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October 22, 2014

Strong Like Water.

water woman ocean

Once, I wanted to be beautiful.

I played in my mother’s make-up cabinet. I spent far too much time trying to render my curly hair straight. I took pictures in the mirror with friends, trying to catch a shot that satisfied all of us.

Then, I wanted to be strong. I practiced ashtanga yoga daily. I learned Muay Thai and Taekwondo. I loved the hardness of my muscles and carried them with pride.

Once, I believed both beauty and strength to be of the physical world. I gauged them by what I could see and touch and measure. I associated strength with iron. Unfeeling and cold.

Once I wanted to be beautiful. Then, I wanted to be strong. Now, I believe that my strength is the source of my beauty, and both are beyond the realm of touch and sight.

Now I wear heels sometimes, not to make myself beautiful, but because I already am.

Now I don’t worry if I miss a day or two, or seven, of my yoga practice. It doesn’t matter; it doesn’t make me weak. For my strength is not of iron, but of water.

Now, I seek to be strong like water.

Water changes its form in response to its environment, but never loses its meaning. Water, solid or light, cold or hot, is always water.

That is strength.

Water does not stiffen in expectation of a blow, but rather curves around the impact. And water does not harm the one who throws a punch, like iron does. Water does not dent or break. Indeed, water cannot dent or break. That is its strength.

Water gives life, too; it nourishes and sustains. What is more powerful than that?

I want to be strong like water.

I want to flow between challenges and seep through walls. I want to curve around the blows life throws my way, not break. That is why, when my pain manifests as water, I know it for a sign of strength, not weakness. For it means I do not grasp what hurts me in iron fists, but let it pour through my fingers—eyelashes, too—and roll away.

One day, I want to give life—to nourish and sustain it.

I am strong. Like water. Like rain. Like oceans and glaciers and clouds and mist. I flow and freeze and melt, fall and rise, yet never lose my meaning. I can hold so much weight upon my back and make it appear effortless. I may seem quiet and gentle, but it is my strength that moves mountains and carves rocks.

I am beautiful. Like water. Like rain. Mine is a beauty that dances and twists and never holds still. You cannot catch it in a photograph.

You, too, are strong like water, like rain, like oceans and mist. Solid, you are magnificent. Gas, you are lighter than air. Liquid, you can carry ships on your back and life in your belly.

You, too, are beautiful. It is not a beauty of powders and paints, or photographs. No, you are beautiful like water, like rain, like oceans and mist. You rise and fall, yet never lose your meaning.

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.

~ Margaret Atwood

 

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Editor: Emma Ruffin

Photo: Dmitry Laudin/Pixoto

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