Moving Forward

rocks and water

Ok. What if I am completely wrong?  Not about the inner joy that we have inside of us apart from our partners, but about the drive we have, even before puberty, to be with somebody.  What if the Second Wave Feminists who fought to redefine the role of women were wrong about the central importance of relationships in women’s lives?  What if being in a relationship with someone is the point?  I am not suggesting that being in relationship with ourselves is not of equal importance but what if we are driven to be in relationship not out of some weakness, or an inability to stand alone, or some outdated cultural constraints, but because it is true as Judaism teaches that our souls are split in half at birth and one of our tasks on earth is to locate and join with our missing half.  This is an old question and an old debate. Martin Buber has written definitively about our need for a relationship with an other in, I and Thou. It is not my desire to try to shed any new light on the subject of our innate drive to form a relationship with an “other”. However, I am aware that my ideas about relationships and independence are informing how I move into my life now that I am alone.  Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that a woman is showing weakness or is weak if she needs to be in a relationship.  I learned that there was a difference between needing someone and wanting someone and that needing someone was not ok.

I feel foolish to have believed that it was possible to not need another person and yet I am still questioning it. Need is defined as 1: a physiological or psychological requirement for the well being of an organism; 2: a condition requiring supply or relief; 3: lack of the means of subsistence; 4: necessary duty. “Requirement… well being… relief…subsistence … necessary.” I am not seeing the word weakness in there anywhere. It feels like women receive mixed messages about who they are and what is important.  On the one hand we are taught to be strong and independent.  We are taught to take care of ourselves and pursue our own dreams.  Yet as women (and I am sure that many would argue with me here) we also have an innate ability to be attuned to the needs of others.  This sensitivity sometimes pulls us momentarily outside of ourselves and off of our path. If we are not careful we can lose our way completely and lose ourselves temporarily in the needs of and the connection to someone else.

My daughter brought up a profound question the other day.  She and her friends were wondering what would happen if a woman did not have “that special mother power”.  By this she meant a mother’s ability to know the whereabouts of everything that mattered to her family at any random moment of the day or night.  The girls were wondering what kind of mothers they would be if they did not have that gift. It is fantastic that they are able to see and appreciate this nameless quality that women have.  It is also interesting that they are worrying about whether or not they have it, and how the absences of this would affect their lives as adult women. When I was their age I was scoffing at the possibility that a woman’s nature carried with it a special sensitivity and attunement to others.  I bought into the nature nurture debate and did not understand until I had kids of my own, that men and women are fundamentally different.  In my teens, 20s, and 30s I fought my “femininity” and with it I fought my need for others, my openness to others, and my vulnerability.  It seems that part of the process of finding my way now, is to go back and remember and reclaim who I am.

4 comments to Moving Forward

  • so glad to receive this- would love an email directly as you mentioned- much love to youi..let’s hike!! xx jos

  • Lauren

    You hit the “Nail on the head “. To this day I still fight my “needs” for another and have to tell myself that it is really ok and not a sign of weakness…

  • Julia Shugerman

    You are a gifted writer. I get what your feeling. I have had a hard time trying to concentrate only on me this whole year, but, now I find it liberating. If a mother isn’t giving to her family all the time, it seems she isn’t a good mother. Only selfish, only cares about herself. This comes from the old world I think. But, we buy into it so easily. Keep writing, you are coming from your soul. It’s fantastic

  • jode mann

    mother power? how divine that they recognize it in their own mothers….

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