The Shadow Side of Womanhood

“Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword. On one side all is correct, definite, orderly; the paths are straight, the trees regular, the sun shaded; escorted by gentlemen, protected by policemen, wedded and buried by clergymen, she has only to walk demurely from cradle to grave and no one will touch a hair of her head. But on the other side all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course. The paths wind between bogs and precipices; the trees roar and rock and fall in ruin.”

Virginia Woolf

I read a lot. Like, a lot. It is where I find refuge and peace of mind. Yesterday, I was working on developing a curriculum when this quote landed in my lap. It has been heavy on my mind for a day now. It captures, in such a concise manner, the complexities of womanhood. Although, gender is certainly not a dichotomous construct. For those of us that identify as a woman and fall on the shadow side of the sword, the world can feel like a confusing place. My life has never followed a regular course.

I do not assume that the women who follow cultural rules and societal norms have an “easy” life. We all suffer in one way or another. But, this quote resonated with me because it captured a feeling I have not been able to put into worlds. I believe I was born on the shadow side of the sword. It is just my truth. I never felt “like me” when I conformed to the cultural rules and norms. Believe me, I tried.

It’s complicated. We do look to each other and ask “Do I make sense?” and this quote answered. “Yes, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Learning as we go.

Love.

The Disease To People Please.

“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.”
Ming-Dao Deng, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony

I was spending time with people I love this weekend and I made a comment about something someone (outside of this group) said that hurt my feelings. One of my friends said, I thought you don’t care what people think about you anymore. I responded with of course I do, I’m a human with feelings.

I don’t think it’s an option not to care about what people think about me but I do believe I have a choice as to what to do with that information. At this point in my life when someone says or does something that hurts my feelings I know that I have choices as to how to respond. For example, I can tell them they hurt me, I can set healthier boundaries, or I can just notice that it hurts. What I am not willing to do is compromise my values in order to please another person.

The disease to people please would make me miserable for a lot of reasons. The most important one being that I would be being dishonest with myself about who and what matters to me. Each of us are built uniquely and that should be honored and respected. The next most important reason it’s important to be honest about who and what matters to me is that I want to be surrounded by people that share my values. If I lie about what matters to me, I run the risk of being surrounded my people who do not share my values and I would feel bad about myself all the time.

One of the top regrets of the dying is wishing that they had lived a life true to themselves. The great thing about this kind of life is that if you are true about who you are, you will be a magnet for others like you. These last few weeks have been a testament to that in my own life. If you spend your life people pleasing and saying or doing things that are not consistent with who you are and what matters to you, you will find that the people in your world make you feel bad about yourself and you may not even know why you feel bad about yourself all the time. I believe that at the core of our being we know who we are and what’s important. When that is not honored or respected it leads to a lot of problems both physically and psychologically.

It take courage to stand in your truth (as Brene Brown always says) but for me there is no other way to do this life. I am not going to shrink or lie about myself to make you like me. I refuse to treat myself with such disrespect. There will be some people who just don’t like me or agree with me and sometimes that hurts and that is okay.

In conclusion, this does not mean that if we disagree we get to treat each other poorly. I think it is all about being selective about who you share time with. I know that there are a lot of situations where we don’t get to choose who we spend time with. In these cases, I will not try to convince another person to agree with me or like me. This is futile and a secret way to try and people please (I need you to agree with me so you like me). I can rest comfortably in the truth of who I am and what I believe about my experience in this world.

Go forth and find your tribe, you will know they are your tribe because you can be all of who you are with them.

Love.

“If nothing else in this long and short life, let me be true to my conscience, to the dignity of my own heart. Let me act in a way that says, I have honored my spirit as truly as I have honored others’. Let me stand tall and rooted as a mountain in the face of a quaking world.”
Jennifer DeLucy