Asking The Questions That Support A Woman’s Truth And Power
The following is an edited excerpt from the book 44 Hours & 21 Minutes: A Woman’s Truth and Power by RaShawn Renée.
Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
- Where and how did I learn to relate to men?
- Who taught me about men?
- What do I think a man will bring to my life?
If you’ve asked yourself any of those questions, I applaud you. If you haven’t asked those questions, perhaps you’ve asked these:
- Where is my man?
- How come I’m not experiencing the love and connection I want with a man?
- Am I being myself or someone else’s idea of me?
If you haven’t asked yourself those questions, that too is completely OK.
Most of my life, I didn’t even know there were questions to be asked about my relatedness to men or myself. The questions posed earlier became evident as I began to make Self-Honoring Choices. If you’re ready, ask yourself the questions posed earlier, and whatever the answer (I mean the first thought that comes forth), that’s the contribution to your whole answer, and you’re on the pathway to understand more about yourself.
From my life experiences, those questions were formulated, and with each question and relationship, I was able to define what I wanted to feel, what I required emotionally, and how I wanted to be treated, and it gave me clues about my individual magnificence. I’ve used every relationship with a male counterpart as an integral part of my learning. It has led me to know and understand I am the Prize…you are the Prize…we are the Prize…every woman is the Prize.
While learning and gaining understanding that I am the Prize, I also had to learn about cherishing and honoring myself. I came to the understanding it was necessary for me to know the Truth about myself through honoring and cherishing myself before I could have the expectation that someone else could do that for me. Do you know that each relationship is relevant? It’s because when you look closely, as I did, you will see with each experience there is something for you to learn about yourself.
Through learning, wisdom is planted and conditioning starts being dismantled, if you allow it. So I invite you, as you are moving into learning more about yourself, not to discount any relationship you’ve ever had or any relationship you are currently involved in. Use every relationship for your learning and allow it to catapult you into wisdom. Then watch what begins happening in your life.
When examining my previous relationships, I recognized the comparable characteristics between the men I dated and the men who influenced the formative years of my development. Without a doubt, the patterns modeled were learned in childhood and expressed throughout my life until I learned differently.
Men have all the power, and a woman’s role is to seek their guidance, take their direction, and make them happy. That was part of my learning and conditioning.
Relationships created as adults are built upon the learnings and observations from childhood. The patterns of behavior, when unexamined, continue throughout our lifetime until we decide to excavate our conditioning, learn who we truly are, and choose how we want to live. It’s only when we examine our conditioning and become aware of our unique magnificence that we can claim our life as our own.
The seeding from my grandfather, biological father, and bonus father informed me that men have all the fun, control, power, and are the leaders. Everything commenced around making them happy and doing whatever they wanted personally to fulfill their needs. In addition to supporting them in their business affairs, the woman’s role was to be polite, pretty, an informational source, make everything look good, and never speak ill regarding any man.
I gravitated to and identified with the men in our family. I emulated their behavior as much as I could. I, like the men in my family, expected the women in our family to serve my needs. I saw myself as one of the guys. Actually, I saw myself as my grandfather (he was the first man in my life), and he was the best guy among all of the guys, from my perspective. He was the first man in my life I called “Daddy.” Somewhere between middle school and high school, I began calling him “Grandpa,” because I called my biological and bonus father “Daddy,” too. I didn’t want to call my grandfather the same name I called them.
As a child, I saw my grandfather as the man of all men. He was always dressed in a way that made me think he was so cool, and when he had on a suit, it was perfectly fitted with a handkerchief folded nicely in his jacket pocket. His shirt, tie, socks, and shoes were always coordinated. My grandmother made sure of that. She was like his personal valet when it came to his wardrobe.
When he was in casual attire, he would wear cotton pants, a white T-shirt, and a short-sleeved button-down shirt that complemented the color of his pants. For bed, he wore pajama pants and white T-shirts. When he would go fishing or hunting, he had complete outfits that mimicked those from the sporting magazines that were around the house. He always wore cologne and made certain he smelled and looked good before he left the house, no matter what his style was for the day.
He was a man who was always concerned about his physical appearance. So of course, he always had a fresh haircut, nails manicured, and hair dyed, when necessary. He was proud of his worldly accomplishments and his family. He was generous to everyone around, and he was the purveyor of fun. He was a dominant force in our family and seemingly the director of everyone’s actions. He navigated the lives of our immediate and extended family. He really enjoyed his life and lived according to his rules. He was never concerned what others thought of him. He was only concerned with what he thought of himself. Grandpa’s nickname for me was “Mama.” And although he was a man of few compliments, family and friends would tell me things he would say about me like, “You’re his heart. The sun rises and sets on you. You’re the apple of his eye.” I believed what others told me because Grandpa made me feel special. He most often treated me like the sun rose and set on me; we spent lots of time together.
When he was around, I got everything I wanted, and everyone treated me especially nice. He was my favorite person. When I was in college, Grandpa began cooking Sunday brunch for my brother and me, and sometimes it included the whole family. Eventually, it morphed into Grandpa making brunch for a host of longtime girlfriends and me. We would sit around the kitchen table for hours talking, drinking, and eating. Grandpa listened to whatever we wanted to talk about, and what we wanted to talk about mostly was boys.
Brunch wasn’t complete until Grandpa would tell a story about the unscrupulous behaviors of men. One of the lessons he would often make reference to was “giving the milk for free and not buying the cow.” During one of our brunches, my friend Farley shared her excitement about a man she was dating. She also shared that she thought this might be the man of her dreams and told Grandpa, “When he proposes, you’re going to be the second person I call after my sister.” Grandpa listened and never made a comment until she asked him to.
“Do you want the truth, or do you want me to make you feel good?” he replied.
“Both!” she responded.
Grandpa didn’t give her the truth. Instead, he made her feel good. He later told me the truth. He said, “Farley is too excited about that man, and she can’t see what’s going on in front of her. Mama, I just didn’t want to hurt her feelings. If a woman gives herself to a man for free, she’s foolish! And milk just isn’t sex; it’s your time and your energy,” he said.
I somewhat understood what he was saying. I wanted an explanation, and I didn’t ask. Looking over the landscape of my life, I became aware it was during those brunches I could recognize my inability and conditioning to never question a man. Also during those brunches, I became aware of the questions that I wanted to ask my grandfather directly related to the rumors I’d heard while growing up. Interestingly, I got enough courage to ask questions about his life, yet I wouldn’t ask him questions that might have contradicted or demeaned what he was saying. Following are some of my courageous questions:
“Did you help your brothers and sisters when they relocated to California by assisting them in purchasing their first homes and getting jobs?”
He responded, “Yes. I made lots of money, spent lots of money, and gave even more money away. Mama, a good man always does whatever he can do to support his family.”
Next question: “Did you help my bonus father begin a business?”
“Yes. I helped him start a business. He was working for a company, not satisfied; he reminded me of my younger self, and I wanted to make sure he could provide lavishly for your mom, your brother, and you. A man wants to be the leader in his life, and in order to do so, he has to own his own business, so he can be in charge of his income,” he replied.
Next question: “Did my biological father work for you?”
His answer: “Yes. When he was in high school, a senior, I gave him two things: a very nice car to drive that he would return every evening and pick up each morning, and the principles of entrepreneurship, which included him working for me, so he could learn firsthand what a business owner does. Mama, a man is always in charge of the money. He has to know how to make it, so he can then bring it home to his family. Men need to be taught from a young age how to earn money.”
I appreciated my grandfather’s willingness to answer my questions.
In retrospect, I recognize the questions I asked were those that validated him and made him even more notable for me and my friends. All my close friends knew my grandfather, and they too called him Grandpa because he was the purveyor of fun. As I said earlier, he was the man of all men and, from my perspective and that of my close girlfriends, he was an all-around great guy.
These are the questions I never asked my grandfather:
“Why did you punish me as a child for telling the truth?”
“Why did you stop taking me to the ranch with you?”
“Why did you have intimate relationships with other women?”
If I had asked these questions, I would have been going completely against my conditioning and the way I was taught to relate to men.
From child to woman, my grandfather was a constant influencer in my life. He was the first person that mattered to me who said, “You talk too much.” It was also within the dynamic of my relationship with him that I learned of punitive consequences for telling the truth. He was the man who always looked out for me, protected me, and made sure I had whatever I needed. He demonstrated through those brunches that I mattered to him. However, the seeding in my formative years that he contributed had to be examined and excavated so I could have a fulfilling life.
One day, when leaving brunch, Grandpa said, “Mama, you’re about as sweet and pretty as any girl could be, and you remind me of my favorite girl on television. You’re a good girl, Mama. You’re the best girl ever.” And with his million-dollar smile he bent down, kissed me on my cheek and said softly, “Thank you, Mama.” I noticed he had tears in his eyes. It was the first time I had ever seen him with tears. Pretending as if I didn’t notice them, I returned a kiss on his cheek, squeezed his hand, and said, “See you next Sunday, Daddy.”
I am grateful for those brunches with Grandpa. I wish he was still alive, so I could get to know him better, ask him questions from the paradigm of knowing I’m the Prize and making Self-Honoring Choices. I’d also like to ask him who taught him about his relatedness to women. When I began examining my conditioning, the relationship with my grandfather gave me the opportunity to look at his life with neutrality, learn through his choices, and gain wisdom from the outcome of those choices. Ultimately, my grandfather aided me in defining what I wanted and needed, and what wasn’t acceptable from a man.
The next man in my life was my “bonus father.” He was a constant in my life from about the age of two. I called him Daddy or Dad when he asked me to and, like my grandfather, everything revolved around him, at least for the most part. His mood dictated the entire household. I didn’t know from one day to the next what his interactions would be regarding me. He was consistently inconsistent; he was nice and then mean towards me. He exposed me to new things like different areas of the city, architecture, nationalities, food, restaurants, and neighborhoods and gave me a perspective of the world. That’s when he was being nice.
Then he would abolish or discourage me from things that he perceived girls didn’t need to do, like sports, being curious, and learning more; that was his conditioning regarding women. When I would be punished for no reason, had my favorite things taken away, and when I had to wash dishes that were already cleaned, yet according to him were not clean enough, that’s when he was being mean to me. The state of our relationship was never consistent or peaceful until shortly before he passed away.
Our relationship reflected his inability to wholly despise or love me. Right before he passed away, I believe he made the choice to love me, because he apologized for the way he treated me while I was growing up. I don’t believe he was a bad person. I think he was a product of his upbringing, conditioning, and social understanding. I’m certain he was the best father he knew how to be to me and gave me the best he knew how to give. Today, I am grateful he was my bonus father.
The third man in my life is my “biological father.” I have few memories of him as a child. It’s impossible for me to give commentary of his treatment towards me as I was growing up, because he was absent. So it was his absence that I learned the most from. The dynamic of our relationship, for as long as I can recall, has been one of getting to know each other. We have many of the same habits. We see certain areas in life through the same prism, and our ideologies for humanity are similar. My biological father is a man who definitely identifies a woman’s role is to support and do whatever her man needs to be done for him and the family. And the man always comes first. Over the course of us getting to know one another, he is beginning to understand what a woman of Power looks like. I am a woman and a daughter who is different than my father’s ideology. In many ways, I’m an enigma to him because I don’t fit into his understanding of a woman…however, he is learning who I am and what female self-honor looks like. I’m certain he loves me, and we are still getting to know each other.
My grandfather, bonus father, and biological father reinforced the same conditioning in various ways. The overarching communication by word and deeds was: it’s OK to be haphazardly treated.
I know many of us have had the pendulum of treatment that swings from seemingly good to seemingly bad, and the experiences have come through our caregivers, parents, and those present in our formative years. If you’re willing to begin examining your relationships and bridge the similarities between those who seeded you in your formative years and the men you dated, you’ll be surprised by the discoveries. Remember, use every relationship for your learning, and allow your learnings to become your wisdom.
LDW are the initials of the man I have loved since the first time I saw him. Prior to my husband, he was my greatest cheerleader. He has seen me in seemingly good times and during the times when life looked dark. I have always known he loves me and that I matter to him even when he was emotionally distant. He showed me love before I knew how to love myself fully. He is my brother, and his steadfast love, devotion, and regard for me was contributory for defining what was possible in a man and some of what I desired from and by a man.
Choose A Model Of Love
As you excavate yourself and are discovering the similarities of conditioning with relatedness to men, especially the men you’ve dated, I also invite you to choose a model of love that you want to experience.
Think of one person who has shown you consistent love or imagine what consistent love would feel like. Then write on a piece of paper one quality and one action that you would like to see in your romantic relationship as well as whatever quality you’d like to experience in that relationship. Embrace that quality for yourself right now as well as whatever action you would like to see.
Quality = Tenderness
Action = Heartfelt Communication
Result = When having a disagreement, you can be mindful of your words and know that you love one another. The communication clearly shows tenderness and kindness are some of the pillars of the relationship, and the disagreement is simply discourse.
In the past, my conditioning allowed my life to be divisive. Meaning I was split within myself, and the nurturing I received didn’t allow me to fully express or examine me. As a child, I had the reinforcement that communicated I am special, I am nothing. I watched the women in my environment live from the paradigm that men are superior, and I mimicked the behavior. For decades, my life reflected my conditioning. I too treated myself as if I were special at times and as if I were nothing at other times.
In other words, I treated myself haphazardly, and I allowed others to do the same. By taking the time to release systemic conditioning and patterns, I now have a Life-of-Delight! If you’re willing, you can do the same by releasing that which binds you, allow yourself to think differently, get to know the real you, and move into a conscious life of Self-Honoring Choices.
To keep reading, pick up your copy of 44 Hours & 21 Minutes: A Woman’s Truth and Power by RaShawn Renée.