings, where sits a small whispering voice that beckons me onward, even on the toughest of days.  Fierceness is born in the moments of quiet determination and reflection.  It is not the roar of the lion or the lap of the wildfire flames that make a great warrior, but the less obvious, less celebrated, sheer will to remain steady and to keep moving forward.

…and though I be but little, I. AM. FIERCE.

 

 

 

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wounded

Forever sure doesn’t mean what it used to.

I should have listened

Paid attention

You’ll kill me… eventually

I hate sad endings

Happy ones too

Forever sure doesn’t mean what it used to.

polaris

back then

before you knew you were a star

they tried to cover your brilliance

shroud you in silence

dim the light

it didn’t work –

my darling it never could –

you are bright enough

to illuminate galaxies

and your fire cannot be quenched

by lowly storm clouds.

your scars are constellations

aurora borealis

in your eyes

the moon itself hangs inside your chest

I come to you seeking;

wondering at your midnight sky

sleepily I lay down my head

eavesdropping

the deepest secrets of the cosmos.

Protected: song revisited

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looking out a window on a sunny day

Finger tips trace

The tender skin at my ankles

My wrists

I shiver

 

Years of days can’t erase

Your kiss

You lie

I sigh

 

Imagine your warm embrace

Your arms

So safe

Unafraid

 

These fantasies

Shaped like memories

Surreal

Ideal

 

Fingertips trace

The outline of your lips

Your skin

The world spins

 

Take me to Alaska

Promise me – in your igloo

There’s room

For two.

Iloveyou.

 

 

 

Song 1

Have a drink and tell me again

You love me and that’s why you’re leaving

Cut me up, be the asshole

That makes it easier to back away

To not stay. Not wait.

Take a breath and tell me again

I’m a queen, that’s why you’re abdicating

I’m your moon, on a dark night

It’s so confusing when you decide

To turn them on. The lights.

Be the guy, say the line again

Send love songs like a Morse code mixed tape

Then exhale and SOS

The ship has sailed, times up

You want to bail, it’s not enough.

Get drunk and tell me again

You love me and that’s why you’re leaving

Love is more than just a feeling

I don’t want to give it up

I just don’t want to.

Haven’t you ever had anything good?

Anything worth waiting for?

Is there something in you that doesn’t believe that you could?

I’d give up everything if you’d let me.

Have a drink and tell me again

You love me and that’s why you’re leaving

h o m e

Secretly

There exists a place

Somewhere between daydreams and memories

I can feel it

Hidden beneath your surface

My heart knows the way.

Quietly

I sneak inside

Close the door, shake the dust from my soul,

Tiptoe to the center

Curl up into the shape of your hurt

And lie with you

Finally

Warm, safe, and whole.

plagiarism

plagiarize me

copy my words

speak my longing

sing my heartbeat

convince me they are your own

leave me breathless

reeling

convinced you created it all

my heart is yours

your heart is mine

there is no pain here

only us

it’s divine, isn’t it?

this likeness

a dream unraveling

we are traveling

through each other

a love like no others have known

you seem restless

healing

convinced I’m the source of it all

my soul is yours

your soul is mine

there is no one day

only now

it’s transcendent, isn’t it?

this bliss

you can’t accept it

a sincere gift

too many wounds

so use my words, my movements

make them yours

until the day

you feel safe enough

to love me.

pinky

I tried everything I know. I don’t want to be a stalker so I’m not sending more messages. Today I felt you hate me.

You are repulsed by something in me. Something that isn’t even there.

I am confounded that you could think so little of me and confused by how much that hurts. You matter to me. No matter what.

Didn’t mean to hurt you, or to deny your feelings. I just wish you’d talk to me. Without that I’m floating out here. Lost.

Lost.

retrograde

I can’t sleep again

You say things but you don’t mean them

Promises

Change the rules so I can’t follow

Break me up, break me in

What is this?

Maybe the truth is you don’t know

Trying to keep up but my head spins

Falling

Can you be steady, be stable, go slow?

You say things I hope you mean them

Promises

Is there anywhere we couldn’t go?

I can’t sleep again.