This is My Powerlift

“Why would you want to look like that?”

It baffled her each time she heard it, especially coming from another woman. Far from wanting to be more masculine, she strove to add to her existing femininity—that of a strong, healthy, capable body.

“Why would you not want to look like this?” she shot back as she walked away.

The echo of metal on metal matched her thoughts. With 255 lbs at her feet, she grasped the bar.

One—

This is my brand of feminism. My rebellion. My refusal to be seen as you want me to be seen. This is me being seen for who I am.

Two—

This is your discouragement shattering under the weight of my determination. Your disbelief proven unfounded. Your insecurities reflected back to you instead of projected onto me. 

Three—

This is my silent refusal to participate in the charade of your dialogue with one of two possible outcomes: the outcome in which you are right, and the outcome in which I am wrong.

Rest.

Most debates have no winner. The purpose of most debates is to soothe the person on the other end who can walk away feeling accomplished at having been so open-minded.

No longer a glass ceiling, she felt the bonds of an invisible cage surrounding her. Society had granted permission to rise to the top, yet still insisted she stay within the limits of the acceptable. Sit at the table, but speak no controversy, speak with a tone that questions its own right to be heard. Better yet—do not speak at all.

So much for a free country.

One—

Is your freedom my freedom? Is your pain my pain? Have your assumptions like cookie cutters reshaped your perception of my experiences? Of me?

Two—

Is your flag my flag? Are those my stars scattered across your field of Navy Blue? Which of these stripes belongs to me, or do they all belong to you?

Three—

Am I sensitive or am I jaded? Am I irrational or am I angry? Am I that stereotype for feeling, or am I simply what you made me? 

Rest.

She was the one who refused to take minutes at meetings filled with male faces, peering at her as if it were her duty or at least it as if it wasn’t theirs. With each refusal, eyes rolled and thoughts crossed faces. Overly sensitive. Angry feminist. Words unspoken yet loud enough to be heard.

One—

I am not servant to your belief system. I am not here to enable your blindness to truth. I am not here to spare your feelings at the detriment of my own.

Two—

I am not here to be weak so that you can feel strong. I am here to take my power back. I am here to lift myself up. I am here, not to grow strong, but to celebrate that I am strong already.

Three—

This is my brand of feminism. This is my rebellion. This is my powerlift.

Rest.

(C) 2021 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.

The Idea Man

He ran weathered fingers through receding hairline, subconsciously taking note of how far back it had retreated the last few years. Once known for his gleaming waves, he was now more gleaming forehead. No matter. Immersed in wandering thoughts, he had no care for the trivialities of life, receding hairlines being among them.

There was once a running joke in his family that if he had learned something useful, like math, he could have been an Einstein. Or if he had dedicated more of his time to a craft, perhaps a Picasso. But he never seemed to do much with his thoughts other than jot them down on scraps of yellow paper which he pinned to his walls or folded and tucked into crevices or stacked in piles throughout his house.

For this, they called him the Idea Man.

The Idea Man sat on his porch, beads of sweat forming on his bare head as the late afternoon sun made itself known. He secretly liked to be called the Idea Man, even though it was derogatory. His friends and family laughed, but ideas were his greatest treasure. Each idea he jotted down became a souvenir of the long, winding rivers that brought him there. Each yellow scrap of paper like a butterfly resting on his wall, ready to take flight should a stranger’s gaze ever be cast in its direction.

The Idea Man had been engaged in excogitation for so long his eyes barely perceived the sun sinking toward the horizon until it reached the edge in a blaze of color.

The beautiful sunset, his mother once called it.

Memories flooded in, and soon reflections of his mother seated beside him on porch steps arose in a tide of nostalgia. Her sheltering arm around him, they watched.

“Look at the sky,” she would say, “Look at how beautiful it is! You see that cloud? Doesn’t it look like you could swim in it? Look at how the sunbeams are streaming down from beneath that one!”

His mother had a beautiful imagination. Beautiful like the sunset. Full of color and life and beauty. His mother was a star now, floating somewhere high above the beautiful sunset, looking down on it even as he looked up.

Moisture gathered in his eyes. The Idea Man allowed the emotion to wash through him and shifted his now blurry gaze toward darkening sky. Almost imperceptibly, the stars had already begun to appear across the lake of black above him.

Brave stars, he thought.

Stars must be brave to exist in space like that, shining brilliantly despite the darkness and emptiness. The stars seemed to shine with all their might, casting lifelines on anything within reach.

He read somewhere that when a star collapses it becomes a black hole. It seemed to him the star’s final attempt to quell the loneliness—to pull anything and everything into itself, yet resulting only in destruction.

People were both stars and black holes, shining and grasping at various intervals.

He paused. Receding hairline soon bobbed up and down as the Idea Man fished in his pocket for a crumpled scrap of yellow paper.

He wrote.

(C) 2021 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.

Life and Death

I went for a walk with my son.

We were discussing the nature of life, and it’s brevity. He made some comments about how he was afraid to die, and afraid of when I would die.

“Yes,” I said, “Dying is part of life. But when you think about it, even death is life.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

I looked around on the ground and spotted a dead beetle. It had been infiltrated by an army of ants, crawling through its corpse and carrying bits and pieces back to their nest.

Gruesome. Right?

“Look at this beetle,” I said to my son, “Is it alive or dead?”

“Dead,” he responded without hesitation.

“Now look at these ants. The dead beetle is their food. So is it really death or is it life?”

“Life,” he responded as quickly as before.

I smiled.

“And what the ants don’t eat will decay. And the decayed bits will feed the plants around it. So is this death or is it—“

“Life.”

I smiled again.

“All things are connected. Not even connected, but intertwined. You cannot find death without life and life without death. They are, in a sense, one. When death visits, it is not only to make room for new life, but provides the very means for new life to spring forth.”

We continued our walk in silence.

(C) 2021 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.

The Crow

I passed a crow along the way
He helped me keep the dark at bay
The dark that once was in my mind has
Turned to light
I think you’ll find

I saw the crow perched in his tree
I saw the crow as he saw me
The crow I saw with solemn stare
Stillness hung
Around him there

The crow who saw my spirit cry
Before I chanced to pass him by
The crow he looked and made no sound
Yet heard my steps
On hardened ground

I looked at him
He looked at me
From flimsy branch
From leafless tree

That’s when I felt the darkness break
A caving in—a sudden shake
A shake within but still outside
The crow he looked at me
With pride

He spoke no words
He cracked no grin
I heard a voice come from within
“You’re not alone” he seemed to say
“I’ll be here along the way.”

And though I walked and passed him by
I felt my spirit start to fly
Soaring up past clouds of white
The crow and I
Outfly the night ~ ~

(C) 2021 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.