Feeling Blissfully in the Flow, In Panama with my Mister

After departing Victoria and a brief lay-over in Toronto, Mister and I were heading to Panama on Air Canada Rouge, a stripped-down airline service where everything from alcohol to food to movies is not only limited, but costly. We’d flown with them before, though, and knew the drill, so at least I had purchased a gluten free sandwich at a kiosk prior to boarding. We also had an iPad, fully charged, with the Air Canada App installed and a splitter so we could enjoy watching a movie together.

Lucky for us it wasn’t a full plane and the extra seat in our row remained vacant when the boarding completed announcement was made. What would have been a cramped and uncomfortable space became bearable. We settled in, watched a well-done documentary titled There’s No Free Lunch, rested and read and soon we were landing.

Peering out the tiny window, my gaze was drawn to the sun peeking out of the clouds and illuminating the impressive coastline dotted with shiny skyscrapers and the sparkling ocean. I could see the forest spreading out in all directions from the city, shade upon shade of green, and I felt excited that I was about to get reacquainted with Panama. I love Panama.

181687-004-BE9ACF1D

Panama City Harbour

 

We were staying the first three days in the city, at a condo in the Amador Causeway we’d rented from our friends at Patty’s Casitas. Patty and her husband Rudy greeted us warmly at the buildings entrance and helped us load our massive amount of luggage onto the lift.

The condo was beautifully appointed and pristinely clean, just like the units we’d rented from them in the past in Casco Viejo. They’d left a complimentary bottle of wine so we opened it and toasted our arrival over a glass.

After unpacking our things and freshening up we walked over to a local restaurant Patty had recommended, La Fabrica. We were able to communicate sufficiently to our Spanish speaking server and I ordered the Salmon Marrakesh that was full of flavour and textures. The ambience was friendly, welcoming and relaxing and as we sat under the canopy of a star-filled night we felt content.

the-best-gastrobup-in

La Fabrica

Our first day started early as we were being picked up by a driver arranged by our lawyer who was taking us to apply for our cedulas, the national identity cards in Panama. We met two Australians in the line-up and engaged in interesting conversations on topics from politics and economics to humanity and health, making the two and half hours fly by quickly.

After our business was taken care of we decided to celebrate our success over lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in the city, La Fragatta. The architecture and interior design created the experience of being on a high-end cruise ship. The well-dressed waiter, who spoke not a word of English, greeted us with professionalism and warmth and directed us to a cozy booth.

DSC_1519

La Fragatta

Mister took the liberty of ordering us a bottle of Catena Malbec, una botella vino tinto por favor. We glanced at the menu, but we were both eying two of the appetizers we’d chosen at our last visit. The cheese plate featured a variety of sharp, tangy cheeses, including a luxurious manchego that was my favourite. The grilled vegetable platter consisted of a variety of delicious delicacies, seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Friday turned out to be Fabulous Friday, as Friday’s often are. We slept in. We took a long stroll along the causeway. We shopped for window coverings, a phenomenal experience with the expertise of Susana at Nostalgia Designs. We refreshed over a light lunch at Paul’s and then did some more house shopping, buying a gorgeous gray leather sectional and stunning floor-length mirror.

IMG_1883

Mister & Me on the Amador Causeway

Back at our condo we indulged in Happy Hour, which turned into happy, happy hour. Feeling like cats and canaries and the day wasn’t even over!

Fabulous Friday concluded with a taxi ride into Casco Viejo for a romantic dinner at Grapes. We walked into a cozy space with inviting décor. The tables were dark wood with chairs upholstered in crème leather. The side wall featured an impressive wooden built-in wine fridge. Black chandeliers of intricate design hung from the ceiling, and although not to my taste, suited the space.

IMG_1871

Me & Mister outside Grapes, with a view of downtown Panama

Our server was pleasant and very professional. When he informed us the bottle of wine we’d requested was out of stock, he suggested an alternative, much more expensive Argentinian Malbec. It was one of those wines where the first sip is alluring but with each taste grows more and more pleasing on the palate.

We decided to go all in with three courses. I started with the corvina ceviche, a local favourite dish, whilst Mister savored the trio of tacos. For our mains I chose the stuffed chicken breast in a curry mint sauce that was phenomenal. Mister ordered a filet of beef which he reported to be masterfully seasoned and cooked to perfection. For dessert I had the house made crème caramel which danced silkily over my tongue and Mister chose the chocolate brownie. Throughout the two-hour experience we engaged in fluid conversation, easily moving from light to deep topics and I felt blissfully in the flow.

We’d planned to take Saturday off, but then we received a call from our builder. He was requesting we make a trip into Tech and House, our appliance store. I was feeling a little frustrated, but when we arrived to discover the air conditioning at the shop was down and I had a low blood sugar, a little became a little bit more. It hit the ceiling, though, when an accident on the bridge had traffic backed up in every direction downtown and what should have been a ten- minute taxi ride home became two hours.

The next day we packed up and checked out of our casita. Rudy was driving us to Coronado to view our home for the first time since we left in February. It is difficult to describe how it felt, but I’ll try.

Upon entering the house, Mister and I were both impressed right away with how magnificent our floor tiles looked. Stepping into the office immediately to the left, it was barren, with no murphy bed, desk, or bookshelf installed, as requested. Apparently, their carpenter had been unwell.

IMG_1896

Living & Dining Room of our House

We next viewed the bathroom off the office. The large matte tiles were gorgeous and complemented beautifully by the shiny small black mosaic tiles. The granite and sink both looked amazing. But the window was mounted over the sink instead of the toilet, leaving no space for a vanity mirror. The tempered shower glass doors were not installed and the toilet was taped over; plumbing not yet available.

In the kitchen the cabinets looked gorgeous but there were no knobs or handles. The wine fridge and dishwasher were too tall (even though we’d sent the dimensions long before), requiring them to take off the granite counter. Finally, the fridge wasn’t installed because the builder informed us it was also too large for the space provided.

Appliances became an issue once again when we viewed the laundry room, which quite frankly looked horrible. One could barely open the washer and dryer because the hall was so narrow. The walk-in closet was the final disappointment, resembling more of a cave or dungeon.

We went outside and were pleased to discover the completed pool filled with clear, clean water. As a few flies buzzed around me in the heat, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened. I was realizing that there was no way we were going to be able to move in to our home in three days with the amount of work still to be done and I could only hope the condo we’d rented for three days at Coronado Bay would be available for seven more.

Feeling our mixed feelings, we drove to the rental, relieved when the owner assured us that we could have the unit for the duration of our visit. We were even more thrilled when we found out that because it was low season and late in the day, it was only going to cost us $900 for ten days for a one- bedroom, two- bathroom condo right on the beach.

IMG_1887

View from our condo balcony

We didn’t have the energy to cook ourselves dinner so we walked over to our favourite restaurant in Coronado, Luna Rosa. The atmosphere was inviting, and the food was, as always, fabulous. It was one of many more to come in following days, and I felt grateful.

Over the next seven days our schedules were filled with meetings with the builders. They were generous in accommodating us and together we came up with creative solutions to the challenges we’d identified.

There was more shopping in the city, a few good work-outs and yoga practices. All of our packages that we’d ordered from Amazon and Wayfair were stacked in the garage and it was like Christmas as we unpacked and revealed the items we’d purchased. Everything from our dishes to wine glasses looked amazing.

Mister and I shared quality time together, taking advantage of the rooftop pool and ocean access that our rental provided. We ate great food and drank beautiful wine.

As the trip came to an end, I found myself in the same frame of mind I’d been in Canada – grateful to be taking on life’s challenges together as team. Bien equipo. I know in my heart that our home will be perfect when it is all done and that we will both love living in our space, in our happy place; Coronado, Panama.

So yeah, I’m feeling blissfully in the flow, in Panama with my Mister.

Feeling Aware of My Ability to Choose to be a Part of the Solution

It seems like everywhere I turn there are stories being shared by people who have survived trauma and it’s no wonder; according to statistics, one in three girls and one in five boys have suffered abuse.

Theo Fleury, a famous ex-NHL player from Canada, spoke on Goalcast in a powerful presentation called Play Your Part. He describes a childhood of neglect and fear, living with addicted parents. He shares his story; that he was raped, repeatedly, by his hockey coach.

Fleury tells how after writing Playing With Fire, at his first book signing in Toronto, he met his first MeToo confidant. He goes on to share how one person turned into over 500,000. He states that trauma is the string that binds us all together and that we have an opportunity to talk with compassion, love, and connection, to have the tough conversations and be a part of the solution.

 

What truly inspired me while listening to Fleury speak was the choice he made when he decided to take the gun out of his mouth. He chose not to punish himself or blame others. He chose to embark on a healing journey. He chose light. He chose life.

Choice. Few things drive me crazier than people who pass off their responsibility by claiming they didn’t have a choice. You always, always, have a choice. Some choices are harder than others. Some take a great deal of strength and courage. But there is always a choice.

In 2007 I was in a similar place as Theo Fleury. I didn’t have a gun in my mouth, but I was contemplating suicide as the only choice. I felt desperate and hopeless. I was in an unhealthy marriage to a controlling, abusive and manipulative man. I had three children. I had debt and a huge mortgage. I was afraid. I didn’t know how to free myself and I definitely couldn’t see the choices I had available.

In the end, I too, chose light. I too, chose life. I walked into the Emergency department of the hospital where I lived, taking the first terrifying step forwards. That step led to being admitted to a short term mental health unit. With the stereotypes our society has towards mental health, that choice wasn’t easy. But with the support of my daughter, and many others, I did it.

That was the beginning of my healing journey. In the hospital I received more support, as well as education and skills. When I was discharged, I advocated for myself. I engaged in intense counselling therapy despite objections from my husband about the financial costs. I engaged in positive relationships. I found meaningful work that I immersed myself in. It took time, but eventually, in 2011, I had the confidence and courage to leave.

At that point I embarked on my grandest of journeys; to discover my authentic self. I drove the epic road trip from Calgary to Vancouver Island and started a new life. I found out who I was and I liked her way more than the mask of me I’d been parading around as. From this place of openness and honesty, I met Mister. I’m currently writing a book about that time in my life called The Healing.

With that one hard choice, of speaking up despite the shame and seeking help, I opened the door to an entire life I never could have imagined. A life that every day, no matter how joyful or challenging it is, I feel gratitude for the blessings of my crazy, beautiful, complicated life.

In her presentation on Ted Talks, The Revolutionary Power of Divine Thought, activist Elif Shafak shares her story. Elif claims that NOW is the time, a vital moment in global activism and sisterhood movements to make change. She urges, “One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity.”

 

Life is complex. There are a myriad of social issues including economic, educational, and emotional challenges. There are people making the dark choices of complacency, numbness, isolation, competition, greed, and corruption. In my experience, there are far more people who choose Light. Who choose activism, sensitivity, involvement, generosity, cooperation, balance, and equality.

Equally complex is the relationship of dark and light. They are the polar ends of the same entity. Life and Death are the same thing and both forces live in all of us.

As a modern society of the information age, we have foregone our wisdom in the quest for knowledge. We have exchanged the complex stories of our ancestors that address the complexity of our nature for Disney versions where good and evil are dualities expressed in separate characters. Children are denied the teachings that were layered in fairy tales. We need to tell the scary stories. We have to engage in the tough conversations.

We cling to our life-happiness-positive-good model. We ignore or pretend that darkness-sadness-negativity-evil do not exist. When we do acknowledge evil, it is outside of ourselves, in the other. It is contained within a different religion or country or person. With this head-in-the-sand mentality we don’t learn how to confront the negative forces inside ourselves. We don’t learn how to win the battle in our minds; how to feel, release and then return, by the power of our choice, to our Light.

Darkness may have the power to swallow light, but Light has the power to enlighten. If you ignore the darkness, it doesn’t go away. If you surround yourself with positive people, their light will join with yours and ignite to create a powerful and enduring flame.

What will you choose?

So yeah, I’m feeling aware of my ability to choose to be a part of the solution.

 

Feeling Radical, Ready to Channel my Rage Through the Power of Love

I was feeling overwhelmed, like there is no justice in this world, like I had no control to do anything about it. I sat at my altar and prayed, asking, how do I best serve humanity? As I sat there a memory returned of Mister telling me our highest purpose is to love. And with the perfect synchronicity that is God at work in the world, articles and information on the power of love came flooding into my awareness.

The first, and most impacting, was a Ted Talk by Valeria Kaur, an American civil rights lawyer and activist. Her topic, Three Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage began with a vivid description of her personal labouring process in birthing her son, which she used as a framework for the themes of the fire of pain and the determination to push through.

Kaur described her reaction to 911 and the murder of her uncle in the aftermath. She talked about forgiveness. She spoke about feminism. Referring to a diagram that outlines the expression of revolutionary love towards ourselves, towards the ones we love, and even towards our opponents, she encouraged us to see the wound in the ones who hurt us. She ends with the question, “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” and the invitation to breathe and push with a Warrior’s heart and a Saint’s eyes, to be a part of a future waiting to be born.

 

 

I was reading The Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Este and was taken aback when I read the section titled The Boundaries of Rage and Forgiveness, central words in the Ted Talk I had just viewed. Pinkola put forth the idea that the release of rage is required and can be a teacher if allowed.

“We can use the light of rage in a positive way, in order to see into places we cannot usually see… We can learn from it and transform it.” Pinkola suggests that once we recognize it, bless it, contain it and release it, rage can impel groups or individuals into dialogue and action towards accountability, progress and improvements.

Later that day I picked up my copy of Warrior Goddess Training and to my delight the next chapter was titled Open Your Heart. Heatherash Amara discusses the healing practice of Metta; the ancient Buddhist meditation of loving kindness. The practice involves visualizing during meditation sending loving kindness to a family member or friend, to an acquaintance, to yourself, and finally, to someone you dislike.

Heatherash also refers to the Hawaiian poem of forgiveness, Ho’oponopono:

I love you

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you

I first made acquaintance with this simple yet powerful sentiment when I attended Dance Church in Victoria, BC with my daughter. It seems perfect to be reminded of the wisdom in the words of this prayer now.

Praying led me to open my bible. In Matthew it says, “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” and in Mark, “and if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them.”

Toltec wisdom states, “Our true nature is happiness, freedom and love; when we master love, intent and faith we master the dream of our life.” The road to mastering the dream is not easy, but you can begin to change the world by changing your own life, recognizing you have both the choice and the responsibility.

Pema Chodran, a Buddhist monk and spiritual leader, urges us to choose to cultivate love rather than anger. She also postulates that it is necessary to recognize your kinship with others. On the subject of rage, Pema encourages us to use the tools of meditation and loving-kindness to access the tenderness of an awakened heart, to see behind the hardness of rage and not allow it to harden our hearts.

On Super Soul Sunday Oprah talks about making the world a better place by extending yourself in loving kindness with an open heart. Similarly, she advocates that healing the world starts with healing you.

 

Alana Fairchild dedicates in her introduction to the Sacred Rebels, “to those who aren’t afraid to rattle cages… from a place of loving service to the spiritual evolution of humanity… (to) create a world that is fully awakened to love.”

I’m not going to delay any longer. I’m going to start now.

I send loving kindness to someone I love; to my Mister, David.

IMG_1513

 

You are patient and kind

You tell me it is going to be okay

And somehow it is, inside of your love,

A love more pure and divine than any I’ve known.

 Your love has been the greatest gift of my life.

Your love has taught me love’s power and

Has propelled me to be my best,

To fulfil my purpose, which is as yours; to love.

 I send loving kindness to an acquaintance; to Diane.

I send loving kindness to myself.

IMG_1694

 

I send loving kindness to someone I dislike; to Nancy.

I send loving kindness to all of humanity; I send loving kindness to you.

So yeah, I’m feeling radical, ready to channel my rage through the power of love.

Feeling Called to Action, Ready to Speak Up for Women’s Equality and be a Feminist

Thursday, March 08, 2018 is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is the Time is Now.

 DSC06561

 

Around the world events are being run by women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, political parties and media. In London they are celebrating women in Technology; in Alberta the focus is on influential women. Brisbane is hosting a fun run while Melbourne’s theme is 1000 Women, 1000 Futures. In Vancouver they are presenting Making the Case for Women’s Equality: Reframing a Hyper-Sexualized and Pornographic Culture. In Ontario they are hosting a Shefights amateur Mathai event; in Dubai there is a women’s Art Expo and in Nigeria the main event features Fashion Business. The possibilities to get involved are myriad, with something to inspire everyone.

The Women’s March movement has shown endurance from its inception, with more than 120,000 protestors gathering in New York City advocating for causes from reproductive freedom to immigrant’s rights. According to a statement made in Vox on January 20, 2018, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Movements like #MeToo and #PressforProgress are calls to action to end patriarchy and support gender parity.

The lack of gender parity in education is one of the most important situations that needs to be addressed. It continues to be a significant factor in many parts of the world, including Pakistan, Africa, and Afghanistan, to name a few. In a powerful Ted Talk titled, To Learn is To be Free, Shameem Akhtar advocates for change in opportunities for education in Pakistan. Shameen is a trailblazer for a woman’s right to an education in her community. Posing as a boy to receive her own education, her success planted the seeds of change for other women and girls.

 

Global Sisterhood is a movement of women devoted to transforming themselves and transforming the world together. Their vision is one of a world where women respect, trust, and uplift each other.

You don’t have to join a movement to make a difference though. You can start right now, by making a conscious choice to empower the women in your community. You can notice when you think or speak judging statements and reframe them, choosing to practice compassion and empathy instead.

Currently I’m reading Warrior Goddess Training by Heatherash Amara. One of the activities in the work book was to explore female role models in your life with the goal of identifying their qualities that inspire you. My list was long, but my top three were Oprah, Margaret Atwood, and Brene Brown. Oprah for her awareness and commitment to make a difference, Margaret for the power of her voice in the written word, and Brene for her willingness to be vulnerable and address social issues. It is my wish to embody those attributes in my commitment to myself and to making change in the world.

Living as an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed incredible change since my arrival in May of 2015, and progress for women is no exception. In October 2017 King Salman decreed women would be allowed to drive, to be effective in June 2018. Women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study or make complaints. There are more women in the workforce. Recently I read an article where a religious cleric advocated that women should no longer be required to wear abayas; that it should be a choice.

6359946176787903661861628816_can[1]

 

Choice, freedom, and equality are the central themes of feminism. Unfortunately, the ideology of feminism has been given a bad reputation. Some men who feel threatened by women reclaiming their power would have you believe that all feminists are lesbian man-haters, but these ridiculous statements are merely smokescreens to distract men and women from creating real and honest change. Writer and self-proclaimed feminist, Ngozi Adichie, speaks passionately in her Ted Talk, We Should All Be Feminists. She urges us all to be begin to dream about and plan for a better world, where men and women all take a stand for equality and women no longer need to shrink themselves to feed a man’s ego.

 

It isn’t only women who suffer from the restraints of a patriarchal legacy. Men suffer too. They are driven to be hard, macho, insensitive and unfeeling. They are told not to cry and to buck up. Men need to be given the space to embrace their fullness as human beings. They are so much more than the genetic result of the y chromosome.

As for me, I feel called to contribute using the talents and gifts I have been given. I choose to be a positive advocate for change by using my most powerful tool, which is my voice. I choose to speak my truth, to be open and honest in my conversations. I will continue to write my blogs and write my books. I will not tone myself down to make other people more comfortable.

I choose to change the world by changing mine. To quote Maya Angelou, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” I may not be a young girl, but I’ve still got some ass-kicking left in me.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to action, ready to speak up for women’s equality and be a feminist.

Feeling Devastated, Wanting to Speak Up About How to Identify and Recognize Predators

I woke up sometime after midnight. Hot. Anxious. I checked my phone and there was a message: We need you.”

Within 24 hours I was on a plane.

As it turned out, we all needed each other.  A family secret was uncovered that had us all instantly and thoroughly plunged deep into the darkness, having to somehow wade through the horrifying details. I can’t be more forthcoming; it is still too raw, too unresolved. It was and is the single most agonizing time of my life.

The feelings. An anvil of heaviness, of guilt and shame, sitting on my chest, crushing my heart. My mind exploding in agony, trying to reconcile what I thought was my life with what is. My spirit, crushed, with the shame, anger, grief, regret and despair. These are only a few. They stay with me, my first thoughts upon rising, my last before sleep. They even haunt my dreams.

Despite everything, or perhaps because of, I was blown away by the integrity, courage, and solidarity of my family. I know that in time there will be healing. I don’t know if there will ever be any earthly justice. But I do know that each when the time is right I’m ready to speak my truth, go to battle, and be a warrior in the fight to bring down the patriarchal legacies of abuse and power.

I took inspiration from Oprah’s Golden Globe speech where she addressed a myriad of issues. She talked about the media’s insatiable dedication to uncover the truth and expose corruption and injustice. She called out to the tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. She spoke about the MeToo movement.

 

The words that Oprah spoke which impacted me the most were, “What I know for sure: speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” When Oprah concluded that “their time is up,” and that survivors overcome because they have an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning even during their darkest nights, I took solace. Oprah proclaimed, “A new day is on the horizon,” and that “we will fight for a time when nobody has to say ‘me too’ again.”

I wrote about my own MeToo story in my blog, Feeling Anything but Shocked, Compelled to Action by the MeToo Movement.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in The Women Who Run with the Wolves about the archetype of the wild woman, of our feminine instinctive nature and the Life/Death/Life force. She identifies the wild woman as the one who thunders after injustice and maintains that the remedies for repair are contained in stories.

Estes writes about the natural predator, the most deceitful and powerful fugitive. She tells the story of Bluebeard, the dark man, the innate predator, who fools the naïve woman with his false charm. He is filled with a heartless pursuit of the light of others and to restrain him it is necessary for women to remain in possession of all of their instinctual powers.

Many women have lived the Bluebeard tale, including me. They enter into relationships while they are still naïve or are have injured instincts and they choose someone who is destructive to their lives. They are determined to cure that person with love. My bluebeard even tried to warn me once, admitting he cared for no one but himself, but I refused to believe his confession, thinking I could love him into rekindling the light I imagined still lived inside him.

Predators desire superiority and power over others. It is unfortunately the harsh reality that all beings – young and old, male and female – must learn that predators exist and look to understand the predator so that they are not vulnerable out of naiveté, inexperience or foolishness.

Clarissa states, “when a woman is attempting to avoid the facts of her own devastation her night dreams are likely to shout out warnings.” This was true for me. When I was first dating my Bluebeard, I had a vision of a wolf coming to my window. I didn’t know at the time what the wolf signified in my own psyche; I discovered much later, in therapy, that the wolf represented the sexual predator of my childhood. I didn’t have the teachings. I didn’t trust my intuition. I was vulnerable.

In, The Women Who Run with the Wolves, Estes describes how to retrieve and restore intuition:

  • Expose yourself to the shadows and navigate the dark
  • Be your authentic self, even if it causes you to be exiled by many others
  • Feed your intuition by listening to your heart
  • Respect great power and recognize your power as a woman
  • Live and learn
  • Honour your cycles
  • Learn fine discrimination and discernment
  • Observe and learn about the Life/Death/Life cycles
  • Trust that some things belong to God
  • Refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies, opinions, thoughts and values

In our society, we do the opposite. Instead of educating our girls we train them to be nice and ‘make pretty’, which causes them to override their intuitions. This must end now. We need to dismantle the predators by maintaining our intuitions and instincts and resisting the predator’s seductions. We also need to learn to recognize the predators who live amongst us.

Which brings me back to my story, my truth. I was absolutely and completely shocked that I did not recognize my predator. But in the time since my discovery I have become educated. First of all, predators who prey on children are most likely a male in your family. We’ve done a great job teaching about ‘stranger danger’ and warning our children about men in vehicles offering candy. But that is a myth. Child predators gain access to their victims by carefully constructing facades that fool us into trusting them. They are master manipulators and cunning concealers.

Predators by the very nature of their sickness should be identified as sociopaths. They possess a clear disregard for the feelings of others and have the ability to lie in order to achieve their goals. When they do something wrong they accept no responsibility but instead they blame others or circumstances. They are often delusional to the point they believe their lies are truth. They lack emotional empathy and are great at charming people. They understand human weakness (and who more vulnerable than a child) and exploit it maximally. They use diversion tactics as smoke screens. They think they are superior. They are selfish, needy, and often highly intelligent.

If someone you know demonstrates several of these tendencies, you should consider them red flags. An appropriate response would be to cut them out of your life completely, but at the very least you should do some investigating.

I ignored the red flags. I fell for the manipulations and lies. He offered evidence of his true character in a drunken confession, but I toned it down and tried to bury it. I was sickened and disgusted. I wanted to leave. But I was afraid. I sought counselling and was advised that it wasn’t appropriate to condemn him for a disclosure that was a thought, not an action. And it is something I will forever regret.

I felt ashamed that I was duped, but as I dug into the issue of child predators I discovered that it isn’t just us who are naïve and trusting who get fooled. In fact, lawyers and judges in our legal system make these errors in judgement too. A devastating example is the recent case reported in the news in Victoria, Canada.

A judge ordered shared custody despite reported violence and sexual abuse and now two little girls are dead. Andrew Berry, the father, filed for shared custody. The mother, Sarah Cotton, fought against him in Supreme Court for five days before the judge declared, “this is not a case where family violence is a significant factor,” and proceeded to grant shared custody. This decision was made despite knowing that Andrew Berry had a previous restraining order and two investigations by the Ministry of Children and Family Development for inappropriate touching.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/father-charged-with-two-counts-of-second-degree-murder-in-deaths-of-bc-sisters/article37490258/

A complete opposite conviction was ordered in the case of the judge who, disgusted with his abuse of power and privilege, sentenced Larry Nassar for up to 175 years in prison for molesting young female gymnasts.

As I endeavoured to identify the predators amongst us I conducted a search on Ted, one of my favourite forums. I found an interesting talk by Pamela Meyer titled, How to Spot a Liar that gave me a few more tips to add to my growing file. Apparently, when giving a statement, liars will use more formal language than usual, will use distancing language such as that woman (think Bill Clinton) or the boy, the child, and they use qualifying language like, in all candor. Liars sometimes have body language slips like freezing their upper bodies. You can fake a smile with your lips, but not your eyes, so if their smile doesn’t reach their eyes, it is likely inauthentic. And there is often a discrepancy between their words and actions.

 

Of course, these again, are only red flags, not proof. But as in the markers for sociopaths, if someone in your family or circle of friends displays these lying tendencies, it is worthwhile to at least conduct an investigation.

Brene Brown is one of my role models who speaks the truth even when it is uncomfortable. On Super Soul Sunday she spoke out about sexual abuse and shame. She stated that victims keep sexual abuse a secret from a feeling of shame, but secrecy, silence and judgment allow the abuse to continue. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, she talks about facing the challenging social injustices of our time with, “a strong back, soft front, wild heart.”

 

So yeah, I’m feeling devastated, wanting to speak up about how to identify and recognize predators.

Feeling Inspired; Lifting the Weight of the World off my Shoulders by Opening my Heart to Love

I’ve been feeling the heaviness of the destruction, devastation, and darkness in the world. One day I woke up and felt so tired of feeling hopeless. And then the awareness returned to me, that I already knew, but had somehow forgotten. I needed to open my heart to all the love and light in the world. I set about searching and before long it was like an avalanche had been created with that simple intention.

It started with music. I decided to listen to some of my favourite inspirational songs while walking Lola around the compound. As I listened to Michael Buble crooning about a new day and A Great Big World telling me “You’ll be okay,” I felt the truth in the words and a spring returning to my step. I even noticed beauty in the self-described barrenness of the desert, in the vast blue sky. By the time India Arie reminded me, “There’s Hope,” I was beginning to blossom. A shift was occurring, not in the world, but in my perception.

 

I thought about the list of Affirmations I’d posted to our bulletin board and I took it down and read it. I was present to the many gifts and blessings in my life. Beginning with the love of Mister. He is an inspiring man to be in deep partnership with, his solid faith in God and in humankind demonstrated in his daily acts of integrity and character. His love for me has been my constant, his solidity a rock in which together we have built our foundation.

 

DSC06367

 

I thought about how fortunate I am to have four beautiful children. The two eldest are already making change in the world with their passion and commitment. Scarlet has created Women’s Sacred Wisdom ritual and retreat to empower women and embrace the feminine. Tamara has developed her own website offering her gifts in massage, yoga, and art. She also continues to post spiritually inspiring blogs on Anuttara Tantra. The two youngest are still discovering their passions, but share their hearts and minds with courageous vulnerability.

I brought into my heart the loving memories of all of my family, those living and those who have passed. I was present to the gift of friendship, with my tribe here in Riyadh, as well as so many others here and back in Canada.

I continued to focus my thoughts on the positive. I made mental lists of the things I appreciate about my community, the country of my birth, and the world around me. By this point I was clear that I needed to allow myself to receive love and support and to put my energy into giving my light and love to others. I collected inspiration from an eclectic array of sources that I will share in the random order that they manifested.

Throughout my life the Bible has been a source of strength and confusion for me. While I can easily accept the basic premises, truths, and commandments, I get hung up on some of the smiting and punishing and judgment that appears, especially in the Old Testament. But, even there, in the very first words of Genesis, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

I flipped through to the book of Matthew. Verse 28 states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest.” It was so comforting to remember that I could lay down my cross and God would carry it for me.

Matthew goes on to list the commandments, revealing as the greatest, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.” I cried tears as I felt how I’d let my pain separate me from God. I’d been letting the darkness in the world turn me away from feeling love for my neighbour and for myself.

I was ready to “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). I recognized that I don’t have the wisdom to comprehend the complexity of life and death, good and evil. And it’s okay because I can give it to God and relax in my faith.

I had just finished reading Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. She wrote about the power of courage in the face of pain. About having a “strong back, soft front, wild heart.” She encouraged her readers to practice integrity and authenticity and to “believe in and belong to ourselves and to each other.”

I decided to log onto Face Book and scroll through, searching for positive posts. There were so many choices: Now This, mindful.org, The Mighty, Ted.com, Expand Your Consciousness, Good News Network. And of course, one of my favourites, Goalcast.

I chose Randy Pauseh’s lecture, Live the Right Way, to include in this blog, because listening to him speak brought tears to my eyes. He was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer with only months to live. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he was alive with the energy of spreading his message. To live with humility and integrity, to tell the truth, and to apologize sincerely when you are wrong.

Randy asked, “Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore? Tigger’s are energetic, optimistic, curious, enthusiastic, and love to have fun. I knew who I was at my core, even if I’d been traipsing around like a Moping Moper.

 

A few scrolls later I discovered another moving video titled Live Every Moment by Muniba Mazani. She described how she had been at the edge of despair after a devastating car accident left her with a spinal injury. She shared her healing journey of recovery, found partly through the act of painting. She said at some point she made a conscious decision to live her life for herself, and everything shifted after that. It started from within, and she went about making her dreams become reality.

 

I was surprised to find my next Face Book inspiration from an article posted in latimes.com. Featured was the humble and wise Dalai Lama in an article titled We Need an Education of the heart. He stated that to live together as brothers and sisters in peace, we must learn to practice compassion, mindfulness and justice. Furthermore, he postulated this emotional intelligence can be and should be taught as part of a global curriculum.

I set my phone down, and suddenly my feet seemed to literally carry me upstairs to my meditational room. I picked up Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and reviewed them, slowly and mindfully. Practice non-judgment. Wherever you go, whoever you encounter, bring a gift. Bring your choices into conscious awareness. Practice accepting all people, situations, circumstances and events. Release your desires to the Universe, trusting that life will unfold as it should. Allow yourself and the people around you the freedom to be as they are. And lovingly pay attention to the spirit within you. Wise words, but very challenging to practice consistently.

I sat on my pillow and gazed softly at my vision board. My eyes were drawn to the four agreements, which are a part of the Toltec wisdom. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. I hadn’t been following these basic tenets. I hadn’t been practicing love, intent, and faith.

To add another perspective, I thumbed through a pocket book I have with thoughts from the Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron. She begins by explaining that we are all born with bodhichitta, a Sanskrit word meaning noble or awakened heart, and it is this noble heart that heals us from the difficulties we face in life. She offered tools for being connected to our hearts: meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. She also urged us to be kind to ourselves, to recognize our kinship with one another, to rejoice in the smallest of blessings, to have no expectations, and to be kind.

My journey ended with yet another perspective, illustrated beautifully in Louie Schwartzberg’s Ted Talk, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. A photographer, he shares the miracle and beauty of nature through his artful time-lapse photography, along with the wise words of Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. As I watched my soul stirred. When he said, live this day as if it was your first and your last, I knew I had to do something different.

 

Clearly, I had all the tools I needed at my disposal. I had to stop complaining, focusing on the negativity, and living in the past. I was already present to my blessings, but I recommitted to keeping a gratitude journal. I knew I had to celebrate the gift of my life and live it. I felt a renewed energy coursing through my veins and sat down in my chair, ready to write.

So yeah, I’m feeling inspired; lifting the weight of the world off my shoulders by opening my heart to love.

 

Feeling Excited to be an Expat in Saudi Arabia, Witnessing Historical Change

It seems every day I tune into social media there is a new announcement being made that reflects the extraordinary changes underfoot in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On October 1, 2017 I was incredulous as I read in several articles, including Arabnews.com and Riyadhconnect.com, that King Salman issued a decree allowing Saudi women to drive. To the uninformed reader this decree may not sound earth-shattering, but Saudi Arabia has remained, until now, the only country in the world where it is illegal for women to drive.

 

The next day Blue Abaya posted that Ford Middle East was gifting a mustang to Sahar Nassif, a Saudi woman who has spent years campaigning for equal rights. In the past, Sahar was arrested for driving around Jeddah and when the proclamation was made by King Salman she rejoiced, saying she was going to purchase a yellow and black Mustang to celebrate. Ford got wind of the story and chose to gift her with the car of her dreams.

In related news, the Saudi Princess Nourah University is planning to establish a women’s driving school and the Ministry says the legal driving age for women will be 18 years. The ruling allowing women to drive is expected to become law by June of 2018, but many enthusiastic Saudi women are already getting behind the wheel to practice in preparation.

Saudi Princess Nourah University to establish a women driving school

Apparently, the seeds of change were planted even earlier. According to Gulf Insider, back in June of this year King Salman ordered that women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study, or make complaints. As Maha Akeel, a women’s rights campaigner, suggests the move is a step in the right direction, opening the entire discussion on the guardian system for debate.

The decision to allow women these new freedoms seems part of a plan to include more women in the workforce to help diversify the country’s economy. The trend towards what is often referred to as “Saudi-isation” began as early as 2011, and has resulted in a grand 78-page document authorized by King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, KSA Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program encompasses a huge mandate for change. Goals include efficient planning within government agencies and global investments, not to mention becoming the epicentre of trade and the gateway to the world. There are plans for growth through diversification of resources. More jobs, education and skills- building opportunities for citizens are being created. There is a push to strengthen the National Identity, develop tourism, improve living and working conditions for expats, and even increase household spending on culture and entertainment.

 

 

Towards the goal of entertainment spending, another shattering announcement was made on October 2.  According to expatwoman.com, Cinemas are Returning to Saudi Arabia. I never knew they were once in existence, but upon reading the article I discovered that there were cinemas before 1980. Personally, I am thrilled at the prospect of adding going out to the movies to our current small list of entertainment possibilities and hope the decision opens the door for more opportunities here in Riyadh.

I read about these changes in the news, but I’m even more encouraged by the observations I’ve made in the short time since I moved here in May of 2015. I have witnessed the increase of women in the workforce first-hand, seeing more and more female cashiers at the major shopping centres. I have noticed each time I fly back to Riyadh from abroad more women in the airport who are dressing in fashionable abayas. They are pushing convention, adding colour and bling and even opting for fitted over the typical ‘tented’ attire.

Further updates on emirateswoman.com revealed, “Hot on the heels of news that Saudi Arabia will soon start issuing driving licenses to women, the kingdom has appointed its first female spokeswoman. Fatimah Baeshen was announced as a spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in Washington, US, on Wednesday, a day after King Salman issued a royal decree to lift the driving ban on women. Saudi national Baeshen celebrated the announcement of her new role, saying she was ‘proud to serve’ her country.”

I still find going out into the city challenging, but every time I do it feels like more Saudi men and women alike are welcoming me. I’m not postulating that everyone here supports change and welcomes new ideas, but there does seem to be a growing sense of globalism. The incentive may have begun as an economic response to the oil crisis, but it has evolved. Many progressive-thinking Saudis, including those in positions of authority, recognize that their future success involves growth, and growth demands respectful partnerships within global frameworks.

As a woman who stands for equality and liberty for all people, it is exciting to see that positive change is not just a dream. It is becoming a reality, throughout the world. Don’t believe in the negativity of the naysayers who claim that the world is destroying itself. Don’t accept that the terrorists and the corrupt and greedy politicians and corporations are the rule. There is a global rising. There is a New Earth, just beyond the horizon.

So yeah, I’m feeling excited to be an expat in Saudi Arabia, witnessing historical change.

 

Feeling Curious, Wondering How Shifting from Me to We Might Impact Humanity

My last blog was about learning to trust in the truth of my authentic self. Now I’m switching gears, making a total one eighty. Because my awareness of my own truth has drawn me into exploring how my purpose contributes to the big picture of human destiny.

I refuse to buy into the doom and gloom predictions of the naysayers who claim that humankind is not evolving. Frustrated with current challenges, it is all too easy to become nostalgic for the good old days. In my opinion, going backwards is never the way forward. We need to learn from history while at the same time forging ahead into a bright new future.

According to Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, the key to facing the future is to move from focusing on self to considering others. In his Ted talk, “How We Can Face the Future Without Fear, Sacks addresses three components of this shift: relationship, identity and responsibility.

 

When we get to know people who are not like us we grow in our understanding of what it means to be human. Sacks believes in the power of sharing our stories, extolling the view that a strong identity of ourselves as part of a community is what allows us to not feel threatened by the ideas and values of others. He urges us to take responsibility, quoting powerfully, “We, the people.”

The far-right dreams of a golden age that never existed and the far-left dreams of a utopia that will never be; a divided society misses out on the powerful opportunity to work together towards creating a reality that most likely lies somewhere in-between.

While sitting in the modest and excessively air-conditioned lounge in the Panama City airport, Mister and I had the pleasure of making just such an acquaintance; with an “other.” The fellow in question struck up a conversation with us that was incredibly interesting. An American hailing originally from conservative Vermont, currently living in liberal San Diego, and sharing our passion for Panama, his ideas defied stereotypes of Americans, particularly in this age of Trump leadership and divided politics.

The American was also a scientist and globalist. He shared informed opinions on a wide range of topics, from new experiments involving correcting diseased DNA to the lack of integrity, among other qualities, demonstrated by President Trump. Listening to his enthusiastic vision of a future where resources are shared globally, I couldn’t help but wonder if the current state of political corruption might be the catalyst that has people from all nations join forces to create a better future.

What constitutes a better future is a matter of opinion, but viewing Robert Waldinger’s Ted Talk, “What Makes a Good Life?” leads us in the same direction, from me to us. In a 75- year study of adult development conducted by Harvard University the conclusion they reached was that good quality, close relationships keep us happier and healthier.  It wasn’t money, fame, hard-work, or education. It wasn’t success of self, but success in sustaining strong connections with others.

 

The Truth Inside of You is an inspiring news feed I follow and recently I viewed two great posts. The first featured a Denmark advertisement for diversity that demonstrated the power of dismantling our labels to discover what we all have in common and then work together to achieve.

 

 

The second post documented how a boy’s perception of his father changed when he learned how much his father sacrificed of himself to make a difference in the lives of sick children. Putting the happiness of others before his own brought a richness to his father’s life that his son never appreciated until after his father passed away, which unfortunately is so often the case. We take for granted the relationships we have until we lose them.

 

Chatting with my daughter the other night, our conversation typically dynamic and philosophical, she casually mentioned that Craig Kielburger, a Canadian social activist, humanitarian and inspirational speaker, was on the same plane as her. I couldn’t help but be present to the synchronicity and excitedly told her that I was currently writing a blog about exactly what Craig and his brother, Marc, stand for.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are cofounders of a social enterprise that includes the We Movement, We Charity, Me to We, and We Day. Beginning at the age of twelve, these men were drawn to change the world by empowering kids to help kids. They set about investing in young people internationally and through their leadership have grown their not for profit organization into a vast global enterprise. Their message is that every person’s contribution is an impact that leaves a legacy.

https://www.metowe.com/speakers-bureau/craig-kielburger/

One of the inspirational visionaries that Craig and Marc give credit to is Oprah. Regardless of your opinion of her, there can be no doubt as to the impact she has made on the world through her works, charities, and enlightened journalism. In a powerful speech on Goalcast, Oprah furthers this idea of legacy, stating powerfully that “your legacy is every life you’ve touched.”

 

When I wrote about trying to discover my dharma, I postulated how my mandate to create meaningful relationships by encouraging and supporting others might be my purpose. It would seem that my legacy just might be exactly that – every life I’ve touched.

Some of us, like Oprah and the Kielburger brothers, touch millions of people with their vision, inspiring people all over the globe. Others, like myself, touch only a few. The number doesn’t really matter. We all have a different path to follow. We must trust in our journey and move our focus from ourselves to others. We, the people, can work together to achieve a common goal of a happier, healthier, future for all of us.

So yeah, I’m feeling curious, wondering how shifting from me to we might impact humanity

 

Feeling Aware, Learning to Trust in the Truth of My Authentic Self

In the age of the internet, google, and social media, we are increasingly bombarded with self-help advice on how to do everything and even how to be. We are told what to eat and not eat, how to raise our children, how to dress, what our personality is, how to succeed, how to exercise, how to be happy. The list is endless and it can be confusing.

Scrolling through Facebook for a few minutes, I was inundated. Pop-up ads and articles abounded. Dryer sheets that cause hormone imbalance.  Pro-vaccination versus anti-vaccination rhetoric. Current diet trends. The 36 habits that will make you a millionaire. How to exercise for your body type. How to attract and keep a man.

In my observation, there is no one path that suits everyone. The best advice, in my opinion, is no advice. Instead of trying to propagate right action, our efforts as parents, teachers and mentors need to encourage people to learn how to trust their own intuition.

As Jennifer Lopez stated in her speech on Goalcast, “Nobody knows what’s inside you. Only you know what you can accomplish and what you’re capable of… your gut, your dreams and your desires.”

Are we born with this innate knowledge, or is it something we need to be taught? According to Toltec wisdom, we are born knowing. Toltec wisdom arises from the essential unity of truth, embracing a spiritual way of life. In their book, The Fifth Agreement, Don Miguel and Don Jose Ruiz share the magic of the agreements and how practicing them can help you to recover your authentic self. The result of practising the fifth agreement is the complete acceptance of yourself and everybody else, just as they are.

As little children, we are free, without self-consciousness or self-judgment. We speak the truth because we live in the truth. Then we are taught all the symbols and stories of society and we start to judge ourselves as not good enough. We learn to deny what we perceive; the truth of our own greatness.

Education is imperative and information needs to be transmitted, but without judgement. We have a responsibility to teach our children language and skills, stories and history. But we must also teach them that they are the creators of their own belief system and corresponding reality. We must assure them of their uniqueness. We must express to them the power of the word, in thought and intent, because you become who you believe you are.

Anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers and scientists alike have postulated that we live in a common reality. I watched a Ted Talk by anthropologist Wade Davis who stated that “all people share a common experience.” In, “How to see past your own perspective and find truth,” Michael Patrick Lynch referred to a common reality and gave three tools to determine truth: 1. Believe that there is a truth; 2. Dare to know through understanding; 3. Adopt humility.

 

Isaac Lidsky, in his talk on “What Reality are you Creating for Yourself?” also speaks of a virtual reality. He posits that what we see as reality is unique and personal and is masterfully constructed by your own brain. You can choose to see through the fiction of the collective story through awareness. You can be taught and learn with practice how to create a reality that is empowering, that brings about change, and most of all, that brings you deep happiness as you fulfil your highest purpose.

 

Brene Brown is a psychologist who speaks of the power of stories, and particularly the power of owning our own stories. To abandon the social story of who you are and embrace your individual story, you must believe that you are special. You must learn to listen to your intuition and trust it.

Several years ago, my story of who I was, my reality, was shattered. I had a breakdown that forced me to re-examine the evidence. I meditated and prayed and engaged in intense psychotherapy. I thought deeply about my truth and created an authenticity outline. I learned to let go of the stories that were holding me back and I learned to embrace my true self.

Recently I have been struggling to process events from the past, and then in a moment of synchronicity I experienced enlightened thought where the past and present collided. The readings, prayers, wisdom, and faith that were coming into my awareness in my present were the key to my healing from the past. I understood that the past is over and that the light of my spirit is as alive and vibrant as it always was.

While struggling to process past trauma, I have also been challenged with my weight. I have been feeling unhappy about it. When a good friend of mine whom I respect and trust suggested the ketogenic diet, I was drawn to consider going on it. Then I recognized that it is only another belief system. It isn’t right or wrong. It is not the truth, it is an idea. If I approach the knowledge with skepticism, I can see it for what it is – an option.

Ketogenic-Diet-Pryamid[1]

 

I am confident the ketogenic diet works for some people. So does the End Diabetes diet, which is a completely opposite approach. It’s all about our beliefs. When I felt the happiest, most vital, alive and free in my life, when I was at a weight that felt perfect for me, it was on Vancouver Island. It was after I left a controlling, unhappy marriage and lived in freedom for the first time in many years.

When I had the freedom to choose whatever I wanted, to create my own reality, I chose to make good decisions that felt right for me. I exercised a lot, especially jazzed to have found a passion in the practice of yoga. I spent tons of time outdoors in the abundant nature of the island. I ate delicious food and drank gorgeous wine, as I liked. And the weight literally fell off. And it stayed off for a long time. I thought I’d arrived, that I’d figured out the happiness diet.

DSC05128

 

Then I got Lyme’s disease. I suffered for two and half years with chronic pain, fatigue, and weakness. At one point, I had to crawl up the stairs, not strong enough to stand. Stairs were the most challenging, the Lyme spirochetes having burrowed into the connective tissue in my knees. I put on almost fifteen pounds.

Despite my illness and my pain, I was ridiculously happy. I was head over heels in love with Mister. I was confused. My happiness diet theory was clearly flawed. I have been so tempted, so many times, to diet again, feeling judged by others as less than. But I resisted, choosing to focus on my health and my intense healing regimen.

When I could start exercising again, and especially after I was healed from Lyme’s, I thought the weight would magically fall off again. But it didn’t. I went on Fuhrman’s End Diabetes diet, ostensibly not to lose weight, but to improve my blood sugar. In the twelve weeks of being diligent I didn’t lose a single pound. Mister did. But my body could not let the weight go.

As I was sharing this story with Mister, he looked at me with his loving eyes, and I knew that none of it mattered. Whether I lost the weight, stayed the same, or gained more, I’d still be me. And me is good enough, exactly as I am in this moment. I don’t need to be constantly driven to be better, look better, live longer, be healthier. I can relax and choose in each precious, blessed moment of my life to be who and what I want to be.

Our power and happiness is in our choices. It is in the acceptance and love of ourselves and all others. That’s where everything begins.

Light-heartedly I laughed at myself and Mister joined in, saying, “Ain’t nobody gonna tell my Baby what to do!” He held my hand and kissed me tenderly, affirming I am perfect, just as I am. In that moment, I knew, in the depths of my heart, that I am going to be okay.

DSC06561

 

I’m still a warrior, aware of the stories and searching for my truth. I respect myself and I respect what others have to say. I listen to the stories, the ads and the advice, but I listen through the filter of my awareness. I will not disrespect other people’s points of view and I won’t allow anyone to disrespect mine. I love myself. I will be a part of the change in the world by changing my own.

So yeah, I’m feeling aware, learning to trust in the truth of my authentic self.

Feeling Compelled; Wanting to Recover the Feminine from the Bonds of a Patriarchal Society

I’ve been feeling with intensity the rising global energy of women who are tired of being subjugated, belittled, or treated as ‘less than’ in any way. It resonates deep inside me, within the legacy of my own inheritance of the cycle of abuse, as well as in the experiences of women from other cultures, with other experiences, all over the world.

The bondage is pervasive and complex. It is woven into the fabric of women’s stories about our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our souls.

Women are dictated to by men on how to treat their bodies. In some cultures, women are viewed as prizes or trophies, to be displayed or hidden. In others, we are viewed as objects to be used as seen fit by the men who desire us. And often it begins when we are girls.

Waking Times featured an article, What Rampant Cyber Pornography is Doing to Adolescents by Christina Sarich. She talks about the dangers of “wacked social norms about sex” that are prevalent on the internet. Sarich claims there are “pedophilia dark-net websites … child trafficking… (and) extreme sexual behavior.” Boys view these pornographic images and build unhealthy ideas and expectations about what women want.

It is a socially accepted myth that when a woman says no, she means yes, or at least maybe. According to Sarich, “Doctors are now reporting … girls as young as eleven to thirteen years old showing up with incontinence and ripped up anal and vaginal tissue due to being forcibly entered.”

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/07/18/rampant-cyber-pornography-adolescents/

 

Research found one fifth of girls to have suffered violence or intimidation and that one in five boys demonstrates extremely negative attitudes towards women. I believe the numbers are much higher, that the tools of blame and guilt and persecution keep many girls from reporting.

Margaret Atwood, known for her futuristic writing, including the bestselling novel The Handmaid’s Tale, speaks out about a woman’s right to control her own body on the issue of abortion. She talks about how, when governments, like those in Texas, adopt anti-abortion legislation, they force women into a lifetime of servitude and debt. She talks about the real expenses of prenatal care, health insurance and in-hospital delivery, not to mention the costs of caring for and providing for a baby into adulthood. Atwood goes so far as to suggest that governments that enforce such legislation should foot the bill.

http://qklnk.co/WvUARY

While the argument of the financial burden of forced parenthood is a viable concern, there are also emotional and mental ramifications that anti-abortionists fail to consider. There are women who get pregnant who are unable to provide loving, stable homes to their children. Women who are suffering from mental illnesses, addiction, and poor self-esteem. Women whose role models were parents who abused them. Forcing these women to have their babies perpetuates cycles of dysfunction. A baby born into a home where they are not wanted is likely going to experience attachment disorders, making them at risk to develop serious psychological and social challenges as adults.

Let me be clear; I’m not pro-abortion. I’m pro-choice. We cannot, as a society, determine what is the right decision for everyone. Every woman who becomes impregnated has a different story; a different set of values, different supports, education, income, and health.

When a woman is raped, her choice is taken from her. To take away her choice on how to deal with a resulting pregnancy further traumatizes and punishes her. Some women are raped within the supposed sacrament of marriage. There is no singular solution, but forcing women to have babies that are the result of rape is, in my opinion, barbaric and cruel.

For women who do choose motherhood, it is increasingly challenging to feel positive about the necessary changes that occur to our bodies. Our society’s view of sexy is limited to the physical attributes of young, slim-as-models, pre-motherhood women. All outcomes of motherhood are deemed unattractive, needing to be fixed, eliminated and annihilated.

In an emotionally impacting video featured on Allure, titled Dispelling Beauty Myths, Alexa Wilding shares her personal story. She talks about the wad of flesh she was left with after post-pregnancy muscle diastasis. The obstetrician recommended that she undergo a Mummy Makeover, which is essentially a process involving a tummy tuck, boob lift, and liposuction to erase all physical evidence of her transformation from maidenhood to motherhood.

Cultural messages of guilt, blame, and shame are all emotions inflicted upon women. They are held responsible for the abuses inflicted upon them, for being too pretty, too bubbly, too naïve, too weak, too sensitive. The list goes on.

We read in the news about women in India who have acid poured on their faces for the shame they place on their families by being raped. We read about women in Africa who are genitally mutilated in a custom that is upheld as cultural, but is really a sadistic form of control and manipulation. Women in Afghanistan are oppressed by being denied the right to education. Women in North America and Europe are objectified as sex objects, their exposed cleavage and ass used to sell everything from beer to cars.

I spoke personally to an Imam in Bahrain who stated that women need to cover themselves with abayas and burkas because they are too sexually arousing for men. I spoke to a taxi driver in Toronto who self-righteously claimed to cherish his wife as his most precious belonging, justifying the limits on her social behaviour and restrictions of her dress because of her value as his possession.

I challenge these beliefs. I suggest that all people, men or women, are responsible for their own behaviours and cannot blame anyone but themselves for what they do. I know men who have greater expectations for themselves, who have control over their sexual and physical desires. It can be done. Blaming a woman for being raped, ever, is ludicrous and unacceptable. Placing restrictions on women because of a perceived inability of men to control themselves is demeaning to both sexes.

So, how do we move forward? My daughter, Scarlet, is wondering the same thing. Like me, she doesn’t have all the answers. But she knows, “it’s going to take a transformation… that she needs to participate in the conversation … (and) be a part of the movement.”

Holly Truhlar, in her post The Environmental Movement Has Failed, believes that as a society we have a problem with long-term engagement. She posits that we are not emotionally resourced to deal with experiences “that will break our hearts and bring us to our knees if we feel them.” She goes on to say that we are living in a traumatized society suffering from intergenerational wounding in a system set up to divide and exploit, oppress and abuse. She, like Scarlet, believes we need to have the conversation. We need to engage in “an emotional and spiritual revolution requiring us to expand into the largest sense of Self that we can.”

http://www.hollytruhlar.com/environmental-movement-failed/

I believe that the heart and power of a transformational movement begins with girls; the women of the future. And I’m not the only one. G-Day Fundraising is a growing celebration of the spirit of girls. Its aim is to support and guide girls in as many communities as possible to discover their power and become champions of the future.

Humankind would evolve towards reaching its highest expression if all abusive behaviour could be stopped. Right now. It is a worthwhile goal, but the reality is that we live in a society where many people don’t get the help and support they need, and so these cycles continue. What we can do, right now, is empower children to speak up. We can teach them appropriate boundaries. We can tell them to honour their bodies and that they can say no. We can trust them. We can give them back their voices, helping them to find the language they need to express their feelings. There is a global rising. We won’t keep quiet.

So yeah, I’m feeling compelled; wanting to recover the feminine from the bonds of a patriarchal society.