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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

I HATE PARTY BAGS!

This weekend was my darling boy’s 8th birthday party. I love the run up to the children’s birthday parties; picking the theme and making invitations weeks beforehand, the kids making crispy cakes for the big day and covering the kitchen, and themselves, in melted chocolate, making the birthday cake, which has to be kept as a surprise until the morning of the party. And then the big day itself; the dressing up and decorations, twenty excited kids running all over the place in their costumes, the silly games, the sound of unadulterated fun, and the large glass of wine when it is all over. But there is one thing about parties I hate.

Party bags!

Since the kids started having parties I have duly churned out the little bags filled with  plastic crap and the obligatory sweets, all the time knowing that the very act of doing so made me feel ill at ease. I hate party bags on so many levels; that we are teaching our kids that the getting of “stuff” is more important than the experience itself, that they are filled with cheap, environmentally disastrous  plastic tat made in Chinese sweatshops by kids not much older than my own; that really the only worth they have for kids is the sugar-laden, teeth-rotting sweets that we are conditioning them to associate with fun and happy times. Am I over-thinking on the whole party bag thing here?  Yes of course! And somehow no.

You see, despite my strong feelings about what party bags represent for me, for the last 5 years I have I doled them out anyway. Why? Because it is what is expected,  you must because it is what everyone else does. Who wants to be the social pariah who spoiled the kid’s fun for the sake of a higher purpose? Who wants to take a stand for what they believe in at the risk of gossip at the school gate?

Well, now that I am learning to tap into my power and trust my own instincts, I do. I want to be that pariah. This year I did take a stand and decided that not a single party bag would grace my house . Clearly a difficult discussion with my son ensued – at the age of 8 children are already programmed to do whatever it takes to fit in and avoid any behavior that might mark them out as different. But after my explanation of how I felt about it, he agreed that we would make cakes and he would decorate them all differently, one for each individual child to take home. How beautiful they all looked, in rainbow colours, fundamentally the same but each unique in its own way.

The kids loved it and one little girl said how lovely it was that my son had given her something that he had made himself. He glowed with pride and I didn’t apologise and didn’t explain and tried very hard not to worry about what the other mums would think.

We all have “party bag” issues, things that we do to fit in with the crowd because we feel it is expected of us, even if  it make us feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes you have been doing these things for so long that you can suppress the sickly feeling and pretend to yourself that it is ok to ignore the things that really matter to you. But in the process you lose something of your authentic self and take a step away from your full divine power.

But somewhere in your subconscious, you know. You know what you stand for and what you believe in, and you know when you are compromising yourself for the sake of social acceptance. Oh yes you do, and it doesn’t feel good does it? So, starting today, step into your power, stand up for what you believe, however ridiculous or small it may seem, and be who you are, not who you think others expect.

With love from a party bag-free zone,

Claire x

“I don’t do fine!”

A few years ago, my mum was helping me in the kitchen preparing for a party I was throwing. I was having a minor hissy fit, stressing  over how the day would go, at which point my mum tried to reassure me with “It will all be fine“. My immediate reaction was to  snap back “I don’t do fine.

And back then, I seriously Did Not Do Fine. Fine was not good enough, only perfect would suffice. If perfectionism was an Olympic sport, then I would have been Usain Bolt. You see, I am a recovering perfectionist and my recovery has been slow and somewhat imperfect.

Perfectionism is an irrational belief that everything in life must be done with no deviation from how things are “supposed to be”. No mistakes, no weakness, no failure, no if’s or but’s. There is perfect, or there is worthless; there are no shades of grey. Who makes up the rules as to how things are “supposed to be” is never quite clear, but deviation from them is perilous for the perfectionist.

Perfectionism is an enormous burden, like a lead box filled with heavy wooden masks strapped to your back. You select the appropriate mask for the occasion –  the perfect mummy, the perfect wife, the perfect colleague, the perfect hostess, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend. But the weight of these masks of perfection oppresses your true authentic self to the point where you cannot even remember what lies underneath them.

And even although in your rational mind you understand the futility of chasing the illusion of perfection, still you are compelled, because it is the achievement of the ideal that gives meaning to your life. If only you could meet your own expectations, then you would be good enough.

But of course, you will never be good enough. Because that is the other thing about perfection – it could always have been better. For perfectionists, even perfect is not perfect enough; you could always have done it faster or straighter or with more pizzaz, or standing on your head while spinning plates and playing the ukulele. That voice in your head will never let up and will never be satisfied. The constant striving for the unattainable sucks the joy out of every task and leaves you frustrated and chronically dissatisfied with yourself and your life. Sometimes you don’t even bother trying, because if you can’t do it perfectly then what would be the point?

But what if good enough really could be good enough? What if you are actually human after all? What if you could apply the same standards you apply to everyone else to yourself? Would you recognise yourself anymore? Would hell freeze over? Would those who love you stop doing so?

For me, the first step in getting myself down off my superhuman pedestal was to accept that I had a choice in what I expected of myself. Although it seemed almost automatic and without conscious thought, I was choosing to subject myself to the enormous pressure of perfection. The reasons I was choosing this are deep-seated, but the simple realisation, after many years,  that it was within my power to choose differently was a revelation. So I started to make different choices and view myself through a different lens and guess what – hell didn’t freeze over and my loved ones still love me. It is not easy and I am still a work in progress, but life is lighter and filled with more joy now that perfection is not a full-time preoccupation.

Striving for the perfectly imperfect version of myself.

Claire x

What about you? Are you burdened with the perfectionist gene? How have you overcome your need for perfection? Share your wisdom and comment below.

Image credit – Scottchan