When the ship is going in the wrong direction, you can’t change course without making waves.
You gotta rock the boat to stay off the rocks. Especially if those rocks loom closer and closer.
Holding steady when you’re sailing towards the rocks is not a good plan. You gotta rock the boat to stay off the rocks. You gotta change course.
July Woman is a reminder making waves is not about ‘playing safe’. It’s about creating a safer course for all humanity to find calm waters and safe harbor in all kinds of weather.
She’s the Warrioresses cry to stand up, be heard and to let your courage draw you out of fear. Fear will only drown you in its insistence that rocking the boat will cause you to fall overboard. Courage gives you the confidence to know that falling overboard isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Drowning in apathy, ennui, despair and desperation is.
There was a time when the question, “Who do you think you are?” felt scary. Like I was somehow failing a life test that I didn’t even know I was taking. In those days, I felt I had to behave the way others expected if I was to be accepted into ‘the club’ of incomprehensible rules that were often unwritten but seemed to be somehow intuited by everyone else but me.
Life. Time. Falls. Summits. Fogs and frostbite. Found confidence. Lost fears. Attitude shifts. Perspective gained… Whatever the source, I have stepped out from the shadows of believing other people’s opinions of me matter most.
It was deadly. That worrying about what other people thought of what I was doing, the choices I made, the directions I took. It caused me pain. Confusion. Angst. Dissatisfaction. Uncertainty. Self-doubt.
Now I know the opinion that matters most to me is mine. Just as your opinion of yourself and what you’re doing matters most to you.
I’ve always kind of had a sense that this was important. But conditioning, environment, social constructs play a role in life.
For me, that role was to appear as a people pleaser on the outside all the while feeling defiant and angry on the inside.
Which left me constantly unsettled. And lying. To myself and to others.
A simple example… When asked, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” I’d often say, “I’m easy. I don’t care.”
I didn’t respond that way because I didn’t have a preference. It was because I was too afraid if I said what I preferred or wanted, I’d get shot down or someone would try to change my mind and the angst of what I perceived as displeasing someone by not changing my mind to suit theirs was debilitating.
The lie was in my silence and my non-committal attitude that constantly grated against my desire to be strong and truthful.
I can remember when my liberation from lies and acquiescence for the sake of ‘keeping the peace’ really took form.
It was in a therapy session in my early thirties. To illuminate just how debilitating and dishonest my need to please was, my therapist posed a hypothetical.
“It’s a hot summer’s day,” he said. “You want an ice cream. What flavor do you choose?”
I didn’t have to think about it long. “A lemon gelato.”
“I think you should get a chocolate one. It’s my favourite,” he responded.
“But, I really like lemon and it’s so refreshing.”
“Maybe. But chocolate is so yummy. Don’t tell me you don’t like chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate.”
I hesitated. I wasn’t all that fond of chocolate ice cream but it seemed easier to agree. “Sure I do.”
“Then why not have a chocolate one!”
I sighed. “But ice cream is so full of calories and gelato isn’t as bad.”
He laughed. “But it’s hot out and you deserve a treat, don’t you?”
And on and on it went. My justifying my choice. Him challenging me.
Finally, as I launched into another justification for my choice, he stopped me and said. “Do you see what’s going on here Louise?”
“I want lemon gelato and you think I should have a chocolate ice cream?”
“Bigger than that…”
I looked at him in confusion.
“Who cares what I want or think Louise? It’s your gelato. Your choice.”
And that’s when the truth hit me like a snowball getting the hell out of Dodge.
I spent a lot of time justifying my choices, my thoughts, my decisions, my ideas because I didn’t want people to think… well…. the truth is… I didn’t want people to know I had a mind of my own.
That would have been dangerous. With a mind of my own, I could become an outcast. An outlier. An unwanted.
I am forever grateful for that therapist and his love of chocolate ice cream.
Cultivating my courage to speak up, nurturing ‘the audacity’ to stand true to myself and letting go of worrying about other people’s opinions of me has been a life-long journey.
It gets easier with practice.
And always, the more practiced I become in standing in my truth and staying unattached to the outcome (including the opinion of others), the more I find myself growing wild and free.
Over the past 3 years of working with this series, I have created a number of stencils of ‘the women’ that I will occasionally reuse .
The original of this woman is No. 52 – “They said, You can’t always get what you want. She said, it’s time I got what I’ve always deserved. Equal rights. Equal voice. Equal opportunity.”
I reused the stencil to create the painting that appears as the April Woman in this year’s #ShePersisted Calendar. “They said, You need to follow our path. It’s better for us. She followed her own path and encouraged others to do the same. It was better for everyone.”
The significance of using the same figure, just in a different/altered way is important. We are all the same kind of different. Our human nature desires a sense of belonging. To be part of a ‘tribe’ or gang or community – something that lets us know we’re not alone. We’re not outcasts. We are part of something. We matter.
The challenge however is that, when we follow a path because it’s comfortable, we can lose our way and not see that our staying on the path is keeping those who created it, comfortable in their limited view of the worth and value of every human being.
It is then we must decide what path we want to be on. A path that reflects our belief in the magnificence of every being on this planet or one that limits the possibilities of some because they ‘don’t fit in’ or look the same or present as ‘unequal to’ an invisible measure of success or class or faith or humanness we don’t buy into, but in our silence and presence in the group, uphold.
When we decide to heed the inner calling to spread our wings and create a path where everyone is free to travel and find their belonging in their own unique way, we step off the road more travelled and start creating a world of infinite possibility – for everyone.
In that creation, when we carve our way through life guided by our values, principles and belief in the worth of every human being, we become beacons of light encouraging others to do the same.
It doesn’t mean we’re no longer part of ‘the tribe’. It means we are part of the human race where we are, every one of us, free to journey on our own path that is beautiful in its distinctively unique voice, way, style and perspective.
It is then that our differences turn up in living colour. Full of life. Full of possibility. Full of Love.
And in that multi-hued and multi-faceted world, every path is honoured, every voice recognized worthy and every human being on planet earth gets what every being on this planet deserves – Equal rights. Equal voice. Equal opportunity.
A world where everyone of us is worthy of being part this one, beautiful and magnificent human race.
War. Famine. Poverty. Injustice. Discrimination to name a few, including economic and social policies that leave some feeling they are ‘less than’ while others believe they have a right to consider themselves ‘greater than’ because of an inherent bias in what they consider to be their privileged status.
And there is much in this world that I feel I have no power to change or affect.
Yet, when I take care of my own world, when I create better in the emotional, physical and spiritual environment around me, my world changes. And, while it is easy to say, those changes are infinitesimal in the big picture, the ripple effect of millions of small changes can create transformation of a grand scale.
We are all one humanity. One people on this one planet called earth. We are all connected. Through the air we breathe. To the trees and the sky and the water and the animals and the flora. We are all connected.
What we do to eachother and to our planet matters.
But how can I change what others do?
In the simplest of forms, I can’t. I am not that powerful. Nor is it my ‘job’ to change another.
What I do have the power to do is inspire change in the world around me by ensuring how I am, what I do, say, create, share creates better for everyone in the world around me. Holding space for better, my ripple becomes a constant ebbing outward of peace, harmony, joy, Love.
In that rippling effect, the things that annoy me abate, the feelings that keep me playing small diminish and the fear of making waves or being different washes away.
In their place, transformation within my world happens. And if there are millions upon millions of us transforming our own worlds, our collective ripple can become a tsunami of hope, possibility, change leading to transformation on a grand scale.
And never has that been truer than today.
Yes, Covid 19 is running amuck. Yes, there is political, economical and environmental strife everywhere.
And everywhere, there are human beings doing their best, giving their all to create lasting change that will, and must, transform our world for the better.
The March #ShePersisted Woman is a reminder to no longer accept you don’t have the power to change. To never give up on believing transformation is possible.
We just need to keep doing small things with great heart that change our worlds so that ripple by ripple by ripple the entire planet is transformed through each of us creating a better world for everyone and everything on earth.