Feeling Called to be Courageous Through the Practice of Vulnerability

Last week I watched Brene Brown’s much-anticipated event, the Netflix presentation of The Call to CourageIt ignited my inspiration. I feel not only called to be courageous, but called to live big, to get into the arena, and embrace vulnerability even more than I ever have before.

 

I’ve been a fan of Brene Brown’s for several years now. I’ve read many of her books and watched her Ted Talks. In the process, I have discovered a great deal about shame and vulnerability and courage. Brene is a gifted storyteller that has a knack for taking academic research and language and transforming it in a way that hits you in your heart. You feel the truth of it. She artfully weaves in humour and sadness, sharing real-life stories of trauma and resilience with integrity and passion.

I was impacted in so many ways, I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll just dive in.

Brene shares how devastating it was after her Ted Talk on vulnerability went global. While the accolades were many, the criticism she received felt overwhelming. She was in a rough space, but then she describes how she had this “total God moment,” after reading a quote by Theodore Roosevelt.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives vigilantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

That was the moment when she chose to live in the arena, to have the courage to be vulnerable. Because the thing is, you can’t speak up without discomfort. If you’re not in the arena getting your asked kicked, she’s isn’t interested in your criticism. And neither am I.

Vulnerability is the key to whole-hearted loving.” I am so jazzed about being in full-on, authentic connection. I learned at a very young age how being vulnerable was a key part of creating the space for others to trust being open and honest with me. Loving whole-heartedly has brought me more joy and bliss in my life than anything else. In fact, creating deep, meaningful relationships is my life purpose.

“You have to be vulnerable to be brave.” In all honesty, I have never considered myself to be a brave person. I’m just doing what feels natural for me. When I listen to Brene, though, I get it. Being vulnerable creates the opportunity for deep love, joy and a sense of belonging. But it also opens the door for heartache. The pay-off has just always felt greater for me than the risk.

Vulnerability is the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” This is the part that I struggle with; controlling the outcome. It has been the nemesis in my entire letting go journey. Especially when it comes to my kids. I know they are adults. I know they are capable, wise and resilient. Still, I intervene and advise when it isn’t my place. I worry that the path they are on could possibly lead to an unfavourable outcome. It turns out it not only takes courage to let yourself be vulnerable; it takes courage to allow the people you love to do the same.

In a Call to Courage Brene Brown posits that time is our big, precious, un-renewable resource. I have to agree, because it is only after a precious moment is gone that we feel the weight of what we didn’t accomplish. The truth is, sometimes we rock it out of the park, living our lives with energy and enthusiasm and accomplishing great things. At other times we are shut down, emotionally or physically, mentally or spiritually, and time seems to just slip by. And it’s all good. Our best has to be good enough, no matter what that looks like. When you get knocked down in the arena of life, you need some recovery time. The important thing is to get back in.

According to Brene, one of the magical sentences that can help you to deconstruct the obstacles in communication and relationship is, “the story I’m telling myself is…” We all have stories we have created that get in the way of seeing one another and being seen, a critical component of vulnerability. For example, when our partner or friend or colleague is tuning us out, instead of being curious and asking why, we tend to make assumptions based on our stories that it is something about us. Usually it is not. We have to be brave enough to question.

Practicing gratitude is a powerful tool towards joyful living. Pausing to be grateful for the ordinary moments fuels joy, love and a sense of belonging. When we are grateful for the gifts we have been bestowed, we develop healthy self-esteem and we don’t have to look outside ourselves or change ourselves. In fact, if you’re changing who you are, you aren’t achieving belonging, you’re just trying to fit in.

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Many movements have been springing up recently that are supporting this courage to be vulnerable, to speak up in the face of discomfort. The #Me Too movement opened the door for millions of people, mostly women, to tell their stories of abuse. They stepped into the arena. Their bravery has incited criticism from those privileged enough to feel uncomfortable. But the tough conversations have to be had. Change is never easy.

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We, as a global community, need to excavate the myths that get in the way of progress and change. We need to elect brave leaders who are committed to equality and boot out those who are corrupt, greedy, and unethical. We have to be willing to make mistakes and to say the wrong thing. We have to get into the arena. We have to speak up.

As for me, I’m feeling affirmed in my vulnerability journey, ready to continue being open and honest with my heart and my mind. I’m feeling grateful for my life, especially for my Mister, who creates space for me to be my authentic self and loves me unconditionally, who not only supports me to be vulnerable, but embraces it. I’m inspired to continuing risking rejection, submitting my queries to agents and dreaming of being a published writer. I’m going to speak my truth through the platform of my writing.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to be courageous through the practice of vulnerability.

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.

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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.

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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 Passionate About the Rising Global Sisterhood on International Women’s Day

 

When I was on Vancouver Island in January I was gifted with the opportunity to attend a Celebrating Your Sacred Divinity Workshop. Led by my talented daughter, Scarlet and her friend, Jayde, it was an intimate gathering held at the Matrea Centre in Duncan. After introductions and making a commitment of confidentiality we were led through a series of experiences and postures. It was empowering and had me feeling grateful and honoured to be a woman.

Then, a few weeks ago, my attention was drawn to a series of posts Scarlet shared on Facebook highlighting the Global Sisterhood synchronized meditation that is taking place today, March 8, 2017. I contacted her to ask more about it and checked out the post in more detail. The objective of the meditation is, “transforming ourselves and transforming the world –  together.” Last year there were over 650 circles in 65 countries world wide. The Global Sisterhood is working to bring women together to transform jealousy, competition, gossip, shame and exclusivity and heal through unity. In the Circle, everyone is equal and sacred.

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I decided I wanted to be a part of the collective experience so I asked the women in my book study if they were interested. They agreed, and when I set about determining what the Circle might look like my thoughts were taken back to the first International Women’s Day I participated in. I was teaching in a special education setting for girls with emotional and behavioural challenges. The girls I taught were marginalized; victims of the cycle of mental illness, poverty, and a lack of education. They were often difficult to engage, but not that day.

We began the lesson with a circle. We borrowed one of the Aboriginal Nations customs of smudging to cleanse ourselves and the classroom. We lit candles and held hands and sat in silent communion and support of one another, honouring everyone there. After our brief meditation, I shared a TED Talk on the Smart Board, featuring the powerful Eve Ensler. The title was Embrace Your Inner Girl, and they did just that.

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The girls listened and viewed the presentation with rapt attention, as Eve Ensler described girl’s ability to survive and overcome adversity. Before it finished, they were erupting into a volcano of chatter, joining Eve enthusiastically with their exclamations, “I am an emotional creature,” “You don’t tell the Atlantic Ocean to behave,” and “I love being a girl.” It was a joy to witness these young women come alive with excitement, celebrating their girl cell. They left behind, if only for a moment, their hyped-up sexual grasping for control for something so much more pure and powerful.

My wish is to share a list of inspiring women, hoping to light up readers with the same kind of passion and excitement that was palpable in my classroom that day. Women still have a long way to go to achieve their full glory and equality with men, but there are remarkable strides being made with courageous women blazing the trail.

My list of women who have been the most influential on me must begin with Oprah. Born into poverty, she has since been ranked the richest African-American and the greatest black philanthropist in American history. When I was a young mother of three, struggling to balance work with raising a family, watching Oprah often lifted my spirits. When I saw her interview Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, I was inspired to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a writer. And then there were all her give-aways, charities and foundations. Mister bought us tickets to hear her speak at a live show in Vancouver in 2013, which has become one of my fondest, bucket list kind of memories.

 

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Meryl Streep is another woman I look up to. In the world of Hollywood, with all the gossip and competitiveness, she is not only outrageously talented, but conducts herself with integrity. I’ve also listened to many speeches made by Michelle Obama. She is another example of a woman who rose above her circumstances through hard work and determination. Women like Princess Diana, Toni Morrison, Mother Theresa, Brene Brown, Emma Watson, Adele and Beyoncé. They have all touched my heart with their passion and commitment to make a difference in the world.

https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=Michelle+Obama

On a personal level, there are many non-famous women who inspire me to be my best and reach my highest purpose. My mom set an example for me, raising me with open and accepting attitudes that were years ahead of her time. She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, was adamant that I could do anything, and loved me unconditionally. My mother-in-law is a woman I respect deeply as well. She is a woman who acts with integrity and discipline and who raised her four boys to be strong, sensitive, and confident men.

My daughters are all amazing women, each with their own special talent and contribution to their community. Scarlet is a social worker who works with passion and determination to empower youth who struggle with addiction. She is a loving, dedicated mom who is always challenging herself to be her best in that most precious and important role. Tamara is an artist who refuses to be identified by a label and is constantly reinventing and rediscovering how to show up authentically in the world. She’s passionate about her role in the collective consciousness of the world and uses her talents as a writer, artist, yogi and spiritualist to make a difference. Kara is a young woman of incredible resilience and intelligence. She is a self-described highly sensitive person who demonstrates deep compassion and empathy for other people.

Then there are my friends. Carol is a Yogi who emulates deep wisdom and a gentle heart. She is an incredibly vibrant, healthy, and beautiful woman who inspires me to embrace being over fifty with grace. Kim is a woman who I look up to for her fierce expression of the Goddess. She is a self-confessed woman of many faces, and it’s hard to decide which expression of herself I am most fond of.  Anne Marie is another woman who dares to be outstanding and doesn’t let anything, including her age, stop her. Newly retired from a brilliant career as a lawyer, she still finds energy to work as a consultant in conflict resolution, practice yoga, and be an integral part of her social community.

Currently, there is a plethora of Women’s Movements working for change in the world. Be Girl is a social enterprise focused on empowering women. NFCC International, based in Nepal, is empowering women and girls and ensuring human rights through support in education and work opportunities. Miss Heard Magazine is a submission-based digital start up magazine created by teen girls for teen girls. There’s U.N. Women, Women for Women International, WOCAN, and Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, just to name a few.

For more inspiration, you can check out TED Talks, which features an array of internationally acclaimed speakers. Some of my favourites include Brene Brown’s: The Power of Vulnerability, an interesting perspective on human connection and our ability to empathize, belong and love. I also found Amy Cuddy’s: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are to be a thought-provoking study on the effects of what she terms power posing. Jill Bolte Taylor’s: My Stroke of Insight is an astonishing story of the many complex functions of the brain.

As Eve Ensler stated so eloquently, women are the key to the world’s healing. Ultimately, the very survival of humanity and the Earth is at stake. Our emotions call us into action and our passions ignite change. The time for the Rising Global Sisterhood is now. The time for women to be regarded with respect, dignity, and equality, is now. The time for women to thrive in roles of leadership is now.

So yeah, I’m feeling passionate about the rising Global Sisterhood on International Women’s Day.