I’ve had a growth spurt in the last couple of weeks. I’m not talking about too much Easter candy (though there was a good amount of that), but a kind of internal, personal growth. Through a recent interaction with a contractor, I’ve had an opportunity to use my voice and exercise control over things I actually have control over, and to decide if it’s worth - if I’m worth - the consequences those two things could bring.
As a woman, I am expected to behave in socially-prescribed ways, especially when interacting with a man. As long as I follow the rules - or have a man to speak Man to him on my behalf - things go pretty smoothly.
Well, I had thoughts about the project this contractor was hired (by me, mind you) to do in my home, and the timing in which it was to be done - and they didn’t agree with his. In the current social hierarchy, I am allowed to have opinions, but I’m not allowed to express them if they are an attempt to tell a man how or when he should do the things he has set out to do.
But I did.
It was made clear to me that I’d stepped over the invisible (and arbitrary) line when I used my words to express my thoughts.
Some of my words were brushed aside with more important (his) words being prioritized over mine. Other of my words were shut down, not even allowed to be spoken - much less heard.
I was instead given words that played on my emotions as a woman; words intended to manipulate my feelings to see things his way. I was given words meant to shame me for asking for the things I wanted when they were so small in comparison to the needs of his other customers.
My words were acknowledged, though answers came slowly; sometimes they seemed to be ignored. As a result, enough delays were created to make what should have been a week-long project into a four month ordeal.
Had I kept my mouth shut, played by the rules, and let him do his thing (or had Rod been here to speak on my behalf) I’m pretty sure things would have happened differently.
But my silence would have been interpreted as agreement, giving him power to make decisions concerning my home and my time. While I do not have power over the contractor or his schedule or over the stores regarding product availability or shipping times, I do have power over my household and my time, and I decided to exercise those powers.
Rather than putting my whole week on hold until he let me know when he was going to show up, I went ahead and made my plans. Rather than allowing my household routine to be upset to accommodate him, I decided my schedule was as important as his, and he’d have to work with me to determine the best time to get things done.
As the push-back began to increase, I excercised my power as a consumer to involve a third party, and to consider other options (i.e.: other contractors).
It was his response to these actions that confirmed to me that my words had indeed not been heard; I realized in that moment that not everyone deserves to hear my words.
Using my words and choosing to control what was in my power to control aren’t muscles I’ve had to flex before Rod died. If I was ever in a situation where my words were not being heard by a man, Rod would step in, say the same thing (but in ‘Man-speak’), and viola! My words were heard through him, and whatever it was that needed getting done got done. If anyone tried to exert power over our household or our home, Rod was the one they’d have to deal with, and his refusal to acquiesce or choice to amend would be respected. Period.
As a woman now without a man, I must figure out how to navigate the gender line if I wish to be heard.
But choosing to behave outside of my pre-determined role had consequences. I wasn’t ready for just how difficult (and emotional) it would be. Even when I got brave enough to speak my words and make a decision based on my and my household’s highest good, I found that I was easily put back in my place, seemingly unable to get past that first push of courage.
It’s like trying to drive on a road with deep ruts without falling into them. I can either focus on getting out of the ruts, or I can focus on reaching the road. I may still be slipping back into the ruts, but at least now I’m aware that they are ruts, and that there is higher ground that I can travel.
When I stop focusing on the ruts, I can begin to focus on the higher ground.
When an obstacle presents itself in life, we often focus on how to get past it. What if we focused on the goal behind the obstacle instead? It just might turn out that the obstacle is inconsequential in light of the overall goal.
For example, if I want green beans with my dinner, but can’t find the can opener, I can try to figure out other ways to open the can. But what if I consider my bigger goal, which might be to eat more veggies? From there I can begin to look for frozen veggies, or use that fresh zucchini in the fridge, or make a salad; the inability to open the can of green beans is no longer an obstacle to achieving the bigger goal.
So what am I trying to achieve - what is my bigger goal? Perhaps it’s for my words to be heard and my opinions and decisions to be respected on their own merit - sex notwithstanding. In my recent interactions, a man was the obstacle. How might I achieve my goal so that a man - a person - is no longer an obstacle?
This is the question, and an opportunity for future growth. As I focus on the higher ground, I can begin to look for other ways to achieve my goal. I am beginning to see that it’s worth - that I’m worth - the trouble my efforts will bring. Even though I'll be doing it scared.