I was at the beach yesterday. I’d just been for a walk in the morning Winter sun, and had gone to sit amongst the trees at the far end of the beach for some solitude and meditation. As I was lingering amongst the hundred year old trees before finding my seat, an older woman and man walked slowly past. I caught a snippet of their conversation for a few minutes as they ambled past where I was standing.
“You know, in the entire time they’ve been married, she hasn’t had any control over her own life,” I heard the woman say to the man, seeming exasperated.
“What do you mean?” he asked her. I didn’t know who they were taking about, or the relationship of the woman in question, but it was clearly someone the older woman knew quite well. Perhaps a daughter, or a close friend.
“I’m worried how isolated she has become. She has never driven as she doesn’t have a license. She doesn’t work outside the home, and is completely absorbed in the children at the extent of everything else. I’m not sure if she has many friends. I mean, she has never even paid a bill during their entire marriage! He’s in charge of everything, in charge of her. It’s hopeless. She doesn’t even have access to their finances, no control whatsoever over her own life,” the woman sighed, clearly concerned at the situation.
They walked off into the distance as I caught the last of the woman’s words, left lingering in the cold morning air like a question calling for the Universe to provide an answer.
I didn’t know anything about this woman they were speaking of, but I knew one thing: it felt like this woman had little agency over her own life. Having agency essentially means having a sense of control of our actions in the world. As a woman, this is exceptionally important. Not all women have this opportunity, but as a woman reading these words, I am hoping that you are in a position to be able to.
I am often witness to situations where a woman has little or no agency over her life. She may not have the choice to work, as her spouse wants her to stay home with the children. She may not have access to the family finances, everything being controlled by the paternal breadwinner. She may still be under the domain of her father, the very nature of patriarchal control in the truest sense.
Or perhaps her stories and beliefs have kept her in a pattern of submission, or with only a minor sense of control over her life and work choices. A woman can even look like she has total agency over her life and choices, but then a situation like having her first child and giving up her work, changes that dramatically, and over time she loses not only her self confidence, but also her financial independence, and her sense of agency along with it.
Creating agency over your own life is an essential part of reclaiming your sovereignty, and being in your power. Take small steps if you need to, or maybe a giant leap is required. Define for yourself what agency in your life looks like: getting a part time job, taking the next career step, setting up a small business whilst raising the kids, leaving an abusive relationship, managing your own finances, taking charge of your superannuation, paying the bills, being independent, understanding the entirety of your family money situation.
The list goes on: define it for yourself, then create that agency over your life so you have the power and autonomy that you need to truly take care of yourself.