Most days are forgettable, coming and going without any particularly sensational moments. The changes from the day before are generally imperceptible. You get up, look at the same face in the mirror, do some stuff, eat some stuff, talk to some people, and go back to bed. But some days, you have a moment that stops you in your tracks. When you put the same old ingredients together and come up with something entirely different than what you’ve always come up with before. Sometimes it’s truly out of the blue, but more often it’s the culmination of many thoughts on many days before this one and you stand there, wherever you are — in the shower, washing dishes, or on the train, as I was — and you know that this moment is going to change your life, and that you’ll always remember when and where and how it happened. Today was one of those of days.
I was finishing up my final piece for a writing class on shewrites.com called Word Yoga. It was an inspiring four-weeks full of meditative, mind-stretching exercises that really got my pen moving, my fingers burning up the laptop keyboard. The fire it lit under my ass was one of the things that helped birth this blog, my newborn pride and joy. One would not be out of line to say that Word Yoga was my baby daddy. (Don’t worry shewrites, I will not show up at your door demanding milk and pampers.)
The instructor had requested a final piece from each participant, from which one will be chosen and highlighted on the website. Seeing my work “published” by someone other than myself would be fun, and so I’ve been putting some tweaks on my final submission. I began thinking about that word — submission. By submitting a piece, I am offering up a part of myself. I am giving without any absolute guarantee that I will get something in return. It’s a risk and it takes a bit of courage, like anything worth doing. When we submit, we display our wares, we open ourselves up to critique and judgment. We may receive praise and recognition, and on the flip side, there is the potential for humiliation and regret. But it’s the only way to grow. Imagine a flower staying a bud for fear it would be tread upon, or an apple tree retaining its fruit to prevent it from being eaten.
These thoughts were still with me later in the day as I was on the train heading to meet a friend for lunch. I was seated and in front of me was a young couple, squished together by the crowd. The man stood sideways with one arm grasping the bar above, the other wrapped around the woman, holding her firmly, yet gently. He absentmindedly caressed the part of her back where his hand happened to fall and she stood facing him, embracing his torso, holding nothing but him, her head resting on his chest, eyes closed. Her embroidered leather bag hung low over one hip, covered partially by a long, gray sweater. Once in a while, he leaned toward her ear and spoke softly and she responded, never once opening her eyes as the train started and stopped, doors opened and closed. In that moment, she had submitted to him, yet she carried her own weight. The simple beauty of their presence captured me.
My feelings caught me off guard, as I am typically disgusted by the idea of submission. I regard it as a failure and associate it with weakness, especially for women. For years, I have carried around the self-righteous idea that in order to be respected, we must take full responsibility for ourselves and accept no assistance. My stance has been hardened by outdated, religious connotations of submission to God, to husbands, or to other forces outside ourselves. I’ve seen submission only as the inevitable result of brainwashing. But today, as I watched this embracing couple and thought of my own submission to my writing class (both showing up for it week after week, and the actual pieces of writing), I realized that it can be a sign of immense personal strength. That it is through submission that we share and define ourselves. That we, in fact, hold the power — if we so choose. Quite suddenly, I saw that submission is not only passive, but active. I saw the grace and the strength of character that is called from within us when we enter bravely into engagement with others. I saw that submission is what opens the door to a true experience of ourselves, to earth-shaking pleasure and mind-numbing pain. The man in the couple could have lost his balance or let her go at any time, but she had chosen to trust him, to give herself a break. She had chosen to rest.
As I send in my final submission, I am thinking of that couple. I recognize that in submitting a piece of my writing, I am submitting myself to whatever may come and in doing so I say,”Do with me what you will, I can handle anything.” Perhaps someday, I will not only submit to invisible cyber groups, but to another human being, to a partner. Despite all my relationships, I don’t believe I have ever truly done that. Today, I am one step closer.
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