First, we should watch this for a while:
OK, enough of that.
Wait… just a little more.
OK, now I’m done.
I was thinking about the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and how the women in that book found their own strength even in the face of tremendous patriarchal adversity. Women are just wonderfully diabolical in their abilities to keep the light of inner strength burning; that flame that cannot be touched or stifled without their permission. We persevere. We endure… until we don’t.
Another book – or series of books – that I read last year was the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon. Several of my friends recommended it and so I finally got around to reading it a few years after I first heard about it. The first book was interesting and likable and combined several elements I enjoy, chief of which are time travel, magic, and kilts. Something (BIG) bothered me about the first book, but I found the story intriguing enough to continue and got barely into the 4th book before I just couldn’t do it anymore. There was fierce romance, devout love, sacrifice…all the things you want. That thing in the first book would not let me go no matter how much they tried to ignore it or justify it. Our romantic hero brutally beat the female romantic lead with a leather belt. Mind you, she was FIERCELY miffed with him for a solid fifteen minute or so and mind you, she DROVE him to this SAVAGE beating by being so headstrong and willful. I’ll say that again: He beat her with a belt. This was not a matter of the formulaic story of Hero does something awful to the Heroine and she hates him, but eventually falls for him. This was AFTER they proclaimed their love for one another. This book, by the way, was awarded the RITA Award for “Best Romance Novel” in 1992.
I realize that century after century, women got the shitty end of the stick in terms of being chattel and property, secondary to a man in every way. I understand and greatly appreciate that we live in a more enlightened time when a woman is free to claim her own empowerment and show a man the door if he insists on dominating her when she doesn’t want to be. I get that Ms. Gabaldon was merely writing into the reality of the time period our 20th century heroine found herself deposited into, seemingly without recourse. It’s not in me, however, to coo over a love story that involves that component.
I am still mourning the fact that the audio book version of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley that I was reading ended and I am sorely tempted to wind that bitch right up and start listening again. I read the book (as in turned pages as opposed to listening) many years ago and enjoyed it, but listening to it was a whole new experience. This time, I was touched by the female roles and how they handled their own empowerment. Set in approximately the same time period of Outlander, when the Saxons invaded England, this book was about women who were facing tremendous obstacles and worked aggressively for the beliefs they held dear. Several of them refused to be subjugated and stood in their own power, unyielding to the invasion of patriarchy and instead upholding the matriarchal principles. They were women who refused to kneel or be told by men how to behave. There were female characters who found comfort in the confines of male power and ones who embraced their own empowerment, sometimes to the extreme. Sure, by the end of the book, the whole world had completely gone to shit and pretty much all of the characters met horrible deaths and endured the destruction of their dreams and aspirations. The message seemed to be that Fate has its own plan and how you engage it is the key to, well, everything.
As many of you know, in my own spiritual tradition, we “plant” goals for ourselves every Spring Equinox and without fail, those goals manifest in the Harvest time between August 1st and November 1st. If the goal doesn’t manifest specifically as we envision it, we get better or we are shown why now is not the them. I’ve done this for many years, 15 now, I guess. This year, my goals are prosperity (always), healthy weight loss (going great), and embracing my own power. That one has been tough for me and it wasn’t really until today that I saw how the books I have read over the past year, including a couple of others, have all pointed directly toward that theme. There are both blueprints and cautionary tales. It has given me a lot of food for thought for how I want to live my life and engage the world. It has also shown me many ways that I give away my own power and do not even realize it.
Last year was all about friendships. I felt lonely and planted that I wanted to have grown-up, mutual, loving friendships with women. My relationship with women has been dicey over the years of my life and a lot of that is because of – you guessed it – my relationship with my mother. She was ill a good bit of the time and so ours was a sort of reversed role relationship. I didn’t appreciate her enough until she was already gone, sadly. I miss her. I was so busy being angry with her that I did not have a strong, supportive mother that I missed out on who she actually was. This set the tone for me to create relationships with women in which I was the caretaker. I was the easy friend who was so low-maintenance and never required attention or support beyond an email here or there.
A couple of years ago, I really started to feel the lack of close female friendships in my life and began to notice a lot of one way action in terms of energy flow in my relationships. That prompted me to plant the friendship seed a year ago and I now live in a garden of magnificent, empowered women who I adore. Last year was by far my most successful planting yet. I had to put myself out there a little more than usual, pry open some doors I’d welded shut, and let myself be vulnerable, but it was very well worth it. I have dear friends of all ages now from 20s to 70s. These are strong, kind, funny, devoted women from all walks of life and honestly, I don’t know how I ever lived without them. With their support, I often feel as though I float through my life and it is an honor and a privilege to give back to them. This is so different from the previous experiences I have had with female relationships.
A few of my existing relationships went away. Some I could tell were very one-way and I was the one doing all of the giving. Others were just inattentive and when I stopped reaching out, they pretty much ended. I do recognize that I am the one who changed the demands and the dynamics and that is always hard for everyone involved. It was a process to get through, but I am very grateful for the outcome.
That network of wonderful women gave me the foundation I needed to really engage my own empowerment. It’s something I’ve shied away from for literally years and years and now it feels very timely, authentic, and profound to come into my own, for lack of a better phrase. Every single day, whether it’s quiet or rewarding or challenging or exciting, I am given another piece of the puzzle – sometimes, 4-5 pieces at once. The make-over I got went a long way toward framing up the person I want to be in this world. Something about that particular change of clothing, hair, and make up changed who I was and made me more fully me. The last of anything remotely frumpy faded away and my own eccentricity and regalia was brought into focus. I could really feel the shift and now, I can’t imagine going back to the way I was before. It’s like once you see something and then you can’t unsee it. Once I’ve been something, I can’t unbe it.
My weight loss efforts fall into this area as well. One morning, I woke up as a strong, healthy person who was not overweight. My body has not yet evolved to the point of catching up to the mindset, but in my mind, it’s already accomplished. I am comfortably and naturally doing the things that will cause that to happen. The empowerment just makes it happen. Like they said, it happened on the inside first.
In that book The Red Tent, Jacob (son of Abraham), who is depicted in the photo for the journal entry, has an experience in which he spends the night wrestling with an angel. In the actual Bible story, there isn’t really a point to the event that I could ever identify. Neither of them actually wins and it’s sort of an odd little interjection into an otherwise banal story. In the context of the fictional account by Anita Diamant, it makes a little more sense, but she is drawing heavily from poetic license. The commentary on the photo above made me smile a little because I thought about how often we are our own worst enemy. We run from our own empowerment for so many reasons. Like Spiderman is taught, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If we are weak and helpless, no one expects much from us. We rarely have to make decisions and it’s not within us to be discerning about where our energy goes (and to whom). We are little pinballs that shoot around the board of life, hitting bumper after bumper, lighting up parts here and there, ringing an occasional bell, and always being an effect rather than a cause. We wait to see where life takes us, passively going with the flow. We find out where everyone else wants to eat before where we decide what restaurant to choose. We make sure everyone else has what they need, then we piece together our own serving from the leftover crumbs. We interpret strength as not needing support or affection or validation from others. We interpret worth by how popular we are in numbers rather than by the quality of the relationships. We accept disrespect and abuse as simply a part of human life and know that the good will outweigh the bad.
That isn’t enough for me any more. Life reward action and as my favorite macho hero, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, says, “I aim to misbehave.” I’ve all of a sudden turned into a very uppity broad and I am no longer willing to watch life from the sidelines. I’ve always had a perfectly reasonable excuse for why I am overweight, for why I stay at home like a hermit, and for why I say “no” to life more than I say “yes.” I’ve always maintained – truthfully so – that I love myself as I am. This self is ready to be different and this year is the pivotal time that it will happen. To those who are in my convoy, let me just say, “Get in, sit down, buckle up, hang on, let’s roll.”
I’ve spent a lot of time feeling beaten up by The Universe, just like poor Jacob up there in that picture. I’ve been blessed abundantly and never denied that, but I’ve also had my own share of irritants and challenges and obstacles. Now, as I look back with what I can’t unsee, it’s easy to see that I spent a lot of time creating my own imprisonment and carefully crafting my very effective limitations. A long while back, I wrote an entry that was titled, “The Glass Ceiling: Break It, Don’t Windex It.” Even then, I was only starting to get the gist of where I was headed. Like poor Jacob, I am tired of beating myself up with my own hands. Time to turn that energy outward and get busy living instead of getting busy dying.