Finding Woman

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Leah Abraham -Finding Woman3

Dress Up

When I was young, I used to slip into my mom’s high heels, clumsily put on her lipstick and wrap a towel around my head to pretend I had long hair.

I’d stand on top of the treadmill and pretend to teach a classroom full of invisible children.

The powerful women I noticed when I was six years old were my teachers. I wanted to practice being a powerful woman.

***

Navel Gazing

I was in seventh grade when I started to notice body.

My friend and I were changing from our uniforms into our casual wear—ill-fitted jeans and baggy t-shirts.

As we changed, my friend turned around and said, “Leah, I didn’t know you had a flat tummy!”

I managed to smile and continue changing. I was too embarrassed to ask whether having a flat tummy was a good thing or not.

Ever since that day, I’ve constantly noticed the shape of my belly.

***

Applying for a Loan

Around the same time, my mom started her own architectural firm.

She not only managed her employees, clients, and projects, but she also helped me with my school projects, picked me up after birthday parties and took me to all my doctor appointments.

I followed her around to site visits, lighting stores, client meetings and a dozen other boring, architectural stuff. It wasn’t my thing, but it certainly was my mom’s. She shined brightly on that turf.

One day, I tagged along with her to the bank.

“I wanted you to come with me so you can watch me apply for this loan,” she told me. “I don’t want you to become one of those women who are clueless about financial matters.”

I still don’t remember how to apply for a loan and I barely know how to handle my finances. But I do remember her words clearly.

***

The Wrong Shade of Foundation

When I entered high school in a foreign country, I asked my mom if I could buy makeup. I didn’t think she’d say yes. I was only 13, after all. She agreed, perhaps sensing my apprehension about fitting in.

I bought the wrong shade of foundation and tried to apply it with my hands. I clearly had no idea what I was doing.

After my failed first attempt, I put the bottle of foundation away and never used it again. I didn’t really want to wear makeup. Turns out I was a shoes-and-bags kind of gal.

***

JOURNALISM 101

My journalism professor and advisor was a quiet and unsuspecting woman at first glance. On the first day of class, she avoided eye contact with her students as she went over the syllabus.

It wasn’t until she skimmed over the AP style guide that I glimpsed her fire.

“If a female is 18 or older, do not call her a ‘girl.’ She is a woman,” she said sharply.

My posture suddenly straightened and I listened.

I was a woman, after all.

“Do not say ‘Lady Bruins.’ We are all Bruins and it’s offensive to stick the word ‘lady’ before Bruins,” she said patiently, but sternly so we could awake from our patriarchal slumber once and for all.

***

Flashback to TGIF

I scrolled through my Facebook feed, in awe of what I saw.

Tina had just posted her No Makeup Selfie Challenge, and women across the SheLoves community were posting theirs.

Their comments, their stories, their bravery and their drop-dead-gorgeous faces had me in tears.

I wanted to respond and join the movement. However, it wasn’t really a challenge for me since I didn’t wear makeup. I did the next brave thing I could think of—I asked the women on my dormitory to join me in this endeavor.

Nearly 15 of my peers responded. Some said it was difficult. Some said it was liberating. Some confessed it wasn’t something they were comfortable doing.

It didn’t matter. What did matter is that we talked about it. We confided in each other. We showed up for and with each other.

***

Lessons from a Mystic Sage

I could tell she was a mystic sage who raged and loved deeply.

I knew she was safe. I could ask her anything and she’d give her honest, raw truth.

“How did being a mother change your view of God?”

She took a minute, looked over the hill we were climbing together, and replied, “Ever since I became a mother, I’ve had a hard time believing in hell. I just can’t understand how a parent’s love would allow for their child to suffer.”

Later that year, she taught me another word for God—Mother.

***

Stop Waiting for Permission

I recounted the aforementioned story to my newfound friend at Rise Up, Sister in February. We skipped the small talk and went deep fast … she was my kind of woman.

I asked her the same question. “How did being a mother change your view of God?”

She answered, and then asked me why I—a single, 20-something-year-old—was curious about that.

I told her the story of the mystic sage and how she was the first person I’d met who confessed her doubts about God and the Scriptures so freely.

“I think I needed to hear her doubts,” I confessed. “I needed the permission to doubt.”

As the weekend came to an end and the newfound sisters/zebras hugged each other goodbye, my new friend came to me and gave me a gift:

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I don’t remember if I could bring myself to say thank you. I do remember we sat in silence for several seconds, looking deeply into each other’s eyes.

I listened intently as she told me with her gaze that I am a free woman. I didn’t need a word or a signal to be who I am. I am a free woman and I am loved just as I am. I didn’t need to let the world tell me to brush my hair, to wear some concealer, to check the curvature of my belly, to wait for a man, or dare to do the unorthodox. My grace and my swagger come from my ability to live like a free, loved woman.

I don’t need to wait for permission. After all, I am free. I am able. I am loved.

***

An Epilogue (by Maya Angelou)

… It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

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Leah Abraham
Leah is a storyteller + writer + journalist + creative + empathizing romantic + pessimistic realist + ISFP + Enneagram type 2 + much more. She lives in the Seattle area where she works as an education reporter and features writer. Bonus facts: She loves the great indoors, hates to floss, and is obsessed with Korean food and her dorky, immigrant family.
Leah Abraham
Leah Abraham

Latest posts by Leah Abraham (see all)

  • *applause*

    • ^^I’m with Idelette. *applause*!!!!
      That last bit… what a big exhale. Love you, sister!

      • Leah Abraham

        You already know how much I adore you, Olive!

    • Leah Abraham

      😘😘

  • Siki Dlanga

    Beautiful. You don’t need permission…. you are free woman 😊

    • Leah Abraham

      Thank you Siki 😊

  • After reading this line…”…so we could awake from our patriarchal slumber once and for all” … I had to stop reading, for a moment. To drink up those words for a paused moment. I’m a passenger in our truck, I stared up at the sky as the tree tops flashed by, with a heart full of hope and full of pain. I feel those words so deeply. I want to mourn in intercession and to call out for the awakening from our patriarchal slumber.
    Thank you for this beautiful memoir.

    • Leah Abraham

      Oh, Jenny. I know EXACTLY how you feel. I’ve been there, and often find myself in that place. Sitting in the tension WITH you, sister.

  • This is gorgeous, Leah. I went a few years without makeup and it really changed me. And then I started wearing it again and it changed me also. All of these bits create a beautiful collage of you. So happy I got to hear a bit of your story this year.

    • Leah Abraham

      Thanks Heather! I’m so glad I *actually* got to meet you at Rise Up 🙂

  • Melaney G Lyall

    This is beautifull! ! I’m so thankful for that 4 day weekend!

    • Leah Abraham

      That weekend was magical, wasn’t it? You were instrumental in transforming that space for us.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    My oh my oh my……….you trailblazing, writer person. Well done. That is all.

    • Leah Abraham

      Aww, this coming from you… I feel honored 😊