Okay so it’s not an eternal fight, but it damn near feels that way sometimes.
(I may have a penchant for some drama.)
I have a pretty consistent tug of war between wanting Autonomy & wanting to be Romanced. I understand that this isn’t an exclusively female problem, but I reckon it takes on a different expression for women than it does men. I see photos and have conversations with old friends and new who are married, pregnant, have 2 or more children, at a younger age than me. A part of me wonders why I haven’t arrived in life in such a manner. Another part of me says that was not a goal I ever really had. I have a rich life. I have amazing family and friends. Satisfying, deep conversations. Trust and Safety. But there is that part of me, the older I get, that fights for attention, the part that wants to be Romanced. But let’s address the desire for Autonomy before I go off on that tangent.
As a young girl, I remember watching Gone With the Wind and seeing the character, Belle Watling, and being completely enamored with her autonomy. While the other women, flitted, fretted, and pinched their own cheeks for the attention of the men around them, Belle had her own carriage, she had her own home, she made her own money, she was surrounded by friends and was able to provide a safe place for them, and she was very compassionate. My juvenile mind didn’t understand how she had all these things, but even so, I admired her.
I grew up in the city where Mother Teresa saved and cared for the poor and the sick – she was a small unassuming woman, but what a far-reaching emblem of compassion and courage she is. As a nun, she lived alongside other women who did the same work as she did, and I have to say, although I have zero desire to take lifetime vows of celibacy, I absolutely admired her autonomy and focus. (Aside: I have nothing against vows of celibacy. But in my experience, the moment I tell myself that something is off limits, my desire for that increases by leaps and bounds and I WILL fail, if even in my mind.)
A recent documentary on Maya Angelou told me how her life had had a rocky start, but she seemed to take it by the horns and get everything she could out of it. She was an actress, a dancer, a singer, a writer, an author, a professor, a civil rights activist, a mother, a sage. What was curious to me was her son confessing that even though she had played the role of wife a few times over, she never did experience a lasting romance. Perhaps the price of Autonomy?
There are women I have admired from a young age – women that have the courage of their convictions, women who care deeply for other’s, women who speak Life, women who change the world, women who challenge the status quo, women who expand the definition of “maternal” to a level that the material world isn’t ready for. I see these women and not all of them, but most, are relatively Autonomous. And I value that. Even more than I had originally realized. Perhaps that is the result of the culture I grew up in. Perhaps it is result of the shaming and the sometimes violent domestication of women I have witnessed. Perhaps it is my rigorous desire to have my own thoughts and ideas about things. Whatever the case, I value Autonomy.
And yet, having said all this, I can almost guarantee that no one has watched more Pride and Prejudice, read more romances, and is enamored more by romantic lyrics and music, and sighed and cried over more men than I. Therein lies the dualistic life I lead daily. Consciously pursuing Autonomy and yet craving the opposite. Or what I think is the opposite. It calls deeply to me but also leaves me wanting to run for the hills all at once. (I imagine I’d be running wildly, screaming, “Liberté!” in an awful attempt at a French accent!)
Perhaps, I have an inflated idea of romance.
Perhaps, I am a commitment-phobe.
Perhaps, I lack understanding.
Perhaps, I want all the rewards of Romance without putting in the work for it.
Perhaps, I am selfish and immature.
Perhaps, I haven’t met someone who can convince me that I’d remain liberated even with him. (I actually might have once, but that’s a story for another day)
I recently confessed to a friend that I am afraid to do life on my own. I don’t like being alone romantically. She smiled, that annoying knowing smile and said, “But, Karyn, you are doing it alone. And you are doing it well.” Her words kicked that particular fear in the face and brought me much peace.
What I value more, at this point, is being an inspiring person – more than being Romanced, More than being Married. I want all that I can squeeze out of this one life we get. I want to be liberated, to be brave, to speak in Wisdom and in Love, to be a safe place for people, to protect and stand up for people, to write, to travel, to eat, to read, to understand, to build, to take down, to be free, and to free other’s. So, whether I do that alone or alongside someone else, I will do it.
Autonomous or Romanced, Alone or Known, I think it is completely okay that I have this tug of war within me. I accept it. It keeps me human and it keeps me connected. Either state is just fine. Perhaps someday, when I am afforded more understanding, I will learn how I can do both those things simultaneously.
In the meantime, tug away, Eternal Fight. May the most righteous option for my life win!