I've read plenty of dating and self-help books lately, and a lot of them seem to repeat the same theme:
"Be a woman. Let yourself receive. Let the man be the man. Surrender."
But, what happens when you've spent all your life trying to be the exact opposite?
I've aimed to be strong and independent, to never seem weak or needy to the point that girlie was practically a swear word in my vocabulary, so when I recently went on a Paddle Board Yoga Teacher Training, I was surprised that the greatest takeaway was that it's wonderful to be a woman.
The minute I did my first downward dog on a SUP, I could not wait to make this part of my normal routine. Truly, there's nothing like turning your head in savasana to see a blanket of blue beneath you and feeling the rocking of waves to lull you into a deeper relaxation. And, being a surfer for the past few years, I've been frustrated by this intensely challenging sport, where I feel like I've had to battle the big blue rather than become one with it. Stand Up Paddling was the opposite. It was easy for me to pop up and stay up, and as I paddled around, I suddenly found the feminine balance to being on the ocean I love.
But, another shift happened on land, because the moment I walked into the beach house where we were all staying, a young man smiled and immediately said, "Here, let me get your bag for you."
I quickly responded with my default: "No no, it's okay, I've got it."
Even while saying it, I wanted to smack myself on the forehead. I was going against all the learnings as of late, that if a guy offers to help you do something, LET HIM.
Thankfully, he wouldn't let me deny his offering. "Really, let me help you," he repeated. With that, he took my bag from my hand and guided me toward my room.
After he left, I rolled the experience around in my brain, wondering, Why is it so hard for me to be a girl?
I've started working with a life coach who told me that every one of his female clients is struggling with the same idea of getting back in touch with her femininity. Somehow, in our modern ways of living, we've forgotten that it's okay to be a lady. I long for the days of chivalry and romance, but have felt like it's not okay to admit that I want this. And, because where my attention goes, energy flows, I've continued to attract men who've affirmed that I'm too much to handle.
"If you don't want to go through life alone," my coach said, "then you're going to have to start depending on other people."
Up until now, I didn't know how to be vulnerable enough to let someone else become an intimate part of my life. Receiving means being completely seen and willing to give up control, so it's taken effort to open my heart and risk depending upon people, trusting in them, and learning that I may indeed be disappointed.
So, how do I learn to be more of a woman? To be bold and beautiful, strong and sexy, while simultaneously being soft and fluid with my moods and preferences? More importantly, how do I not see the latter as a bad thing, as this culture has imprinted upon me? Do I paint my nails with bright polish? Do I wear more dresses and spray on sweet smells? Do I flirt more?
None of those seem like quite the right fit.
Or, do I just start settling into myself and realizing that the best parts about being a woman are how I can be everything I want to be? That I can be ferocious and warrior-like while also exuding affection, compassion, and love? That I can be feminine in ways that feel right for me, rather than in the expectations of what society has told me I should be? By trusting that everything will unfold just as it's supposed to without my doing-ness and rather just with my being-ness?
With those questions, I find myself living my way into the answers by relaxing into a deep play and joy that comes from standing on a board in the ocean, a place so naturally woman-like. The waves are like inviting curves, sways and sashays, occasionally stormy and dark, then at different times of day or year, they can resemble the gentle rocking of a mother lulling her baby to sleep.
I'm still working on how to be truly feminine and feel good about it. But for now, I'm letting the sun warm my skin as I paddle forward to balance and breathe.