On Womanhood…

What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century?

Some key themes emerge, including:

  • Independence
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Strength
  • Professional advancement
  • Education
  • Empowerment
  • Girl-power

Wonderful. What about key themes from previous times that continue to play an active role in the definition of womanhood today?

  • Home making
  • Compassion
  • Companionship
  • Motherhood
  • Spiritual devotion

Women are, as nature would have it, highly complex and adaptable beings. They are capable of absolutely anything. Yet, even in this generation that prides itself for its revolutionary admiration of women, society is severely lacking in its approach.

Every woman I’ve spoken to has a story to tell about exclusion, prejudice, judgement, stereotyping, abuse and marginalization. Yes, some of these situations are imposed by men, but this is no longer the global sentiment. More often than not, stories of microaggression are pointing to… other women.

You may have read my previous post On Feminism that addressed this matter. I feel compelled to write about this again after a small incident that occurred yesterday at my local bulk grocery store.

I was at the cash register with my husband, and I walked over to the end of the register to grab our cart of groceries as my husband paid. The cart was full of family oriented products: meat, vegetables, paper towels, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. The cashier, a woman, pushed the cart towards me with a smirk on her face, then dished out this line: “Oh! Let me just slowly move away from the cash register so that IIIII don’t have to PAY!”

She laughed. At first, I wasn’t really paying attention and just smiled back at her. Then I looked at my husband’s face, and quickly registered what this woman had said to me. He bit his tongue and I bit mine. We don’t owe anyone an explanation about how we run our finances, and we don’t indulge in conflict as we run our errands.

We both walked away from that exchange feeling appalled. He was taken aback, and I was angry. “What is it with other women?” I asked him, “Why do they have to be so cruel? What’s it to her who pays for the groceries? Do her parents split the bill on everything? Do people not understand what family is anymore?”

He pointed out that people who pick faults in strangers typically have an inferiority complex. Fair enough. But that doesn’t excuse the behaviour.

I hear women, every day, insisting that women have the right to freedom. They insist that women have earned the freedom of profession, of faith, of association, of expression, of thought, of choice, and of opinion. Right? Yet, I also see women, every day, judging other women and attempting, typically through microaggressions, to suppress those freedoms.

Feminism is not about preventing men from designing our lives for us. It is about taking ownership of our own lives, and preventing anyone else from designing them for us. Letting other women coerce us into particular trends of behaviour and lifestyle is not feminist.

Moreover, men cannot be left entirely out of the picture, and leaving them out is not feminist either. We have to coexist with them in this world, and barring them from playing any role in our lives is counter productive. A relationship is a give and take, and marriage is a partnership. Anyone who says otherwise is either single or in a failing relationship. No marriage/relationship can succeed between two people who can’t fight the fight together. A family that splits its finances splits its mission, vision, and values. Any professional woman who understands the tenets of successful business knows that such a model would be unviable.

To the cashier, the intricate details of my family life are invisible. All she sees is a handsome man extending a hand to pay for a bill. She doesn’t see how hard he works. She doesn’t see how he pours his sweat, tears, and blood into the soil of our lives, for us to prosper. She also doesn’t see me running from morning to evening between my office and home, working late at my kitchen table after the homemade dinner I whipped up.

Would it be worth explaining it to her? Would it be helpful if she knew that my husband and I are strategic, that every dollar is budgeted, that we don’t walk through life letting things happen to us, and that his paying for the groceries is an intentionally determined process we designed together?

Perhaps. But the real question is, why do women have to explain themselves to other women in the first place?

In just the last week, other women have demanded an explanation from me for:

  • Why I cook so often, “since I work,” as though work and feeding my family are mutually exclusive responsibilities.
  • Why I haven’t had children yet, followed by a lecture about how my time is running out.
  • Why I got married, with the insistence that my marriage is unlikely to succeed because “most marriages fail” (for the record, the divorce rate is raised disproportionately by people who have repetitive divorces).
  • Why I still wear my engagement ring post-wedding, and why I’d even let my husband spend money on a ring despite this being an “archaic tradition”.
  • Why I haven’t hired a housekeeper. Another woman smugly retorted to this conversation with her opinion that women who hire housekeepers are failing women.
  • Why I would spend any money on a wedding.
  • Why I work in my field when I could be making more money in another.
  • Why I’m eating that.

You get the picture.

Women never give women a break and, instead of drawing a line and saying NO when other women take a stab at them, they tend to turn around and indulge in the same behaviours.

Feminism is not only about saying NO to men, it is also about saying NO to other womenNo, I will not allow you to tell me who I should be. No, I won’t allow you to define types of women and categorize me accordingly. No, I will not answer to you, I will not explain myself to you, I am not accountable to you.

Every one of us plays a fundamental role in protecting the freedoms of fellow women. It is our duty, our sisterhood, to raise each other, and to strengthen each other against forces that seek to break our spirit, whether the source of the offence is a man or another woman.

So, what will you do today to make the world a little bit safer for women? I’ve written this post. The cashier who took a stab at me will probably never read it, but so many others will, and maybe it will prepare them for a better response when they, or someone else, faces unnecessary prejudice. This time, my response was silence… next time, it certainly will be louder.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Good & Evil…

Image property of Hack: Dream Life [Marian D.] ©2018. All rights reserved.

Current Fundraiser: to help Angelina: https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

During my university years, I faced the greatest warriors against my faith. I met people who fervently challenged everything I believed in. Their appearances in my life became so frequent that they could not be ignored. I found myself studying my religion, and every other religion I could think of, more than ever before, but this was not how I found the answers to every question I was being asked. I found the answer simply by asking to “find the words I need, when I need them.” Yes. It really is that simple.

And so it has been that way ever since, and I have never been left searching for words.

One day, an acquaintance of mine asked me an interesting question. “How can I walk into a Church if I feel unworthy of it?” I asked her what she meant. “I’m not that good of a person,” she said, “I don’t belong in Church. I wouldn’t be surprised if, the moment I stepped inside, I was engulfed in flames. I’m really not a good person. I mean I’m good-ish. But not really.”

The answer to her conundrum was so simple.

“It is because you believe you are unworthy that you are most welcome. After all, you have mastered a key lesson without even opening the Book: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).”

I remembered this brief moment last night. My husband and I were watching the second season of The Good Place. I won’t risk any spoilers here, but the basic premise is the question of how human beings define “good” and “bad.” Who is worthy? Who shall pass to The Good Place and who is destined for The Bad Place? Great comedies make us laugh even when discussing the most heart-wrenching and painful human questions of all. What is the answer?

There is very little that I can say on the matter. I am not a “spiritual teacher”… nobody is. We are all learners in this world. But I do know one thing. We are all loved by our creator, and this creator is rooting for us. We have to do our best, and do it with humility.

But if we cannot be sure of what’s to come, why should we try to be good at all?

The answer is simple, yet again. We may not know what this life is all about. We may not know where we come from or where we’re going. We may not know if God is waiting on the other side. But we all know one truth without a doubt: this life is hard.

George Eliot therefore answered the question for us: “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?”

While we are here on this Earth, we have one of two choices to make: to act with kindness and grace, knowing that it may sometimes hurt us, or to act with greed and cruelty, knowing that it will absolutely hurt us all.

The real question is: “What do we owe to each other?”

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Hosting…

To help Angelina (see details at end of post): https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

October is nearly upon us… I don’t know about you, but for me, October tends to be the second busiest month of the year (after December), and it is quite possibly my favourite month of the year. Between apple picking, pumpkin picking, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, the weeks fly by so quickly, we can’t believe summer morphed into frost while we were busy dancing.

October signifies parties to me. Lots and lots of parties. And so this brings up the question of hosting and gathering people together under one roof, typically my roof, to share a good time.

People often ask me: “how do you have the time?” or “how can you make the annual commitment?”

They ask: “why do you invite so and so? We never see them except here!”

My perspective on hosting has been fairly consistent over the years. My philosophy is simple: the door is open and all are welcome.

However, this year, something is a little different. For the first time, I have noticed things that I turned a blind eye to before. The people who I shared the last 5 Thanksgivings with consist of two groups: one that I see regularly, because they call, and another that I only see at Thanksgiving. It never mattered to me before. All were welcome anyway.

What’s different this year?

Whenever people asked me why I insist on inviting strangers and distant acquaintances who never invite me back, I quoted Jesus. After all, He had the right answer: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.”

My argument was that what I was doing was not nearly enough. I am not inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, or the blind… I am inviting acquaintances who never repay me. I do not expect anything in return. Maybe that can bridge the gap between what I do and what God expects of me.

That usually sufficiently answered the question, at least for me.

Until this year. This year, I am being extremely picky with my guest list. What happened?

After some soul searching, I’ve finally come to the answer: I am hurt. How many years have I spent making room in my heart, in my home, and in my life for people who never returned the favour? How many years have I been deeply hurt and shoved the frustration under a rug in an effort to follow in the footsteps of the Greatest Love of all? What has come of it? Of course, this is a very human question. It’s a situation that Jesus would never be confronted with because He wouldn’t be hurt at all. You cannot hurt if you have no expectations. But I am only human.

I have been married nearly a year. Half of the people I celebrated Thanksgiving with for the past 5, some even 10 years, didn’t come by once to visit me to check if I was doing alright, if I needed any help, or to congratulate me. It was a difficult year. None of them picked up the phone. I was lucky if I got a text message. And so, I am hurt.

“What would Jesus do?”

Well… my first instinct is that He would invite everyone anyway. He would forgive and keep the door open. But, something is wrong with that picture. Jesus said: “Do not invite your friends” and urged us to, instead, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

Jesus would wrap up the party and open an evening soup kitchen. He would serve the most delicious turkey and wine. He would ask His friends to show up to help, and to partake in the feast. He would tell me to stop wasting my efforts on the absent and unavailable, and use the love in my heart to help somebody instead.

What can I do to get a little closer to that goal?

This year, my house will be a little quieter than usual. If I haven’t seen someone in a year, they will not be invited. This is not to be spiteful, nor is it because I’m angry, but rather because I would prefer to make a donation. God teaches us to be kind and loving, but He also reminds us every day that we are also worthy of love. This is not the equivalent of opening my doors to the homeless, I know… but one step at a time.

This year, I will ask my guests to help me raise some money for Angelina, a beautiful young girl who is fighting Lyme disease (with her father). She needs our help. My guests will be asked to place donations instead of bringing a dish to the party. At the time of this writing, Angelina is $4000 CAD short of her goal. If you would like to help me help her, you can find her campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

A happy October awaits, full of light and love for you all.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Flying Solo…

Photo republished courtesy of Dean Petersen ©2018 all rights reserved. Check out his work at: @deanventures

Picture this:

You have a brilliant idea! You’re inspired to do something tangible to bring it to life. You excitedly call someone to bounce the idea, hoping for some cheerleading. They offer you a few “mhm” and “yeah” as you explain what you are setting out to do. You finish speaking and eagerly wait for the response. When it comes, it sounds something like:

“I mean, sure, everyone could do that if they could afford risking the money.”

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

“Why do you want to do that? You have it better than all of us! Just be grateful.”

“Well. Sounds interesting. Hopefully you’ll actually stick to it.”

“You don’t need more work!”

“That’s a great idea! I’m going to do it too. No harm in a little competition between friends, right?” Smirk.

“How are you always in dream land? I’m too busy keeping my feet on the ground.”

“Yeah, yeah. You and your big ideas. You’re always lucky, so I don’t need to wish you good luck.”

Sound familiar?

Each of us bears his/her own collection of dismissive, negative, and discouraging statements from friends and family. Over time, we carry more and more of them, and they become grey clouds hanging over our future adventures. Everything from taking a new job to changing up our nutritional menu is contested by people around us. Now, don’t go trying something really crazy, like moving across the world or going back to school to become a doctor.

Eventually, we start to doubt what it is we really want, and what we can really achieve. Whose voice is in your head telling you that “it can’t be done”? 9 times out of 10, it’s somebody else’s.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve learned something extremely valuable which I only put into effect recently. When trying to achieve a goal, there is nothing more powerful than keeping it secret. Being very selective about who we divulge personal information to is fundamental to our success, because we are easily manipulated creatures. No matter your confidence or faith in your idea, it requires protecting while it’s still a budding thought so that you can focus all your efforts on bringing it to life, without risking being swayed by others.

People can be risk averse self-doubters. Often, when standing in front of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, I’ve overheard tourists say things like “it’s impossible!” Even while cranking their necks back 90 degrees to look at the peak of the tallest building in the world, they express disbelief. If people have this reaction to what is already there and has already been achieved, why entrust your dreams to them?

People will tell you to fight for your dreams and be deterred by no-one. They will throw cliche quotes at you like a hail storm. That is, until you have an idea. It is only after the idea is born that the same people who once wrote you soliloquies about reaching for the moon suddenly become doubters.

When you set your mind to something, wisely and carefully select who you let in. If you cannot think of someone who has already proven unfailing confidence and support, someone whose criticism only serves the purpose of elevating, rather than destroying, your ideas – fly solo.

There will come a time when the idea has manifested powerfully enough that you can share it without leaving it vulnerable in destructive hands. Even then, be on guard. Remember that Burj Khalifa has an elevator that swiftly and smoothly moves up 148 floors in 60 seconds without a single hiccup, and that people make it all the way to the top and still don’t have the capacity to believe that it can be real.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Resolving Pain…

My readers know that I am an advocate for making the most of the present moment. I am always writing about the importance of intention and mindfulness when making decisions about how we live, think, speak, and feel. For the most part, I try to live my own life in this way, constantly checking myself in to the present.

The truth is, however, that fully immersing oneself in the present moment does not mean that the past can remain ignored. We are all products of our personal past, and of our ancestral past. Our histories are boundless and they extend well beyond our own life experience. Dissociating from our past can be incredibly dangerous because, one way or another, the pain bubbles back up.

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On Circles…

Nothing in life terrifies me as much as circles. It’s a privileged thing to say, given that much of the world lives in close-range danger. It’s funny, too, given that I am the product of two genocides… one would think that a circle is the safest place to be for someone like me.

Throughout my childhood, every year carried the possibility of absolute change. We could pack up our bags and go at any moment. Amidst this lack of stability and consistency, I would look at my friends and wish for the opportunity to find a circle: somewhere that I would belong, where I could trust that things won’t change so fast.

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On Diplomacy…

Diplomacy may be defined as the skillful art of approaching people with tact and sensitivity in order to improve mutual understanding and efficiency. No… it isn’t just for politicians.

In order to cultivate luck in our lives, we must approach others with an open mind and make sure our first instinct is one of compassion and empathy. Why? Because it is quite unlucky to live one’s life feeling misunderstood, and our mission should be to alleviate this. George Eliot, a female writer who use a male pen name in order to be heard, wrote: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

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