I Painted A Picture That Inspired Two Thousand Women
"Now I think it's one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point, you become something, and that's the end."
― Michelle Obama, Becoming
A year ago, I was bogged down trying to finish a book about the self and the ego. I had reached a brick wall in my writing, and like most authors in my situation, I did everything in my power to avoid spending time with my “going nowhere manuscript.” Personally, I was going through a period of exploration, and my book, when finished, would reveal the way forward.
As a woman who had gone down the “marriage/kids/divorce” route, I had started questioning all of my choices. Then the untimely and sudden death of my younger sister became a stark reminder that our tenuous residency on this earth can end in one afternoon and without warning. It suddenly dawned on me that the world I had constructed for myself was not safe, and more importantly, it was not even that interesting or enjoyable.
As a young woman, I firmly believed that I was special. I was not going to succumb to the traditional role that all women audition for and often agree to play the part. My life story would be different. I rebelled against everything that smelled of compromise, and I was angry at other women who willingly capitulated to the diktats of society. I would aggressively stare at any man who pulled up next to my car at a stoplight and would rev my engine daring them to an impromptu race. I did the same with life as I tried to win battles that existed mostly in my head. My bosses accused me of being abrasive, but I would chalk that down to sexism and continue my Don Quixotical battles with imaginary windmills.
I am not quite sure what happened or even when, but a few years later, I walked down the aisle in a white dress, and then, before I knew it, I was knee-deep in nappies while trying to keep down a job and take care of a family. In that idyllic and serene situation, the years flew by, and my life was turning out identical to the lives of millions of other women. Even my divorce was not unusual. He had the same midlife crisis that most men have, found a new woman, and left me to take care of his children.
What was surprising to me in retrospect, was how easily I fell into the mould that I had derided and resisted throughout my younger years. I willingly and enthusiastically, took over the expected duties of a wife and a mother, without ever questioning why it was my exclusive obligation to do so. Both of us in the marriage worked full time and contributed equally to our budget, yet I worked twice as hard both in and out of the home. By the end of each day, I would be so tired that I could not see straight, nor could I remember what I had wanted out of life in the first place. More importantly, I was not happy, but at the same time, I was too exhausted to change the situation.
Then the status quo changed, and like sleeping beauty, I woke up by the kiss of a frog instead of a prince. The knocks came thick and fast; divorce, death, children growing up, and my slumber was rudely interrupted. With my eyes wide open, I looked around and realised that I had forgotten who I was and what my agenda had been.
Going back to my stalled efforts at completing my manuscript, I decided to take a road trip -alone — to fuel my creativity and banish the writer’s block that had plagued me.
I did finish my book during that summer, but you will never see it on Amazon because I realised that it was only a tool to help me with what came next. In the three months following my road trip, I wrote like a woman possessed. I finished a different book, the "Woman Who Forgot Her Agenda," in record time, and in the process, I found my answers. It was a period of transformation and growth that extended to painting a cover that communicated my feelings during that time.
I published my book last January, and even though it is NOT an autobiography, many aspects of it were inspired by real stories. Not for a moment did I think that other women would see themselves in what I had written. In fact, I expected the opposite. Was I not unique -special- after all? Was I not the only one who had discovered the meaning of MY life and in the process had become enlightened?
A funny thing happened. The cover I had painted spoke clearly to thousands of other women whose lives had taken a similar trajectory to mine. They shared my book with their friends and wrote me messages about their lives and struggles to find their own identity. Independently, they had reached similar conclusions, and for the first time in my life, I was part of a female community that had lived and learned. My fellow Amazons and I want more!
In this last year, I discovered that I am not unique or special, but I also found out that it's absolutely fine.