the courage of a woman
When I see descriptions of what makes a brave woman - all the sharp and strong things, the power things that no one could miss as being courage in action - I feel just a little moment of sadness. Because it's true that the woman with a bow & arrow, or the woman who speaks up against injustice, or the mountain-climbing woman, is brave indeed.
But so is the woman who speaks in a normal voice in a normal context, talking about the weather maybe, or what she did that afternoon, when all her instinct is for sheltering silence. And the woman in relentless pain, just walking slow for a little way. Not running a marathon, or climbing a mountain. Just ambling to her letter box.
The bravest women I know are ordinary women living quiet and ordinary lives that require enormous courage and determination from them. Women trying to feed their families as food prices rise. Women working out how to raise their children well even though the old-fashioned community support networks are broken down. Women negotiating painfully between who they are and who they want to be, in order to get a job or a husband or the approval of other women. Women climbing on chairs to change a lightbulb. Women sweeping up the spider. Women homeschooling. Women knitting despite arthritis. Women living on and on after their husband has died, learning how to balance the chequebook and fix the squeaky door and breathe alone in bed at night.
There are so many inspiring, powerful women in the world, sharing their intelligence through business or politics, leading charities, writing in books or on weblogs. Beautiful, bold women. I'm so grateful for them. But I want to acknowledge too the gentle women, the shy and anxious and hurt and broken and plain and slightly confused women. They inspire me even more than the bold, powerful ones. For theirs is a real and endlessly enduring courage.