Grace and Fortitude

I am happy to be getting back to blog posts and writing in general after a couple of months’ hiatus due to surgery. It seems that surgical procedures deplete concentration skills. Thankfully those skills are back, and I am healing nicely.

Even though I wasn’t able to write for a few weeks, I enjoyed some excellent TV series during my long hours of recovery. I found the Danish series, Borgen, a political drama set in Copenhagen, to be especially thought-provoking. The lead character is a strong woman who unexpectedly becomes the country’s first female prime minister.  She is constantly fighting an uphill battle against political maneuvering, manipulation, and intrigue in the highest corridors of power.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my teaching career, particularly those years at the international school in Bangkok. My first memoir, Nine Years in Bangkok: Lessons Learned takes an in-depth look at those fraught times and what I learned from them. Borgen brought all of the memories back in living colour.  

The main character in this series, Birgitte Nyborg, is able to trust very few people in her life. She is surrounded by deceit, betrayal, and individuals who will do anything to smear her reputation in order to topple her and gain power. At the same time, her family life is coming apart at the seams and prevailing opinions in the press/social media turn from positive to negative at the slightest whim.  

I have never been the leader of a country, but I strongly identified with Birgitte’s problems. In my final years of teaching, the lies and manipulation of a colleague created a toxic environment in my professional life. Those stresses and strains grew and spilled over into my personal life.

With each campaign against her, Birgitte strategizes and takes a proactive stand. She often has to fight hard and stand her ground. At other times, she has to exert self-discipline, keep quiet and let things unfold as they should. There are days that she simply can’t win, no matter what.

Women have unique challenges when they take on roles of authority and power. What happens when your kids feel neglected and demand a home-cooked meal? What happens when your husband gets tired of supporting your career? How do you navigate female health problems /menopause? Borgen brilliantly addresses these issues. Women and girls of all ages can learn so much by observing strong women such as Birgitte and some of the other female characters in this series who are embroiled in struggles of their own.

I haven’t always made the right decisions in difficult times. During the Bangkok years, there were days when I couldn’t win. However, in retrospect, I can say that challenging times most often led to growth and change. I am older and wiser now. Borgen and Birgitte reminded me of how I got here.

I am sure that many women have faced daunting challenges in the workplace. I would love to hear their stories.