I’m getting ready to race in an indoor triathlon sprint tomorrow. I did the exact same thing this time last year except that, this time last year, I was nursing a five-month-old baby. I completed the tri on that day, just like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, I was thinking about feeding times in addition to event times. As I was psyching myself up for the event, I was also making sure I fed Sam at the last moment possible before I left for the event and the first moment possible that I got back. I felt sore at the end of the race not just because of what I’d accomplished, but also because it was well past feeding time.
Lots of men competed that day, in probably half the time I did, but they will never know what it was like to sustain a baby from the very same body that had just finished a race.
It’s no coincidence that I’m thinking about all these things today, on International Women’s Day.
I’m realizing that all the things about being a woman that used to make me feel weak have actually revealed the strength I have.
This is true for all the women that I encounter every day. We consistently show up for our jobs, families, friends, and communities, often while dealing with additional and unseen physical, emotional, societal, and systemic realities that simply come along with being a woman.
I think a lot about the things that bind us as women together, even though we have so many differences. I believe that women were created by God with a unique brand of strength and tenderness that reflects God. I also believe that because the world isn’t what it’s supposed to be, we are often called upon to be stronger and more tender than anyone should have to be. And yet, that God-given strength allows us to rise to the occasion. So on International Women’s Day, I want to put forward just one of the traits that, I believe, binds us together, and that is resilience. We keep showing up, bouncing back, and going forward even when we have to hurdle barriers that others don’t see.
Looking at you, woman who showed up for her job and family this week even though your near-debilitating cramps could have earned you a sick day. You know what it’s like, every month, to feel near incapacitating pain in your abdomen, while losing blood, while your body sends “KILL NOW” signals to your brain. But you don’t kill anyone. You take a crap-ton of Advil, wear disposable heating pads, eat chocolate, take deep breaths, and show up.
Looking at you, woman who has run out of an important meeting to puke because you’re in your first trimester and get sick with no warning. You know what it’s like to wake up with the same nausea that you went to bed with last night and the night before that. You know what it’s like when every food sounds absolutely disgusting except nachos and if you don’t get those nachos right now you will burst into tears. But you don’t burst into tears (most of the time). You eat the nachos, drink ginger ale, take it one day at a time, and show up.
Looking at the women who went before us and fought for all of our rights. They knew what it was like to fight for the right to vote, to own property, to receive an education, to have legal standing, to receive equal pay and equal rights, to run races, and write books under their own female name. They protested, pushed through, worked twice as hard to be taken half as seriously, and showed up.
Looking at you, women who have pumped in bathrooms, told off random strangers making sexual comments about your body, done the hard work of healing from sexual abuse, shown up to a sexist workplace everyday, turned in dissertations hours before going into labor, run marathons while on your period, gone home to change because blood leaked onto your pants, and kept your cool when you were called “hormonal” or “emotional” or “PMSing.” You kept showing up.
It’s worth repeating: all the things about being a woman that might make us feel weak actually reveal levels of strength that only other women will ever have to know.
I’m starting a series soon on what it means to be a woman, all those things that bind us together despite our differences. For today, it’s resilience. We make up a backbone. We keep showing up, bouncing back, and going forward regardless of the various barriers and hindrances we face.