As appeared in Thought Catalog on March 21, 2017
True clarity comes in the moments where we, as women, believe in something enough to remove our emotional filters. Filters we have created over a lifetime of experiences and expectations.
Removing them opens our strength and taps into the fire within us. We’re not fully aware we possess such power until it starts to roar from inside, engulfing our thoughts until we release them with certainty across our lips.
Initially, this can be terrifying, because we fear we might have said the wrong thing. Or that we came off too strong from whatever emotion we were processing at the time. Afraid of the problems it may create in the future.
Yet, when we release unfiltered emotion, magic also happens.
As women, we are free to both feel and express many emotions along the spectrum of human nature. We can inhabit feelings of boldness, grace, kindness, forgiveness, passion, and vulnerability. They often come freely and without warning.
I for one have been vulnerable enough times to where it no longer feels scary, but real and vibrant. A vibrancy in which we can exude nearly any emotion we choose and the will to do so freely. This is one of my favorite things about being a woman.
However, one emotion I struggle with, or at least I am always hesitant to release, even in a constructive way, is anger.
Anger, for me, is a fire untamed. I had to learn how to handle it. True to my nature, there is a time to be gentle, thoughtful, and kind. There’s also a time to put your sweary pants on, shout fuck as many times as it feels good, and set boundaries like you mean it.
We are up for the challenge.
It was during a difficult negotiation with my then-husband when I finally tapped into this fire. Challenging this person to whom I had been married for two years, I fought to protect my rights to my independent investments, retirement, pension, home, and the contents of my sole bank account.
It was here I met an unfamiliar version of myself. It was waiting in the wings for the right moment when anger was needed. The fire burned as I steadily hit a new octave of rage, one I had not known or experienced the moment he wanted alimony in addition to everything else.
I broke in that moment. Not in the form of weakness, but strength. Spurred by a healthy pour of red wine and what felt like an honest and large chip on my shoulder, I unleashed my unfiltered, forceful, and immediate thoughts in that moment. It boiled down to raw version of:
I dare you to challenge me and heaven help you if you choose to do so.
After hearing the blood curdle in my own voice, I eventually retreated to my corner. Sitting there, I worried about his reaction. I wondered if I had crossed too many lines. I worried that allowing this fire to flare would surely be something that would cost me more later.
The opposite happened. He retreated, seeming to find resonance with the message and never brought it up again.
We don’t back down.
While traveling in Costa Rica after my divorce, I was stranded due to the eruption of a volcano and resulting travel restrictions. I found myself as one of the thousands of orphans in the airport. I spent my days searching for answers, nourishment, and a departure date, sleeping atop my luggage.
A few life lessons came from this predicament. First, getting your rest while perched on top of all your immediate possessions is generally uncomfortable. Secondly, lights don’t go out in the middle of the night at airports. Last, travelers come and go — some are rude.
Huddled and asleep at 2:00 AM, with 50 of my newest stranded friends strewn about the corner of the airport, a man came by and not only turned up the nearby TV, but loudly yelled opinions about the program.
This seemed like ill-timed behavior, so after a few intentional glares, I got up and addressed him. He didn’t apologize, but proceeded to look me up and down and make lewd comments about my body.
In a sleep-deprived haze, hungry and stressed out, I recognized the fire within me. I had felt it before.
I quietly spoke to this man during the wee hours of the morning, in such a way that had any employee from security heard me, it would have surely landed me on the no-fly list. Surprisingly, after my terse, direct, and profane speech, he apologized in broken English and walked away.
All I can guess is that my certainty and the proximity of four-letter words coming from a woman might have startled him. I watched him leave with the same fire in my eye as I yanked the power cord from the back of the TV and went back to my two-pack bed, content and a bit shocked.
It wasn’t until the next day that I recognized what happened. The fire had given me strength.
Challenge us, we dare you.
A woman in her certainty is a force to be reckoned with. We are comfortable with our path and stay true to our course. We also know right from wrong and are equipped to fight for it.
Through the tough times we find our fire and learn how to harness it. These experiences prepare us for the moments that will challenge our spirit and test our boundaries. It fuels our fire, our vulnerability, and our strength.
Challenge us, we dare you.