This morning in our usual early shift briefing meeting at work I looked around my office and saw all men. All different levels of men that I supervise, all different ages but all significantly older than me, all different sizes but most of them very large and muscular. Several of them tower over me by more than a foot and are two of me put together in width and weight. During briefing they fill me in on recent facility developments and I respond back with decisions.
There is not a lot of room in my professional life for softness, never has been and likely never will be. Working with my private clients provides me the opportunity to be soft and gentle but my daily work does not. This parallels my upbringing where the farm life was difficult, being raised by a strong and rural farming man, there was no room for sensitivity.
As I glance around my office I can feel the weight of being the only woman in the discussion. The gender differences are palpable and glaring. I am reminded of the feminity that is not present in a masculine environment. The pull of home, the dishes to be done, the floor to be mopped, the space that will eventually be filled with children and a family. I look down at the feet of my office dwellers and notice that the men I direct wear boots and I wear pumps.
Many of us live in these conflicting realities where our internal preference state doesn't match our external environment. Acknowledging those discrepencies is helpful. Trying to fit in and roll with our surroundings without reminding ourselves that the culture around us doesn't mesh can be exhausting. Noticing that we are trying to engage in a system that doesn't come naturally can be validating and relieving. Acknowledging the challenges can also help us to be aware of the need for activities that bring us back to our true nature.
My yoga mat allows me sensitivity, walks in nature provide me the opportunity for unbridled softness, manicures and pedicures are continuous reminders of my femininity. When I arrive at work and open the door to my office and the men file in, sometimes I wonder, like the old sesame street jingle, "which one of these things just doesn't belong here?". Then I remember, I do belong, it is a cloak I have learned to wear but it is not my natural state. Most days however, I yearn for the trees, fresh air, warmth of tea, rest and ridiculously dramatic love stories my girlfriends and I tell one another over chitter chatter gossip.