The Quiet Ones

I’ve always admired quiet strength–people who wield power in a way that is so subtle the source can go undetected or overlooked. It helps if these power players can hide behind a blustery front man, someone who draws all the attention, usually because they believe they’re in charge (must be yelled, while pounding on a table).

For me it all started with the nuns. In the early 1970’s I went to an all-girl, Catholic school that was run entirely by an order of nuns. Women’s lib was all over the news at the time–images of women protesting, burning their bras, joining the work force (and showing up in pants suits! gasp) The nuns didn’t protest loudly, some opted out of wearing habits, but they did so with little fanfare. On the surface they seemed almost cloistered from the changing times, but I can tell you they were revolutionaries, making huge strides for the cause of equality for women. They had a school full of females, potential future leaders in their eyes and they led by example. They ran the place, with no priest or male influence in sight. Our principal, Sr. Steppe, was a pillar of a woman who could intimidate at the Leona Helmsley level but also possessed a wicked sense of humor and a truly kind heart, which she shared with me more than once when I was (insert terror soundtrack) sent to the principal’s office for failing grades.

In general, worldwide, nuns have kept a low profile. So low that the ruling Church patriarchy ignored them, figuring them meek and weak. Ha!

For decades they used the fact that they were on the front lines for the Church, much more involved with the communities they lived and worked in than the priests, to build up the parishioners and students. They not only promoted equality to the millions of Catholic girls they taught, they also promoted acceptance for gays. In 2012 the Vatican finally paid them some attention–the angry kind, accusing them of radical feminism and undermining the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality (AP, May 6, 2014). I’m proud to say that these women who gave me my first taste of the power of quiet strength haven’t backed down. (You go girls!!!)

Fast forward to 2014. I read a fantastic series about the King Arthur legend as told from the perspective of Guinevere. Not only did the author, Lavinia Collins, create a wonderfully-complex queen in Guinevere, she introduced me to Nimue. I love Nimue, the quiet, sweet young woman who tricks the master magician, Merlin and plays puppet master to knights and a king. Her quiet power reminded me of the nuns, of women who are overlooked and written off as having no chance of being a threat. Women who are smart enough use this to their advantage.

I’ve distilled this energy and poured the nuns and Guinevere and Nimue into the heroine of my work-in-progress, Vivienne. I’m currently writing the second book in the series where she meets her first blustery men in charge and figures out how to gain power then wield it. She’s still young at this point and like a sorcerer’s apprentice she is discovering her powers; powers she will hone and refine to create the life she wants.

Do you know of a Quiet One, someone who wields stealth power? Comment below and share their (or your) story. If you would like to support Catholic nuns in their stand against the Vatican, you can find information on The Nun Justice Project here. If you do follow up on their story, get ready to be wowed by some very wise, very strong little old ladies.

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The Introvert Workout

Late summer trailYesterday we had a break from the oppressive heat and humidity that is Memphis in August. I jumped out of bed, excited to hit the trail. It’s the same trail I walk often, but I knew it would be different. The trees would have changed from the last time I hiked it; a denser canopy, a few possibly just starting to turn for fall. Storms had fell a few and made new clearings. A new season of wild flowers had bloomed. It was like meeting up with an old friend after months apart to see how they had changed.

I ran into a few other people along the trail but we were content to exchange nothing more than a smile, a nod, or a quick “morning.” (Possibly more introverts.) I was mostly alone, allowed to be lost in my thoughts; fleshing out characters and scenes in my next novel or overthinking all kinds of mom stuff.

It was easy to walk 3 1/2 miles. It passed quickly and I could have easily gone longer if I had the time. On a crisp fall day I can walk 5 or 6 miles and be surprised when I reach the end. I burn calories and accomplish the “goal” of a workout but I do it in a way that clears my mind, sparks my creativity and feeds my soul.

My husband goes to the gym almost every morning. He not only gets in a workout but he also gets a social rush out of it. He keeps me updated on stuff happening in our community that he knows about from gym gossip. As an extrovert his morning workout fuels both his body and his social mind. I tried that route but I have to admit that I cringed a little every time I entered the building. The small talk between classes or over equipment was a struggle when my brain was busy working on processing my day ahead. If the weather even hinted at being nice I felt drawn to stay outside. I suggested we move class to the parking lot more than once. Everyone thought I was joking.

In American culture working out is a huge part of socializing and yet another place that an introvert can feel out of step, literally in my case. What is a grapevine step and why does everyone else in class seem to know but me? I want to be healthy in both mind and body and I’ve discovered the only way I can achieve both is by hiking. And ironically, my solo sport led me to a social group. Through Meetup I joined a hiking group that regularly hikes a trail that it is particularly easy to get lost on, which works for me in so many ways. I’m not left meandering alone on the confusing trails and I’ve met more quiet people who understand the pull of time in nature. It meets my need for a connection with the exact people it can be hard to connect with (because we all enjoy being alone).

So what is your introvert workout? Introvert or extrovert have you found a way that charges your physical and mental batteries? Share in comments and if hiking is your thing too check out my Pintrest board All Who Wander Are Not Lost.