The rule was simple. When you left home, you didn’t return. It was now five years later. I knew the answer would be no.
The year was 1981. Everything I owned fit into my 1971 Toyota Corolla, including a cedar hope chest and my cat with seven toes on each paw, Abby Normal. I was homeless, jobless, alone and had just driven from Ocean City, NJ to a phone booth in Pennsylvania.
There was a small white church in the town I drove to, situated along the Delaware River on the “Pennsy Side” as we used to say. A short drive north would have led me to the Frenchtown bridge over the river to get from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. I no longer recall why I drove to that town or that phone booth.
It was summer and hot outside. I probably had no money and called collect.
“Mom?” I said, when she answered from her house 2.5 hours away. I was estranged from my parents and had been for years. It is a long story.
“Mom, can I come home?” my voice wavered.
The rule was simple. When you left home, you didn’t return. Period. Three months after turning 19 years old, I had left. It was now five years later. I knew the answer would be no.
My mother sobbed gently and said, “Thank God.” I no longer recall the rest of the conversation. All that sticks is her reaction of relief. It meant she loved me. I was sure I’d tested that and highly doubted I deserved it.
That day, 38 years ago, my hope chest, cat and I drove to central PA and I went to live with my sister. We were not exactly friends, and she was not exactly thrilled I was dumped on her doorstep, but that phone call was the first step I ever made to save my own soul.
I thought Wonder Woman was weak and too girly girl.
Growing up, I had no female hero to emulate. I knew no tough women. I didn’t even know any pissed off women. I knew abused women, addicted women, control freak women and women who wore masks hiding who they really were.
It was the 60’s and 70’s. Bell bottoms, long hair, rock concerts, Viet Nam war, hash, acid, Nixon, Neil Young and Readers Digest. And horses. I had my gray gelding, Nelson and could ride and show the horses at the stable next door. I wrote poetry and short stories and dreamed of being a journalist.
Looking back is like staring at a painting with swirling colors and brush strokes that form nothing because there are no lines to follow.
And yet I was in there, somewhere.
There was no warrior spirit inside me back then.
I’m writing this because I wish that someone would have explained to me that I could have been a warrior. That there was not, nor ever would be, any possible reason for me to feel powerless. That under no circumstances should I ever sell my soul to anyone for any price. That escaping anything unpleasant, by adapting to something else unpleasant, is not a solution.
That it is okay to speak up and make sure you are heard. And by that I mean that the listener is actually paying attention and not off in their own mind discounting everything you are saying.
In season three of Jessica Jones on Netflix, she loses her spleen and her sister gets powers that make her a hero like Jessica is. Except that Jessica doesn’t see herself as a hero. She just happens to be really physically strong and she cares about injustice. She is also grumpy. All the time. I love her grumpy.
I macramé as a hobby and to sell. My larger pieces are made while binge watching Netflix shows. Each piece that hangs in my gallery is assigned a name, like Jessica Jones Season One.
It’s not that the grumpy goes into my art. It’s that my inner warrior gets her chance to weave peacefully for hours and each time a new macramé piece is completed, I have assimilated more warrior spirit into my being. A warrior requires time to brood, create energy and store it for the future when she saves the world. Or herself.
A warrior has courage and strength. She is not powerless. She fights for her dreams, visions, and any goal she wants to manifest. No relationship or situation can bring her to her knees in despair.
A warrior recognizes bullshit when it presents itself. You don’t lie to a warrior. If you say you want a warrior to be happy, shut up. Saying it and actually doing what it takes, are two completely different things. Never corner or isolate a warrior woman.
The worst possible thing you can say to a warrior is “No, you can’t.” She will.
I didn’t know I had a warrior spirit until I had reached an ending and was forced to swallow my pride. There was nowhere else to go. I had one last hope that I was still loved, no matter what. Despite everything I did, and would do again, loving me was extremely difficult to do.
Love Me From Behind
I rebelled every time I was told what to do, how to be, where to go, and when I could be me, which was never, because I was not abiding by rules.
It is not helpful to stand directly in front of a rebel spirit even when your intentions are good. A rebel has to fall. It’s hell to bear witness to a rebel.
A friend told me a story about her daughter who survived addiction, bad decisions, poverty and sufferings of her own doing. The mother did everything she could to help, but she was in the way. Her efforts only served to create more agony for both of them. She couldn’t save her daughter from falling.
Her daughter explained to her mother that she could fall and feel safe each time because she always knew her mother loved her to her left side, her right side and her backside. No matter what, the daughter knew she was loved.
It was when her mother loved her by standing in front of her that was the problem. This was when the daughter pushed back. She didn’t want to be loved there. She had to learn her lessons in her own way. She chose a harsh path in doing so, but she came to realize that her mother would always be there if she needed her and she told her mom that this was the most powerful support she could have given her.
A warrior deserves to be loved on her own terms.
Are you a warrior?
I am a warrior. She screams and swears and pounds her own insides so that she doesn’t do any damage to anyone around her. By the time she arrives to fight, she has beat herself up pretty well. I doubt she is supposed to do that.
I don’t remember when my warrior spirit decided to show up. Maybe it took a pile of life lesson punches to draw her out. Everyone probably has a warrior spirit inside them somewhere.
I’m still learning how to live with mine.
Originally published in Medium July 9, 2019