PEACE, ANGER AND WOMEN

I must admit to you who read my blogs that I dithered before embarking on my previous post about wild, witchy, wise women. I worried about being outspoken and being angry, particularly as I believe in the power of peacefulness and as much as possible I work for compassion, tolerance and understanding.

And now I wonder why?  Quite a few women have agreed with my manifesto, it’s obviously struck a chord, only one has disagreed and that’s fine. There are 7.014 billion people on this earth and we all have different paths to tread in finding what is illuminated by the light of the soul.

I have simply come to the understanding and acceptance that my path is that of the rabble-rouser, the stirrer, the eccentric, the firer-upper, the one who walks the path less travelled through the written and spoken word. There’s no point not being what I’m meant to be because I’m then not authentic and people can tell when you’re trying to be someone you’re not. Again, I dithered about saying this but, looking back, it’s what I’ve always been and done. In astrological terms I have the Moon in Aquarius which means my emotional life is tied up with community, in emotional honesty, in being socially-minded, looking at creating new ways to conduct emotional relationships, and expressing myself in quite dramatic ways. I ain’t been called a Drama Queen for nothing!

I am saying this because a friend commented that she could feel the fire in my post. She also pointed out that, in astrological terms, the asteroid named Pallas Athene had just entered the first degree of Aries (fire) and it’s in my sixth house which is about my career – writing. So my writing is being fired up and passionate, around social justice with Athene standing for justice and being prepared to fight for that justice, and  I found it interesting as I don’t have a lot of fire energy. It’s very hard for me to stand up for myself or to get engaged in arguments, I find it draining. But, courtesy of my sun in Libra and my ascendant in Libra, I have a burning desire for social justice. And I suppose “burning” is the key word. It used to be that, if you gave me someone who was down and out, I’d be there to defend them and their choices.  Luckily I happened to read the phrase: “You can’t be the Pied Piper for the whole world” because I was burning out trying to save everyone (even those who didn’t want to be saved!).  And, although I had a difficult relationship with my father, his domineering and bullying behaviour towards me taught me to stand up for myself and fight back.

Nowadays I don’t try to save the world. We each have to work out our own path for salvation, in whatever way salvation means to you. To me it’s to be true to your nature. Someone who has a lot of water signs would probably find anger very threatening and strange. Someone who had a predominance of earth signs might find an airy spirituality difficult but find great spiritual sustenance from working with the earth in various ways or organising against actions which damage the earth. And not everyone wants to take the road less travelled. For some it would be very difficult and uncomfortable and, here’s the keyword, not right because it’s not in their nature. If you are happy with your life and contented with your lot, if you feel deeply that you’re living your heart’s desire, then why change?  Living your heart’s desire is what counts, but not a desire not to change because of inertia or fear. Change for change’s sake is a bit of a waste of energy. Change, if you’re feeling frustrated or truly dissatisfied, can fire up your life and revitalise you.

I, for example, have a great deal of air signs so I’m always thinking, planning and writing down my ideas.  I have a very logical side which also says to me that the ultimate goal is peace, but in working towards that goal, it’s not always wise to accept the actions of others which transgress social justice and the rights of people, whether it be women, people of colour, people of different sexuality, or people of different size, choice and lifestyle.

Which is why I get angry.  I get fired up by injustice. I also happen to believe that turning the other cheek mostly doesn’t work, it simply encourages those who undermine the rights of others to pursue further excesses. Anger is challenging but I also happen to believe that it is an emotion which we need to embrace and deal with, not shove under the carpet because anger makes us uncomfortable. I remember the first ever art workshop I did where I discovered I could create pretty decent art. The workshop leader told how he also had been at a workshop where they were first asked to create a painting about peace. Then they had to create a painting about anger. Guess which one had the most power?

Anger is a very powerful emotion. And because of that, an angry woman is also viewed as very challenging and outside the norm.  We women are supposed to be nurturing, kind, caring, peaceable, self-effacing, quiet and dressing in ways acceptable in society.  You might say that all this is in the past, yet a recent study in Australia found that women who were quiet in the business world were more  highly regarded than women who were very voluble. On other  hand, there was far more respect for men who talked a lot, and not for men who were quiet. Such double standards operate subtly and are designed to enforce in unspoken ways how women are supposed to behave which aren’t threatening, loud or vehement. 

(Synchronistically, the underlining in the above paragraph turned up out of the blue, I have no idea where it came from  or how it manifested, and it won’t go away, so I guess it’s there for a reason!)

An angry woman is a dangerous woman.  She’s outside the ballpark.  She’s threatening.  She is a menace to the status quo. Why – she might infect other women!  Well, to be very truthful, I do hope I infect a lot of women to be wild, witchy and wise (if it feels right) – the keyword is “wise”.   I am not talking about violence. Violence begets violence and all too often alienates people.  I believe that passive resistance and new, creative ways to organise for what you believe in are constructive and empower so many more people. Listen to what resonates for you in the way you need to be wild and witchy and then be your authentic self – not a creation of anyone else, not trying to live up to impossible community standards, just do and be what makes you feel comfortable, in tune with your self and truly, truly ALIVE!

A MANIFESTO FOR WILD, WITCHY, WISE WOMEN

Around the age of 27 years, I looked into the future and all I could see was myself taking the pill and no children.  I knew deeply from an early age that my life would lie outside the home and  domestic sphere. So I organised to get tubal ligation – to get my Fallopian tubes tied – so that I would no longer need contraception.

I also did this because I looked into the future and was fearful that women’s rights to control their own body were continually under relentless attack. I worried about a possible time when contraception would not be readily available. I did  not want to become pregnant nor did I want to be forced to have an abortion if I did fall pregnant. 

Why am I writing this now?  Because I recently visited the ancient site of Salamis, near Famagusta, in North Cyprus.  As you go in, all the statues of women – at the entrance and throughout the site – are headless.  Not by design but by the malicious actions of long-ago men who objected to the ancient worship of goddesses and who hated any depiction of women in roles of power. 

I found on my first visit to Salamis that I simply couldn’t bring myself to take photos because I was enraged by this wanton vandalisation and gross example of the misogyny inherent in a patriarchal system where a god is male and women considered inferior. I took this picture the second time I visited Salamis and I’m writing this now because I’ve been looking at the siege of women’s rights in the United States.  I saw on Facebook today that the Governor of Kansas has signed into law a statute which allows pharmacists and doctors to deny women access to contraception. Kansas has also passed legislation to make life for abortion clinics harder and to restrict the right to abortion.

This anti-women agenda is spreading like the plague around the United States and in other nations like Australia and the UK.  In Australia we have seen the vilest, most sexist language used against the first female Prime Minister. One shock jock even talked of stuffing her in a chaff bag, taking her to sea and throwing her overboard, presumably to drown.

I am mad, bad and utterly enraged at the hatred of women that is displayed by fundamentalist groups of all religious persuasions – whether Christian, Islamic, Hindu or whatever.  I am contemptuous of those who proclaim their support for the right to life yet support wars waged for the oil and armaments industries where innocent civilians are slaughtered by the so-called liberating troops of Western nations, euphemistically called “collateral damage”.  

I am fed up with the New Age crap about turning the other cheek, of change coming from within ourselves, eschewing anger and behaving in peaceful ways. it gets us nowhere, it only encourages the misogynists to greater excesses as they pursue new and meaner ways to make women as powerless as possible.  Well, bollocks to all that.

So here’s my manifesto. Feel free to pass it on and add anything you feel appropriate because we women need to assert FOREVER our power, our passion, our feistiness, our wisdom, our refusal to accept attacks on women, our determination to organisation and fight back against those who try to return us to the old paradigm of barefoot and pregnant because there ain’t no going back to the bad old days.

Wild, witchy, wise women assert:

*  We are powerful.

*  We are prepared to be very, very angry.

*  We are not nice, we are warriors.

*  We demand our wisdom be respected.

*  We refuse utterly to accept descriptions such as bitchy, tramps or sluts which are defined by patriarchy.

*  We assert the right to control our own bodies as and when we wish.

*  We have the right to demand contraception and abortion. FULL STOP.

*  We will not be nice and co-operative. We will FIGHT any attempts to deny women the full right to participate as equals in society.

*  We will make life an utter misery for any lawmakers who attempt to roll back the rights of women.

*  We will stand by, defend and support all women who are victimised by patriarchal forces. We cannot be divided from each other and ruled by misogynists.

*  We reject any attempts to co-opt us into a system which wants us to be quiet, docile and too nice for our own good.

*  We are not ladies. We are raucous, noisy, mouthy, feisty stirrers, troublemakers and drama queens. So suck it up if you don’t like it.

* We have the right to make choices in relation to family, work and sexuality and for those choices to be respected because are not owned by anyone.

* We have the right to make choices about our lifestyle and bodies without being pressurised to be Barbie dolls or Stepford wives.

* We are proud of our age and refuse to be stuffed into girlie envelopes. Our faces with their lines, wrinkles and bearing the scars and victories of our lives are badges of honour which we wear with pride.

* We will seize freedom because it will never be granted to us as a gift – and that freedom is the right to live our own lives, as we choose; the right to choose our partners and family life according to the call of our hearts; the right to make our own reproductive choices; the right to be the size with which we are comfortable; the right to wear whatever nurtures our hearts regardless of our age; the right to demand, fight for and seize into our powerful hands  equal pay, equal opportunity, equal education and respect for the female qualities which make us so damned special.

Anything less is too little.  

As we move into new times of upheaval, change and new ways of living, it is time for all wild, witchy wise women to rise up and roar from the highest rooftops that we are done with being nice, we are Amazons, pretty damned good and  a mighty, mighty power to be reckoned with.

THE LIGHT OF DEATH

This morning I spent a few minutes viewing a really candid, thoughtful, challenging video by a guy called Philip Gould.  He made the video as he approached his own death in a few weeks, and described how his life had changed when  he found he had terminal cancer of the oesophagus because his final days were spent in living rather than dying.

I read about Mr Gould’s video in a newspaper article and kept it because, as I’m in my crone years, the concept of death looms somewhat closer on the horizon. It’s ironic when you think about it:  we know we’re going to die but we have absolutely no idea when. And the older I get, the more I am truly grateful that I’ve got through to 64 with much of me intact. Yes, I have a few health challenges and to my mortification I’m getting a bit deaf  (the vicissitudes of old age aren’t supposed to apply in my case, of course!) but I see a lot of people far worse off  so I’m pretty happy I’ve got as far as I have.

But of course, I can’t ignore the fact that I’ve lived the greater part of my life now. I’d really, really like to start each day by saying that I’ll treat it as the last day of my life and I’ll live it to the highest degree.  But the truth is that we don’t know whether each day will be the last, so we do tend to shove the whole idea of death under a convenient carpet and proceed through life as normal. At least, in his video, Mr Gould has shared his experiences and, hopefully, opened up a discussion about the inevitable progress towards our last breath.

Philip Gould – Lessons From The Dead Zone

I rather think we do this because death is such a mystery. We don’t see dead bodies much.  We don’t have people dying in homes as much as they used to. Death is sanitised, the dead are given make-up and prepped so they look pretty-please when people come to view the body of their loved one in a casket. If that’s what they do. I have never viewed any dead person in a casket as I preferred to remember them as they were alive.  I’ve washed my dead mother’s body, with the palliative care nurse to who turned out so compassionately on a truly brutal, wild, storm-riven night to take us through the post-death procedures. So I know what a dead body looks like. And one day, it’ll be me.

I don’t really know that we can consider death until we know it’s coming, to be very honest. Unless of course we pop our clogs through a sudden heart attack or accident and we have no forewarning. But when we do, things change. You are a person marked out from others because you know for certain that your life is coming to an end and they don’t. I know when my own mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, I really didn’t know what to say to her at first, but then she asked me for a hug and it broke the awkward moment.  I think the reason for this is that, in our society, we don’t talk much about death.  Everything’s geared to living longer, to extending our life span, and I rather think sometimes the medical profession takes it as a personal insult when people insist, most inconveniently, in turning up their toes.

Hopefully, people as brave as Philip Gould will speak out as he has done to show people that life doesn’t actually end when you know you’re going to die. It becomes brighter, lighter, with more clarity. You have the opportunity to make your peace with people, with your life, to express your love to family and friends, to set out your wishes for your Death Day Party (thanks to Harry Potter for this). Most of all, in thinking of death, remember this: no-one ever said on their death bed that they wish they’d spent more time at the office. Sort out your priorities now because, as I said earlier in this piece, you don’t know when you’re going to die. It’s not being morbid. It’s being realistic. Knowing you’re going to die sometime gives you the great opportunity to appreciate your life right now.

I’M ALL MOTIVATED OUT…..

I have noticed when looking at Facebook in recent times that there are vast quantities of motivational messages – to be the best, not to let any day pass without achieving something, finding one’s purpose in life, being creative, and on and so on.

And I’ll be very honest that I’ve begun to find this absolutely exhausting and, in a way, quite depressing because I started to feel guilty if I wasn’t “living up to my potential” throughout each day. I happen to  I think life has its ups and downs and we aren’t going to feel motivated very hour, minute or second of the day. Some days you wake up, feel terrific and achieve a lot. Other days you wake up feeling slow, a bit muggy and not in the least motivated. It’s part of the flow of life. But all of the cheery Facebook motivational stuff is coming to mean to me to be on a treadmill of always being terribly upbeat, cheerful and on the ball twenty-four hours a day.

I remembered when I started writing this some comments by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book “Eat, Pray, Love”.  I really like this book, although I know some people are critical.  But it has a depth to it which I find nurturing spiritually and I enjoy her style of writing. She comments that Americans still have a Puritanical streak and are a nation where people work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. Actually, I rather suspect that, since this book was written, Australian workers might have overtaken Americans in the work-driven stakes. And I don’t think Americans or Australians are on their own. In Western nations, more and more the work ethic (if you’re lucky enough to hold down a job, that is) is to be driven, spend long hours at work, and to be constantly open to e-mails and phone calls about work when you’re not at work.

It’s a badge of honour to be on the work treadmill, although I’d like to say here and now that I think it’s a badge of dishonour.  Surely this isn’t what life is about, to spend the greater part of your day at work (because the reality is that most of us go to a workplace for their employment), apart from your family, nose to the grindstone, and being too stuffed at the end of the day to do little more than flop in a chair and feel exhausted.

It’s what Ms Gilbert points out, that people feel they have to be on the go and that applies to social life too.  People spend billions on entertainment but not necessarily on the luxury of seeking pleasure. It’s as if entertainment is to ensure that you’re still on the go, albeit mindlessly. Pleasure is when you let go, go with the flow and really, really be in the moment of whatever it is you’re enjoying.

The Italians, as Ms Gilbert explains, have an expression called “bel far niente” which means “the beauty of doing nothing”.  To quote from the book: “The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement.”  All it needs is a talent for happiness.

Which brings me back to the whole motivational scenario.  It’s almost coming back to the Puritanical work ethic: “Thou shalt be creative/happy/spiritual” even if it kills any spontaneity in your inspirational life and sends a pall of self-critical gloom over you if you aren’t on the go spiritually or creatively.

This has further been brought home to me during the short time I’ve lived here in North Cyprus. People aren’t driven, at least, that’s they way it appears to me so far. They work long hours, true, but they’re laid-back and cheerful about their work. For example, if you go into an office and find people huddled in a corner not working but gossiping or exchanging jokes, the trick is not to expect instant service, but to understand that getting together and communicating is happy work so you need to wait until the conversation reaches its natural end. As you can imagine, it drives some rule-driven ex-pats right around the twist. I have not seen one person wearing an ear-phone and having to check in their position every half-an-hour or so as I used to see with the cleaners at the Coffs Harbour shopping centre we used to visit.

We were very amused, for example, when we were buying an outdoor setting and two English-speaking assistants from London sat down in the chairs that came with the setting to have a good natter and find out all about us.  They completely ignored customers hanging around for service, because they were deep into the pleasure of finding out who we were, how we came to be in North Cyprus, how they could help us in any way, and how did we like living in this country.  We have, by the way, become good friends with these two ladies, they are eventually coming to see us when our gear from Australia arrives and we’re properly settled in, and we exchange hugs and kisses on both cheeks when we meet at the shop.

As you drive around North Cyprus, you see groups of men sitting around tables intent on the serious business of drinking Turkish coffee, exchanging views, and hanging out with lifelong friends. If there are no customers in a shop, you’ll see the owners sitting outside having a natter with their fellow store-owner who also has no customers and so sits outside to socialise. As we were leaving a petrol station, a car driven by one of the workers at the station happened to have a rear-end collision with another car on the nearby road. So everyone downed tools, went over, stood around looking at the cars, bellowing suggestions to the driver who’d been hit and the driver who’d done the rear-ending, and a jolly good time was had by all. And I might point out, that here you have real service – someone fills the car for you, washes the windscreen (front and rear) and checks your tyres – so in this instance, if you hadn’t filled your car, you simply had to wait until the incident had run its course before people would come back to serve you. 

So this laid-back attitude is beginning to creep through my veins.  When we move, I always land in a new place expecting to set off running the moment we arrive. I can be driven with the best of  ’em. In the case of North Cyprus, I’ve actually taken the time to acknowledge that – at my age of 64 – moving continents is tiring and stressful, BUT  a marvellous opportunity to slow right down, relax, observe the world in a peaceful manner, and enjoy what each day brings to me. I think, personally, that the best thing we can do is to accept we’re human, that we face challenges, that we can live each day the best we can, and we don’t need to do anything at all if we don’t feel like it. The world won’t end, people won’t fall off the clifftop, the seas won’t recede in shock. And you might regain an equilibrium and perspective that just being in this world is an absolute miracle in itself. You don’t need to do a thing to experience this miracle. Just be.