Powerful Woman

So ladies — in case no one has yet mentioned it to you – it’s on us to save the World.

Yep.

I wish I was engaging in hyperbole or exaggerating. But I am not.

We’ve tried it the patriarchal way for a good long time now. And it is not working. Our communities, our families, our systems – they are all breaking and broken. The short-sightedness; the lack of consideration for the past or the future; ignoring the children, the elders, the natural cycle of things; the lack of care and understanding of the Earth and Her forces. The worship of money and negative uses of power. All of these things have conspired to place us where we are.

We bear responsibility as well. For too long we have stepped back; we have kept quiet and we’ve turned away. We have settled. We have allowed horrors to be wrought to our children, our sisters and our friends. We have pretended it is all okay when it is SO NOT okay. We have sacrificed our deepest needs and wishes and wants and dreams in order to maintain a fragile and illusory peace.

Part of this is because we have not come together to support each other as women.

Have you ever heard the story about the crabs in the bucket? And how when one crab begins to emerge, to claim freedom, those remaining in the bottom drag it back? That is what we women have been doing to each other for generations. When someone dares to step into their power; when another woman is smart or strong or beautiful or independent or bold or any combination of these things – that woman can rest assured that there will be another woman who wants to bring her down.

Sometimes it is unconscious; I don’t think we even know we’re doing it. I suggest it stems from generation after generation of women having to appease men in order to get their children fed; having to entertain and keep men who have no interest in commitment or responsibility. We have had to compete with one another in order to meet our most basic needs.

It is one thing to have a man leave you, but another to leave you homeless, powerless and with babies to feed. There are still places in the world where women cannot own property – they ARE property. Where girls are a commodity to be bought and sold and traded. These stories and experiences are coded into our DNA; they are a darkness within us that we cannot see unless we shine light upon them.

So here’s a question for you; what IS a powerful woman?

I will tell you what she is not – she is not an imitation of a man. And look, I’m not slamming men here – I LOVE men; a little too intensely for my own good, truth be told. And they bring us to completion and we do the same for them. I’m still looking for my match and the compliment to my strengths and challenges. I know together we will be an amazing gift for the greater World and … sheesh … I wish I could find him. United strongly together the masculine and the feminine are an incredible force that becomes more than the sum of the parts. You must recognize and uphold you part, and he’s got to figure himself out too; and even when you both stumble – and you will — you both must be willing to get back up and work really hard to weave yourselves whole and then together. So again, I ask you.

What IS a powerful woman?

My (current, could change any day) opinion? A powerful woman has a capacity for love and understanding that is vast and huge. She has a work ethic AND a play ethic; she understands the goodness that flows from joy and pleasure and creativity and yet she knows that anything worthwhile requires hard work and the commitment of time. She speaks her truth, and she does it with kindness; with empathy. She knows the power of words and language and cadence and she speaks through the filter of love and honesty and respect.

A powerful woman does not manipulate people; she embraces emotions but she does not use them as weapons. She understands them, steeps in them – has no desire to eliminate them or stuff them down. She also understands those emotions must be balanced with strength of mind and strength of heart, with the large cosmic picture in mind. She occasionally gets lost in them, these powerful energies that she is recognizing, uniting with … but they are her reminder that her essence is sensitive and tender and yet large and fierce and is deeply connected to the heartbeat of the Universe.

A powerful woman understands her own nature and her own mind; she is a student of herself and her instincts. She has learned the hard lessons of ignoring her truths; of discarding her intuition; of denying the needs of her mind and the needs of her body. She may not always listen perfectly, but she is learning and she is trying.

And speaking of bodies; she has befriended her body. Even as it ages and occasionally betrays her. She no longer scans the room to see who is more or less attractive than she is or more or less curvy than she is or has better hair or a whiter smile or whateverthehell else seems to matter in that moment in the culture (ladies, I’m calling you out on this one). When she sees a beautiful woman she thinks “Wow, look at that woman, she’s beautiful.” And if she’s really in her power, she’ll go tell that woman that she thinks she is beautiful.

She embraces the fact that her body is changing and shifting day by day. She understands the passage of time and though she may resist, she doesn’t fight. She honors that her body is an incredible gift; a body that can actually grow a human being; a body that can have many many many orgasms . She recognizes that her sweet, hard-working body deserves a lover who will take the time to unlock all her secrets and all her magic; and that she gets to choose who, and she gets to choose when.

A powerful woman nurtures the tribe; she sees what needs to happen for her own good, and for the good of her babies and beloveds; but she looks up from her own life to see the larger cycles within the cycle. She remembers that her babies will have babies and that she came from a lineage too; she honors the past as she peers into the future and she filters that information into the present as she lives each moment.

She doesn’t deny the rhythms of Nature. She no longer abhors the monthly bleeding (well, okay – sometimes she does). She follows the Moon, her guiding star, and she honors the seasons. She also gives herself permission to rebel in small ways, too — maybe she wants to color the gray in her hair or wear silk and sequins in the dead of Winter. That is okay, and she doesn’t judge or compare with her sisters and their choices.

I have been told that I am a powerful woman. even though that is a title I don’t feel I can claim, though I aspire. Often for me anything resembling power feels hot and heavy and too much.

When I feel powerless, I feel small. I feel vulnerable and too complicated or too sensitive to live in this World or to be in relationship with others. What changes that; what shifts that; what makes me feel like a powerful woman is to be helping someone else – to be tending, nurturing; to feel useful. I imagine for each person, it is a different thing. And it changes. The only constant; the changing.

I would love to hear your thoughts; your experience. What does it mean to YOU to be a powerful woman? To be in relationship to a powerful woman? To raise a girl to become a powerful woman?

Your definition, January 2017: What IS a powerful woman?

Shanti,

Jill

Who Tells Your Story?

 

tumblr_nx6jtjac2j1ucpacoo1_1280

The incredible soundtrack to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” (which tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution) has this line:

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

I have three stories for you.

Story #1.

My son and I were playing foosball; I was getting my ass kicked, as per the usual.  The subject of the election came up.  He told me the story of how children were chanting at mock election (before the actual election) “build that wall” in the lunchroom.

I had not heard that story.

So a discussion ensues; one of the topics was that our country was founded by immigrants.  That Americans, unless they are Native American, we’re from everywhere.  I asked my son “Do you know your heritage?”  His response:  “Aren’t we from Mexico?”

Now, before you ponder that any further, let me tell you that my son is a blonde, blue-eyed boy.  And we have no family from Mexico, at least that I know of.  His heritage is England, Germany, Scotland and Ireland.

So why would he think his family tree originates from Mexico? He’s grown up hearing both English and Spanish; we still use simple Spanish phrases in our every day conversation.  He grew up listening to Spanish popular music.  We celebrated some holidays not typical to other households.  For example, Dia De Los Muertos; we have fond memories of the annual celebratory trip to the local Panaderia for pan de muertos, breads marked with a little skull and crossbones made of dough.

It was never intentional, but we have very few traditions that hail specifically from the various countries of our heritage.  I don’t have as many stories to tell that connect us to those cultures.  Yes — I burn a bayberry candle all the way down on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; — that’s a German tradition that was passed down to me.  But most of the other celebrations; the egg-dying, the Christmas tree; they tend to be woven into the fabric of America culture.  They don’t specifically bring up tales that would connect him to these faraway lands.

The other point I recognize is that we’re not surrounded by family; it’s pretty much just me and my children; and I’m realizing that he hasn’t heard the stories of his family from a voice other than mine.

Story #2.

Fast forward to another evening; my son and I are driving and we pass a local chapter of the VFW.  It’s in a grand, old house and there is a war memorial and a tank out front.  We drive past this place often, but usually in the daylight.  That night it was late and it was dark; the tank featured prominently in the spotlight.  “Umm, Mom … why is there a tank in front of that house?”  I explained how it isn’t a house – well, yes, it IS a house – now it is a place for Veterans to gather.  And that the tank is a memorial to remember that real men and women died. “Oh” he calmly replied; “Maybe we need more of those.”

 I’ve heard some stories of war from my parents, but none directly from my grandfather who served in World War 1.  I have heard some stories from my brother, who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  But those stories have never reached the ears of my son; the horrors of war are far removed from him.  Even the tales from my parents of blackouts and shortages and there not being enough food; he doesn’t know those stories.  All he sees is a tank.

Story #3.

A conversation with a new friend; we were discussing the flu shot and I casually mentioned that I don’t get them.  He began to feel me out on the topic of vaccines.  You know, being Ms. Crunchy Yoga Girl some people might assume that I am anti-vaccine.  But that would not be true; I  believe in vaccines, just not the flu vaccine for me, personally. You have to dig beneath the surface; you need to know the filter of my experience.  The story of how my mother contracted polio as a child, the symptoms were recognized early; she received immediate medical care and she suffered no permanent paralysis.  The story of my mother’s brother dying of tetanus — a teenage boy who fell out of a tree and broke his arm. The doctor forgot to administer the vaccine; he contracted tetanus and died of lockjaw.  These stories shaped my viewpoint and informed my decisions.

I wonder, have I told my son these stories?

In our communities and in our nation, we have lost track of each other.  Our insulated and casual electronic connection means broken communication.  Lost connection with friends and acquaintances.    Our interactions with strangers has become more and more defensive.

We’re afraid of each other.

And because we are cut off from each other, the exchange of ideas has ceased.  We are separating off into groups.  I’m black; you’re white.  I’m rich; you’re poor.  I’m blue; you’re red.  I’m wrong; you’re right.

And that right there is the danger.  We have become less than human to each other.

When we become less than human to each other, society breaks down.

When we become less than human to each other, that’s when people start getting carted off to be put in ovens.  When we become less than human to each other that’s when people get strung up in trees and nailed to crosses and burned at the stake.  When we become less than human to each other, that’s when good people can get lost and do horrendous things.

So much of what is happening is happening BECAUSE we don’t listen to each other.  We talk and we post and we tweet and we spout and we offer opinions through the filter of our experience; but we don’t listen; we don’t have the back and forth exchange of conversation.   We spend less and less time interacting with people who are different; we spend little time considering what it is like to walk in the other person’s shoes.

Often because those can be some damn uncomfortable shoes.

We are, right now, at a tremendous crossroads.  We are writing the first chapter of a new story.  Will it be about community and connection and healing and understanding and doing what must be done for the good of all?  Or will it be about warring and factions and death and hatred and separation and so much SO much pain?

You have the power right now both to tell your story and to write the new one; so, tell me; what’s your story?

Shanti,

Jill