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Friday, January 29, 2016

Stronger Than You Know by Adair Rowland

I met Adair Rowland at a networking event for writers. We quickly discovered connected dots in schooling, places lived, and a similar bend for uncovering the story behind the stories we'd been told.

Adair was a feature writer, editor and columnist when, some years ago, she found herself the subject of media coverage, the victim of an attempted homicide. When I invited her to this forum on what it means to be a strong woman, she wanted to address how that changes over time...that it's equal parts being a fighter and not being a quitter.

Stronger Than You Know by Adair Rowland

My gym is full of strength training equipment, but I opt for the cardio machines...and the sauna.  I know about the muscle groups and would benefit from exercising them, but the measure of my strength seems entirely circumstantial.

I've been in some tight spots, had more than a few close shaves (a masculine metaphor) and have been assessed as acquitting myself well. I've been called strong but don’t take much pride in that. Isn’t it the  luck of the genes, one’s predisposition for fight vs. flight?  

Okay, I was proud of myself that I fought off a home-invader, bloodied him as he bloodied me, and the same with a long ago mugging in NYC. In both cases I not only fought back but also saw the incidents through to trials and convictions. So, yes, I do well in crisis and even the protocol of follow through, when there is one. But for most of the slings and arrows of our misfortunes, there is no follow-up. 

Strength is not only circumstantial but conditional.  I’ve been a powerhouse at work and a basket case with unemployment; a fierce ally to my friends and a bewildered wreck to my partners.  The tension between one’s super power and the opportunity to use it is the stuff of drama.  How the X-Men and Women live off duty is not.  The mainstay of entertainment is vicarious adrenaline -- our prevailing over  imaginary exploits. Real strength seems like such a downgrade -- to be able to find meaning enough in the day-to-day. 

Gender expectations are that men should show their strength, and women should be it. Musculature is handsome and powerful. Endurance is necessary and tedious. Feminine attributes may be the soul of sustainability, but we look to the male action figure to keep things interesting. Society can’t handle the duality of our masculine and feminine sides, so it keeps us segregated. Our strength has two rest rooms.

Women have a proven higher tolerance for pain, but it doesn’t show up in the rankings. It’s called “doing what has to be done.” In childbirth or work stress, disease or divorce, women demonstrate how much they can stand by how long they stay standing. We’re found wanting if or when we fall. Even women who can own up to their core strength won’t go so far as to call it power.

I am the child of a power couple.  My mother was a spitfire, proud, smart and successful. My dad was more understated but every bit as accomplished. Dad was the reliable heat to Mom's bright flame.  Perhaps their 10-year age difference helped my father not be intimidated by his wife's strength, nor to lose faith when she revealed her vulnerability.  My takeaway was that strength is a two-fold quality, spark and ember, fire and fuel.

It’s always been clear I had both energies in me and that they’re at cross purposes most of the time. I rise to challenge and feel flat when there isn't one. I run on the treadmill at the gym, trying to find strength in routine, one foot in front of another, keeping pace.  I feel older, slower than the crowd, but when push comes to shove, I have strength in reserve.


Adair Rowland lives and writes in Amesbury, MA. She is working on a novel and "employing her strengths" in the business of marketing, promotion and effective communication. 

She can be reached at adairar (at) gmail (dot) com


FRIDAY FEATURES is a steady presence on Out of the Fog where I explore the concept of "strong women." Who are they? What makes them strong? How do we see them in writing and/or in business? If you're an author, what is their place in the world of thrillers of mysteries? If you're in business, how is the working environment impacted by the presence of a "strong woman" and how are they seen as leaders and team members? If you're an emerging strong woman, tell us about your journey. Have other questions you find compelling? Ask away and I'll post the answers here. 

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