When my sons were small, we went to visit my mother in Denver. After two days, my mother left a newspaper clipping on my bed. An advice columnist tackled a mother’s question about how to tell her daughter that her kids were not well behaved.
Immediately I went to the kitchen to ask my mother if she upset with how the boys were behaving, or my choices as a mother, or if having us stay with them was just too much.
“No. I just thought it was interesting,” was all I could get out of her.
Now, in fairness to my mother, my boys were ages two, four and six, growling, playful husky pups who wrestled most of the time; and in fairness to me, my mother’s opinion of company anytime was, “Fish and guests both smell after three days.”
I didn’t have the skill or courage to stand up for myself or my sons to resolve the issue. Nor could I let it go. Both my mother and I felt hurt, but we couldn’t talk about it.
The boys and I moved to my friend Carolyn’s for the rest of the visit.
Why are we as women so often reluctant to confront other people with issues that bother us? Is it part of our hormonal make-up to avoid speaking our truth?
When I tackle this subject in my Roundtables, what comes up over and over is fear. Fear that if we confront people on any issue large or small, we will hurt their feelings. Or at least, that is what we tell ourselves, but often the fear is that we will be the ones to get hurt.
We will be rejected. Love will be cut off.
So, the things that bother us don’t get said out loud to the people who need to hear them.
Amber, who has cleaned my house for three years, told me this week that she started carrying pepper spray. A friend of hers was attacked by seven men last week.
Amber is a beautiful, thoughtful trans-gender person, in the last stages of moving into fully being the woman she is and has always been.
I asked if she had ever been attacked.
“Once on a metro platform, couple of years ago. A man raised his fist to smash me in the face but I looked at him, eye to eye, and he stopped… but I can’t do that now.”
I didn’t understand.
“Back then I had testosterone. He knew I would fight him. Now, with estrogen, I don’t have the will to fight.”
I was stunned with that data.
I had never considered the possibility that hormones played a part in our willingness to stand up for ourselves. Of course this was an extreme situation, but does that mean that we as women have less ‘will’ to fight, and by extension less ‘will’ to confront?
I don’t know.
But I do know that my intention and willingness count for more than my hormones.
And I know there is something to learn about the skill of speaking our truth without defensiveness or judgement.
And it takes courage to stand up. And courage to accept our own responsibility in every situation to find a way to resolve the issues.
And it takes courage to know when to ‘let it go…”
As Aung San Suu Kyi wrote about acquiring courage;
“… courage comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions. You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.”
My mother has not mellowed much over the years. She wonders why her children and grandchildren are slow to visit her.
I have finally learned to let this one go.