Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dropping the Fairy Tale: Good Girls vs. Good Women

Anne Hathaway from The Princess Diaries

Once again it’s time for another one of those posts that explores the finer distinctions between two seemingly similar subjects (you may remember an earlier post of mine, What do you REALLY want: Desire vs. Craving).

Through the questions that arise in coaching sessions to observations made in nail salons to my own personal journey, I have discovered that we as women have a hard time letting go of the “good girl.” You know, the one all in pink who sat quietly in church, never tells a lie and is the apple of daddy’s eye? No, you don’t, because she doesn’t exist. As much as we try to be that “good girl,” our desire and orgasm sneak out in a lot of ways. It can leave us feeling exhausted doting on others and guilty in our inadequacy. Or perhaps we’ve rejected our desire for so long, we react in anger and blame those who “took advantage of us.”

In any case, we are grown now. Free women to choose what we want, whenever we want it…right? Well, not exactly. Our bodies may have matured, but the way that we interact with the world has changed very little from when we were 4 years old. In fact, we still live in a society that very much reinforces the notion of a high-class lady as being pre-pubescent thin, beautiful and, above all, very proper. Any other type of woman is troubled, too much, crazy, a slut, etc (you’d never see Prince William fight for the hand of someone like Lady Gaga, even if he were madly in love with her).

So I’ve come to set the record straight and help out my fellow ladies who are working on finding their voice and coming to their power. No, to break out of the “good girl” mold, you don’t have to become Lady Gaga (though I love that woman with every ounce of my being). But you will have to confront and let go of a lot of old ways of relating that kept you safe and comfortable in the past.

So, without further ado, I bring you the Top 10 ways of telling a “Good Girl” from a “Good Woman.”

1. A good girl runs from fear. A good woman embraces it.

A good girl doesn’t want to rock the boat. She’s afraid of hurting people, going outside the box…essentially she is afraid of life. A good woman doesn’t escape her fear, but she leans into it, because she knows her ultimate fulfillment comes from discovering the desire on the other side.

2. A good girl denies her hunger. A good woman relishes it.

“Oh, no thank you, I’m full.” “Oh I’ll just have the diet platter.” “I’ll skip dessert. I’m being good this week.” We’ve all heard the catchphrase of women still caught in “good girl” mentality. And we also know that women dieting are more likely than not having orgasms. And this doesn’t mean that a good woman is stuffing her face all the time and pigging out on cheetos and bon-bons. But a good woman slows down and knows herself well enough to choose what is nourishing and relish every bite…whether it’s the grilled fish and asparagus, or the double chocolate chip cake. She eats life to feed her soul, not to numb the sensation.

3. A good girl withholds. A good woman adjusts.

A good girl is going to tell her partner what she thinks he wants to hear, but in the process, she holds back a piece of her voice. That unspoken desire sits in her body and, over time, rots into shame and resentment. Over time, she will (consciously or unconsciously) do things to her partner to punish him…and ultimately herself. A good woman tells her partner the truth. She approves of him/her and learns to calibrate her words so she can be heard and received, while fully expressing what it is she wants. She adjusts her partner (and is desires to receive the same kind of attention and honesty in return).

4. A good girl receives with guilt. A good woman receives with grace.

Good girls may accept a gift, but there is always a string of “you shouldn’t have” or “that’s too much” or “you didn’t have to do this” that comes along with it. She has to knock herself down a few notches in order to make it acceptable to receive, lest she feel her hunger (and subsequent shame) that comes with receiving. A good woman says “thank you”. Just thank you. Because she knows she is worthy (without the insecure timbre of entitlement). She listens to her hunger, knows when she is full and pours out genuine gratitude.

5. A good girl does what looks right. A good woman does what feels right.

A good girl follows a tried-and-true structure that will elicit positive reinforcement from her partner and the people in her life. A good woman moves from an instinctual compass. While it may look messy from the outside, deep within her body, she knows it is the path for her.

6. A good girl stuffs her anger. A good woman alchemizes it.

Good girls don’t get angry. Bullshit. They just stuff it until it seeps out as passive aggressiveness. A good woman acknowledges her anger in the moment and feels into it so she can know where she is out of integrity in her life. From there, she can use the force of that anger as power to change course.
7. A good girl strives for perfection. A good woman lives in perfection.

A good girl lives her life seeking to perfect perceived “impurities” in her life, so she is never fully able to relax and drop into the present, lest someone catch a glimpse of her ugliness. A good woman sees every moment as perfect, with both it’s divinity and it’s humanity.

8. A good girl’s desire is frozen. A good woman’s desire is dynamic.

A good girl is bred to want the same thing every day and desire only so much as is socially acceptable. She has lost the connection to the freedom that comes with spontaneity. In fact, she will often deny that she wants the very thing that will give her the deepest satisfaction. A good woman’s desire ebbs and flows like the tide: small and humble in one moment, wild and tempestuous in the next. But it is always, always authentic and she is constantly seeking to expand her container to hold more.

9. A good girl submits. A good woman surrenders.

A good girl submits, relinquishing her power to perceived “authorities” in order to escape the clamoring cry of her orgasm. A good woman surrenders control to her orgasm, and thus holds her own amongst the truly powerful.

10. A good girl waits for the fairy tale. A good woman creates her own legacy.

A good girl is still trapped in a tower, like a virginal princess waiting in vain for Prince Charming to save her. Over time, she can turn jaded and bitter, a “victim” of the happily-ever-after story she bought. A good woman turns the key to the door, descends the tower staircase and, like a Queen, enters the vast terrain of her own pleasure. It is from this empowered place that she can choose the life she truly desires.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Cancer of Hopelessness: How one crazy dude and two rock bands whacked me from despair

I’ve been rather low these past few days with this feeling of “why bother?” I can work hard my whole life and will it really make a difference? Am I just a dreamer who has lost touch with reality? Who cares about my selfish little dreams when there are people on the planet who are starving, being beaten and mutilated, and who don’t have the freedom to speak their minds? Shouldn’t I just shut up and be thankful for all that I have?

Well, no. First of all I know that all that talk is just my fear and my shame around asking and receiving what I want. Those voices provide a strong argument for me to NOT do the scary, hard work of being an advocate for the dreamers and the optimists and for the people who believe that if I touch just one life today, even anonymously, then that will be “enough.”

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. Will social progress come along for the ride and bring issues like gender equality, global poverty, religious freedom and environmental conservation to light? To my surprise (and despair) an overwhelming number of people I know do not think so.

There seems to be an all-pervading cancer of hopelessness that is seeping into our culture and keeps us from living our natural state of joy, grace, pleasure and abundance. It disguises itself in many forms. There are those who sit back and say “There’s never gonna be peace anyway, so might as well let the bastards blow each other up.” Another group may say, “That’s happening over there. It doesn’t affect me. I’ve got my own to take care of.” And then there are others who are aware of what’s happening but get stuck in their anger, righteous indignation, and separation from humanity. “How dare THOSE people shit all over the planet and ruin it for the rest of us.”

We’re all stuck. For every tweet that goes out to topple the repressive regime in one country, there is another self-serving group waiting to grab power. For every step forward, it feels like we end up twenty steps back from where we started. We are all living life as fast as we can in the hopes to die number 1.

And yet…I can’t help but return full of hope. There is something in me that won’t let me quit. Call is purpose. Call it orgasm. Call it the silly dreamer sickness. Yes, we are bombarded with images of despair now more than ever. But that is in fact exactly what we need to take the first steps towards healing. GLOBAL AWARENESS. 100 years ago, someone in a third world country would not have even known that riches exist for someone like him. Now he knows it’s possible. A woman who is forced to hide her sexuality in an extremely oppressive society now knows that somewhere in the world exists a place where she could express herself. A gay kid trapped in the reddest of red states now knows that somewhere is a place where his love will be legally honored. And we can no longer turn our eyes away from the truth that another person’s pain is our own. We can now put a face to the “global issue.”

Awareness leads to possibility which leads to hope. And hope is what keeps us alive in the darkest hours. Yes. It’s gonna get messy at first. Anytime you start airing out dirty laundry, the resentments will spill out all over yourself and others. In fear we try to hold onto them and cast them onto others in blame. It may feel safe and comfortable in the moment, but that’s the easy way out. The path sustainable change is to recognize those resentments as unexpressed desires, take responsibility for them and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt along the way. Only as the old energy passes through us are we able to clear a space for the frozen pain to melt and the wounds to heal.

A final story: I walking home this afternoon. I had my ipod on. Beautiful day. I was just starting to emerge from the feeling of hopelessness that had being weighing me down when out of nowhere: WHACK! This homeless-looking man passes me and (intentionally) hits me hard on my upper arm. I stand there. Shocked. People are staring at me with looks of confusion and concern. One girl asks “Are you OK?” I touch my arm to check for bruising or blood and nervously laugh. “I’m fine,” I say. I turn to look at my attacker and he is mocking me. The way I touch my arm. The way I am laughing. As if I am some stupid bitch. Again, I am shocked. I can see this man is clearly unstable. I drop into him and feel not anger, but a deep sadness at how far gone he is. What amounts of pain must he have experienced that he must completely check out of life in order to cope? I turned away and kept walking. One man looked at me and in solidarity said, “What a douche.” But I didn’t feel like dismissing the attacker. He was alive and real, just like me. I softly said, “He’s obviously not in his right mind.”

I continue on and notice a deep welling in my throat. Hmmm…hope. Is there any hope of help for him? And if not, what about the millions of others around the world? If hopelessness is right here in my neighborhood, how the hell can I even think to be of service to those around the planet? I feel the despair creep back in.

And that’s when the universe steps in. At that moment Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” starts to play on my ipod. OK, I know. It feels like a moment out of cheesy movie. But as I turned the corner onto empty Newtown Rd, the tears began to pour out of me. I suddenly had this rush of gratitude. Of remembrance. Oh yes, belief and hope are who I am and I am here to walk through the shadows to help others see what is possible. That there is life on the other side. That dreamers are not unrealistic fools. The crying overpowered me. My heart cracked open in the middle of the street. And then (just when I thought it was over), Ben Harper starts up next with, “When She Believes.” Now if that ain’t a sign from beyond, I don’t know what is. The tears start up all over again. Cleansing, sweet, open, grateful. I am finally in communion with that part of me that knows I am exactly where I need to be in this moment.

Next time I see that guy, I am going to say, “Thank you for waking me up! May your journey bring you freedom. There is hope yet.”

Photo of artist Aaron Bohrod's painting Dreams. Courtesy of SIUC Museum.