I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain word lately.
This word sprouted up in my head a few weeks ago like a very determined little weed through the crack in a concrete driveway. It was like an ear worm song. But not a song. Just a word. And I could not get rid of it.
It kept growing, and appearing, and sprouting through the concrete in my head. And instead of pulling it out and chucking it aside, I watched it for a while. That word, the word that wouldn’t leave me alone, was like a weed with bright purple flowers. And I thought to myself, “Huh, it’s too pretty to be a weed. Maybe it’s a flower? I’m gonna google it.”
You see, this word is a big one for me.
Ready for it?
That little word cropped up one day while I was standing on a pier looking out over the East River. Sea gulls were calling, joggers were running past, the waves were lapping on the shoreline as a ferry churned past, and I was truthfully thinking about my current writing project. I was thinking about the three miles I had to walk home. I was thinking about laundry. I was thinking of how beautiful the river was, and how much I hope this pleasant weather holds out against the inevitable north east winter.
And all of a sudden, there it was. That word.
The definition of dis-empowered is, “to deprive of power, authority, or influence : make weak, ineffectual, or unimportant.”
So, dis-empowerment is basically the opposite of this drawing Jane gave me.
“She’s a warrior fairy. See her sword? She’s a tough girl,” she explained.
I stared at this little fairy drawing and frowned and thought, “I want to be a warrior fairy. But I am so not a warrior fairy. I’m the worn-out-worn-down fairy.”
I was attempting, in a fairly inarticulate manner, to explain this to my sister at Thanksgiving. She nodded thoughtfully, silently, while I burbled around this concept of dis-empowerment, and words having such huge power in our lives, and trying to figure out who I am and what I really want, and how I really hate it when I walk the piers by the East River and see a big pile of feathers and I know a sea gull got attacked by someone’s fancy bi-breed dog (schnoodles, shnorkies, corpugbulls… it’s all weird to me).
And when I was done burbling, she said, “You don’t know what kind of eggs you like.”
I knew instantly what she was referring to, because in our house growing up we didn’t have cable, so we consumed movies from the local video store, and basically any film made from 1989 to 2005 we can identify and quote. I’m not bragging really, but I am saying that if there is a movie trivial pursuit game going on, we’re the gals you want on your team.
My sister was referring to the movie Runaway Bride. There’s a scene where Julia Robert’s character talks about how she doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes. Her preferences and life have revolved around doing what her fiancees wanted and liked. If her partner liked scrambled eggs, then she liked scrambled eggs. If her partner liked poached eggs, she liked poached eggs. So she goes on a quest to find out what kind of eggs she likes. What kind of life she wants. What kind of person she is.
“You’re right!” I yelled excitedly at my sister.
Because ya’ll, I get that. Because I spent a huge chunk of life being the woman other people thought I should be. Being dis-empowered, even with the small things. Even with eggs. And it sucked.
I was not a warrior fairy. I was the dis-empowered, depressed, resentful, dying-inside fairy.
So here I am, at 36 years old, trying out metaphorical eggs. And hats. And clothes. And hobbies. And food. And opinions. Here I am, trying to scratch out my identity from underneath the rubble of other’s expectations and demands.
And it is glorious.
I’m at the center of the perfect storm for all this. I’m living in a city that thrives on not conforming. I’m blessed with the time to write and create things I’ve spent years waiting to do. I’m blessed with a husband and daughter who like and accept my un-curated real self.
And I feel like magic is happening.
Not Disney magic. Real life changing signs and universe-messages.
Because now I can know what kind of eggs I like (boiled, thank you very much). I know what kind of books I like (non-fiction, but give me all the fantasy books too). I know what kind of people I want to spend my time with (authentic, balls-to-the-wall honesty or nothing at all). I know what kind of mother I want to be, and what I want to teach Jane (confidence baby, confidence).
This week I threw out 2/3 of my closet because I was looking at my clothes the other day and thought, “I bought almost all of this to project an image of myself that’s not even real.” They looked like costumes to me. So out they went. They didn’t fit me anymore. Some literally, but a lot figuratively. They felt bad on my skin.
I simply could not wear them anymore.
And all of these things that have happened? All of this magic (because I think the word miracle has been so watered down that magic is a better substitute)? It’s the opposite of dis-empowered. It’s the beginning of my romance with a new word.
I used to roll my eyes at that word. That was a word for nutty women who were selfish. Those women were crack pots who ran off to join cults and do yoga on cliffs over an ocean. Those were loud and obnoxious people who talked over everyone else and believed their opinions were the best and brightest and only ones.
But you guys, I was wrong.
Because at the end of the day, being empowered is about being comfortable in your own skin.
Being empowered is being able to hold up your hand when someone is hurting you and saying, “You are hurting me. I am important. You should not hurt me.” And then not letting them talk you out of it.
Being empowered is not wearing clothes you don’t like.
Being empowered is not believing something that seems wrong to your soul, despite a church or loud person or anyone else insisting that you should silence your inner compass and believe it anyway.
Being empowered is knowing what kind of eggs you like, and never letting anyone else convince you otherwise.
Jane’s warrior fairy is empowered. She’s totally herself with her striped tutu and fancy eyelashes (clearly she’s a fan of cosmetics), while carrying her sword with confidence and ain’t nobody going to talk her out of that intimidating crown she’s wearing.
I’m so thankful that God led me to that word. I’m so thankful that all the hard stuff in my life led me to that pier, at that time, to learn that thing.
I firmly believe that once you are able to put your finger on that pulse, that one word, you are on your way to magic. Once you are able to name the word, to yourself, to the world, and out loud, you are on your way out of the hole and on to better things. Whether it’s dis-empowered, or depressed, or scarred, or scared, or confused, or betrayed… those words want us to find them. And know them. And understand them. And point to them, say them out loud, and begin to heal.
That’s when the clothes get thrown out.
That’s when we begin the journey to find ourselves.
That’s when we pick our favorite kind of eggs.
That’s when the magic happens.
That’s when we become real-life warrior fairies.