He sat across from me at our tiny table.
He looked into my eyes as he spoke.
We talked about big things. We ruminated on little things.
He captivated my attention; and when he looked at me, he saw me.
Me-the woman. Me-the girl. Me-the mother.
He saw me in a way very few others ever have.
We tended not to talk much about my role as a mom, although it was acknowledged and respected. But in this conversation, I spoke about it. Not in detail. Not for long.
I don’t even remember what I said. But when I finished, he looked at me and said,
“I already know it exists within you the capacity to sacrifice. The ability to give everything you’ve got to someone else. There is a ferociousness about what you do, and it’s something wildly attractive about you.”
It was a rare, fleeting moment gifted to me by someone else in which I could see myself from an outside perspective. A moment I got to recognize the truth and reality of my life and who I am, despite my inability to see it most of the time; and even despite others inability, or unwillingness, to see it at times.
That word keeps tumbling around in my mind, as it has ever since it spilled from his lips months ago.
“There is a ferociousness….”
We tend to focus on the things we’ve missed. The ways we failed. The things we didn’t get right. Our weak spots.
Rarely do we stop and see ourselves. Rarely do we see the truth and beauty others recognize within us. Rarely do we credit ourselves for the strength we hold.
All of us have this ferocious capacity, so I don’t want to single anyone out or create any version of “us versus them.” Yet, I believe in some ways an additional level of ferocity exists in single moms. (I apologize to the single dads, coupled dads, coupled moms, and any other scenario that exists which someone might choose to feel ostracized here. You are ferocious too. I’ll write something else for you.)
I’ve seen a tendency from some to discount the solo mom experience often with comments like, “She chose it. She knew better and chose a bad father for her kids. It’s her fault. She made her bed…” So I want to just acknowledge these women for a second if I could, without backlash for leaving out “everyone else.”
There is a ferociousness to having everything rest on your shoulders alone. There is an aggressive element to the daily grind of a single working mother trying to do it all. There is a fierceness about rising above whatever lead you here and stepping into your role full force; whether by chance, by choice, or some smattering of both. And there is a powerful elegance to learning how to create space for balance through it all.
There is a true intensity that exists within the life of a single mother knowing the person she thought would walk alongside her, in some way, has chosen not to; and now, she walks the path alone- for better or worse.
That’s not to discount any support she may have. But regardless of support, the reality of a father surrendering his role in the life of his wife/partner and children (assuming your situation looks at all like mine) leaves her solo in a tremendous way.
This offers her no choice but to become ferocious. To find within herself a fight she may have never needed before.
There is a real and immediate need to become everything in a much more tangible way than before. No area has room for slipping. Her job needs all of her. Her children need all of her. Her responsibilities require all of her. Her relationships call to her. Her own needs beg for her attention.
She was strong before. But now? Now she is ferocious.
When he said that to me, it sat on my skin before it settled beneath the surface. I didn’t accept it at first.
Me? Ferocious? But what about all the ways I’m failing? What about all the things I’m not able to do? What about all the people who say it’s not good enough? All the things I can’t handle on my own? All the ways I’m weak? All the areas I struggle?
And then I realized that it is because of both my strengths and my weaknesses in this phase of my life that create the ferociousness he saw.
The ability to rise up in spite of my deficits. The willingness to accept help when it’s needed and available. The capacity to handle almost everything on my own. The miracle of still being willing to put my heart out into the world knowing it may get crushed again. The fact that no matter what, my children come first. And yet, here I am, creating ways to offer pieces of myself to others, if even for a moment.
There’s not much room for extra.
At times, that weighs heavy.
That’s the truth for all of us. Our lives are full. No matter the details, all of us, men and women alike, have full lives that require our sacrifice, our presence, our openness, and our hearts if we are willing to give them.
There is a ferociousness to that willingness as we pursue our individual destinies.
So in the moments I feel overpowered by it all; in the moments I feel flattened by the weight; in the moments of seeing my failures as bigger than my successes; I remember his words. I remember how he saw me when I wasn’t able to. I remember how he looked at me and how, with the knowledge of only some of the details of my life, he saw a ferociousness within me.
He was right.
This phase of my life is fueled by ferocity. It’s intense. It’s overwhelming. It’s been devastating at times. Crushing, in fact. But it’s also beautiful in its intensity. Fiercely empowering. Unbelievably strengthening.
The balance is a delicate one.
Learning to be ferociously independent, yet soft enough to let others in. Capable of handling it all, but willing to admit that actually, it’s impossible to do it all completely. Determined to figure things out while accepting help when needed. Bound and determined to rebuild stronger than before, yet able to hold gently the broken places that still exist.
There is a ferociousness to what we do. All of us.
But for today, specifically to the single moms bearing the weight of a life you may or may not have chosen or planned, I see you.
I see your efforts. I see your heart. I see your sacrifice. I see your pain. I see your beauty. I see your brokenness. I see your healing. I see your weak spots. I see your bravery. I see your boldness. I see your insecurities. I see your doubts. I see your sleepless nights. I see your worry. I see your desires. I see your openness. I see your humility. I see your embarrassment. I see your dreams. I see your drive. I see your shame. I see your fight.
I see you.
You are ferocious. Even if others don’t acknowledge it, and even if you don’t believe it, there is a ferociousness to what you do and it is something wildly attractive about you.