Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of women do the same thing each day. We are the connectors--it's how our brains are set up. Without emotional containment, we're vulnerable to being emotionally obese creatures--indulging in every feeling we get from others. Yes, you read that right--not from ourselves. From other people.
When you can see the connections between everything, you have learned to read not only situations but people, too. How do mothers ALWAYS know when something is wrong--even when not told directly? Women's intuition is criticized as weak and inferior when in fact, it makes us what Malcolm Gladwell calls "connectors"--the people who bring others together and help spread ideas. Why is that a weakness? How does that make a woman inferior? Simply put, it doesn't.
Growing up, so much of ourselves comes from how others define us. Judith Butler calls this the "performative," and it means that we essentially "perform" within the social roles we are given...most of the time.
Empowering yourself takes time; it requires acceptance of things you may not want to see or understand. I am not, nor have I ever been, an aggressive person. I wear my heart on my sleeve...and as a result, have absolutely NO poker face. I don't try to make myself feel better by pushing others down or making people feel stupid. I like to raise people up. Consistently. All of my life choices have been made with integrity--toward moving people forward with positivity--despite more difficulties than can aptly be described here.
Over the years, I have watched many students be courageous--more courageous than I have ever been. Two of my beloved student-family in particular--the people I've taught since 1994--inspire me each and every day. Their belief in themselves as individuals freed them from everything they'd been told their whole lives about who they were. Because they knew, somewhere deep inside, that what they'd been told, what they'd been taught--all of it--was simply wrong. A lie. That lie was based on the expectations and/or desires of others--"it" wasn't them. These two young people recognized this life-deficiency within only a few short decades. Of course, it's taken me a bit longer.
I write this today because I want YOU, whoever YOU are, to know that it is never too late to empower yourself. It can't be. Extra weight isn't the only thing lost that can be re-gained. We are born who we are; our environment impacts all of us in very important ways as well. But those experiences do not have to define us, nor should they.
Before, when asked a question, I always felt compelled to answer. From a very young age, I was eager to please. Today, I'm still eager...and grateful. Which is exactly why I've changed my focus. Now, I'm eager to please me. I'm grateful for the person I am--not the person I've become--because I've always been this way. That shift in perspective has allowed me to be free. Or, freer than I have ever been before. We still have to pay taxes, after all....
And I don't need to apologize for it; I don't need to explain it. This is not something up for social debate, though plenty of people will judge me for it anyway. And they'll judge you, too--should you be brave enough to do what I've done.
I can't tell you what happens on the other side of life. I simply don't know that answer. What I can tell you with complete and utter confidence is that, while here, our lives are extraordinarily precious. Unless you know something I don't, we cannot go backwards. There is no pause button. No reset. No rewind, or fast-forward. We are in what Joseph Campbell called "the belly of the whale." It's a trial, one of many, that define the human condition. And no matter how many people we love or have as friends on Facebook or Twitter, in the end--we are all alone. When I'm alone with myself, I know--beyond a shadow of a doubt--that I have lived, and continue to live, my life with integrity. Loyal to others. But not always myself.
Today, I choose me. I know my limits and accept them. I passed the test.
Now, it's your turn.