You can bend but never break me, Coz it only serves to make me, More determined to achieve my final goal……Helen Reddy
I’ve just finished watching the biopic I Am Woman about the rise of Australian singer Helen Reddy. I was a child in the 60’s and a teen in the 70’s so Ms Reddy’s music was an absolute favourite of mine. I Don’t Know How to Love Him made me feel like someone had reached into my soul and understood the angst of my first unrequited love. When Angie Baby was released I was enamoured with it. I would sing it over and over again, imagining that it was me on stage performing it. The excitement I feel when I hear it is as strong now as the first time I heard it. Of course I loved I Am Woman but honestly, I was way too young to understand it’s power and didn’t resonate with it as anything other than a good song. I was after all, only 10 when it was released.
Fast forward 23 years and I was a divorced, mess of a woman. A mother to two gorgeous young sons and trying to deal with the death of my beautiful daughter on an access visit. Not just that, but I was in court every other day, fighting for custody of my sons, dealing with coroner’s inquests, obtaining Apprehended Violence Orders all while trying to hold down a full time job and raise two traumatised young boys to be normal, decent men. To say I wasn’t coping well with life would be the understatement of the year. But I got up everyday and put one foot in front of the other like the world told me to.
I can remember one day hearing Helen Reddy’s anthem on the radio and listening to it.. Really listening to it. And I finally fully understood the words. I sobbed. To be fair, I did a lot of sobbing at the time, but the song’s lyric resonated so strongly with me at that time that they brought me to my knees. I finally understood what it was like to be living in a man’s world and feeling powerless as generations of women had before me. I was reliant on men to make decisions about my whole life and I didn’t get much say in it.
But then something wonderful happened. Just as women in the early 70’s had, I adopted that song as my mantra. It was not something I spoke about to anyone but secretly, that song helped me find the strength to keep fighting whenever I wanted to give up. ‘You can bend but never break me. Coz it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal. And I’ll come back even stronger. Not a novice any longer for you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul.’ Those words rang in my ears constantly and more importantly, in my heart.
As I sat in yet another courtroom, waiting for some bloody man who didn’t know me to make a decision about MY life, MY sons’ lives, MY daughter’s death, MY future, I would sing the song to myself in my mind and I would pull my shoulders back and face them head on. It deepened the conviction in my soul to continue to fight for justice.
I’d forgotten all of that though. It was all an internal dialogue that was needed at the time, but forgotten when I didn’t need it with the same urgency. So today while watching the end of I Am Woman, I found myself in tears all over again. I watched the re-enactment of a crowd of women singing their anthem loudly and proudly, watching the emotions and the depth of feeling emblazoned on their faces for all the world to see. Actors, yes, but you could see the truth in that scene. And suddenly, it all came flooding back to me. I remembered how much the song had given me back my power when I desperately needed it. I remembered sitting in a courtroom, rocking back and forth, singing it in my mind over and over again trying to find the courage to look the judge in the eye while he made rulings about MY life. I remembered hearing the song as a woman in my 30s, and it feeling like the first time as I FINALLY understood the words. And I cried.
Mine is just one story about that song. I have no doubt women all over the world will have other stories about how the song affected them. And young girls who are still children today, will one day hear the song and it will fill them with the same conviction that those of us before have felt. I hope Helen Reddy knows how much hope and strength her words have given women, in numbers too big to ignore. What a powerful legacy she has given the world. Thank you Helen.. from my empowered heart to your empowering one.
Happy being a woman….Livvy xxx
Yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes I’ve paid the price but look how much I’ve gained
If I have to I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman