On Patriarchy & Princesses

A few days ago, I let a 2-year-old little girl pick out a pepto-pink princess-themed book from a Little Free Library and instantly regretted it.

I tried steering her towards a different selection but she wasn’t having it. With her love of all things pink, the color of the book alone had her at hello.

It’s a hefty short story collection of the classics following all of the Disney princesses, all of which feature scantly dressed way thin females with tiny waistlines and long flowing hair. And while there is a whisper attempt at weaving in decent messaging, each princesses main goal in life is landing a man. And not just any man but a prince; a handsome prince; a savior-esque clean shaven dude of a prince who will provide the great honor of making her a royal bride.

 
In short, if there could only be one truly terrible book in all the land, this is it. If we want to indoctrinate our young girls right from the get go and make sure they know and stay in the subservient pretty girl box designed for them, this book is one-stop shopping.

 

While the 2-year-old was napping, I tucked the book inside my bag (with her parents grateful stamp of approval) and left the house with it, so it will never be seen again.

 
This is me at age 40 just starting to see how patriarchy has shaped and molded my life and the life of each and every one of us: females, males, gender variant, intersex, and transgender alike. This is me having my worldview-lens in the process of changing, as I invest time and energy into learning about systemic issues by way of classes I’ve been taking, books I’ve been reading, and talks I’ve been listening to online. And it has been and is not easy or comfortable or pleasant. I don’t mind telling you that there’s a small voice inside of me that regrets this new pathway opening up – what is it they say: ignorance is bliss? Yeah. It’s something akin to that.

A poem I penned this morning:

To all of the people
that have shown or handed me
my power,
I am sorry to report
that I’ve not been using it.
Good news is,
I’m starting now.
Better late than never, as they say.
 
And to those who are eye-rolling
at my use of the word power
or buckling under the weight
of your own discomfort,
take your business elsewhere.
I’m done trying to live my life
to make you feel as though
there is nothing in need of fixing.
 
My voice
like air
like repression
has been silent.
 
The time for my uprising
is here.
 
And I don’t care
if you like it.

____________

A few days ago, I watched the documentary Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power. I wasn’t familiar with her or her work prior to the film – it was the title that drew me in, and thankfully so. Spurred by the film, I was inspired to purchase one of her books that was mentioned: Power Politics, which was originally published in 1971. It arrived in the mail just yesterday and I set to reading it this morning. After reading a few poems from it, I penned the poem above.

Something that has become clear to me: poetry spurs more poetry, at least for me. For my poetry to take flight, I need the poetry of others to inspire, teach, and help show me the way. Back in February, I was away on a 2.5 week long retreat and I didn’t bring any poetry books along with me to read. I also wrote very little poetry of my own. It was then that I discovered: I need the poetry of others to help me find my own poet voice. It was an important realization.

Now, I’m on a roll. Over the last month or two, I’ve purchased around 4 or 5 different poetry books. I told my husband just the other day that he might have to put me in Poetry Books Anonymous!

“A word after a word after a word is power” really resonates with me right now. As I often write about: words matter. They really do. And this is me in the beginning stages of developing a whole new language.

Applying Mindfulness to Systemic Challenges

If you’re interested in checking out this free online series, click here.

I just watched the doc film Feminists: What Were They Thinking on Netflix. I felt the film was well-done, educational, eye-opening, and inspiring.

Here’s a quote I wrote down from the film that I think all of us unpaid/low-paid creative/artistic/musical humans, community builders, change agents, and social activists would do well to hear and take to heart (over and over and over again):

“When you are doing something you love, it’s like throwing a rock in the pool because that love is hitting the pool and starts radiating out. And so, when you’re doing something that you love and sharing it with other human beings, you are doing something of benefit.”

– Meredith Monk
(American composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer)

It’s worth mentioning that I watched the film as an intentional act of stepping outside of my comfort zone. When I’m confronted with the word feminist in any context, even if a dear friend of mine calls them self one proudly in a conversation we’re having together, I bristle and energetically and/or physically back away.

I hope this is assumed but just in case it’s not: it’s not that I’m against equal rights for women or feel as though as women we shouldn’t be rallying our voices or stepping into our own power. My issue has to do with the labeling and declaration of being a feminist. And to be clear, this just doesn’t just apply to feminism. I bristle at labels that I judge have an inherent quality of me-against-you mentality built in. If a word used for describing one self or a group of people ends in -ist or -ism there’s a good chance it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not saying this is a good idea or right, I’m simply being honest with where my inner processing is at and the judgements that come up for me.

For example, if I were asked to describe myself using single words, I would never include vegetarian in the mix or even Buddhist. In my view, these words have a high potential to cause separation and propel a certain level of me-against-you self-righteous energy. They are also relatively meaningless categories and distinctions when it comes to conveying who I really am. Labels can be dangerous and degrading. They serve to keep us tucked away in a certain box – and when we use them on our self, we limit our potential and our own power to shine forth our true nature.

I appreciate documentary films that afford me the opportunity to see things differently and gain a new perspective by way of hearing the personal stories of others. This was one such film. And it’s not that I now feel called to label myself a feminist but I do have some fresh grist for the mill, which I appreciate.

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The 5 Powers Film

Last night, I watched the film The 5 Powers, which is based off of the comic book I’m holding in the pic above (or vice versa, I’m not sure :).

The 5 Powers film is about Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH), Sister Chan Kong, and Alfred Hassler and their involvement in the peace movement back in the 60’s. I really enjoyed it and felt they did a nice job crafting it together. I plan on showing it to the kids who will be attending our upcoming local spring family retreat, as I think they’ll also enjoy it.

 

If you’re looking for a mindful movie you can watch solo, with your friends, or with your kids, I’d recommend checking this one out!

You can rent the film online for $4, or digitally purchase it for $9. If you’re interested, click here.

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This is what I look like sometimes

I just took this pic of myself about 30-minutes ago. It’s hard for me to imagine how this pic might look to you, whether you know me personally or not – maybe nothing looks amiss at all. But, to me, this pic is a visual message of how my nerve disease, CRPS, shows up for me sometimes, like today. I can see my illness, exhaustion, and poor state of health today in my face – largely in my eyes. Our eyes are the window to the soul, as the saying goes.

I just watched a 2016 documentary called Gleason, which tells the story about former NFL player Steve Gleason’s diagnosis, progression, and life with ALS. It is an extraordinarily well-done film and I would highly recommend it. After watching it, I was inspired to take this pic of myself and post it here, as a way of highlighting that this is what I look like sometimes. Some days I am bed ridden. Some days I’d rather have the energy and ability to be outside enjoying the sunshine, like today, but I don’t. Some days my pain levels are higher than my mental capacity to physically rally myself – though it is rare for me, anymore, to experience a day when my pain levels are higher than my mental capacity to spiritually and emotionally rally myself.

Physically my body may be weak and sore today. But in learning the art of resting (yes, it is an art for sure), I am able to do so much awesome and amazing stuff in my life, during the days that I am afforded more energy and better health.

The documentary showcased for me the possible benefits and power of sharing our story, which is something I still struggle with, personally. As a writer and a mindfulness practitioner, I am still uncertain as to whether documenting and getting involved in advocacy work is the direction that speaks to me, in regards to being someone who lives with chronic pain and illness. What is clear to me, is the importance of showing and sharing about all the sides of ourselves. To be authentically who we are, in our own skin. So on that note, this pic is what I look like sometimes.

Things that are helpful for me to keep in mind:

  • No one totally is as they appear.
  • We’re all human – we all have our challenges and heartaches and strife.
  • We all judge books by their cover – and we’re all always wrong about our assessment.