When I Don’t Know How to Have a Champion

Champions

In my whole life, I’ve had about as many champions as I can count on one hand.

The women who have stood up for me over the long-term have been more second mothers than champions, and the intent was different:  to nurture more so than to protect.  Still, I don’t really count them as champions.  They were more Queens than Knights.

A couple of men have been brothers to me.  Older brothers, little brothers.  Family.  “Kick-your-ass-if-you-mess-with-my-sister” kinds of brothers.

The men have not been fathers to me.  Never fathers to me. Not first fathers or second fathers.  My own father never once in my memory took a stand for me, though he certainly took a stand for others. I was not worth fighting for.

But a handful of protector-knights, yes, that fits. I’ve known a few. The ones I put in the category of champions.

None were romantic partners…that has not been my lot to have a romantic partner who is protector, supporter, champion, and perhaps it never will be. If anything, I’ve had that role.  I’ve chosen men who were more concerned with their own needs than with taking a stand for me and I got used to that as “normal.” None fought to protect me or to keep me, though I saw them fight for others, and sometimes fight me to keep others. Either they didn’t think I was worth fighting for or they thought I didn’t need them to fight for me, but they never did.  Ever.  I’ve seen Knights come and go, but for some other damsel in distress.

I don’t much like being a damsel in distress, nor being in distress.  I learned a long time ago that I had no champion and if I wanted a champion, I’d have to be my own.  I have learned the hard way to stand up for myself, which is so much harder than all the times I’ve championed others and stood up for others.  That part is easy for me.

My romantic interests have so often applauded me as a strong woman, an independent woman, a loyal woman, a nurturing woman, a woman who didn’t need anybody, a woman who fulfilled all the needs of her man, a woman who through will alone can move through this world and make it a better place.  But when given a choice, the same men chose a weaker woman, or a woman with tears in her eyes, or a woman with manipulation in her heart…someone they felt they could be a Knight for.

Strong women don’t need Knights, they told me.  I think it speaks more to their needs than to mine.

Maybe a strong woman just needs a stronger Knight, and maybe that’s too much to expect.

I learned not to need a champion, or at least not to expect one.  That’s an old lesson, a hard lesson, for someone as idealistic as I am.Flying By Night novel

In dire moments, I have accepted a champion, if it was someone I respected and someone intent on my best interests. All of those things are rare–the direness, the respect, the intention to protect me. My acceptance of a champion.   Only in dire moments where I felt I had no choice could I dare to accept a champion.  Too many would-be Knights have disappointed me at the first indication that I needed someone to take a stand for me, to get between the torches and pitchforks and me. So I don’t expect champions and there’s only injury and not insult added.

A few years ago, the man I worked for was my champion.  He’s a Brigadier General now. I said when he moved away that he was the only person on the planet I’d follow into any battle, no questions asked, and that was true.  Champions are so rare for me that my loyalty is unquestioned.  Some people wonder why I was so loyal.  It wasn’t that we shared a similar vision for our work–we did and that was terribly fun and rare enough for me to find over decades of workdays.  No, it was something that happened toward the end of his tenure, when someone threatened everything important to me, and he stepped in like a vengeful god to stop it. In fact, I had to ask him not to crush the person who threatened me, as it was in his power to do so. It was a time when I was broken and heart-broken, and I needed a champion, and I needed to not have to ask for one but for one to appear.  I wasn’t strong enough then to raise my own sword. I wasn’t strong enough to raise my own voice.  I needed a champion. A Knight.

That’s been a while now.  In the intervening years, I have come through my Dark Night of the Soul and I understand the lack of Knights in my life.  I understand the bitter taste of having a father who taught me I wasn’t worth standing up for or fighting for and the men in my life who might be Knights for other women but not for me and that I don’t want such men in my life whom I cannot respect and who cannot offer enough of themselves to lift me up when I am hurting.  I understand how to be my own champion, and I have become that.   I understand how to champion others and shield them from higher powers when needed, to catch the brunt of another’s sword so that they don’t have to.  To put forth their names as praiseworthy and build a future for them and on them so that they might take my place one day.  I fight my own battles and don’t expect anyone else to.  I fight for others.  I fight for myself.  But no one stronger has been fighting for me recently.

And now here is the epiphany in this newest spiritual lesson for me:  I have been my own champion for so long that when someone strong, someone I like and respect,  steps in and offers to relieve me, I don’t know what to do with that.  The support I have prayed for for so long arrives, and I don’t know how to be grateful and accept it and let go. I don’t know how to just relax and let someone else fight for me.  I don’t know how to take advantage of the respite.  I don’t know how to let someone be my champion.  My trust in others in my personal and professional lives has been so damaged during my Dark Night of the Soul that my armor is miles thick though not inpenetrable. It’s not that I don’t want a champion…I just don’t expect it.

Allowing someone to do that for me takes trust, my most depleted resource.  Trust that it’s not a momentary interest in being both supportive and protective.  Trust that my champion will be there for me tomorrow.  Trust that if I let down my guard for a day, that I won’t be vulnerable while I sleep and in worse straits when I wake and find my adversaries building witches’ pyres around me and my champion riding away.

Trust and vulnerability are always intertwined, and relying on a champion is completely a matter of trust.  To put my fight in the hands of a champion is probably the biggest leap of faith I can ever make.

I’m working on it.  I am.  I’m working on it.