I have been so blocked. I have so many projects all made up and photographed and videoed and ready to share, but I sit down just to type up instructions – the simplest part of the whole thing – and it feels overwhelming. I’ve gotten so much better health wise, but there’s a lot of trauma of the last year to heal from and all my words seem to be on the other side of that wound. So what better time than now to bring out the poem and project that always gives me strength.
I found this poem, For Strong Women by Marge Piercy, and I wept when I read it. It got right to the heart of my whole life experience. I am a strong woman, and I’m proud of my strength, but so many people react to me as if I never need help, never get weary, never pay a price. To those people I always shake my head and ask, “Have you read my blog?” I don’t know if it’s possible to talk more about the cost of everything I do and yet so many people only see what they want to see. They put people like me in a special “strong” category so that they can have some comfort that maybe our troubles won’t befall them. I get really mad at this because when I do need help and ask for it, people don’t hear. Or when I am just killing it they dismiss it as some innate character trait instead of giving me credit for what I’m slogging through every day. Each of us wants to be seen as a whole person and this poem dug into my heart at how it expressed that true strength comes from proceeding DESPITE the fear, not without it.
So I took this poem that meant so much to me, and I wrote it on my pants so that every time I wore them this message would walk with me.
The poem is quite a long one, so I picked out a few stanzas that I wanted to use. Then I got a pair of white pants and wrote the poem write on them with Elmer’s blue gel glue. My pals at RIT dye informed me that this is the best glue to use for a resist project, and they would know.
Let the glue dry completely, then flip the pants over and keep writing on the other side. If you really hate your handwriting you could use stencils or stamps, but boy would that take forever. Plus, I think the messier your handwriting the cooler this project would look.
When the glue is totally dry, dunk the pants in a cool dye bath. You don’t want to use a stovetop dye method for this one or the glue will just melt away. Let it get a couple shades darker than you ultimately want it, and then wash and dry in the machine as normal. For the first time through the washing machine, wash it all by itself. There will be some dye that comes out in the wash the first few times, and you want to spare the rest of your clothes from picking that up. Some colors wear better than others, but I’ve found that this Pearl Gray color I used is really good and fixed. I just toss these pants in with all the rest of my laundry now and don’t give a thought to any dye transfer.
Every time I leave the house in these I get compliments. It might be because they look so cool, but I think it’s also because when I wear them I can’t help but strut. The message they carry is my own little secret boost to get through the day. I swear, they’re better than caffeine.
For strong women
by Marge Piercy
A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tip toe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of her eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.
A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet,why
aren’t you dead?
A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not to be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way though a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry,you’re so strong.
A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say,and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
sucking her young. Strength is not in her,but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.
What comforts her is other’s loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain,the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.