In a period of just five years, I lost my job, experienced postpartum depression, suffered severe and disabling nerve damage that caused me to temporarily lose the use of my left leg, and was hospitalized in a psych ward. Not exactly the picture of ferocity.
Fierce. When I think of that word my mind goes to Joan of Arc, and Catwoman, Jillian Michaels (have you seen her guns?) and Margaret Thatcher. Cleopatra. Oprah.
I can’t say the word fierce ever made me think of myself. And yet somehow I ended up on a list of some of the fiercest women in the world.
I don’t understand how I got there. I’m afraid of spiders, rodents and wearing a bathing suit in public. I have only half of an MBA because I quit before I finished. I won’t go on a cruise because the idea of being stranded in the middle of the ocean freaks me the hell out. I haven’t learned to barbecue because I’m convinced I’ll set myself or someone else on fire.
I’m learning, though, that those things don’t make me … not fierce. (Unfierce?) I’ve begun to see that the reason I’ve never recognized myself as fierce is because of the definition I’ve been using, the first definition of the word in the dictionary: having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness. I’ve always thought being fierce meant being unafraid. Never quitting. Not caring what other people think. Having all the right skills at the right time to go charging bravely into the middle of the battle and kicking major butt. I can hear the trumpets, and the cheers of the crowd, and “We Will Rock You” playing in the distance. If you search for the word fierce on any stock photo site, you’ll find lots of teeth-bearing carnivores about to engage in the tearing of flesh.
That’s not me.
I suffer from anxiety. I’ve quit things on more than one occasion. I’ve sat in my office crying my eyes out wondering if anything I do is worthy. I TOTALLY care what other people think. I don’t go charging into battles. In fact, if there were a battle raging nearby I’d hide and wrap myself in bubble wrap. And foam mattresses. There’s no crying or hiding in fierceness, right?
And yet, I’ve come to believe I am fierce, and I am living a fierce life. I’ve been wrong all along. It’s easy to accept, to change your perspective, when you discover there’s a secondary definition of the word “fierce”: showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.
Now, when I think of ferocity, I think of the love I have for my babies, to whom my husband and I have said more than once, “I love you something fierce.” I imagine all of the women out there struggling for all sorts of reasons, in ways that aren’t pretty, yet they find a way to eventually limp across their finish line.
I’m trying to limit the things I spend time on to primarily those things for which I feel a heartfelt and powerful intensity. The kinds of things that make me want to attempt great feats, even when I’m afraid and unconvinced I’ll succeed. They include my family and women who have postpartum depression and related illnesses. All women’s and maternal and child health issues, for that matter. They include supporting others who feel ferocious about something and are doing everything they can to create change.
I’m so honored and excited to become part of Babble Voices today. So many of my fellow Voices bloggers are fierce people, whether they know it or not.
If you think perhaps you’ve been defining fierce the wrong way for yourself, too, then I hope you’ll follow along on this new blog, Something Fierce. I’d love to go on this journey with you. Identifying what holds us back. Revising our definitions of success and living fiercely. Finding people out there who are doing great things and sharing them. This should be fun.
I’m feeling pretty fierce about it.
Photo credit: © Michael Hite – Fotolia.com