One Tough Broad
Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things. ~Robert Frost
A few months ago, I wrote a post about my great-grandmother called The Woman I’ll Never Be. I told you a little bit about her, and why I admire her so much. I still don’t feel like I am ever going to be as admirable, but, like I said in the post, she, along with a long line of praiseworthy women, is my heritage, and lately, I have come to see how one of the characteristics I mentioned is one that I see in myself.
I am tough.
This isn’t something I say easily, because it feels a little arrogant and unfeminine. It’s not something that I ever aspired to be, or that I would have claimed for myself a few months ago, but here I am: one tough broad.
There are kinder and more sophisticated synonyms, but they all fall short.
- Resilient: This is a passive word, and one that only tells part of the story. Yes, I have weathered some pretty big storms, but it’s not just that I’ve survived them, or that I held on enough. My life is not only a series of things that happen to me.
- Tenacious: Alright, so this one isn’t a far stretch of the truth – I do keep at something when I believe in it, and I’ll fight when I need to, but I like to think that I usually know when to step back, and when to decide that a hill is not work dying on.
- Seasoned: I am neither old nor a pork chop, so thank you very much, but please don’t call me “seasoned.”
Other synonyms are less flattering, and perhaps why I don’t always think of myself as “tough:”
- Hard: I try to be gentle, to be vulnerable. To be hard is to keep people out, and that’s not what I want.
- Solid: One look at my thighs and you’ll know that this isn’t it. Hehe
- Unyielding: To be unyielding can be lonely, and though occasionally my role as a leader requires me to “dig my heels in,” I’m not someone who is only happy when I get my way, or who doesn’t think that the thoughts and ideas of others have merit.
I am tough.
When I was scheduled to move to Minnesota, is wasn’t uncommon for people to shudder and tell me about how brutal the winters are up there. I told them that I was ready – years of winters in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (a.k.a. “UP”) are not for sissies. I know how endless and ferocious winter can be, but I also know that I’m tough. Now, telling people that plans have changed and I’m moving to Iowa instead, I get told “well, it won’t be as tough as Minnesota!” I wouldn’t count Iowa out just yet, though.
The other day, I was talking to a seminary friend, and she said “man, it’s like we’re in a war zone. Like we walk into these burnt out buildings with bodies everywhere, and we have to check and see if there’s any life left, and then handle it.” I don’t pretend to think that I do this on my own. I know I can’t do it on my own strength, but I also know that it’s a tough job that not everyone can do. Those burnt out buildings can be dangerous places and I stumble, get cut, bleed, and end up with scars, but so far, I’ve been tougher. More stubborn, maybe.
I’ve got sisu.
I had enough obstacles growing up that it would have made fine excuses for not finishing college (being poor, my dad having cancer during senior year of high school/freshmen year of college, undiagnosed/untreated anxiety, and on and on), but it never felt like an option to just stop. I knew that these things stood in my way, but I honestly never considered stopping. It just meant that there was a recalculation in order.
I just don’t know any other way to be. I come from a long line of people with sisu. I developed it without intending to, or without even realizing it.
Until now, not only did I not think of myself as tough, I would have shied away from saying it. But that was before I started to understand what I am capable of, and started to see how many people sadly lack it. It’s against the awkward Midwesterner in me doesn’t like saying so, but the new-and-improving me says “so what.” At the risk of being a little prideful, I straighten my shoulders, lift my chin, and look the world straight in the eye and tell it that it can, and likely will, keep throwing whatever it can at me, but in the end, it won’t win. Because I’ve got sisu. I’m one really rough broad.