My family consists mostly of bad-asses:
Despite the fact that my dad and I didn’t get along, I do take my hat off to him for serving as a U.S. Marine. If that doesn’t qualify one for bad-assedness, I don’t know what does. My mom endured a devastating form of MS most of her life without complaint. My brother is a “man of standing”with a notorious motorcycle club. One of my grandmothers was a riveter during WW II. Vince is a mover and shaker in his field of work and lately at the gym too. Imp 1 is a bad-assed brainiac and singer. Imp 2 has taken up rugby. Vince’s mom used to be the (first female) boss of all the train conductors in the Netherlands, my brother-in-law and his wife have earned their scuba brevets and do a lot of other adventurous stuff I get nervous just thinking about, we have cousins who are firefighters, explosives experts, forest rangers, skilled yachtsmen…
Since I’ve gotten older I notice that I get nervous. I worry. I like the theory of something but am mostly terrified of trying it out.
I wasn’t always like this. I used to be adventurous: I left the US when I was 22, got married to a practical stranger (still strange but in a nice way and we are still married) and learned a third language on my own. I’ve broken up fights between grown men, faced down football hooligans, I’d hop in the car and go touring, I liked travelling on my own, I went snorkeling in the Caribbean, at one time I could drink most people under the table get up the next day and go to the gym or dance class, I’d tell a prospective employer it was my asking salary or I’d walk on over to the competition because I’m that good… These days in comparison, I am somewhat of a wimp. I don’t know if it was the walking pneumonia that put a dent in the old bumper of confidence, reminding me of the inevitability of getting older and less energetic, or something pernicious that’s been going on for much longer. I’ve accepted the fact that I will never, ever in this lifetime dance for Alvin Ailey, but sifting through the detritus of my life, I’ve been wondering what the hell I’ve accomplished that’s of any significance and what’s next.
In Sheryl Sandberg’s “Leaning In”, I had hoped to find an answer. From the homepage of leanin.org:
The book Lean In is focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do.
Well I got to the line where Sandberg claims the book isn’t about her personal experience, having read several anecdotes all about her personal experience before that, peeking ahead to see many chapters of more of Sandberg’s personal experience and decided I didn’t trust her, although the concept of “leaning in” struck a chord with me as a visual thinker.
Imagine me seated across from someone powerful at a table having a conversation. Normally, I’d be in receptive mode, but maybe I had something important to add to the conversation or a demand to make. A guy in the same situation would physically claim space between himself and the other participant in the conversation in this case. He would “lean in” to make a point. Me, I’d quietly wait for the conversation to wend its way to where I could get a word in edgewise or not. This typical action is reflected in and applies to many aspects of my life. I decided I needed to “lean in” to claim my space. I needed to reclaim my bad-ass birthright. Here’s how I am doing so far:
Next to my career as domestic goddess, I do a bit of editing, writing and proofreading on the side. People, friends know this and occasionally if they’ve got a little thing to be translated or edited, they ask for my help. Usually they’ll offer to pay (knowing I’ll refuse) or send wine or flowers afterward. I almost always get at least a verbal thank-you. Recently someone took it too far. I’d not only never heard any feedback on how the translation worked out for them, but there was never a thank-you. When I was sent yet another item to edit “asap” and for free, I’d had enough. I leaned in. I sent a letter explaining that since they were making such frequent and ill-timed demands on my skill that I wanted them to understand that most of my clients pay me for my work and included my general tarif list. The individual paid up. I should have done this months ago.
Mack, the big dawg, is a bad-ass dog, a bullmastiff. We train together and I’ve got him completely “under appell”, which means he does what I tell him and no shilly-shallying. We were walking on a country road the other day and another male bully came out of nowhere and charged toward him. The only way out of this situation without bloodshed was going to be a serious bad-ass attitude. I told Mack to stay, then made myself big by walking on my tip-toes ( I am 5’2” on a good day and what else could I do?) and holding my jacket out wide toward the other dog while commanding him to back off. When he rolled over on his back and showed me his belly, I knew I’d won and tickled his ribs. He walked away after that toward a gated driveway. I rang the bell. His owners had been looking for the dog and were happy he came home unharmed. Once he was inside the gate, I called Mack and we went off on our bad-ass merry way.
Monday saw me at Box 074. I decided that since Vince was getting into such great shape, and having seen Imp 2 at rugby practice, I needed to up my fitness game. I am now a fledgeling Crossfitter. My family has made me promise not to become proselyte bore on the subject, but let me just say that after my first workout, all I wanted to do was sit down to a big plate of raw meat. The bad-ass is back and she is very hungry!