This morning I sat in the butter-yellow leather chair downstairs with my feet in a tub of hot water and read Penelope Trunk. I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Penelope Trunk (something she said once pissed me off), but today it is all love because this morning, with my feet in hot water, I recognized myself in her writing. And, for the first time, seeing and knowing myself felt good.
At the beginning of the month I felt stuck and frustrated in figuring out how to do and talk about what it is I do for money. I made a list of four websites I was drawn to and why. The first thing I noticed was that all four were from women. And then I noticed what the four women were doing. I saw what they had in common. And from that list I figured out what I want to do in the world — why I’m here, really — and the steps to take to get there.
Here it is. This is my life’s work. I’m working on the 5-second elevator speech version but this is what I have so far.
I am here to speak and write about how women can come together in sacred sisterhood and learn about themselves, create and express who they are, and then change their world by living their passion and bringing wisdom to the people in their lives.
And to do what I am here to do, first I had to figure out what it is to be a woman.
This is what I know so far.
1. Know yourself. Be yourself.
I know, right? This goes without saying?
I can’t tell you how hard this has been for me. I am a Pleaser. A Chameleon. I think many women learn to cope and feel safe by figuring out what the people around them want and then being that. That is what I did. It takes an enormous amount of energy.
And you know what? It turns people off.
My soulmate used to say, “I don’t know you.” and I would think, That’s weird, we talk all the time, and I am right here, and oh, maybe he just means we are still in that getting-to-know-you phase, but you know what? I know now that what he meant was You are hiding. I can’t see you. You are being Someone, not You. Who are You?
Wow, that sucks.[a woman, no longer on my client list, send me an email the other day because I used the word “sucks” in a promotional email to past clients and she said it was not professional. She is right, but sometimes I like the word and I am going to use it. Because doing things just to please other people and avoid conflict sucks more.]
How do you know yourself? How do you BE yourself?
I can tell you what I am doing to know and be myself. That’s the next part of how to be a woman.
2. Create + express. Authentically.
I adore Patti Digh. We are Facebook friends. I own one of her books. I love how kind she is, how generous, how global and embracing and welcoming she is, and how fun. I believe that just how she comes across in her Facebook status updates is how she is when you are having a cup of tea with her. Patti is on my list of girl crushes.
I also have a girl crush on the Communicatrix. I saw a photo of her sculpted shaved head the other day and thought, If only I had the courage. I imagine her chomping a cigar and snapping her braces (the suspenders kind, not the metal-mouth kind) and barking out editorial deadlines at scuttling lackeys. I sure hope she has scuttling lackeys.
Look! These women write. Express. And I believe they are authentic. Point taken.
Then there is today’s crush-of-the-moment, Penelope. You know where she had me this morning? When she compared herself to the Pioneer Woman. Lightbulb. I saw myself in that comparison. Everyone loves the Pioneer Woman. Who wouldn’t? She is perky and nice and writes about pies and her man is a horse-riding chap-wearing hunk and all their kids have these amazing blue eyes and the skies go on forever where they live.
I am not that likable.
I am dark. I am needy. I have doubts. I write about painful moments because that’s how I process them. I see not only what is in the glass, but I also think about what was once in the glass, what might be in the glass (like the dead bug floating in the water), the detergent used to wash the glass, all the times I ever held the glass, the person who gave me the glass, and what it might feel like if I used the glass to toss back a shot of ouzo and then hurled it into the fireplace without worrying about who was going to clean up all that broken glass.
I hid my expression for years. Don’t be that woman. We women need to create. We need to express all the stuff that lives in our souls. Whatever it looks like.
3. Invite spirit.
What does this mean to you?
Once I was really woo-woo. Then I met soulmate and he had nothing good to say about woo-woo. I was already having serious doubts about woo-woo but he clinched it for me, and my Chameleon self peeled the woo-woo cape right off and burned it. Now I miss thinking that everything happens for a reason and that there really is magic.
I mean, I still think all that but the tiny sliver of disbelief has festered and there is a huge voice inside me yelling PROVE IT!
So I take my moments of Spirit as I can.
This has helped me do better work. I am more open. More curious. I use more of my superpowers — the kind we all have, of listening in to our bodies and the wisdom the rests in our physical being.
We women are the creators and holders of the sacred. I don’t think this means we should all become nuns or that we should spend our Saturday nights holding candles and chanting in long processions or drumming to the ancients or dancing our ecstasy. Or maybe it means we should do all those things. Within each woman lives the seed of the sacred — it is a woman’s job to seek out her unique seed and grow it.
4. Love with all of you.
This is really a corollary to Know Yourself + Be Yourself. If you don’t really know who you are, then you can only love with the part of you that you do know. You know?
I am having conflict with soulmate today. I hate conflict and in the past would do all sorts of things to avoid it. I feel really awful when we have conflict. I was so surprised when soulmate once told me (he is a therapist among other polymath adventures; he should know) that ALL relationships have conflict. What? There is no Happily Ever After = No Yelling?
So I was sitting downstairs this morning with my feet in hot water while soulmate is behind a closed door with his laptop and Miss Persnickety Kitty, who is his comfort and companion when we have conflict. I imagined I could feel soulmate’s anger wafting down to me in waves. I imagined what I would do if he came downstairs and walked past my butter yellow chair. Should I smile? Look at him? Not look at him?
I saw this picture in my head of a woman, the matriarch of a large family of men. She sat placidly while the men stomped around being manly and doing Man Things, thrusting themselves out into the world and sometimes feeling thwarted, and when that happened they’d stomp around and be angry and yell a little. And the woman just sat, with all these men milling around her, and she loved each of them and was big enough inside to sit with the space for her men to be men.
I only have one man to love. I can do that, right? Be big enough to make space for his emotions? Go deep enough to trust that when he’s done stomping around and feeling thwarted that he’ll remember I am here and that I know he is this amazing brilliant man?
That’s what love with all of you is. That’s what we women do. When we love with all of us, we are an unstoppable force.
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