I find it interesting that in the English language we don’t have masculine or feminine words, like other languages do; French and Spanish come immediately to mind. Yet we assign, as a culture, masculine and feminine traits to words. Powerhouse, for example.
As Americans, we attribute maleness to any word related to power. We see it as manly to be powerful. Even 45+ years after Gloria Steinem first took to New York Magazine to chronicle and highlight the growing Women’s Liberation Movement, power is still, in a subconscious and deeply ingrained way, a man’s game. That fact is unfortunate for so many reasons, but let me dive into just this one.
I am, at my very depth, thoughtful. I put more time and effort into consideration of my daily words and actions than some people put into doing their yearly taxes, which is to say, a lot. I am a ruminator, a cow chewing her cud. I think things through thoroughly and honestly and wholeheartedly, so much so that my decision-making is usually a tediously slow process. The upside is that once I’ve made a decision I stand very firmly on it. You could say I’m stubborn, and you would be right, but my stubbornness comes from a position of power. My powerhouse is thoughtfulness.
Another definition of powerhouse is a generating station. In common terms this means the generation of electricity, but I’m going to expand that and say it should mean to generate and distribute whatever individual, unique powers we have. And by power I mean our innate intention, our most powerful and resilient and individually characteristic human quality. Your power is likely how you are described by the people who know you best. Most people have more than one, for sure, but some, like Mother Theresa have one that seems to fill their entire soul.
Here’s why I like this word, powerhouse: it’s a “place” where power is both created and distributed. You make your power and you also send it out into the world. I can’t think of any better way to live, creating and giving away the deepest and most valuable part of who we are. It’s enriching for us, as individuals: When we’re focusing attention on our deepest and most authentic selves we can’t help but grow deeply satisfying lives. But there’s a community component here, too: We’re all a single piece of a giant, Earth-sized puzzle. And if you’re not filling your spot, who is?
We’re all born with certain strengths, certain powers. I am convinced that we are meant to use our powers to support and grow our community, our world really, into its best version, while we grow ourselves. It’s not such a leap to suppose that if we’re all busy growing these rich inner lives that the community would also be gaining the benefit of that wealth, too, is it? And if for no other reason than that, we should take back our power, in aid of our communities. But isn’t it an even better idea to take it back for ourselves?
So tell me, what’s your powerhouse?
Have you ever blown a really important conversational moment? I have. I did it just the other day, as a matter of fact. I always feel terrible when that happens; probably worse than is actually warranted, but I carry that shit with me.
The other day, the conversation was me attempting to convey my condolences. I told an acquaintance how sorry I was that her Gran had passed away. Then I told her, “It gets easier.”
And that was my mistake.
No, it’s not a giant mistake and it wasn’t offensive, but it was trite and conveyed my intention in the smallest possible way that I’m embarrassed those words came out of my mouth. Because here’s the thing: It really doesn’t get easier. It’s never easy, any moment you remember that you’ll never get a chance to talk to or bump shoulders with or smell the particular scent of someone you love, those moments are always filled with sadness.
What I should have said, and would still if I could have a do-over, is that it gets less raw. That’s the real truth of it. Loss isn’t easy and it really shouldn’t ever be an easy thing to miss someone we love dearly. But it should become less raw, and thankfully it usually does.
Less raw? Yes. When you first lose someone, whether it’s from a death or from a divorce or a simple act of relocation, it leaves a ragged hole. It’s sore and throbbing and probably even bleeds a little bit, sort of like when you lose a tooth as a kid. But then a day comes, down the line, when you forget about the loss, so you poke your tongue into the empty space left there. And you forget because it’s not raw anymore. And maybe you can breathe a small sigh of relief.
So, here’s what I wish I would have said, in that conversation: I’m so sorry your gran passed away. I know you miss her and you always will, but I promise it won’t always feel so raw. One day it’ll feel good again to remember those times you shared together, whether they’re great times or completely ordinary ones. Until then just be gentle with yourself, your gran would have wanted it that way. And that part, luckily, will never change.