The first time I heard the term "brittle woman," I immediately felt a twinge of panic. Perhaps it’s the same hypochondriac tendencies that make me think I too might be a victim of parasites after reading an article about them, but I think there may be something more to this connection.
Apparently, there is an epidemic of brittle women in America. Danielle LaPorte writes about the brittle woman hearing her spirit say “I miss the softness of you.” And all I can do is wonder,when was I ever soft? Is there even a cushiony downy layer anywhere in me? I don't know because I've had this hard exterior for as long as I can remember.
My father says he has a picture of me at 2 years old standing in front of his parents house in Colombia, and I was soft then. But since I have no memory of it at all, and I was probably still in diapers, does it even count?
The only time I can remember my being semi- soft was when I had babies in arms, was pregnant or breastfeeding. Those were my softest times, warm and fuzzy and snuggley~ but they were brief in the scheme of things and seem so so far away. A five year span out of a forty two year life, and a decade behind me.
Was that really the only time when I was soft? If so, that's rather sad.
So, I started to over think the meaning of soft, like I over think so many things~ Gentle and feminine is the type of soft I'd be aiming for, although in the back of my head, I think of soft as equating with weak, and my shell hardens another layer because I do not at any cost want to be weak.
I suppose that being vulnerable can turn out beautifully, at least in theory and in romantic novels, but in real life I know that it can also just open you up to pain, make you look and feel like a fool, and leave you disappointed and rejected.
When someone doesn’t return an email or a phone call or put any effort into getting together, how do you not feel rejected? The positive lifestyle articles all say “Don’t take it personally” but it feels so very personal. It’s your heart after all.
Somewhere along the line, probably around puberty, I began to put on armor against the world and became what my one younger brother called “kind of a bad @ss." He mentioned this first when I told him that my husband had left and asked for a divorce. Little Bro meant it as in “You’ll get through this” and “You’re strong” and it came with a bunch of other encouraging metaphors on finding my superhero powers, rising like a phoenix and all that, but the one that stuck with me these past 10 months is that I’m “kind of a bad @ss.”
At first, it made me laugh, “A bad @ss? Really? Me?” Then, it gave me strength to get past some of the scarier, tougher parts of being suddenly single, as in “F- yeah, I’m not just gonna be OK in life, I’m gonna kick butt and rock this!”
But then, after reading about brittle women, I wondered again “Do I really give the impression of being so hard?” It baffles me when people think I’m actually a tough and / or bad girl. Apparently, they've never run with the actual tough and bad girls, because I have and I can tell you, compared to the real deal, I’m a freaking wimp. But I guess in the circles I choose to run in, I can seem a bit hardened compared to the rest of the crowd.
I've also wondered how this played into my relationships, including my divorce. While it doesn't matter whether my faults came first or his any more than it matters whether the chicken or the egg came first, it does matter for my future relationships. I want to go forward better prepared than I was the first time, to be a better partner, and a less hardened person overall.
The trouble with that is it means letting down walls, walls which are tall and thick and solid rock hard, and have protected me for years. In the process they’ve kept out both good and bad~ things that might have been wonderful along with things that would’ve surely hurt much worse if not for my protective shell.
A good friend gave me hope the other day when she reminded me that I do have a soft side when it come to teaching childbirth classes and working with mothers and babies. My Dad pointed out that I'm funny and tell good stories, even if they are laced with sarcasm. So, I must not be entirely brittle. I'm more like peanut brittle~ overall hard, but also a bit salty and nutty with a hint of sweetness. I may shatter under pressure, but I could also crack a persons tooth in the process.
My good friend also pointed out that while self analysis and improvement is a good thing, to some degree, girls like us may need to accept and embrace our inner bad @ss. People who love me will also love my salty side, as long as it doesn't cross the line into mean or bitter. It is after all, a part of my personality, and it's true that I'll probably never be the sweetest person in the world.
So, maybe my goal will be to see if I can at least soften up to nougat form (in which I can be sweet, salty, soft-ish and still yank teeth out if need be. Seems like a good compromise to me.)
I'll be working on it, and hopefully the people around me will feel the difference. In any case, it will surely be better to have laugh lines than scowl marks, right?
What do you think about brittleness, vulnerability, softness and weakness? Do you think there's a brittle epidemic? If so, what can we do? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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