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.

Advertisements

Life with Vigor

Persevere and rise up.
The fervor within,
Abundantly available.
Life, full of gifts,
Teaches lessons so well
To an open heart and mind.
Joyful in each moment,
Expecting and receiving goodness.
Astounded by life,
Brimming with vigor.

Freedom

yukon

yukon3

Freedom is a state of mind, not ordinarily an actual reality. We can feel free rather than exist freely. Our current world, which we have created for ourselves and others, intentionally or inadvertently but mostly as a result of irresponsibility, makes true freedom impossible. In some parts of the world, people fight for physical freedom: from slavery, forced prostitution, oppression and abuse of various kinds. In North America, we also subsist tied to society’s ideals and anchors: our phones, televisions, magazines and computers. We live by the news, our neighbours’ judgments, the size of our houses and genitalia. I would argue that I’m not the worst of offenders and generally carry around a positive attitude and only healthy concern for others’ opinions of me. But, am I free?

I find joy in freedom (who doesn’t), but I also enjoy responsibility; in my career, my family, my education. I am conscientious, reliable and typically loyal, and I thrive on accountability. I respect authority and hierarchy where necessary. I excel, given deadlines. Perhaps this makes me seem like an inherent dichotomy, and so be it.

So, during a two week vacation to BC and the Yukon, I had lofty goals of completing unreasonable amounts of work in the “off-hours”, and while I did do some good work, I found myself with a strong desire to just BE. Excuse me if that sounds like a cliché, but it’s as accurate a description of what I was pining for as I can come up with.

The drive from Whitehorse, Yukon to Atlin, British Columbia is idyllic. The evergreen trees are densely packed, a sea of deep shades of green, as dark and healthy as I’ve ever seen. The road meanders endlessly, taking you further and further from civilization. Atlin Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in BC, extends on the right, glassy and calm. Mountain after mountain reaches into the sapphire sky, steadfast and determined to dwarf everything surrounding it. It is there that you feel the world slip away, leaving you isolated and solitary. It is precisely that feeling which I was eager for.

Visiting family, I sat alone, perched on the edge of a rail-less upper deck, overlooking Atlin Lake and the Coastal Mountains. I felt free. For a few minutes, there was nothing else in the world but me, the placid water, the astounding mountains and the warm sun gilding the entire picture. For a few moments, freedom felt like a reality, inchoate. And then, it was interrupted by children shouting and playing, and lighthearted adults enjoying the esprit de corps and a grand meal. Those sounds bring joy in and of themselves, but a different feeling altogether. I felt disappointed not to have enjoyed that freedom a little longer, and for a moment was even irritated. I returned to the large group and enjoyed the rest of the evening immensely. I watched my son play with his “new-to-him” cousins and again, felt a different kind of delight and ease.

This trip brought much time for fun, and also contemplation and quiet. I thought I would write all about each place we visited but I didn’t feel the draw. I felt rather inspired to quiet my mind and in that, I found freedom. I realized that I seek and acquire freedom in many ways, by choice alone. The reality of life is that freedom, at least the way I define it, is impossible as a corporeal, daily existence. There is a big difference between outer and inner freedom and these are not interdependent. With the right attitude and a choice to be present in those miraculous and ecstatic moments, I can maximize the experience of wonderful liberty.

I write (at times) to set free pent-up feelings and desires. I am quiet in order to abandon the bustle of everyday life. I find ease and purity in the laughter of my son. I take risks to pursue liberation from routine. I lose myself in the writing of others. I’m taken to far-off places in savouring decadent foods. I push myself professionally and academically in a self-determined avoidance of mediocrity. I discover freedom in my intellectual pursuits, in pleasure, in pain and in innovation. Freedom blooms inside as I nurture my imagination, my spirituality, my sensuality, my femininity, my style, my uniqueness. I am liberated in seizing opportunities to show kindness, sincerity, and hospitality. I feel released in being a source of pleasure to those I care for. Most of all, I’m free when, with attention to morality, I act authentically and put aside any concerns separate from the current experience. Inner freedom, for me, comes too with letting go of fear. This inner freedom, detached from circumstance, is something I’ll continually strive for, fail at acquiring, and attempt again and again.

yukon4
yukon2