26: Winning On and Off the Court

26: Winning On and Off the Court

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Winning On and Off the Court

How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?

~Anaïs Nin

My rude awakening came a few months after my son was born. I sat in bed, alone in the dark, feeling confused, upset, and lost. As the crickets chirped an endless chorus outside my bedroom window, I wondered where I had gone wrong. My thoughts inevitably focused on my partner, the source of my present sorry state.

I first met my partner on a badminton court at the age of eighteen. Although we had now been together for nearly eight years, we were still very much children. Neither of us had the inclination to get a steady job. We saw ourselves as free spirits with no wish to be trapped in the nine-to-five grind. We got by as best we could, mostly from money earned through part-time work. Both being athletes, we spent most of our abundant free time either playing badminton or training to become stronger and better badminton players.

Then, out of the blue, I got pregnant. We knew our lifestyle would be affected, that things would need to change. Still, we were not willing to join the rat race, so we formulated plans to set up our own business instead. When those plans failed to materialize, our relationship went through a tremendously rough phase. Being a follower, I felt it was up to my partner to get us out of this predicament. After all, he was intelligent, outgoing — a born leader. I was just the shy one with no useful skills. As our finances took a nosedive, I began blaming him for everything that was going wrong. How could he do this to me, to us, to our child? The more I pushed for him to act, the more pressure I unwittingly put on his shoulders, while I waited stupidly on the sidelines for things to right themselves.

But things didn’t change. They just kept getting worse.

That night, I went in search of a notebook and pen. I poured my heart out, page after page, until no more words came out. Then, a funny thing happened. When I read over what I wrote, I felt totally disgusted. If these had been someone else’s words, I would have told this person to stop whining and do something already! And so, I decided to do just that.

The next day, inspired by my new resolution but unsure where to begin, I went to our tiny local library. After locating the half-filled self-help shelf, I came across a book called The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling. Although it had been written years before, it seemed to have been penned specifically for me. In essence, it explained why women expect others to take care of them instead of taking charge of their own lives. It completely opened my eyes to my shortcomings and spurred me to make my own way in the world.

My situation didn’t change overnight. But little by little, I started making progress. Instead of expecting my partner to fix all of our problems, I did what I could to help. I overcame my fears and insecurities and took my first faltering steps into the adult world. Eventually, I managed to get a “real” job. Since I had also discovered through my journaling that I had an affinity for writing, I took writing classes. To my great joy, it led to seeing my work published, which in turn served to further boost my self-esteem and put me in a position where I could truly become my own boss one day.

Twenty years later, my partner and I are still together. Thankfully, we have both learned from our mistakes. Although our shuttle doesn’t always fly smoothly over the net, we have come to respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But more importantly, we make sure to give the other space to grow. For me, that space keeps expanding, especially since my role shifted to become our family’s sole breadwinner. Surprisingly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

~Pascale Duguay

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