Stronger Now

logs
I am sprinting downhill through shin-deep, unbroken, soft powder snow. Every step is an effort–like trudging through quicksand. I am on my fifth mile, running home.

I am holding a plank inside an igloo I helped build. My toes are digging into the cold ground and my clothes are covered in hay. My abs are burning.

I am hauling logs down from off the mountain for firewood. I used to carry one big log at a time, but now I can hold two. My steps are sturdier and a little faster.

I am getting stronger.

I have never considered myself to be very strong. On the contrary, I was raised with the cultural belief that men were the protectors, the pickle-jar openers, the only ones capable of lifting. Women belonged in the kitchen.

Interestingly, this didn’t bother me all that much. I could wave off the things I didn’t want to do because they were “too hard”. I didn’t have to carry heavy things or stand for very long. I was comfortable.

When I took up running in my 20s, I grew physically strong enough to challenge those gender stereotypes, but it created friction in my relationship.

Suddenly I could lift more, pull harder, stay on my feet longer than my now-ex boyfriend. This didn’t make me feel proud or happy or liberated. Instead, I felt betrayed. I had invested in this worldview and it had let me down.

Underlying that betrayal was fear. I had always counted on men to protect me–and now it was obvious they couldn’t. They were weaker than me.

It took me some time to shift my gender mindset from one of submission to one of equals. When I figured out how to do that, I no longer needed to be angry when I saw weakness. The expectation that all men were stronger was no longer there.

Men were now free to be themselves without judgement from me, and I was free to raise my personal standards. No one should have the burden of being stronger than me all the times, nor should there be a limit for how strong I can become.

Perhaps you are stronger than me. But if you’re not, that’s ok–I’m still going to be strong just on my own.

You May Also Enjoy:

How to Love a Runner

Life, Death, and a Goat Having a Seizure

Winter Life on a Homestead (Photo Essay)

****

Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

About these ads

2 responses

  1. Vanessa, thank you for bein’ out there! I am a 59 year old woman and I think you are an amazing inspiration. I’ve been running for 27 years, and struggling with many issues on many fronts. Your articulate and insightful writings have been nothing short of brilliant. You have a VERY wise soul for the short time you have been on this planet : ) Keep up your wonderful work…and hang in there…you are loved!
    Marty

  2. Umm, that is the most awesome workout in the world, why didn’t I think of that. I live in NH and have been missing my hikes/trail runs over the winter, I should have done something like this (there is always next year :) )

    I also find your post really inspirational, I think many women (including myself) have found personal, emotional strength in becoming physically strong. More women should try it, and more men should get used to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,299 other followers

%d bloggers like this: