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In my twenties, my husband leaves. I move home; one night the lights are off, my despair blending in with the dark, when my mom sits down.
“You know, Jess,” she says, the familiar sound of her voice a homecoming. “I love your pop and if he were to die today, I’d be devastated.” I listen, waiting for the part that’s supposed to cheer me up. “And yet, I’d still have purpose. Nobody can take your purpose from you. You can be both—hurting and having purpose.”
The word power comes from the Latin word potere, meaning: “to be able.” One of grief’s gifts is discovering that I am able. I find a therapist and our conversations are a flashlight; I see paths forward in the dark.
I write. Choosing the words of my narrative frees me from the cell constructed by another. I am not a victim; I am a storyteller. A different part of my brain lights up. It’s not trauma—the cortisone that demands fight or flight drains as my frontal lobe rises to the task of creativity. I am Scheherazade, preserving my life by telling my story, one night at a time.
“I am able to see that ‘bad things’ in a story doesn’t mean the story is bad.”
Again, grief is on my plate. And so is this idea of potere: I am able. I take my infinite grief and hold it to the measuring stick of my own rhetoric. I cannot choose if my son lives or dies, but I can choose the way I tell our story—Luca’s and mine. I am able to care for my daughter. To laugh with my husband. With time, I am even able to look forward to life again—a shocking revelation when grief steals from us the invitation to live wholeheartedly; when grief leaves us only a crack in the doorway through which we peer and watch the rest of the world enter in.
There is a dormant seed in the ground, only ignited by the hottest fires. These fire ephemerals are magnificent—they paint devastation with the most vibrant blooms. Grief is a kind of fire that burns too deep, asks too much. And it ignites the fire ephemerals. This potere I didn’t know existed—a revelation that I am able. From getting out of bed and brushing my teeth after having left my son’s body at the hospital, to writing my story, night after night, until this boulder on my chest becomes a stone in my pocket. The fire is terrible, yes; and it lights up our world, revealing us as the fire ephemerals we are. This is the power God planted within: I am able. To grieve and to heal. To write it all down with words I alone choose; this is my power, my gift, my blessing.
Be sure to pick up her book My Baby Died (and I’m okay) out this spring.
Heather McGrath, @heathermcgrath, Photographer, Boston
Power is facing your fears and coming out stronger.
“Photography and directing gives me the power to show my point of view on a subject. I choose lighting, angles, location, and colors based on what I am trying to say about them. All of that is so crucial to help me show my take on a subject. My subjects are always strong and fearless. I gravitate towards people more like myself. I want to elevate fearless and courageous subjects.”
The Keds Hand-Book for Women: the power issue
Power is being both and neither
An exclusive Q&A with Alya Mooro, British-Egyptian journalist and author of The Greater Freedom, about combatting stereotypes and finding power in being undefinable.
Power is collaboration
A chat with the fierce women of Influencing in Color - Nikki, Shay, Meghan, and Brandy - on how they've found power through pursuing shared goals.
Power is my unwavering truth
Aija Mayrock, poet and writer, performs an original power poem about finding truth and strength in her journey to womanhood through writing and poetry.