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“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” - Madeleine Albright
This is my friend Rhonda.
Almost 2 years ago, she was so unhappy she used to get physically ill to go to the office.
A qualified engineer, she had fallen in love with planning events - from the decor to all the chi-chi's - invitations, photo frames, layout - if you could dream it, Rhonda could execute. However, she found herself on the 'horns of a dilemma' as she vacillated between holding on to her 9-5 and going full tilt into an uncertain future.
I remember her words, 'The day I handed in my resignation, I had a little over five dollars in my account. But I was determined not to let that stop me'.
Today, she has met the love of her life and is the proud mama of a gorgeous baby boy.
She trusted that instead of falling, she would fly.
Some stories are not so easy...
This is my friend Natasha.
At 49, she has already lost a breast to cancer. The diagnosis came as a total shock - she has no genetic precursors and there were no indicators that a life formerly filled with art and writing would change so drastically overnight.
Natasha confided, "I hate my body. What has happened has made me unrecognizable. It's not just the loss of a breast- my features have changed - I've gained so much weight- It disgusts me. I've never seen myself in this light ever".
Will she come out of this dark place that she now inhabits? I say yes. But not without help - medical, psychological, and with the love and support that only another "sister-friend" can render.
“Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.” - Oprah Winfrey.
And then there are stories of pure inspiration.
This is Alicia, or Allie as she's better known.
Recently I told a bit of Allie's story. This 6' 4" gentle giant had a "hard life" - one of poverty and limited opportunities. Once on a bus ride, she confided, "I was so poor that each week my sister and I had to choose how many days we could go to school. Some days I would go for three days, she for two. And the following week we would interchange".
Allie has survived her difficult childhood and gone on to start a face and body painting business and is a gifted balloon artist and jeweler
And then there's my story.
At almost 57, I'm finally breaking free of a past that kept me stuck for a very long time. On my own since I turned 21, I've survived being homeless, an abusive boyfriend who threatened to kill me, loneliness, and a dysfunctional family that I remain estranged from.
I've never felt as if my parents cared for me or supported my ambitions - and even today despite how many things I have achieved on my own, I still feel as if I will never please them. I am also painfully aware that these issues will remain unresolved for the rest of my life -and theirs.
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde.
I give you these stories on this International Women's Day, to remind you that behind the mask of makeup and designer clothes, degrees and professional accolades, that we are very much the same. We're all fighters, even though some of those battles are fought in silence, or in dark places, or in a past that cannot be fixed.