For years, He has referred to me as "His big, strong, German girl." I have been sometimes amused by that designation, and sometimes proud of it. I've tried hard to live up to the not so subtle expectations embedded in that characterization.
I've been strong through sicknesses and surgeries; through healing and rehabilitation. I've been strong through death and loss and sorrow. I've been strong through addiction and despair and anger and desperation and depression. I've been physically strong, fixing and repairing and maintaining the stuff of our lives.
I've been strong in the practice of submission, bending to His will through changes and challenges both large and small.
Now, as He proposes that He is ready to "reinvest" in our lives -- in the eroticism of SM play, in the expression of our poly relatedness, in some manifestation of the power exchange dynamic between us, I find that I do not feel strong. I seem to have used up all my strength. I feel needy and small and want only to curl up and be held and sheltered and protected. I am not at all sure that wanting those things is a "fair" place for me to be, and I am not at all sure that He is ready to take that on. I think that He and I are both tentative about trusting in the way we once did. We are learning what we can believe in, and what we can trust. It is a process.
It is hard to explain. It is hard to understand. I often don't know what or how to feel about any of it... I am, I think, still strong, but I am also that needy, frightened, lost bit of human. It feels a lot like this:
For Strong Women by Marge Piercy
A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn't mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears
in her nose.
A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren't you feminine, why aren't
you soft, why aren't you quiet, why
aren't you dead?
A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you're so strong.
A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.