At 8 years old, I received my ballet report:
“Laura needs to relax her shoulders”.
How? I thought. They’re just ….there. They're as relaxed as they can be!
My shoulders were my shoulders. Where the ballet teacher thought I was hunching or lifting them to my ears, they were just strong shoulders.
Even though I passed my class, I remember the feeling of discouragement. How can I change something I cannot change? And why does this mean I can’t be a princess in the show?!
Fast forward 30-something years. I have rediscovered my love of tennis. Two hours a week, I’m pounding forehands, backhands, volleys, overheads over a net and BUZZING from the power my body has. If you love tennis, there is no feeling quite like hitting a ball, hard and true.
Guess what I need to hit a cross-court forehand? Strong shoulders.
It got me thinking….
Guess what I needed to carry a responsibility of knowledge during my parents’ divorce?
Guess what I use as I’m building my organization for women?
Guess what I used when I fled down the stairs to our basement, holding my six week old baby in my arms, as a tornado ripped around our house?
Guess what I needed as fate dealt me a miscarriage?
Guess what I need every day as I (try to) balance the roles of happy woman/wife/daughter/friend/myself?
Strong bloody shoulders.
It struck me the other day, who else had strong shoulders.
My Welsh Granddad, Bill. At the Deep Duffryn coal mine, his job was to LITERALLY HOLD UP THE MINE. He was called “the ripper” because he ripped out the ceiling props to allow the cave to fall in — all to protect the miners just at the right time.
Guess what he needed for that…
My Grandma, Marian, was amongst many things, at Bletchley Park during the war. We think she helped break Japanese code there, but she couldn’t tell us because the Official Secrets Act barred her. She lived 50+ years without telling that part of her story. My Granddad divorced her in the 1950s, leaving her with two small girls and no financial support, but I never saw her act the victim.
My parents, who brought up their young family amidst Thatcher’s England, 3 layoffs and a stalling economy.
Shoulders of steel.
I think of my women friends, my Passionados, all of us so strong and yet often so reluctant to claim it. Why is that? Because it’s often assumed that we will be strong, but god forbid you show the physicality of that.
If I could go back in time and speak to my ballet teacher I would say this:
“Yes, Miss. I have strong shoulders. And I love them because they are mine and made from all who came before me. I will never be a delicate flower of a dancer. I am here because of them, and my life and my family’s life and all those who I protect, inspire and love will be helped by them.”
This isn’t about how me and my family are heroes. Everyone has their stories to tell.
We should love what we have been given and celebrate strength, especially as women.
We should also have pride in knowing where that strength comes from. “Shouldering” something should be a negative or shameful. We should harness our power, and share it with the world.
Originally posted on Medium.