Last year I spent most of five months travelling through the US, Canada and Europe talking about my book, ZEN UNDER FIRE. At almost every book talk I gave, someone would ask me, ‘Weren’t you afraid to be in Afghanistan, such a dangerous country for women?’
My standard answer was that all countries are dangerous for women.
In Afghanistan I helped document more than 400 case reports of violence against women. They made me sad, mad and sometimes scared. But I also saw that they were not so different from the cases of violence against women I’ve documented or read in New Zealand, or in the US, or Canada, or Australia.
Why make the point about his happening everywhere? Why not just talk about violence against women in Afghanistan?
Because I wanted to own it.
I wanted to avoid the human tendency to want to believe the really ugly shit belongs to some place and someone else. I was saying, ‘This doesn’t only happen over there, it happens here too. It doesn’t only happen to someone else. It happens to us too.’
As my book tour continued, stories kept appearing across the US and Canada. Stories of girls who had been raped, blamed, shamed and shunned. Stories of boys who believed they had done nothing wrong. Stories of entire towns that stood in support of their ‘decent boys’ who had just made a stupid mistake. Stories that were as painful, to me, as anything I’d seen in Afghanistan.
Then I returned to New Zealand to more stories of girls and women being shamed and blamed for being raped. Stories of boys boasting on Facebook about the girls they had raped, and those girls being asked by police officers what they had been wearing at the time, or whether they had been drinking.
At a more subtle level, I saw women being judged for their dress sense, their looks, their figure, who they had or hadn’t slept with. I saw mothers judged for their choices to work, or not to work. When’s the last time any of us heard a man asked why he bothered having children if he was just going to keep on working?
Over and over again I saw that I was living in a world that was often hostile to women.
I asked myself: Where does this come from? How is it allowed to carry on? What can I do about it? click here
I am soon to turn 42.
I’ve been following the backlash to the recent Esquire piece In Praise of 42 Year Old Women, which is pissing off the very women it wants to celebrate .
In 1999 Esquire came out with In Praise of 27 Year Old Women, which didn’t seem to arouse so much ire. I remember a friend of mine – brilliant and culture-savvy – mentioning the piece over the phone with a pleased expression in her voice. She had just turned 27, and as we began to stare down 30 I think we might have been looking for some kind of reassurance that the universe as we knew it wasn’t about to suddenly end.
But somewhere between 27 and 42 you stop looking for that kind of reassurance.
You have a level of self-knowledge that wasn’t possible in your twenties, and along with self-discovery comes greater self-esteem.
A marker of self-esteem, as Gloria Steinem notes in her book REVOLUTION FROM WITHIN, is learning to see yourself from the inside-out instead of filtered through the perspective of a hot-or-not culture. It’s the difference between wanting to be wanted, and knowing what you want (and feeling comfortable in your right to go and get it).
It’s the difference between perceiving power as sourced outside of yourself – which primes you to seek external validation – and trusting your natural, inner authority. click here
“I suppose some of my lyrics owe a debt to those naughty books.” – Cole Porter
My son loves Tintin. He can’t get enough of Tintin. He’s been working his way through all the Tintin books, reading them as fast as I can buy them (I told my boys a long time ago that they could have any book they wanted, as many books as they wanted).
“Tintin is kind of my role model,” he told me.
A friend of mine happened to be in the house during the boys’ daily reading time, and she wondered aloud if my intellectually gifted child shouldn’t be reading “something more challenging than those Tintin books. They’re, like, comic books –“
“Graphic novels,” I said.
“ – whatever. Shouldn’t he be reading real books? I bet he could handle To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Look,” I said, opening up a box and lifting out the contents, “I got him a Tintin action figure.”
(This same friend would later see me holding the toy figure of a character from Game of Thrones, and ask, “Is that also for your kid?” “Uh, no,” I would admit. “It’s for my desk.”)
I’m perfectly confident that my son can handle ‘real’ books, and that he will come to Mockingbird in his own sweet time – probably for a school assignment – and enjoy it as much as I did (and he and I can then discuss the problematic ‘white redeemer’ trope). And I can’t deny that, hell, I would love to see him enthusiastically waving around a copy of The Stranger or Crime and Punishment, mostly so I could brag about it on Twitter.
But the soul wants what it wants. click here
“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”
― Augusten Burroughs
“I am not an angel,” I asserted; “and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.”
― Charlotte Brontë, JANE EYRE
“This thing about you that you think is your flaw – it’s the reason I’m falling in love with you.”
― Colleen Hoover, SLAMMED
I’ve always been struck by the phrase ‘to find your voice’, as if it’s waiting for you behind the refrigerator or between the couch cushions.
According to psychologist Carol Gilligan, there’s some truth to it. Boys and girls bury their real voice in a personal underground as they learn to adapt and survive in a culture that praises certain behaviors and disdains others.
As kids, we are powerless, and so we construct the False Self, the social mask, that wins us the love – or at least the attention – we desperately need.
One of life’s ironies is that when we’ve pretty much perfected the mask, it becomes just as necessary to our wellbeing not to maintain it, but to smash it.
We need genuine and authentic connection with others. We need to see and be seen.
It’s how we express ourselves – our voice, our style, our creativity – that reveals our inner lives and shows us to others; that makes deep connection possible.
Or not. click here
“Power is a kind of love, and love is a kind of power.” — Harriet Rubin
1. The phrase ‘raw feminine power’ surfaced in my thoughts today. I like it, and not just because it makes me think, for whatever reason, of rock sugar crystals, or raw diamonds (responsibly sourced, of course).
2. I’ve been thinking about power in an off-and-on kind of way ever since my therapist told me several years ago that I have an “ambivalent relationship” with power: I was fascinated by it even as I shied away from “claiming” my own. I thought she was making a particular observation about me – what I didn’t realize is how that same statement could be true, in a sweeping generalization kind of way, about women in general. (Gloria Feldt writes deeply about this in her great book NO EXCUSES: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power and teaches the 9 “power tools” in her course on women’s leadership which you can find here. I took the course and can vouch that it is awesome.)
3. I once tweeted a link to a blog post of mine called something like how to be a powerful woman. It got hardly any hits. I tried again, replacing ‘powerful woman’ with ‘female badass’ and the hits went through the roof. (This was, keep in mind, before the word ‘badass’ became so horribly overused.)
As Gloria Feldt discusses in her book, many women don’t like the word power. Feel uncomfortable around it. And yet: we want autonomy, we want to create impact, we want to change the world, we want to self-actualize.
We want to be badasses.
How can any of that happen if we don’t have the power?
And how can we have power if we don’t name it and claim it? click here
“Amid the chaos of that day, when all I could hear was the thunder of gunshots, and all I could smell was the violence in the air, I look back and am amazed that my thoughts were so clear and true, that three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record: you’re so cool, you’re so cool, you’re so cool.”
— movie quote from TRUE ROMANCE (Quentin Tarantino)
The first time I ever went to a black-tie event in LA, I was blown away by how beautiful the women were.
There was so much female beauty, it started to blur together. That was the second thing I noticed: the women kind of looked alike (at least to a visitor from the Bay Area, where the glam factor is not so prominent and plastic surgery not quite so de rigueur). It was as if they were all vaguely related.
In that sea of snug designer dresses and perfect cleavage, one woman stood out. Bobbed black hair, a long skirt, boots, turquoise jewelry. She made it all work in a way that would be difficult to copy – it wasn’t a look lifted from a magazine or taken off a storefront mannequin or dictated by a stylist. It was uniquely her, matched to her body type and telling a story of personality unlike anything else in that room.
It was, I realize now, my first real lesson in the art of differentiation: how to set yourself apart, how to get noticed in the crowd (and the crowded marketplace).
You can fit yourself into the same category as everyone else.
Or you can strike out in a direction based on your own instincts, knowledge and self-knowledge – and how you choose to apply that knowledge.
This is otherwise known as your voice. Your creative DNA. Your artistic signature.
Your personal style. click here
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
― Joseph Campbell
You have an inner source code – a soulcode — that holds the secret to where you belong in the world.
You unlock that secret slowly, over years, on a passion quest.
The quest is necessary because it makes you into what you need to be.
Your place of belonging, your golden niche, is defined by your ruling passion: the thing you do in the way that only you can do it, that puts you in flow, evoking your highest and most creative self in service to something larger than yourself.
A ruling passion is twofold: your purpose, and the method by which that purpose is delivered into the world.
Your purpose is timeless and unchanging.
The way you choose to express that purpose depends on your time and place, and it evolves as you evolve (or transforms into a different expression altogether).
Your purpose is often connected to an inner wound of some kind. Those places of hurt and shame can be valuable clues to who you are and what you’re meant to do. click here
“Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.”
— Anais Nin
For so long, creative achievement – to make something out of nothing, to shape meaning out of raw experience, to impose your soulprint on the world — was the province of men.
‘Woman artist’ was an oxymoron: such a person was not a real artist (a lady artist, a dilettante) or not a real woman. To be a creator is to be the one who looks and invents instead of being looked at or invented, who chooses instead of being chosen.
A female creator is by definition a rebel, and a rebel is a dangerous woman.
She’s dangerous because her full-blooded, authentic spirit and its insistence on expressing itself through her chosen medium cuts against what it means to be traditionally feminine. To be feminine, as our culture would have it, is to be quiet, inoffensive, self-sacrificing, restrained, pretty, pleasing and nice.
It is to discount your inner truth when it threatens to be even remotely disruptive, as truth tends to be; it is to listen, nod and smile; it is to be weaker and lesser; it is to strive for a level of perfection that isn’t so perfect it might intimidate other people, especially men; it is to split off the stormy emotions and tamp them down deep where they can’t hurt anybody – except maybe yourself. click here
and live on the edges
on all the edges there are.
— Margaret Atwood
You would not have wanted to mess with Mother Teresa. She was tough. She meant it. Christopher Hitchens was not fond of her. Instead of a sweet, saintly, little old lady – the popular depiction – evidence suggests that she was a narcissist (albeit a productive narcissist, as Michael Maccoby terms it).
Her will was powerful, and she got shit done.
Mother Teresa, I imagine, had incredibly strong boundaries. She knew what served her purpose, and she could reject or let go of everything else.
She knew her deep Yes, and when to say No to protect it.
Because Mother Teresa knew where her edges were, she could go right up to them. She always knew when to draw back. She gave her love, her time, and her energy without giving away herself. She knew that you can’t give what you don’t have, so it was important to keep the reserve of her self filled up.
Structure gives shape to things. Structure creates a sense of identity. Mother Teresa knew who she was, and because of that self-knowledge she knew how to plug into the world: how to carry out the work of her soul. click here
To speak of wilderness is to speak of
wholeness. Human beings came out of that
— Gary Snyder
Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense any more.
Not long ago somebody left chocolate bars outside my front door.
“Somebody left chocolate bars outside your front door,” said the manny. “Do you know anything about this?”
He showed me a red drawstring pouch. It held a Crunchie, a Maltesers, and four or five Flakes.
I said, “Those are my exact specific favorites.”
I grew up in Canada, where you can get them at any convenience store. In the US, you have to make a little more effort. I will drive out of my way to a gas station in Beverly Hills for its rows on rows of imported candy, where I will buy my fix and leave without remembering to actually put gas in the car.
(When I do remember to put gas in the car, I then have to remember to take my Starbucks or my wallet off the roof of the car, which is where I tend to put things while I’m fueling up, before driving away.)
No one in my house seemed to know about the bars or how they got there. Everybody agreed it was a sweet, thoughtful gesture, and then reminded each other to lock all doors and windows in case I had a stalker. click here