Warning, this post may need to be a series...
(and, by the way, forgive the clipart, but I can't figure out how to do actual photos on this one and preserve privacy...)As you may know, I am a lawyer. "Power" needs to be my middle name: I have to persuade judges (and, infrequently, juries), I have to scream at other lawyers. It's just, generally, not a good thing for a lawyer to appear to be powerless.
Here I am, the bringer of justice (just kidding!):
My mind has gone back fifteen years or so ago. There was a "pioneer judge" (we'll call her "PJ," for short) on the bench of a court in which I practiced. I call her a "pioneer" because she was one of the first women lawyers in our area. The rough-and-tumble of being one of few women in this rough-and-tumble profession had given her an edge and tough skin. She was smart, and she was forceful. She was feared by many lawyers and known for a short temper. She and I got along just fine, largely because I knew the value of treating her with deference. Those robes mean something, and I gave her every respect they demanded!
One day I went in for a trial to find her moping in her chambers. Her husband of thirty-plus years had suddenly died. She was understandably distraught. We sat for a while and talked. I recall the shock that went through me when I realized that this woman was afraid!! She was a simpering pile of fear that day about her personal life. She could wield that gavel with might, but at home at night she was afraid. She summed it up like this: "C, I don't even know how to change a light bulb."
For those of you worried about her at this point, be assured that she bounced back. She went on to sit on an appellate Court. I have lost touch with her since her retirement but hear through the legal grapevine that she lives in another state, happily married to another retired judge, and that they have a good life doing whatever retired judges do (don't think too hard on that one...)
I have thought about this woman on several occasions since my husband ditched me for a young chippie. I was hurt and grief-stricken. But the over-riding emotion I felt was "fear." Hell, I did not even know about the lawn mower and I live on a freakin' farm! How was I going to manage?
Now, if this seems illogical to you (as it does now to me), this is because it IS illogical. I hold a juris doctorate. I walk in the halls of power and wield it all the time on behalf of others. But, like PJ above, being snatched from your established role and having to put yourself into new roles is a fearful thing.
Believe me, I've thought a lot about this inconsistency. Why would women such as PJ and myself who are educated, earning a decent income and accustomed to power succumb to fear like this? I can think of a couple of reasons right off:
1. Ooops! "Does this mean I'm not in control after all?" This is a fearful thing, especailly for someone who is used to helping others manage their lives. We're supposed to have it all together. For it to fly apart at the seams through the death of or betrayal by a husband is not only unexpected, it is alarming! The reality of this lack of control is terrifying.
2. And then there is that "role" thing. We all picture ourselves in certain roles. In PJ's mind, and in mine. we were wives in a role that would last a lifetime. To have that rug jerked out from under you requires a shift that is difficult to make. It is disorienting and scary--to the max.
3. And, with that role came divisions of labor. I understand totally PJ's mournful statement that she did not know how to change light bulbs. Of course she knew how to do this, and if she did not care to do it, she actually had the means to hire it done. What she was saying was that now she was having to deal with things that had been once been outside her role. Again, this is scary. Just read my posts lately. You will see all kinds of fear written in them concerning the "little" things of heater scares, lawn troubles, etc., etc., etc. Each little obstacle looks like a mountain when you are in that lost-control-lost-role-disoriented state.
But I have found the antidote: just moving on and tackling each of those obstacles as they have come. And with each challenge I tackle, I find that I am more than equal to it. As you can see I have subdued the lawn mower, the hydraulic hoses, the flat tires, and even the mighty bushhog. Why, this week I have even had gravel delivered for my driveway!
And if you read between the lines that I do a little victory dance with each of these recountings, you are not reading wrong. I know PJ must have also felt these little strengthening victories with every light bult she changed.
So I've added a little side bar to this blog, sort of a rollcall of little accomplishments--to the right under "Rosie the Riveter," who symbolizes the WWII generation of women who were plucked from their accustomed roles and had huge challenges to face.
You won't see my victories in court recounted in our list, although it's things like court appearances that many people would fear most. To me, they are part of my "role," and I'm more than ready for them. It's the tasks that have been out of my role that are challenges to me, so I am recounting them here for you as part of my victory dance.
And if you find yourself outside your accumstomed role, I hope you'll share with me the challenges you face down...I'll gladly add them to our list! C