I’m partially through The Unyielding, the third and maybe last book of Shelly Laurenston’s Call of Crows series. These women warriors are fierce females. I love them and the men who claim their hearts. They are badass to the bone, battling to save the world as we know it. Along the way, naturally, they fight, vanquish monsters and of course…fall in love. Would that my world was drawn in such high relief. There is plenty of fantasy in Laurenston’s work, and also a great deal of truth, as is often the case in my beloved books. The most salient aspect of the Crows—women brought back to life by the goddess Skuld to express their rage and exact revenge—is that they are a team. All for one and one for all. They advance together and defend each other to the death. That’s a team I want to be on. Pick me!
As a child, I was always among the last chosen for any team. Painfully shy, I cowered in corners, hoping no one would notice me. As a bookworm, my battlefield was mental, not physical. My hand/eye coordination sucked. I had two left feet. Not the hallmarks of a star athlete or even an adequate physical specimen. I couldn’t put a ball through a basket and usually missed kicking a soccer ball altogether. My aim in dodgeball was abysmal and never mind hitting a ball with a bat. I sucked at it all. I learned to hate sports and eschew anything involving teams. Unless I was the captain. Unless it was my team and I called all the shots.
But I watched those other teams—the ones that wouldn’t choose me and the ones where I would never be in the top echelon. There were all sorts of them. Sports teams and what we used to call cliques, aka “friend groups.” There were debate teams and romantic twosomes. The teachers at school seemed to be on one team and the students another. The whole concept escaped me; I couldn’t get with the program.
There were other kinds of teams. Often, families are teams, for example. Unfortunately, my family of origin wasn’t. As a result of my early experiences, I have long been conscious of ensuring my children felt like they were part of something larger than themselves, something desirable that was strong and dependable. I think my husband and I succeeded in this. I hope we did. I guess we will find out how well we did as our children leave the nest and learn to live life on life’s terms. My hope is that they will always feel like they were chosen first for one of the most exclusive teams around. And then we went beyond that, encouraging our kids to participate in team sports. To work together as a group for a common goal. To win and lose as one. To make sacrifices and blend in, even when we stand out. “I just did my part. I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” I love to hear that from star athletes. I always love that our kids’ high school fostered a sense of teamwork. I’ve noticed that college does an even better job with this. The military gets the prize for encouraging this sort of feeling and the resultant behavior. I’ve always observed that and envied men and women in uniform.
At work, I never felt like I was part of a team, except maybe as a junior partner. I worked with a number of men in leadership positions who demanded my loyalty and deference but offered little in return. I’ve rarely felt that someone truly had my back in the way that the Crows protect their own. Those experiences made me hard and inherently defensive and therefore aggressive, because that’s the only way I know how to be a team player.
I’ve never really wanted to be a team player. I couldn’t see the advantage. Unless I was the captain. Then I was all over that action. If I can lead a team, then I love teams. If I’m just another player, I was less enthusiastic. I’m slowly learning that there is great satisfaction in being on a team even if I’m not the leader. Sometimes, it’s gratifying to be in a support position. This is a new experience for me, and sometimes I get my wires crossed and forget I’m not in charge. I’ve never not been the captain of any team I belonged to and I’m not sure how to act. But I will figure it out. Probably.
But now I’m beginning to see there is another way; not all leaders demand one-sided loyalty. There are Crow-like teams – those I can form on my own, and not just at home. I think the secret is the binary nature of a good team. Either you’re in or you’re out. And while we might discipline our own if they transgress, God help anyone else who attacks us. We’ll have their heads on pikes for the Crows to eat. Go team!