I recently attended a fundraising event benefitting an organization that helps at-risk girls develop leadership skills. In an award acceptance speech, one of the speakers shared a great story about her own 10-year-old daughter. One night, the mother noticed marker on her daughter's thighs. She asked her what, exactly, she was doing writing on her legs. The daughter's response? She had been playing lacrosse with her older brothers. Tired of losing, she'd gone inside and written "Unstoppable!" and "Fearless!" on her thighs in magic marker. Then she went back outside to play. Every time her brothers were beating her or she felt discouraged, she'd slap her legs, allowing those secret messages to buoy her confidence.
How absolutely FANTASTIC!
So, I ask you, what's written on YOUR thighs?
Some days, I think I have "unworthy" and "crazy" written there. My husband keeps telling me (in his own gentle way) that maybe, just maybe, I'm biting off more than I can chew. I worry about that. But you know what? I'm about to re-write what's written on my own flesh, trading my insecurities for the ballsy determination of that 10-year-old. No more "tired" and "frustrated" - my new mantras will be "fearless" and "unstoppable."
Like characters in our favorite novels and movies.
When I craft female protagonists, I want them to be strong and gutsy and able to make all the decisions I'd like to think I'd make in life. They beat up the bad guys, look out for the underdog, solve the seemingly unsolvable, and do it all with tight abs, great hair and nary an ounce of regret. But that's not real life.
In real life, our hosiery runs when we have an important meeting. Our dog throws up on the carpet, our children fail in school, babies contort our abdominal muscles in ways we thought only possible in the movie Alien. And sometimes the only bad guy we come in contact with is the asshole on the turnpike who cuts us off (but wow, do I give him the finger - he never sees it coming).
But that doesn't mean we can't tap our inner warrior.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says "When sleeping women wake, mountains move." Wow. Think about that.
The mother of the fearless and unstoppable little girl is herself quite accomplished. Business woman, philanthropist, member of multiple boards -- and mother of five children. And she's out there making a difference with other people's kids. Moving mountains. And teaching her own child that she, too, can topple obstacles. Because in the end, isn't that what it's all about? Having a vision -- whether it's as big as running a business or cleaning up the environment or ending hunger in your community or as small (but impactful) as helping your own kid -- and pursuing that vision with a loud rallying cry, obstacles (including our own demons) be damned.
I'm reminded of an old re-run of The Facts of Life. (Remember that show? I'm giving away my age.) In it, Blair's boyfriend asks her to marry him and Blair wants to take a day to think about it (she is, after all, only in high school). That night she has a dream in which all of her friends meet at some designated time and place in the future. Mrs. Garrett's bakery is now a futuristic hub of international peacekeeping - and she's not only a great baker, but the prime political negotiator. Tootie is a famous actress, Natalie a mother and author. And in the ultimate face-slap, Jo runs Blair's family business. And Blair? She's "happy." Married with kids, she's the wife of a successful husband. But as everyone else is busy talking about their accomplishments, Blair simply repeats "but I'm happy." Predicatably, she wakes up and ultimately turns down the marriage proposal.
It was funny to see that episode thirty years later. Although hokey, the message on its face was clear: women should want more for themselves than a quiet domestic life. Is that true? I don't necessarily think so. But I do think another meaning is more Carol Gilligan in nature. Women should define for themselves what it is they want. They should not accept other people's visions of what they can accomplish, who they should be. What dreams they pursue.
And in pursuit of those dreams - whatever they may be - they should let go of their own preconceived notions of what they can and cannot accomplish.
They should be fearless and unstoppable.
As anyone who knows me will attest, I have a love-hate relationship (at best) with structure. Because of that, I won't promise specific blog entries on specific days. Instead, I'll try to share thoughts and ideas on some of my favorite topics (writing, parenting, food, organic gardening, inspirational stories and food (did I say that already? it bears repeating)) as the mood strikes. Catch me here three or four days a week, though. And I would love to hear from you!