I Am Love

I am love.

Capable and true.

Arms wrap tightly,

Lips brush gently,

Words caress surely.

 

I am heartache.

Justified and brash.

Arms flail wildly,

Lips utter cruelly,

Words sting deeply.

 

I am loneliness.

Weary and contrite.

Arms invite desperately,

Lips quiver ruefully,

Words seek clemency.

 

I am imperfection.

Emotive and fretful.

Arms clutch intensely,

Lips bitten restlessly,

Words swirl silently.

 

I am vulnerability.

Sensitive and aching.

Arms expose defencelessly,

Lips part prayerfully,

Words disappear meaningfully.

 

I am hope.

Aspirant and purposeful.

Arms reach boundlessly,

Lips mouth encouragingly,

Words empower gracefully.

 

I am self-awareness.

Accountable and mindful.

Arms stretch welcomingly,

Lips soften reassuringly,

Words accept unconditionally.

 

I am love.

Gentle and understanding.

Arms embrace supportively,

Lips forgive instantly,

Words share empathetically.

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Inspiring Women Part 2

Humaira

(courtesy of Intelligent Life Magazine, 2013)

“The courage of a Pakistani hero involves facing the ultimate fact of death. But the fantasy of martyrdom, where it exists, is largely a male one. A heroine needs a more supple courage. She must negotiate: with her emotions, with her adversaries, with her family, with hypocrisies. But not, if she can help it, with her ambition.” (Rahul Bhattacharya, 2013)

With life so full, I’ve not been able to finish part two of this three-part series  as soon as I would have liked. But, the topic has persisted on my mind, because of stories that have had an enduring impact on me, and because of my irrevocable life experience and relationships.

As I alluded to in the first part of the series, there were two key pieces of literature that first prompted me to start thinking about a future blog post about women and their unique potential. The second one was an article I read in the Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine, my favourite periodical. The article was published in an edition that also features a supplement dedicated to inspiring women entitled “16 women you ought to know about” found here.

In this September/October 2013 edition, I read a piece about a woman in Pakistan who, at the age of 13, made it her mission to offer education to children living in squatter communities – including girls. This was almost unheard of, and Humaira Bachal faced many obstacles, much opposition and physical danger. Despite the threats and with great enthusiasm and persistence, she built two schools, called the Dream Model Street Schools, which have provided an education and opportunity to thousands of children who would otherwise have no way to even become literate. So inspiring have her altruistic, leadership and entrepreneurial efforts been that in April 2013, Humaira was honoured in New York City at the Women in the World Summit.

In discovering Humaira’s courageous work, I was reminded that when women take hold of their natural gifts, among them sensitivity, empathy, intelligence, creativity, tenacity and bravery, this can result in extraordinary and profound successes.

I believe that women who strive to do something unique and powerful in order to make a difference must contend with some gender-related challenges. Aside from the very significant socio-political/cultural barriers that exist for women like Humaira, it is true that women face some great difficulties in contending with themselves and their emotions. We sometimes over-analyze and process through an emotional filter; the same filter that can make us powerfully empathetic and passionately caring. We must fight self-doubt and channel these characteristics in order to be catalysts for incredible, affirmative change. I don’t mean this to be a feminist rant at all, as I believe men and women possess innate characteristics that uniquely serve in partnership. But, from a woman’s perspective, I know how my propensity towards emotionality can serve to either inspire or inhibit innovation and accomplishment.

As I began writing this series, I was travelling back from a healthcare leadership conference. It was a very nourishing conference with much significant knowledge to take away. One thing that stood out for me significantly, in a room of over 700 delegates, was that there are so many women in Canada who are healthcare leaders (and of course in other sectors as well). Some of them are the most influential leaders in the Country and have implemented changes that impact a whole province in the way healthcare is delivered and received. Women have a very special opportunity to use their natural capacity for love, their overall emotional intelligence, their cognitive and professional intelligence and their experiences to be combined catalysts for real and lasting change in whatever area inspires them.

I reflect again on the women in my life and they all inspire me in some way. So many are confident, resilient, intelligent, talented and ambitious. And, they care. What phenomenal facilitators of meaningful work are empathy and concern for humankind.

I can encourage you to read about Humaira here.

Inspiring Women, Part 1

“Already they were conscious that the nature of women’s close friendships would shield them in the weeks to come, and that the men, on the other side of the fort, were often not bound to each other by similar ties. ‘We did not need to “make friends”’ Madeleine would say, ‘we were solidly together already. ‘We were,’ Betty said, ‘a team’.” (Moorehead, 2011)

A blog post has been slowly developing in me over the past several months; thoughts coming together gradually, inspired by both literary and real-life sources. A combination of two literary works in fact, and my own life circumstances in which I have seen friendships blossom and support come from some amazing women in my life. Not that this is an entirely new revelation, but I have recognized just how important women are in each other’s lives and how unique and special women’s relationships are. I’ve always gotten along very well with men; I can easily be ‘one of the guys’ because I have always been a bit of a tomboy, I like to joke with the boys and I’m not generally offended by crude stories. But, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve connected with my femininity, and the more my friendships with other women have grown to become an essential and marvelous part of my life. The nature and depth of relationship that women have is unlike a mixed-gender relationship. That’s not to say there isn’t value in friendships with men; indeed I’ve had and have some very close male friends who have contributed great insights, wisdom and companionship, but it is different.

I have reflected, too, on how different a conversation between two women is versus one between men or between a man and woman. The way that my female friends and I interact is centered on open communication, understanding, compassion, emotion. Of course we have fun and joke and converse about unemotional topics, but still we really care about one another. The women I’ve had in my life will go out of their way to assist in tangible and intangible ways when another friend is going through difficult circumstances. They are thoughtful and considerate of what they might do to ease a burden, bring a smile or engage in practical or symbolic acts of kindness. They will go out of their way and even compromise their own comfort in order to comfort another. Perhaps this analysis is biased quite simply by the kind of company I keep, but nonetheless, I think the potential for such relationships is universally existent.

Arguably, being of the same gender would bring about obvious similarities that would create comraderie: analogous challenges, parallel experiences, an understanding of what it means to be a woman. I will contend that the depth of relationship that can form between women goes beyond mere chromosomal structure and the resultant biological or social consequences that follow. Most women have an inborn inclination towards nurturing. Partly a biological imperative of childrearing, this may have been altered over the years as women’s roles in society have changed. However, in my experience, there is an innate empathy that exists and develops inside a woman if she chooses to cherish it.

The excerpt above comes from a wonderful piece of historical non-fiction I’m reading, entitled A Train in Winter and written by Caroline Moorehead. It chronicles the lives and experiences of the women of the French resistance during World War II. The other day, I read the above passage, which quotes imprisoned women resistors in France living under arduous and enfeebling conditions. They endured famine, cold, loneliness, fear, and widowhood. They wondered when their next meal would arrive. And still, these women banded together and loved and cared for one another. Older women acted like mothers to the young girls who had lost theirs. Creative energies continued to flow and the women entertained themselves and the others by putting on dramatic productions. They equitably shared what little food they had, giving more to the women who were weakest. Through onerous times, they grew closer. Each knew that the relationships they developed in prison would be the only source of comfort they would receive for many months.

Thankfully, I’ve never lived through such types of grueling circumstances as this, however some of my family have, as I’ve written about before. I imagine my Granny helping to take care of others in Auschwitz; I do know she made friends there, my other grandmother being one of them. I only wish she were still alive and well so I could ask her about this facet of life in the concentration camps as a woman. Nonetheless, I have been blessed with a few extremely profound friendships with women in my life, where there was mutual understanding, trust, respect, fondness and a desire to care for one another. These trusting relationships have meant outlets for sharing life’s most precious and most troubling situations, and for giving and receiving empathy and sometimes advice of great value. These friendships have proven to be a great source of reciprocal comfort, because knowing that a person is listening without judgement and with compassion, sharing their experiences and providing insights with your best interests at heart is invaluable. Indeed, I have loved a few formidable women with whom I’ve had remarkable friendships. Now more than ever, my life’s door seems to be wide open to new and brilliant relationships, and because of that, I feel very wealthy. I only hope I provide them with the same kind of comfort, joy and companionship they bestow to me.

“But most important of all was the fact that the women, despite differences of age, background, education and wealth, were friends. They had spent the months in Romainville very close together and it was as a train full of friends, who knew each other’s strengths and frailties, who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown.” (Moorehead, 2011)

Moorehead, C. (2011). A train in winter. Vintage Canada: Toronto.

Challenging Love

There was a time when life was pure and simple. Each day was a new discovery, and one sought with innocence and without fear of failure, rejection or heartbreak. Those childhood years, while recollected easily by most of us, are left behind with little remembrance of what it truly felt like to be so free.

As adults, it is perhaps impossible for us to ever be that innocent and liberated again, and probably there are biological imperatives surrounding this. With every disappointment in our lives, we learn to build walls and to convince ourselves to be careful, to be suspicious, to avoid vulnerability. Indeed it is important to be careful sometimes and certainly, vulnerability isn’t synonymous with self-preservation; an activity we flock to so naturally.

I’ve called myself an open book many times in my life. I’ve also frequently been told I shouldn’t be one. I make myself vulnerable in all sorts of relationships, and you can be damn sure I’ve had my heart injured more than once. Let me say that in no way is this an attempt to draw comparisons or assume I’m better or superior to anyone, but I’m personally happy I live my life that way. To me, healthy, successful relationships are founded in part on transparency and open communication, and then built on understanding, empathy and trust (among other things). To leave myself open to hurt is to also leave myself open to being understood. To open the pages of my heart to be read by others is to allow them to know and comprehend my story; where I’ve come from, where I am at present, and where I’m headed – at least as much as is within my ambit. Expressing my raw emotions and impressions to others allows me to feel authentic in a moment or inside of the expanse of an entire relationship, knowing confidently I’ve not held back any part of myself. I’ve given the relationship as much chance at thriving as possible, by genuinely pouring out my heart. I’ve poured out kindness and love on another person both by focusing on all the wonderful things I see in them, but also by pointing out areas where the relationship could be healthier. I open myself up to my intrinsic desire to change the things about myself that I can; wanting to improve myself and make the relationship better, recognizing I can only choose to change myself.

I’m not willing to risk a life of regret and misery, resenting those who have hurt or disappointed me. I’d rather thank them for the lessons they helped me learn. I’m emphatically unwilling to settle for a mediocre or merely content life rather than one that is overflowing with joy, satisfaction and even opportunities for astonishing growth fueled by pain. I’m loath to even consider the possibility of sharing my life in the context of a romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t push my life over the edge and into an experience of love, elation, discovery and evolution that I cannot experience by myself. Sure, love comes easily to me and I find myself feeling love towards strangers sometimes. But mind-blowingly passionate, expansive and selfless love is something rare and worth searching out and waiting for. I no longer believe in ‘one true love’ but I do believe that two people who are right for each other will mutually desire and deliver each other unsurpassed ecstasy and make one another continuously strive for more – more love, more joy, more wisdom, more transformation, more achievement, more exploration, MORE.

Of course, I remember many happy childhood moments with my family and the many blessings I was bestowed. However, I don’t recall what was going on inside me during my earliest formative years. I would imagine, though, that when I’m able to quiet my mind, accept my circumstances, and flow forward with a smile, that peace I feel is probably similar to the innate peace that lived in me as an innocent child. The immense love I’m able to feel in my heart is probably a reflection of the love that filled me to the brim as a youngster, unafraid of how vulnerable it could cause me to be. I imagine that the desire I have to make others happy is something preserved still from that time, when love was paramount and still unblemished.

My goal is to seek such unbridled passion, such courageous love, and to continue to regard life’s struggles as gifts, no matter how hard they might make me push myself. From another perspective, I’ll endeavor to see others as innocent, grown up children, like me, who have just been hurt by life and thus to remember that when they hurt me, it is probably not with that intention. Finally, I challenge myself to draw from within me the innocent, fearless love of a child, combine it deliberately with the wisdom of an open-minded, optimistic adult and accept the realities of life’s disappointments with a smile.