I am woman …

“We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise.” – Alicia Keys

With International Women’s Day this week,  my mind naturally turned to the strong, beautiful women in my life who inspire me, who empower other women and who make men step up their game… you know, the kind of woman that you want to be! Women who have knowingly or unknowingly helped shape me into me. 

During the last 4 weeks of this nomadic life, the thing I’ve missed most is hanging out with the amazing women in my life. So it seems that I unconsciously searched out women by volunteering at a NGO that preaches gender equality. 

I believe that women can’t survive (or thrive for that matter) without female friends to unburden to, laugh with, cry with, be just plain silly with while we discuss in-depth ‘unmentionable’ topics such as childbirth, breastfeeding, sex, the men in our lives and so much more ….

It doesn’t matter how wonderful the men in your life are, the time spent with strong, positive, kind women is just priceless. And when these strong, inspirational females are ones you can call ‘friends’ they can have an effect on you that is life (and attitude) changing.

I am blessed to have had different women throughout my life, to help me through different experiences, at different times in the different turns my life has taken. 

My grandmothers were both strong women in their own individual way. My maternal grandmother lived to 84 years and was a woman to be reckoned with in all areas of her life, in her home, in business, in sport and in society – a rare thing in that era. I am in awe of how she blurred the very darkly drawn defining lines of what it meant to be a conservative Tamil woman in Sri Lanka – especially one who was a wife and a mother. My mum was a working woman from as far back as I remember and juggled these different aspects of her life admirably, even as a new migrant to Australia, and set me an example that this was a choice I had as well. She and all my beautiful, big hearted aunties all prove their strength by living their truth through adversity, whatever that might be for each one. They show me that courage has many faces, and that one way to be courageous  is to just survive (daily!) the hand that has been dealt to you. 

My relationship with my younger sister is one of the most emotionally charged and primal relationships in my life. I was born into a family as the oldest child, grandchild, niece, sibling and cousin and tended to ‘push my weight around’ and be the bossy one, often because it was expected of me (and because I quietly enjoyed the power of it when I was young! ๐Ÿ˜œ). This unfortunately affected my relationship with my only sibling while we were growing up. However our relationship as adults, sharing the journey of marriage, childbirth and parenthood has given us a new level of compassion and understanding of each other. I feel that our relationship continues to grow stronger and deeper each year, and I am constantly inspired at the way she parents her children, with so much more patience than I ever had. 

“No one person can possibly combine all the elements supposed to make up what everyone means by friendship” – Francis Crawford

In the past 48 years I have had female friends who are so much like me that it is like being one mind in two bodies and others who were so different from me that we couldn’t help but be attracted to each other and those that fall elsewhere within that spectrum, who have filled a need in me that they are possibly unaware of. 

The female friends I’ve had the longest include my cousins with whom I have a blood bond that cannot be matched despite the difference in age (one of 20 years), even the ones I used to babysit! They each are able to teach me. It matters not the rarely bridged geographic distance between us all or lengthy time frames between visits, we just seem to take up where we left off. The laughs I share with them are the best! 

The longest friendship that is not bound by blood is with my childhood friend (the sister of my heart) who knows everything about me, still loves me and probably is the only one who can “sing me the song of my heart when I’ve forgotten it”. Talking over the phone with her from far away New Zealand recently, I realised that distance cannot dim the love we have for each other (and that texts and instant messages just don’t cut it!) … but we definitely need to connect more to keep us both sane and grounded.

There’ve been so many women who’ve walked through my days since I was a child supporting, advising, teaching, laughing, crying, sharing memories that fade until re-ignited through re-living the moment yet again in conversation. 

The many girls I went to school with, some with whom I shared 12 incredible years; the girls I lived down the street from, gossiped with and started checking out the male species with; the women who became my sisters-in-law who took me under their wing and championed me when I first moved to this vast new country; my ladylike mother-in-law who continues to demonstrate a softly spoken strength which encourages me to tone down my brashness; the friends I made in the new community I adopted as a new bride; the first bus stop/school gate friends with whom I’ve watched our children grow from Kindergarten to young adults; the work friends over the years with whom I’ve whinged about work with; all the staid friends who keep me from doing anything I may possibly regret; all the brave ones who spur me to take risks; all the touchy-feely ones who made me comfortable with being touched and hugged by almost-strangers; those that taught me patience, those who knew how to talk to my heart, those who laughed at my terrible jokes, …. here’s to you all! 

When women come together amazing things happen. We know that just from the recent gatherings around the world of the women’s marches. The effect of just observing the almost magical coming together of women, who have one powerful cause of gender equality, was electrifying. 

Being a woman amongst other women is priceless and so different to being in any other company. 

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you donโ€™t see it yourself.” – Edmund Lee

I am so grateful for the many different women – of different ages, from a variety of cultures and upbringing – who have through the years come into my life purely to fulfill the purpose of growing me into the woman I now am. Those who’s wisdom makes me a wiser woman and who do the most amazing things and live their best lives each day … All remembered with so much affection whether they are still a regular part of my life or not.

Women who have allowed me to be me, but have been there for me in every experience good and bad, those who are unafraid to tell me off when I’ve needed it, shown me that I can be better than I thought I was, walked with me when I’ve needed the additional strength and well … just liked me … despite my flaws.

Just knowing there’s women out there who are going through the same trials and triumphs and will offer support when needed is inspiring in itself. I feel glad that I too can offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a caring heart… 

There are those who have supported this current adventure (even if they think we’re crazy!), those to whom I can say things like “Ben’s having a midlife crisis!” and they understand that means I love him and am crazy enough to join him, those who stand up for him and are always on his side so I can realise that this is a good man and am reminded why I’m still with him! ๐Ÿ˜œ

To all the women who have ever held my hand (figuratively and for real) and given me the privilege of holding theirs – THANK YOU!!

“Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them” โ€“ Unknown.


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