When I was eight, I broke my leg while riding a bike. My mom and her good friend, both nurses, decided it was a sprain and laughed that I’d be limping to school the next day. A few hours later, my dad found me on the couch in something approaching shock. After spewing some choice words at my mother, he picked me up and brought me to the ER. I was diagnosed with a spiral fracture of the tibia and put in a cast from my toes to my butt. It was a tough day.
A couple weeks later, my parents drove us out to the coast, since they’d had plans to stay the weekend; and why should a kid in a cast slow anyone down? It would’ve been nice if they’d rented a room on the ground floor, and not the second story walk-up. The stairs would not be code now, as they were straight up and slippery when wet. When I saw our room number at the top of those stairs, I cried and whined.
“You have to be tough,” my dad said before making me walk up and down the stairs a few times to get the hang of it.
“But I’m going to fall down,” I complained.
“No you’re not, Mo. You’ve got to be tough. You have to make yourself do this. Life is hard and you have to toughen up,” he commanded.
I never liked the damned stairs, but I did get used to them. The real drama on that trip was my cast getting sandy and damp. Man, that thing stunk by the time the doc took it off a few weeks later.
Climbing those stairs was my introduction to being a tough chick: it’s the first time I had to face a terrible fear and conquer it. Giving birth to children, surviving the ends of romances, surviving my father, actually…all of these experiences have required me to be titanium tough. I never stop resenting it when I have to suck it up and endure. My preferred state is one of acquiescence to the world. I like to merge. But all of us ladies have to be so damned strong. Here’re some pointers on how to be a tough chick:
· Trust your instincts. “It would seem like wisdom but for the warning in my heart,” said Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. I’ve not always done this, since surviving a dysfunctional family of origin so often meant ignoring what I felt. But I choose now to listen to my heart, which is home to my instincts.
· It’s more important to be who you are than positive all the time. I have to confess…I heard this on a Wayne Dyer special on PBS. It is true, though, and important to remember if you’re turning yourself inside out being nice to everyone. If you don’t feel nice, it’s not necessary to pretend…just be honest.
· Know you’re strong enough…and repeat this affirmation over and over again in your head when you need to. I’ve wondered if I have what it takes to be a single mom and follow through with career goals. Serious self-doubt has always plagued me. Like most people, I put on a confident front, and wear a carefully crafted social mask. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s necessary in many situations to stay safe. But inside, I’m learning to really mean it. I am strong enough to move forward.
· Don’t apologize for who you are to other people. When we mess up, we need to make amends…but being apologetic for what we are, whether it’s bold or meek, woman or man, religious or godless, or whatever, takes a little bit of our power and gives it away. Never give away your power.
· Forgive yourself for making mistakes. We all fuck up…accept it. If someone won’t forgive you after a sincere attempt to make things right, they’re trying to take your power. Move on.
· Do not fall in love with the cool guy. I realized I've made huge personal progress this week when I caught the tail end of House, and didn’t think the main character was hot. Actually, I found him repellant. Mr. Brilliant Jerk isn’t attractive to me now….I should start a support group!
· Roll with it. The ancient metaphor that flexible tree branches bend in the wind while rigid ones break is true. Those I’ve known who were the most rigid and inflexible have snapped the hardest. It’s difficult, it really is, but we must all learn to work with a situation that challenges us and not against it. When you can do this, you’ll be the toughest chick around.
So there it is ladies…how to be a tough chick. These lessons seem to get easier the older I get, thank God. Like muscles, they work best when exercised. The more you use them, the tougher you get.
***FYI: Guys are not allowed to call women “chicks.” Women can call themselves and other women chicks. It’s true, I saw Chrissie Hynde do it once in an interview and it was hot. But men who call women chicks look like douche bags. Sorry, I don’t make the rules, I just observe them.