Being a woman is my life purpose.
It sounds so simple, and it is, but fear not, I can create complications… enough for a lifetime of work, and some stories to share. Let’s start with this one…
When I was a little girl I entered myself into a holiday princess competition. I went up on stage and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said "a woman" and everyone laughed.
As an adult, I can appreciate the cute comedy of my response. As a shy child, I didn't understand why everyone was laughing at me, or what was so ridiculous about the idea of me being a woman.
I don't know if I was always destined to be fascinated by what it means to be a woman, or if it was that moment on stage which created a curiosity in me. I don’t even know if I said it because I thought it was the “right” answer (it was accurate, and I did really want to be a woman, but the response made me feel like I was wrong). There is a lot I do not know, but what I do know is that this story became my legend. My desire to be a woman (and accompanying doubts and shame about that) has shaped everything I have ever done, thought, felt and experienced.
Although this anecdote is a family favourite, one that was lovingly and joyfully recounted on a regular basis as I grew up (into a woman, sorry, no plot twist today), it was only a few years ago that I became conscious of its significance.
I did a deep dive into why I felt like I had failed as a woman, and I realised I’ve always been on a life-long mission to be a woman. I live my childhood dream every day, but it isn’t what I thought it would be. I have no home, no partner, no children. There is still a part of me that can hear the laughter and wonders if the joke is on me. I have failed, over and over, but I cannot get it wrong. I adore my failures, all the ways I have fucked up, all the roles I missed out, because they show me that it doesn't matter what it looks like, what I have or what I do, I am still a woman.
No longer a wife, still a woman! No longer have a uterus, still a woman! No longer have my own home, still a woman! No longer have any idea why I ever believed any of those things would validate me as a woman when I already was one and they were just temporary expressions of it… still a woman!
Thank goodness that I was not limited to my pre-school definitions of what it is to be a woman. I have created a life where being a woman is an expansive experience, where I get to experiment by exploring, expressing and embodying my femininity. Being a woman is completely magical.
I wonder what would have happened if I had won that competition. If my desire to be a woman had been validated, would I have embraced and embodied my femininity earlier? Would I have ever even questioned what being a woman means or would I have taken an off-the-shelf version of womanhood? Would it have spared me all the pain? I doubt it. In my experience, there have been a lot of painful things about being a woman (and indeed, being human) and yet I would still choose it. It is all I ever wanted. I love it all. And yet, I still don't know what that is. Neither does the society I am part of, and let's face it, how we define and express our gender has got even more complicated since my early 80s stage debut. Paradigms are shifting all over the place, no one knows WTF is going on, and it is an exciting time to be alive.
Being a woman is my life’s work. But my work isn't to define what it is to be a woman, or to become some mythic perfect example of a woman. It is just in the being. Experiencing it, exploring it, feeling it, circling back around to move deeper in it. There is physical work related to my female body, there is intellectual work to explore archetypes and understand myself in relation to the world, there is creative work that is an expression and performance of my femininity, there is therapeutic work to heal from trauma, there is energetic work to balance my masculine and feminine energy, and of course, there is living and playing, which is how I really get to see how I embody my femininity. There is a lot. Told you I can make things complicated…
My dream was certain to come true. I would definitely grow up to be a woman. There was nothing I needed to do, but live and grow, and there is nothing I need to do now. Of course, now I know this, my work shifts to deeper, more delicious places and that keeps me busy, living, growing, and being a woman.