My dear friend Iwona writes to remind me, retirement is a misnomer. The real word to describe this expansive and expanding space in my life is ‘rejuvenation’.
I like it. The Wild Woman Within likes it too. Especially as it’s spelt in its phoentics Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n — In brief, to make someone or something more vital.
Iwona’s reminder was timely. I was taking myself way too seriously. Telling myself this ‘job’ I do during the day is Über important and all that jazz. In my estimation of its importance I was letting the frustrations and weight of leadership eat away at my peace of mind.
I have been blessed. For the past almost 15 years, I have been engaged in work that fulfills on my need to feel like I make a difference in the world. It’s work that is vital and yes, important. But it is not the all of my being present and purpose-driven in this world. Beyond creating better for those experiencing homelessness and poverty, is my soul-inspired intention to ‘create a world where all people are free to dance in the light of grace, joy and love.’
A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter wrote a powerful poem to her maternal ancestors. My mother’s mothers.
In it she wrote,
There is no record of my great-great-grandmothers.
But like gold threads winding their way through silk
their secrets are embroidered below the surface of my skin.
Molecular chains dancing around each other.
Woven into the fabric of my being.
They call out to me
in the tongues of their mothers.
I can hear them in the stillness of mourning.
“They took our names.
But they could not take everything
We cannot be erased so easily.”
She was writing of “those Dravidian girls” of India who form our maternal bloodline. Those young, teenage girls of darkened skin and darker eyes, who long ago were given to white men to serve as slaves, as consorts, and in some cases, wives.
They were seldom accepted, those Dravidian girls who became wives to men whose skin was paler than theirs. Over the decades, with time and thinning out of DNA strands, many of their descendants’ skin took on the paler hues of their paternal ancestors. With time, they became more acceptable, more desireable. More white.
I remember my cousins in Paris often bemoaning the fact their skin was so much darker than mine. That I was ‘the lucky one’. No one mistook me for some foreign chick looking to meet some fair-haired boy to gain acceptance into ‘normal society’.
I remember my brother being stripped searched at an airport because he appeared to the customs officials as a Middle Eastern man at a time when terrorism was just taking flight and a jetliner had been blown up in an African desert and men of Middle Eastern looks were deemed suspicious.
And I remember wondering why we spend so much time defining people by the colour of their skin. Why we couldn’t just see into everyone’s eyes and recognize their human magnificence, their beauty, their soulful essence?
It is those Dravidian girls who form my consciousness today. Those memories of conversations with my cousins where we compared skin colour and envied another’s fairness because it made the world feel more fair, more easy.
We live in a world of colour. Of hues and tones and vibrancy. A world of contradictions. A world of ineffable sadness and horrific happenings that we, the humans of this world, enact on one another in the name of our right to have it all because our god is greater or our skin colour is deemed better than another’s by some inexplicable measuring stick driven into the sands of time.
We live in a world of beauty. A world of possibilities that defy the imagination. Of beauty that rises with every sun and sets upon moonlit nights that take the breath away.
We live in a world of colour.
I want to create Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n In my world where every colour is vital, where every colour is celebrated and needed to create this magnificent, stunningly beautiful tapestry of life where we do not compare our skintones nor our assets. We only compare the beauty and vitality we experience every day.
The Wild Woman Within is stirring. I am heeding her call and the call of my ancestors who could not be easily erased. I am painting my world in the many colours of the rainbow. I am entering Rēˌjo͞ovəˈnāSH(ə)n and becoming more vital in all my ways and all the colours I paint my world.