Ferocious

What would a full size, full bore, full energy Callan look like?

I will tell you one thing: she would be ferocious.

Fierce is the one thing I was unable to do with my Aspergers laced family.   They were tender, needing attention and care, requiring that I shape every communication with their boundaries in mind.    That’s still true with my sister who is terrified of the fierceness she has seen in me in the past, scared she will get a blast that will drop her as it comes on top of the wearing and marginalized work she has taken as her job.

Ferocity, though, is one of the two things that can save me.   The other is being welcomed into loving and understanding relationships where I feel seen, understood and valued.

I can’t create those relationships by myself, though.   My life is a tale of being too queer, too intense, too smart, too hip for the room.   When I ask people to be present for me, entering my world as I enter theirs, they find the idea overwhelming, just as they find me overwhelming.

The alternate path, though, is one that I can control.   I own my own ferocity; it comes from inside of me. I can point out failure, sickness and weak thinking, can rail against amateur bullshit, can demand more.

My ferocity, though, comes at the cost of being more overwhelming, more off-putting, more challenging to everyone.    It doesn’t get me the kind of warm, loving, tender relationships that my feminine heart craves, the ones I have struggled to build for decades.

Trying to hide, deny or minimize my ferocity, though, has not gotten me the kind of response that I need in the world.   My playing small and gracious, serving others has left me weak, bereft and wasting the energy I might have, including almost three years of futzing after my parents died.

No one is going to give you permission and affirmation to be ferocious, though.   They want to help you fit in, be nice and considerate, playing well with others.   They don’t want to come up against fierce and brilliant people, don’t want to have to take responsibility and lift their game, so they are happy to work to keep others in their own comfort zone.

I am a wounded healer.  I am brilliant, yes, I am broken, yes. I am both brilliant and broken. (2006)   My history makes me powerful and ferocious yes, but it also makes me vulnerable and tender.   Maybe it is this binary that more than anything else shapes my experience of the world, sharp mind and tender heart, and everyone around me wants one or the other, not both.

“Switch on the fierce, honey, and do your worst!  Be smart and funny and cutting and just own the awesome power you have inside of you!” isn’t something that one hears.  “You go girl, but don’t make too big a fuss or make other people feel bad,” is more like it, a request to fit in rather than to stand out.

I know how to be a team player.  I just also know that I am much more value to the team when allowed to run hot, powerful and sharp.   That doesn’t make sense to many people; valuing my ferocity is not something that they want to engage. They want me to be fierce in the ways that are useful to them but not fierce in the ways that challenge them, calling others out but being slack with them.

Being fierce is always part of me.   I know, for example, that my writing is often so fierce and provocative that it knocks people down, saying things they are not ready to hear, things that disquiet them so much they need to marginalize me and remove my standing.   My mother didn’t have the family call me “stupid” as a nickname for years because I was sweet, rather she did it because I was fierce.

Being empathic and compassionate, though is also always a part of me.   It’s that tender part which lets me meet people where they are, working hard to be gracious and accepting that they are doing their best even when they are failing.   They don’t mean to hurt me in the process, they just don’t have the capability to be more present, more precise, more aware, more considerate.

I am scary enough to know that scaring people more does not make them engage and do better, rather it usually only pushes them away.  Ferocity only opens hearts and makes connections if it is directed at a shared goal, not at the actions those who considers themselves allies make towards that goal.

Attenuation is a reasonable strategy, but when you cut yourself down too much you lose the ferocity you need to claim space and service in the world.

I have never been very good at making friends, at being one of the gang, but that doesn’t mean I want to have enemies either.   My energy to fight in the world has been attenuated along with my ferocity, so I am very cautious about what fights I don’t want to get into.  I even hate reading e-mail replies when someone needs to tell me no because my ferocity is depleted in the face of scarcity capturing my mind, in the cause of grace.

Ferocity denied, though, is ferocity turned inward, tearing apart your self confidence rather than bolstering it.

Does ferocity turned outward offer wins, though, or just more destruction and separation?    Is the energy expended returned in renewal, replenishment and joy, or is it just left to be a fireball, all damn and fury, changing nothing?

What would a full size, full bore, full energy Callan look like?

I know that is the Callan that many of my friends want to see, a battler standing up for what she knows to be right, smart, strong and fighting for herself at least. Fighting everything, though, well, that’s not something that they look forward to, as tender as they are.

I need to find a fight that I can win, need to bring myself to bear, need to be supported in ownership.   I need “yes,” but that’s not new; I have been saying that for decades now.

“Yes” to big, queer, brilliant and sharp feels like a way out of scarcity, of attenuation, of playing small.

But that means, you know, “yes” to ferocious.

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