A late-night text

I’ve been thinking about the wisdom that has shaped much of my life. I’m grateful for some of it, to be sure. There’s been a lot more that I’ve had to intentionally dismantle and deconstruct.

I was raised in the church. Both consciously and subconsciously it inferred, offered, and proclaimed Wisdom – as an institution, within its sacred text, because of its God. And not just a  wisdom, the wisdom. It was the only wisdom that I was to rely on, turn to, and build my life upon. I was dutiful. I was obedient. I was disciplined. And to be fair, it was this wisdom to which I turned, on which I relied, in which I took solace. The darker side was also true: when I didn’t turn to it, rely on it, or took solace anywhere else, I felt vast shame and guilt.

But it wasn’t just the church, religion, or God as wisdom source – it was men. (White) men were seen as the experts, the holders of authority, the ones I could and should trust. In completely transparency, for a very long time, I rarely-if-ever thought to consider anything else! They had the answers. And because that was so obvious, it was just as obvious that I did not have answers – or wisdom; that my thoughts could not be trusted, that I could not, should not trust myself.

Then there was academia. It would have never crossed my mind to question why all of the things I was learning were from (more) white men. Yes, I had a few women teachers along the way, but they were instructing me from textbooks written by white men. Even in college, as a Business and Communications major, everything I learned was from a man’s perspective, man-as-wisdom. I didn’t question a bit of it. I appreciated what I was learning. I took it in as gospel.

By the time I got to my Masters Degree (with a nearly-20-year break in the middle) very little had changed. The professors and authors were still almost exclusively white men – in my studies of both theology and therapy (especially theology). But it was also during this time that things began to shift. I took a class called Feminist Critique (taught by a visiting professor who was a woman and only assigned texts written by women) that opened me up to a wisdom that made me really, really angry.  She systematically revealed the white/male lens everywhere, influencing everything. And that lens was not mine.

At about the same time, probably not at all coincidentally, I began to experiment with the interpretation of women’s ancient, sacred stories through a non-male lens, through a woman’s lens, through a feminist lens, through my lens in order to pull forth something different, anything different. And it was this effort that became a practice that became my everything that enabled me to find, hear, and actually trust my own wisdom. For the first time.

A few weeks back, I woke up in the middle of the night and typed a text to myself – just so I wouldn’t forget the thought that was keeping me from sleep:

We need sources of wisdom that are distinctly feminine. Only they can mirror our experience in ways that allow the wisdom to actually land, to be relevant, to support and strengthen us.

I was pretty happy to see that text waiting for me the next morning.

I’m not opposed to the wisdom of men (well, maybe a little). What I want, though, is the wisdom of women – not in opposition, but as obvious choice.

Without such, it’s no wonder we walk through our lives doubting ourselves, not trusting our intuition, flailing in relationships, putting others ahead of ourselves, tamping down our desires, and wallowing in (often) self-inflicted shame. Everything we learn is not who WE are. Everything we compare ourselves to is not who WE are. This is the patriarchy, of course; the water we swim in, the air we breath, its insipid presence in everything we do, think, and feel.

But…

If we had feminine sources of wisdom – and saw them as reliable, trustworthy, honorable, valuable – we would have a template through which to understand ourselves that syncs with who we most closely are, who we most closely resemble, how we most often act, think, and feel.

Imagine it for a moment.

If I had grown up in a goddess-worshipping coven, it would have been normal for me to trust my body, to eschew anything that smacked of self-contempt, to always look within for answers, comfort, and strength. Even if I don’t take it to that lovely extreme, let’s say I grew up in a Christian home, attending church, going to Bible studies, but everything was focused on women. At church I would have heard stories that were not about a woman’s sin or shame; rather, their magnificence and strength and power. I would have never heard a single message – spoken, assumed, written, or preached – that told me I should be more submissive or more humble or more obedient; rather, I would have been extolled and encouraged to trust my voice, my heart, and yes, my wisdom. I would have grown up reading books written by women, novels about women (written by women), and even if my teachers and professors had remained mostly white men, that input would have been consistently “countered” by the reminder that at the end of the day, what I thought mattered. When I watched TV or read Seventeen magazine, I would not have been inundated by women’s objectification; instead, I would have known and understood that women’s bodies are our own, that they matter, that they are beautiful and perfect  – in every way, shape, and form. And I would have been very clear that attracting me was the end-all, be-all – not attracting a boy, a man, or a prince. Can you even imagine?

We need sources of wisdom that are distinctly feminine. Only they can mirror our experience in ways that allow the wisdom to actually land, to be relevant, to support and strengthen us.

This wisdom allows us to see ourselves in the mirror, to listen to the voice within that not only makes sense, but is 100% true and right. This wisdom teaches us to trust ourselves – which leads to agency and power – which leads to doing the unexpected thing, to rising up, to speaking out, to resisting anyone who tells us anything different – which leads to a disallowing of violence because of race or sexuality or difference of any kind, sickening entitlement because of gender or power, and ignorance based not in wisdom, but foolishness! 

 

So find that wisdom. Be that wisdom. Be that wise. It’s all within you. It always has been – for generations and generations, from the beginning of time. And it’s all yours to offer us. Imagine the world you’ll change, create, and birth along the way.

*****

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Non-existent, but no less real (February 29)

My father died a year ago today.

No, that’s not quite right.

He died on February 29, 2020. That day doesn’t exist this year – or next, or the year after that.

The fact that the date itself is not on my calendar, doesn’t prevent me from remembering, reflecting, and honoring him. Still, it’s a strange phenomena: to have such a significant marker arrive and almost pass me by, to not be something I can land on, see in front of me, capture, or hold.

Perhaps because this is so, I am even more aware of him, his life, his death, and his ongoing influence on and presence in my life. Maybe it’s something being intangible that makes it all the more real, more true.

And this makes me wonder about something else equally (and perhaps even more) intangible…and real…and true.

As we develop, mature, grow, and transform, we move from reliance on the voices and seeming-wisdom of those around and outside us to an awareness of and trust in the voice and actual-wisdom we hold within. We learn to listen to our intuition. We are willing and able to hear our deepest heart. We know-that-we-know-that-we-know. 

But like February 29, there is little to validate such – at least externally. It requires that we hold onto something WE know, but that others can’t easily see, name, or acknowledge. It requires that WE be the ones to remember, reflect, and honor who we truly are. It requires that WE mark, name, and denote all the brilliance and beauty we hold within. And all of this without measure, without out-loud celebration, without any date on the calendar.

As I think about my dad, I know he’d understand what I’m talking about. Our best conversations were always philosophical in nature. Unanswerable and intangible questions that we wrestled to the ground. Endless unknowing that we attempted to lasso and hold – even for a moment – before it slipped out of our grasp. Books we’d read, things we’d pondered and perseverated on, stories we’d lived or heard that captured something nebulous, mysterious, glimmering, and true. Always heady. Always stimulating. Sometimes frustrating. And endlessly reliable: his thinking, his pushing the boundaries, his deep desire for knowing, understanding, and being, and his requirement that I do and be the same.

So, on this non-day – February 29 or March 1 – I’m holding on to three irrefutable but un-markable truths:

  1. This day, the day my father left our presence, exists and is real – whether seen and named on my calendar, or not. It’s deserving of a date. He is. And, as my mom acknowledged in his memorial service, it was just like him to die on a leap year so that we’d only have to remember him every four years. Mmm hmm.
  2. My wisdom, my knowing, my heart is as reliable (and even more so) than the wisdom that can be named, written down, memorialized, taught in institutions, praised in public forums, or canonized in sacred tomes.
  3. This is true about your wisdom, your knowing, your heart, as well.

You, me, all of us have vast and infinite opportunity to believe and trust in ourselves – our wisdom, our knowing, our heart. It doesn’t matter that it can’t be proven, that it’s different from the status quo, that it defies cultural norms, that it upsets the apple cart, that there’s no date on the calendar.

And if you’re struggling to believe this, to trust this, to be this, you can be certain that my dad is holding every bit of it on your behalf. Me, too. I am my father’s daughter, after all.

Refrigerator-Magnet Wisdom

Last month I was in a bookstore in Lexington, KY with both of my daughters. We wandered in three different directions, as we often do – drawn to different things, different genres, our own stories speaking through what we collected as we walked through the aisles.

One of the girls called out to me, motioning me over to the rounder filled with magnets. And this, now impossible to ignore on my fridge, offers me exactly the reminder and the wisdom I need, multiple times each day.

Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.

 

Indeed.

But oh, how we wish for different conditions…

  • before we have that hard conversation.
  • before we make that needed decision.
  • before we hit “publish” on that blog post or sales page or amazingly updated bio.
  • before we say “yes.”
  • before we say “no.”
  • before we speak our mind.
  • before we tell our truth.
  • before we step forward.
  • before we let ourselves be truly seen.
  • before we trust our wisdom.
  • before we act on our wisdom.
  • before we launch.
  • before we let go.
  • before we write that text, that email, that post, that book.
  • before we take care of ourselves.
  • before we do pretty much any number of the things we know are ours to do…

All of this is understandable.

We believe that if the conditions were different, then all of these things would be far easier and way less risky.

But here’s what I wonder – for myself and for you:

If the conditions were different (far easier, less risky) would the benefit, the impact, the “result” of doing any/all of these things be as profound and powerful?

It seems to me, at least with hindsight, that what seemed most impossible at the time was, in fact, what made the biggest difference, invited the most change, transformed me. Had I waited until the conditions were more favorable, it might have passed me over entirely – the experience, the moment, the leap into the unknown, the bold and beautiful (and difficult and risky) choice.

Doris Lessing is right, of course: now is the time for us to do what we are meant to do. Not once things are better, easier, calmer, figured-out, mitigated, or resolved. Now.

Heavy sigh. Deep breaths. (Both are reasonable here.)

As I look at this magnet, again and again, I see my resistance and, most of all, my fear. I can call it “conditions,” but at the end of the day, fear is what I’m faced with – and what I’m invited to name, acknowledge, and heal by choosing sovereignty instead.

It’s me (and you) showing up in exactly these conditions, whether impossible or not, and…

  • having that hard conversation.
  • making that needed decision.
  • hitting “publish” on that blog post or sales page or amazingly updated bio.
  • saying “yes.”
  • saying “no.”
  • speaking your mind.
  • telling your truth.
  • stepping forward.
  • letting yourself be truly seen.
  • trusting your wisdom.
  • acting on your wisdom.
  • launching.
  • letting go.
  • writing that text, that email, that post, that book.
  • taking care of yourself.
  • (insert any and everything else that you know belongs on this list)
  • doing all the things you know are yours to do…not someday, but now.

This is why I have created SOVEREIGNTY. Because I know the “someday” and the waiting on perfect conditions is exhausting and endless…

SOVEREIGNTY is a 10-week program that acknowledges the conditions (and your conditioning). It invites you to walk straight into the truth of your life with courage and grace. And it provides the advocacy and generosity and support you desire and deserve – so that you can do what you are meant to do. Not someday. Not when the conditions are right. Right now.

And since you can’t walk past my fridge multiple times a day, let me repeat this one more time on your behalf:

Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.

The conditions aren’t the issue. Not really. You, being you – glorious and wise and brave and yes, sovereign – in the midst of them is what matters and makes all the difference.

Let’s do that – together!

Registration closes on 2/21. We begin on 3/1. Learn more.

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