I Am Only One

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Helen Keller

Eighteen months ago, I became a vegetarian. I had been a vegetarian in my teens, around about the same time that I was a member of CND, boycotted Del Monte because of their support of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, had a subscription to the New Internationalist, was wearing Doc Martins before they were cool when the only place you could buy them was the Army Surplus store, and wanted to study medicine to rid the world of disease and suffering.

But somewhere along the road of life, wide-eyed teenage conviction that one’s purpose in life is to change the world for the better was overtaken by the cynicism of adulthood. Marriage, mortgage, motherhood and the mundanity of everyday life shrunk my world, blinkered my view and sapped every last ounce of energy I had. I no longer had the time for my convictions, never mind the courage of them.

So I pottered along in my perfectly lovely, perfectly normal life, telling my inner teenager that there really wasn’t any point anyway; who did she think she was with her ideas of world peace and ending starvation and universal healthcare. No one else was giving a shit and really it was time to quieten  down, get real and grow up. I told her one person couldn’t change the world, and she really needed to get over it.

And that was fine, for a while. But my life was out of kilter with my internal compass, and my chronic box of sadness was growing larger and larger. With the exception of my family, I had lost sight of the things that were important to me, things that I felt strongly about and felt compelled to stand up for.

Then, all of a sudden, it happened – a moment of clarity. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t change the world, feed the poor, house the homeless, eradicate treatable disease. Because I could change me. It didn’t matter if my actions made no difference at all in the grand scheme of things, or if you agreed with me. Because I agreed with me. It didn’t matter if others thought I was a crank or an eccentric. Because I knew my reasons. The teenager did grow up, and she realised that striving to change others and the external world  was missing the point.  I could no longer refuse to do the something I could do.

I became a vegetarian, I took up yoga, I volunteered. I sign petitions, I boycott Nestle, I buy a meal for the first homeless person I come across each time I am in the city centre. I make sure the people in my life  who are important to me, know how important they are. I write to encourage others to be their own true, powerful selves and change their own worlds.

When we all do the something we can do, the world is a better place for everyone.

What can you do?

Claire x

Do you have the courage of your convictions? Do you find it hard to find the time to live what you believe? Share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

 

 

A Life Lived with Grace

There is something hypnotic and humbling when in the presence of true grace. Difficult to define, grace is intangible but unmistakable.

Beautiful and balanced, charming and charitable, delicate and dextrous, elegant and effortless, loving and loved – grace is the power you exude when you are doing nothing other than being your whole, divine self.

Grace is the alluring power of body, mind and spirit in perfect harmony. It is the seemingly effortless radiance of pure joy when you are intimately connected to your own soul. Grace is an understanding that you have incalculable abundance, unfettered joy and all you will ever need.  That you are enough.

In grace, life flows effortlessly and in synchrony. In grace, the  beauty in the minutiae of life is revealed in all its glory.  In grace, your body moves with knowing and understanding, an expression of your inner pleasure with  all that you are.

The life lived with grace is a life lived in alignment with the natural order of the universe. It is an understanding that your very being, the intricacies of your thoughts, the subtleties of your movements, the orchestration of  your cellular communication is as the flight of the swan, the run of the cheetah, the first bloom of magnolia in spring. Perfect and intentioned.

Grace is daring to give what another does not deserve; unwarranted kindness given with love. In grace, love is unconditional. Given freely and without expectation, grace is surrender to the knowledge that love is the essential nature of being and will prevail. Always.

Grace is innocence and perfection,  acceptance of the wonder and magic of life, elegant simplicity and joy, and the unshakable belief in love.

Like a child. My child.

For Grace.

What does grace look like to you? How do you demonstrate grace in your everyday life? Would you like to be more graceful? Share your thoughts below.

The Taming of the Shrew

Shrew, bitch, battle-axe, fishwife, harridan, she-devil, ball breaker, drama queen. Irrational, aggressive, hysterical, melodramatic, hateful, crazy, highly strung, histrionic.

“Calm down dear!”

The angry woman is subject to many negative and pejorative terms not usually levelled at her male counterpart. From an early age, society and parents make clear to little girls that anger is ugly, unfeminine, and definitely not ok. But in belittling the little girl’s right to anger, they take away her ability to express her distress.  Without healthy modelling of positive ways to utilise and harness the power of anger, that little girl grows into a woman who avoids expressing her anger at all costs, or turns it inwards against herself, or has no idea how to express that she is hurt, or adopts addictive behaviours, such as comfort eating, to avoid feeling it at all.

I am currently trying to deal with my own anger issues. Recently, my unexpressed and unresolved anger has been spilling out all over the place in all the wrong places with all the wrong people. I am scared of my anger, of the depth and ferocity of it, of the feeling that I might somehow be consumed by it or completely lose control of it altogether. Recently I had a huge, shouting, swearing, totally out of control showdown with the Woman Uncut midwife. There were tears and snot and nails and hair – it was not pretty, was over something pretty petty and my behaviour was sooooo out of order.  Like all the other times when I have totally lost it, I was left feeling terrible and trying to patch up some viciously inflicted wounds. I realised that I could not go on avoiding dealing with my anger issues and I needed to try to figure out what was really going on.

Anger is a basic human emotion just like sadness, joy, excitement, fear and all the others. We unhelpfully ascribe emotions to “good” or “bad” categories, as if somehow we had a choice in our feelings, and in this hierarchy anger comes top of the list of the baddies. But we have a full range of emotions for a reason and anger is a feeling that says “You are hurt”. Anger tells you what you don’t want, that something is happening which is overstepping your internal boundaries and you don’t like it. It feels uncomfortable, and that is intentional because discomfort is more likely to provoke us to take action to resolve our hurt and restore our balance. The anger itself is not the problem – it is simply the catalyst to move you to protect yourself and clearly express your boundaries.

However, if years of conditioning have left you, like me, unable to express your anger in a healthy way, then you lose touch with what it is you really want and where your boundaries are. If you have never learned the skills to stay with your anger and tune in to what it is trying to tell you, then you don’t recognise what you don’t want and lose touch with the real you, and eventually you react emotionally in a display of fireworks and cursing. Or, if your conditioning has left you in the passive-aggressive camp, you sulk and pierce imaginary daggers into the skull of whoever is pissing you off.

As I am beginning to understand, anger can be a positively powerful force if you make the choice to own it, accept it for what it is and trust the messages that it is giving you. The next time you feel the red mist descending, catch it, feel it, breathe – what is really going on? Is it really the socks on the floor in the kids room, or is it that your partner forgot to do the really important thing that you asked them to do this morning? Is it really about the guy in the car park who took “your” space, or the fact that your friend let you down at short notice again? Once you know what it is about, you are in a very powerful position to respond deliberately and proportionately to what the issue actually is. Thank your anger for showing you where your boundaries are being transgressed, and then let it go.

Until then, I’ll be punching pillows,

Claire x

How do you deal with your anger? What things make you angry? Do you blow your lid over seemingly small irritations? Share your thoughts below.

 

That bloody oxygen mask

In the two years or so since I started my crazy journey of self exploration, I must have read hundreds of articles, blog posts and books about putting your own oxygen mask on first, prioritising self-care, filling yourself up first, looking after yourself, making time for “me time” blah, blah. And I get it – really I do! At an intellectual level I completely understand that it is impossible to continually give your power away in service of others without replenishing your stocks. I have an A-level in physics goddamnit, I know about the law of conservation of energy!

However, whilst I know that giving until you crash is counterproductive, I regularly fail to even locate my own mask, let alone put it on. I seem to be stumbling about inhaling the  somewhat stale air expired by all those whose oxygen masks I have lovingly secured. And even although I know that this leaves me depleted, run down and tetchy, somehow I don’t seem to be able to consistently prioritise my own self care.

Of course, when you are neglecting your own needs, all of your relationships suffer. Have you ever noticed that the days when you are running on emotional empty are the days where the kids are at their most monstrous, or you have an argument with you partner over whose turn it is to take the rubbish out, or you think that  you really might stick pins in the eyes of that woman in the office? Moods are contagious and you and I are creating this reality by not acknowledging that our needs are important too.

Whilst this seems totally obvious to me now, up until very recently I really didn’t understand this. I had reached the conclusion that there was something wrong with me, that I was not capable of being happy, that I was unable to really connect with the important people in my life because I was fundamentally broken. But do you know what – that’s bollocks! I had just completely lost sight of the fact that I am a real person with needs, not an automated giving machine, and I realised that I was expending no energy whatsoever on making sure my own oxygen mask was tight-fitting. I was giving all of my power away with no attempt to re-charge.

The reasons why I, and many women, give until we are depleted are complex and deep-seated. Whilst we might like to think we are giving out of the genuine goodness of our hearts, this is usually not the case. We are over-giving because we are conditioned to believe that giving makes us a good person: the more you give the better a person you will be. Our giving is an element of external approval seeking and becomes a habit.  Stopping to take time for yourself, to really connect with what you need to feel full and powerful and making it happen feels selfish because fundamentally you feel that you are not worthy, that somehow you don’t deserve it.

But you do! Really you do. Your best self is your best gift, and being your best self requires your attention.

Take ten minutes and breathe. What would really rev up your power? What do you really need? Figuring out what you really need is a whole other post, but listen carefully and you will get some idea. It doesn’t have to be a day lounging in a spa, nice though that may be. Do you need to take time to eat well or do some exercise? Do you need a night out with the girls? Do you need to make time to have sex, with your partner or alone. Do you just need half an hour and a cup of tea? Do you need to ditch your soul-sucking job/partner/friend? The answers will come and you owe yourself the energy to make it happen.

Giving is a good thing – it makes us feel good, connects us to people and makes for a better world. Martyrdom however, is not.  Self care is a choice that those in your life will thank you for.

Attempting to untie myself from the burning stake,

Claire x

Do you take time to look after yourself? Do you struggle to make the time, even although you know you will feel better if you take some time for you? What things help you re-charge? Comment below.

Parading your power with love

Since the inception of Woman Uncut, I have been asked many times what parading your power with love looks like in real life. Divine feminine power comes in many guises and it can be difficult to pin down, to dissect and explain.

As I wrote here, I have felt myself teetering on the edge of this power, never quite fully grasping it and frequently losing hold altogether. I have struggled to maintain a clear vision of what it looks like, but I recognise it when I see it.

We live in an age when Western women have supposedly never had it so good with opportunities for education and employment, control over our reproductive destiny, sexual freedom, and legislation to ensure our equality with men. But despite this, many women who “have it all” feel a sense of emptiness and a lack of wholeness. We have become what society and the media has convinced us feminine should be, and in the main this is a masculine world view, devoid of the female energy so needed by the world today.

So what does a divinely powerful woman in the 21st Century look like to me?

In essence, the powerful woman lives without need for validation from others. She understands that external approval is a fundamental human need and is reassuring to receive, but that depending on external factors to feel good about herself is not the route to true happiness.

The powerful woman knows who she is and what she wants and expresses her authentic truth with courage. She has faith that it is safe to shed the masks and show her true self to the world because she knows that, no matter what anyone else may think, she is perfect just as she is, flaws and all. She understands that she is a unique creature with strengths and weaknesses and that she is, and always has been, good enough.

She draws strength and comfort from her relationships, which she nurtures with deep love, but she remembers that her wants and needs are important too. Certainty in her wisdom allows her to make positive choices for herself and for others. She does not feel it necessary to conform or succumb to that which is not in harmony with what she knows in her heart to be true.

She understands the need to nurture herself; to express herself creatively, to nourish and move her body, to engage herself in work or activity that makes her heart sing, to allow herself to dream big dreams, to revel in her sexuality, to explore her spirituality and sense of self.

The powerful woman knows that there is no need for her power to dominate or flow over others. She is instinctively aware that the intermingling of her power with that of others results in a force greater than the sum of its parts. She is not threatened by difference and understands that collaboration, not competition, is what will be required to overcome the challenges, big and small, faced by our fragile world.

She knows that womankind is at the very centre of the mystery of life, and that from the very cells of her body and core of her spirit,  life is created. She is the vessel of divine, unconditional love and she gives it freely and with joy.

My vision for Woman Uncut is that it become a community of women encouraging each other to shed our self-limiting beliefs and move into our own divine power at our own pace and in our own way. I am not there yet and some days I have doubts that I ever will be. I don’t have all the answers to exactly how you or I achieve this, but I know that this is a path I need to follow, and that the “how’s” will take care of themselves.

With divine love,

Claire x

 

What is your vision of a powerful woman? How do you parade your power with love? Share your insights and comment below.

Image by Jannoo028