Tag Archives: change

Treasure: James Bond, Judi Dench, and Daniel Craig do feminism

I get into this debate a lot. Heck, my first real post here was about feminism. Don’t tell me that there is no longer a need for feminism. Don’t tell me that it’s old news. Don’t tell me that women’s rights aren’t a pressing issue.

Don’t tell me that woman and men are treated as equals on this planet.

We’re not…yet.

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Apologizing and Pleasing

Tonight I am curled up in a chilly Liverpool flat after a long day’s travel to Scotland and back. As I settled down under my covers (1 duvet and 2 sleeping bags–it might be warmer in Liverpool than in Canada, but they don’t know anything here about proper insulation!), my thoughts drifted to the idea of apologizing for one’s self, and how harmful that can be.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to apologize for our behaviour. More often than not we know exactly when we owe an apology, but we just hate to admit that we were wrong. After snapping at our partner for not doing something, or being short with a sibling because we had a long day at work, or forgetting to do something that was important to someone we love. All of these behaviours deserve an apology, if only to show the person we love that we know we’ve unnecessarily hurt their feelings.

I was thinking not about those kinds of apologies, but about really acting in ways that are about apologizing for one’s self. By that I mean, apologizing for how we experience the world, or how we feel, or for what we love, or for what we need. This kind of apology undermines the very core of who we are and reinforces the belief that we are simply not enough. Not good enough.

For example…have you ever found yourself apologizing for needing some time alone? For crying? For wanting a change of scenery? Or what about when you’ve made big plans with someone but find that your needs are changing and you want something different? Or for needing a little extra time to handle a difficult situation? Or for not acting the way someone wanted or expected you to?

Perhaps the most powerfully detrimental way we apologize for ourselves is by saying ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’. Because every time that happens, you’re apologizing for your own needs and choosing to value someone else’s self over your own. You’re choosing to please someone else and to apologize for that part of yourself that is displeasing to the other person.

If you’re too busy apologizing for parts of yourself, or trying to change them to please someone else, then you’re not giving yourself the respect that you, and by ‘you’ I mean all of your self, deserves. You’re reinforcing every thought you’ve ever had about how you’re not as good as someone else, how you need to improve, change, morph into someone you’re not but that someone else might be more pleased by.

I’m inviting you now (as if you need an invitation, but hey, sometimes we all need a gentle nudge) to think about what parts of yourself you’ve been apologizing for, and why…and then to give yourself permission to just stop. Stop apologizing. Stop self-criticizing. Instead…embrace. Explore how you feel and why. Ask yourself who you are trying to please or change for, and why. Re-discover the parts of yourself that are valuable even if they are different to others. Savour your own experiences and adventures, even when they’re not what others expect.

And then…step into those parts of yourself, without apology.

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Introducing: Lessons in Catastrophe

I thought I’d introduce a new section to my little internet home here today. It’s called Lessons in Catastrophe. Sounds dramatic, right?

I’m stretching the meaning of catastrophe a little here, folks, in order to encompass a range of life’s difficult experiences. Artistic license. Sometimes catastrophes hit and they really are catastrophes: major health crises, the loss of a loved one, a fire that burns down your home. Sometimes life’s inevitable bumps hit and they can feel like catastrophes: the ending of a friendship, rejection from a dream job, lost luggage.

But isn’t it a beautiful word? Catastrophe. So much more enigmatic and emotive and dramatic than misstep, mishap, failure, disaster.

My life was hit with a catastrophe last May: over the course of several months (and in some way, years), I had really done in my back without even noticing. And then I noticed, because suddenly I was bent double, unable to straighten up, and in so much pain that I couldn’t even sleep at night. All the heavy duty muscle-relaxants, anti-inflammatories, and painkillers they offered me weren’t really doing a thing.

I had slipped discs, bulging discs, facet hypertrophy (kinda like arthritis in your vertebrae), an annulus tear, spinal stenosis. Oh wait, did I say I had these things? I have these things.

Just a few months before I’d moved into a beautiful little flat (apartment!) with my boyfriend. I was living in England, financially independent, and looking forward to making plans for the future.

My catastrophe meant I couldn’t work. Without working, I couldn’t afford to pay rent, let alone physiotherapy, massage, osteopathy fees. I didn’t really have a choice: within weeks everything I had thought my life would be was gone, all my plans for my first post-universities years were over and by mid-June I was a plane back to Canada.

At first I thought I would recover by September. This was going to be a small bump in the road. After all, I was young, healthy, and was getting great physical therapies. In July I was finally cleared to start doing physical therapy, but I could barely walk a block or two without causing the kind of agony that kept me awake at night.

It was August before I could start doing just little activities, like sitting for a short dinner, or going for a short walk without the delayed onset of pain keeping me awake all night.

When September came round and I wasn’t better, I figured it was ok: I’d stay in Canada through Canadian Thanksgiving, then I’d be fine.

Thanksgiving came and went, and I was still in a lot of pain. Not a chance I could be working full time. Then one October evening I tucked one of my bedsheets in and as soon as I stood up, I realized I’d done something: my pain levels shot up and I was worse than I had been in months. My osteopath eventually helped me recover from that dip, but it was then November. I continued my slow upswing through to December. In December someone incredibly important to me passed away and the associated emotional distress aggravated my back.

Then January came and went, and here I am, 9 months later. Today I was told to expect a minimum 2 year recovery.

That all seems pretty quick in my little patient history there, doesn’t it? Those short paragraphs don’t explain the hours that turned into days that turned into months that I have spent alone, at home, recovering. They don’t detail how many nights I spent in sleepless agony, tired to the point of exhaustion but unable to sleep even a moment because of the stabbing, searing pain running down my right leg. They don’t illuminate what it’s like to miss the boyfriend you left behind in another country, or to see the lives of all your friends and family moving on as they go on new adventures. They don’t show what it’s like to be told that you can’t make plans, not even for months from now, because your body probably won’t be able to handle returning to any kind of normalcy, or that despite your otherwise healthy, youthful body, this pain may well be with you for the rest of your life. I can’t even begin to explain what this has been like.

I am learning a lot, riding out this catastrophe. Lessons and insights and truths that I may never have come across if my whole life hadn’t been ground to a halt because a couple discs in my spine wouldn’t stay where they were meant to be.

So in ‘Lessons in Catastrophe’ I am going to write about what I have learned through this particular life catastrophe. This is as much for me as it is for anyone else: my sanity these days hangs by a silvery, delicate thread. Perhaps by reminding myself of what I am learning, I can weave in the strands of strength that help me continue on in this life that is so different from what I had dreamed.

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Thoughts for Thursdays – Christopher Morely

“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity”
(Christopher Morley)

In all the time alone I’ve had since my life changed entirely back in June, I’ve discovered a whole world of perspectives and ideas that I’ve never really noticed before or paid attention to when they appeared previously. I have been given a whole new set of vocabulary with which to to experience the world. Words which once never meant much to me have started to shape how I am living. Words like authenticity. Wholeheartedness. Healing. Then there are words which have always been on my horizon, but I am understanding their meaning in new ways. Words like compassion. Courage. Communication. Shame. Vulnerability.

Sometimes, because I have started to shift so much, I feel like I am stepping out on a path that looks and feels and sounds very, very different to the paths which my friends are taking. Sometimes this makes me doubt myself: why am I now functioning and experiencing the world differently?

It is in those moments that a quote like Morley’s reminds me of the value of change, the value of stepping outside of someone else’s dogma. I have always had an affinity for this quote, and always for one reason: I see it as reassurance to dream my own dreams, think my own thoughts, walk my own path, and use my own words to frame my life.

Sometimes we all need this reassurance. What about you? What experiences do you have of stepping out on your own terms?

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Last Thursday got a away from me a little bit, and I haven’t caught up with it until today. Please enjoy this Thoughts for Thursday on a Monday anyways!

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Conundrum – How do you make decisions?

How do you make decisions?

Are you a rational? Do you line up pros and cons, give each a relative weight, then add and subtract until you find the answer that ‘makes sense’?

Are you an intuitive? Do you listen to what your gut is telling you, reading signals like excitement, fear, anxiety, butterflies, desire, and then choose the answer that fits best with how you feel?

Do you combine both methods, checking in with your emotions and then running through your intellectual options? Perhaps on any given occasion one part of you speaks more loudly than the other, and that also forms part of your process.

The thing is, I don’t think I trust myself to make good decisions. When I look back over the major decisions that I have made in my life so far, it’s pretty clear to me that, in fact, it wasn’t me who made most of them anyways. I can point to situation after situation where I allowed my decisions to be made for me, and a whole lot of them turned out pretty badly.

Somehow, then, I have taken this to mean that I can’t trust myself to make good decisions, even though most of these terrible ones were based on only one decision: my decision to allow someone else to make the decision for me, and then not to make a change when I realized it was the wrong decision.

My family is a family of rationals. Everything is rationalized, intellectualized, everything is pro and con. There seems to be little room for what your emotion says because, in their eyes, emotion must be subdued by the rational. I have slowly over recent years started to figure out that that equation just doesn’t work for me. Yet those of you who know me well know just how easily and frequently I have deferred my own right to choose to my mother’s ‘rational opinion’.

So how to change, when I have consistently allowed the voices of others to drown out my own? How to change, when my first instinct is to ask everyone else what they think, and find myself swayed utterly and completely by their opinions?

Maybe I just need to get in there and do it. Maybe the only way to get better at decision making is to start letting myself make decisions, myself. To let go of the paralyzing fear of making the wrong decision in favour of realizing that this is all part of the learning process: sure, it might be the wrong decision, but at least it was my decision.

This, then, is part of a bigger issue that I have been starting to tackle, and one that I am discovering is pervasive throughout every aspect of my life: learning to trust in myself. Problem is, I’ve so often let others drown-out my own voice that today I’m not sure what she’s trying to say to me…

What about you?

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I am Woman

Feminism.

Have you ever heard someone say it like it’s a dirty word? Have you ever been called a feminist like it’s some kind of insult?

I am a feminist. I am a feminist because I believe in the intrinsic worth of every single female. I am a feminist because I believe that giving women a voice will take our world into a better place, because women know that we have been raping the earth, that war is damaging and killing is wrong, that mutilation and rape and that silencing our voices means silencing the calls to humanity to stand up, take responsibility, and care for each other. I am a feminist because I believe that women have the power to stand up and change the world for the better, and that by support women to be empowered, and to take up positions of leadership, we are giving humanity a better chance of survival.

Feminism is about equality, about valuing every part of the feminine spirit in the same way that we value the masculine spirit. And all my emotions, from the sweet joy of seeing a child brought into our world to the fierce, nurturing, protective mama-bear spirit that love awakens in me, to the moments of life that break my heart and bring me to my knees, all of these make me whole and allow me to experience the world in a way that is not only feminine but is all my own.

One of my close friends was once talking to me about her job and her colleagues. She explained how recently her male boss had said to her that of the women on his team, he particularly enjoyed working with her and another female  because they didn’t get emotional like the other women, and that they never let their emotions inform their business decisions.

My friend heard praise. I heard prejudice. Her boss was praising her for functioning more ‘like a man’.

Now let me tell you: I believe in emotion. I believe that emotion tells you something about the world, about a situation, about a person. I believe that intellectual experience and emotional experience combined make wisdom. I believe that emotion speaks truth, because you do not think it up, mould it, trim it, or rationalize it. You ride it.

Which is why when I read Benjamin Disraeli’s words “Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth”, it resonated deep inside of my gut.

It took me a long time to realize that I am entitled to everything I feel. That my capacity for emotion makes me a better human being, not a weaker one. I grew up in this Western world where logic and intellectual rigour and analytical thinking are raised up on a pedestal high above the place of emotion. But I know now that when I cry because I’m listening to Somaly Mam speak about her experience as a sex slave, it’s because my soul is aching for her, and because I want a world where children are not sold into slavery, not because I am not strong enough to cage my tears. I know that when my heart wrenches as I listen to a friend describe her struggles with body image, it’s because I’m familiar with this world that teaches us to hate and abuse our bodies to conform to some impossible ‘ideal’ instead of loving and honouring them. These emotions drive me to want the world to be a better place.

And I sure as hell know that my emotions are an invaluable part of my soul. I am better for them.

We are human. We are emotional creatures. And nobody says that better than Eve Ensler, so please listen to her “I am an Emotional Creature”.

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