In the 1970’s I learned a popular phrase: It’s a man’s world.
Having found feminism early – 7th or 8th grade – I took my unseasoned 16-year-old’s perspective to translate this phrase: “It’s an UNFAIR world to women.”
Four elements of this perspicacious and true observation escaped me:
- To question in which ways this was so
- To question how this continued to be so
- To question whether one could escape this or alter this in any way
- To question whether such a world could ultimately be fair to anyone – even to the men.
At the age of approximately 18, I read a book – the title of which is long gone from my memory – which has stayed with me to this day. Our heroine is with a man who I believe is her husband, and she is having troubles with the relationship, and with being in the relationship. As I recall, she explores – with great bitterness – the ways in which even someone who expresses her rage, as this woman does, she is left still feeling disempowered and victimized. A woman who, even as she throws a glass, with glorious and teenage-inspiring rebellion, against a wall in order to feel some release of her rage, still ends up resenting the fact that she is the one who has to clean it up. “So what is the point?” she asks. “Why bother to object?”
Her servitude and sense of entrapment is complete.
I was struck first by her rage, and I was struck by it favorably! How courageous this woman is, I felt, to not simply smile, and “take it” – those chauvinistic, belittling behaviors and attitudes of her man. You see, I was raised to be a “Good Girl”, and I learned and practiced those “Good Girl” lessons assiduously.
I was also struck, but this time unfavorably, by her impotent bitterness. Though I couldn’t at that time conceptualize why I felt it, her attitude of “what’s the point?” was a let-down to me. It seemed like a child stamping her foot, resisting but knowing that she could not. Something about that bothered me. A lot.
Fast forward. I’m in my 40’s. I’m deeply invested, emotionally and psychologically, in the spiritual. I am connected for many years already to the Hindu leanings by way of my connection with Ammachi, a.k.a. “The Hugging Saint”, who I met when I was 31 years old, and she 35.
I find myself surrounded by lots of others who are just as fascinated, opened, lifted, bewildered and unconscious as I am. But few of them admit it. I do, and I am instantly punished for it. Nonetheless, we turn to one another and to spiritual books and other visiting gurus for ways to understand what we have found ourselves involved in. It is far from the usual American fare, and we need quantifiable ways in which to judge our progress!
I heard beliefs. Lots of them. “Everything happens for a reason.” “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” “Just trust your heart and everything will be okay.”
And I heard lots of spiritualisms: “My abusive parents were just doing their best.” “We are all brothers and sisters.”
And I heard lots of judgments. “Oh, he’s so unconscious!” And one judgment against me because of all of my questioning: “You think too much! You’re too in-your-head. You should just be in your heart!”
The answers to any and all spiritual questions were boiled down to “Let go, let God”, regardless of one’s ability to understand or practice such answers. Respect for personal pathways within the one proscribed pathway, was nil. This pathway that we were all on was the only pathway, and it was a one-size-fits-all set of answers that all came from Ammachi! It was up to us to “translate” those answers by culling phrases and beliefs from previous seekers. God forbid we come up with our own!
This was horrifically confusing, because to me, Amma is the divine, embodied. The Divine Mother Herself. But I have to follow the path of Lori, as everyone has to follow the path of themselves. How could I not “obey” her teachings? But how could I be me with her teachings?
The truth was, I wanted not to “obey”, but to know; not to trust only, but to experience. I just couldn’t entirely follow the dogma. I could hear the truths in so many of the words and beliefs and phrases that I heard, but what I wanted was Truth that applies all the time, and not just to me, but to everyone.
Tall order, but that’s what I wanted.
I couldn’t just follow the dogma. I couldn’t just “do it” – just trust God, and be good to go!
Clearly, many others had a similar problem because lots of workshops were springing up to teach us “how”. They started by focusing our awareness on what we thought was “wrong” with us. Like the good students we are, we dutifully followed the steps to fixing ourselves, trusting that once we were fixed, life would right itself like a ship finally rid of an overabundance of booty against one or other of its railings.
We became so enamored of the process of fixing that we stuck with the process of endlessly fixing. We bought in to the idea that the pathway to bliss was to take a bucket to the water in our boats, without which drying efforts our beautiful boats had no worth.
The idea that focusing on our strengths – our personal, who-we-are strengths – would get us further, faster, and with so much more joy, was an idea that rarely crossed our minds. Oh, as we got into the 2000’s, we heard the phrase, “What you resist, persists.” But we never thought about that in relation to our endless attempts to push out our “bad stuff”.
We heard the phrase, “What you focus on, increases,” but the idea of focusing on our strengths so that they would increase…well, that just didn’t occur to us!
We are in a new time in our earth’s history. That sentence is hard to really “grok”, as they said in the 1960’s (yes, I see you, Stranger In A Strange Land fans!). Still, it’s the truth.
We are still good students, so we are looking for the new rules to get us through this new time, when it is rules themselves that are the problem. Rules – I should say – as we have known them in the past. New rules that we must create are very much more malleable, personalizable and empowering creatures, and we get to adapt them to our individual personalities, needs and outlooks!
Most of us went to school as children. In school we learned one thing: how to follow the rules in order to pass. To pass our tests, to pass out of our schools and into the next one, and to pass out of school entirely and follow new sets of rules to get and keep a job.
We women learned to obey, to ask for permission, and to ask for forgiveness. Women, especially, learn to ask for forgiveness even before we have done anything to ask forgiveness for!
We women learned that there is a game to be played, and that we – women – do not have a hand in how that game was set up.
So we learned how to get by, and work with and around the game.
Then Women’s Liberation came along and said, “Hey, we have a new game!” But did we? It was the start of one, but we still had – and have – a lot to learn. Only now we don’t have a lot of time. Our structures are failing, as they were always destined to, because you can’t have a structure that adheres to one concrete and unchanging set of rules only, when people are a growing organism that is ever changing.
Our schools are not preparing our children (did they prepare us?). Our businesses are harming the environment, and the people working within the business itself. Our financial structures are a mess, and the middle class is all but gone. The environment, our beloved planet, is struggling to breathe, to drink, to be.
So, it is time for a new game. And it is women who are to lead the charge.
Because we are outside the system. And being outside the system means that we have the ability to see what is not already here. A magnificently insightful psychotherapist and writer, Anne Wilson Schaef wrote a book in 1981 called Women’s Reality: An Emerging Female System in a White Male Society. She points out that the male rules in which we live – the male system – is one that is based on facts and figures, when in truth our lives are lived much more amorphously. The truth is that life changes as we do, and together we can make potent changes happen that none of us individually could have ever foreseen.
We women are most outside the system when we stop playing by the rules, and allow ourselves to recognize that yes, we are outside the system, and that that is a major strength. It is a divine invitation to be utterly authentic, to honor and express and share our emotions, intuition, ideas, raggedy edges and our deepest truths without apology or seeking of permission.
We are outside the system.
Let’s be there. Let’s inhabit that place that the masculine system has relegated us to. Let’s take the phrase, “You’re too emotional,” and say, “Yes! Thank you! I am emotional! It is one of my strengths!” Let’s acknowledge our desire for peace so that none of our children die in more useless wars. Let’s acknowledge our frustration and our impotent bitterness, and come together to share ways and support to not be the victimized woman in the book that I read some 40 years ago!
We are outside the system. Which means we understand the system’s rules very well indeed, because the oppressed – whether that oppressed is female, racial, religious or a specific nationality – must know the system’s rules well in order to survive.
Time to thrive. Which means we break faith with the system.
That is what it truly means to say Goodbye to the Good Girl. That is its depth.
Are you ready? Are you done with the old rules that never really worked for you? Never really freed you? Never really allowed you to be you?
Are you ready to see what strengths you already have? Are you ready to learn how to exercise them? Are you ready to walk into a life full of the authentic you?
You’re already outside the broken system. Say yes to yourself.
For information about classes, workshops and individual coaching with Lori, write to support@GoodbyeGoodGirl.com.