“Are you trying to break families?” asked the principle of the school.
A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to a group of young women about violence.
During the talk, I asked the audience about violence in their homes and under what circumstances they would accept violence from future boyfriends and husbands. They all said they would not accept, but I knew better. One in three women will be abused in her life.
The sad truth is that women don’t really think about future violence and when they don’t put an end to it quickly, they begin to believe it’s too late.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO WANT VIOLENCE TO END.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO BEGIN TO LEARN THE TOOLS ON HOW TO END VIOLENCE.
At the end of the talk, the school principle asked the question that started off this blog post.
The ONLY answer to this question is this…
IT IS THE ABUSER WHO HAS BROKEN THE FAMILY full stop.
Looks like a pile of trash yes? No matter how many times you look at it or stare at it, it still looks like a pile of dirty tissues.
Look at photo number 2.
See something peeking out? Look closely. It’s a gold bracelet.
There are two lessons here: Lesson One: NEVER wrap your jewelry in tissue paper for “ safe keeping.” Better to stuff it in your shoe so when you go to put them on, you will feel the sharp edge. Better yet put it in a safe or on your body! Lesson Two: What looks like garbage to you may hold treasures for another. Let’s not judge what others hold precious, they have their reasons. Better to ask and be curious in a kind way.
The architecture of a healthy mind, body and spirit is a mindful practice. It is not happenstance. It must be intentional. What steps must we take to carefully craft our best lives?
We can look to other areas of life for inspiration. For example, Amsterdam has a brand new subway. It took decades of planning and it took 15 years of construction and teams of architects and engineering professionals from many disciplines.
A TV spokesperson stated that one of the stations was built offsite and floated on a canal to be installed in its permanent home. It was floated under previous canals and other obstacles. They turned engineering on its head to create the new stations and new delivery systems.
Imagine the brilliance of that particular decision! Architects had to dream it up and then prove to and convince their teams to accept the unlikely approach. Let’s imagine now deciding to create healthier lives for ourselves and our families. Most of us will look at what we eat and when we exercise. Most of us will not look at what we say and how we behave and what steps we can take to create peace in our lives and in our homes.
When architects and engineers and civil societies get together to create new physical spaces for populations, they all discuss how lives will improve when the project is complete. They have agreed upon goals. I am sure there are winners and losers in the final decision and still at the end of the day, everyone must accept the group’s decision.
If we decide to live peaceful lives within our families, we must also have common goals. No one individual can make sustainable changes within families. Neither can we coax or bride people into compliance. Everyone in the family system must understand why changes are needed and what is to be gained from enacting such agreed upon changes.
We need a team approach. As a team we need to decide on the goals we have and what resources we will devote to the changes. We need to keep checking our choices with how it lines up with what we set out to achieve. If we say we want to stop yelling and resorting to physical violence in our homes, we must find other options and teach the family team what new behaviors to enact. We must be willing to stop blaming others for losing our tempers and take full responsibility for our behaviors. Adults must act like adults and leave the tantrums to the children. Children have to be taught conflict management and how to make their case without losing their minds.
We must get help from professionals. We need a team approach. We must practice the new behaviors. We will fail and we must begin again. We must not resort to blaming and shaming. When architects create prototypes and test them, they use the information to make changes to better the end result. They don’t just shrug their shoulders and say “ oh well, we tried, we can’t change because this is who we are.”
It’s human beings with grand ideas who make life better for all of us. We can use this same brilliance to make our families better and happier and violence free. We can and we must if we hope to help the next generation be violence free.
There was a time when I used to buy flowers and hang them upside down for them to dry. I had a notion that I could have a small business making dried floral arrangements. This illusion did not last long.
These days I buy beautiful flowers and rush home to put them in water to keep them fresh. I take pains to prepare the water. I use a few drops of chlorine or a crushed baby aspirin in the water and I lovingly arrange the stems. I change out the water and try to make the flowers last as long as I can.
I realize that taking loving care of the flowers with preparing the water is a lot like raising children. We try to give them an environment where they will thrive and bloom and grow up to be strong and kind. We pay close attention to how we behave around them, except for when we don’t.
If we live in an environment where there is violence, be it emotional or verbal or physical, and we pretend that it does not affect our kids, we are deluding ourselves. This year on valentine day if you get flowers or buy them yourself, ask yourself if you care if they live or die.
If you don’t care then just throw them away.
If you do care, notice how much attention you give to them.
Our kids are our precious blossoms and they need nurturing and pretending that violence is not affecting them is lying to ourselves. Take a step back and access the situation and ask for help if you need it. It’s not easy to look at what’s really happening and making a few changes, but I guarantee you that it’s worth the time and effort.
Say NO to abuse. Don’t leave yourself unfinished. Inspired by business executive and author, Seth Godin. Read the post here.
If you don’t have time to clean up, you don’t have time to cook.
Professionals understand that the project is the whole project, not simply the fun or urgent or interesting part of the work.There are countless productive shortcuts along the way. But not finishing the project isn’t one of them.
I have been reading Seth’s posts for a whole year and I am amazed that his posts take the simplest things and make them mind blowing business advice.The above post made me realize this:If your lover/husband/anyone feels they have the right to hit you then you better feel you have the right to leave.
You see, when we stay inside of abuse we leave ourselves unfinished.We were sent into the world to work on ourselves and complete the work we need to do and accepting abuse is not part of a success scenario.
Getting hot or getting cold or getting burned is a never ending game with abusers.
I love a hot shower and I realize that it is a privilege to have both water and to have it hot.
This post is not about water privilege but I will use the mechanism of the water heater to illustrate some abusive behaviors. If I take a shower about 30-40 mins after a family member I can usually get a little bit of tepid water that is still in the pipes and if I forget that this is simply left over from the last person and jump in without thinking, sooner rather than later, I will be shocked with gallons of cold water coming out of the shower head. I have to have the presence of mind to allow the water to heat up again so that all the water I need or want is at the temperature that is comfortable for me.
If I am living with an abuser and he comes home in a good mood, it’s probably left over warmth from a work friend or his girlfriend and if I pretend that his “ warmth” has anything g to do with me, then I am in for a big shock. I might find myself saying things like “but you were in such a great mood” what happened?
The answer will be that the warmth left over from his friend has run thru his veins and his emotional distance has reappeared. If I push and push for the “warmth” to return, he may jump from ice cold to scalding hot in seconds. Scalding hot could look like punching, screaming, cursing or worse.
When we normalize abusive behaviors and pretend that we are strong enough to fix the chronic dysfunction, it’s like pretending that we don’t know that after the cold water runs out, the hot water will appear and we will get burned. I do not mean to suggest that dealing with these mood swings is easy, but pretending that the mood swings are not happening and continually bending over backwards and tying ourselves up in knots trying to figure out what we did wrong, it’s ignoring reality.
We need help and advice and we must be steady enough and grounded enough to look for it.
Can I tell you a secret?
Well, after I tell you, it’s no longer a secret! Here it is…I AM SICK of saying the same thing.
The ONLY thing that remains crucial to the health and welfare of the world and that is END VIOLENCE to WOMEN and GIRLS.Are you sick and tired of reading these messages from me? I would expect that you are. It’s Ok..I know you don’t mean you are sick and tired of me as a person.
If you are reading this, you probably like me. Know that I am also sick and tired of asking people to dissect their lives and find the ways where the violence is silent and insipid.
What areas? Here are just a few…Telling your daughter to lose weight because no boys will like her. Telling your self boys will be boys.Allowing your spouse to disrespect you.Allowing yourself to accept disrespect. Making excuses for religious institutions to treat women as second class citizens. Repeating lies like “ she must have been asking for it, look at how she was dressed” when you see or read about sexual and physical violence.
I could go on and on, but you are smart enough to get the idea. Take an action to end violence, please.
We teach young kids to take chances from a young age. We encourage them to take the next step and when they stumble we cheer them on. We try as best we can to allay the fears of middle schoolers who are afraid of a multitude of things, some real and some imagined. We ask our teenagers to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves. We recognize when humanity rises to challenges like defeating the Hitlers of our world and tearing down the stupid Berlin Wall and the greatly needed work that so many non- profits do in our ever-closer world.
The thing that still surprises us is when a BRAND like Nike uses controversy to do the right thing (Colin Kaepernick) and when Gillette puts out an ad calling for the males of the species to Be the best.Some people are very upset and vowing to never buy their product again. I am sure many new customers will. I plan to buy razors today to give as gifts!
Some of people are saying that their men are “fine.” Yes, many men are fine and many need to be reminded to be better. We can all be better.
If 1 in 3 women is being abused then as many men are committing the crimes. Visit UN Women for statistics if you want to challenge the above statistic.
We need more brands to use their powerful voices to move the needle on this issue. Now if only the feminine hygiene people could throw their weight behind ending violence to women. Maybe they can put ads on the packaging?
Well, until they do, the rest of us must use the platform we have.
On page 108 he talks about that cold January day when he saw the Challenger explode 73 seconds after launch. He reminds us that it was a rubber O-ring on one of the solid rocket boosters that failed. The rubber was compromised due to unusually cold weather.
Ok, so a small thing like a rubber O-ring brought down that massive piece of equipment and killed everyone instantly.
That gives us pause about the little things, right?
But wait, on page 109 he tells us that this was a MANAGEMENT FAILURE.
Engineers working on the solid rocket boosters had raised concerns multiple times about the performance of the O-rings in cold weather. In a teleconference the night before Challenger’s launch, they had desperately tried to talk NASA managers into delaying the mission until the weather got warmer. Those engineers’ recommendations were not only ignored, they were left out of reports sent to higher level managers who made the final decision about whether or not to launch. They knew nothing about the O-ring problems or the engineers’ warnings, and neither did the astronauts who were risking their lives.”
Perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with any of us mere mortals.
It has plenty to do with us. We rely on car makers to make safe vehicles and not lie about things like carbon emissions etc, and they fail us time and time again.
We depend on corporations to make their manufacturing plants safe so that we can not only work, but work safely, free from serious health risks, and yet we have many stories of corporations failing us.
We read about intimate partner violence and see the horror that abusers heap on women and children time and time again, and yet, we continue to believe (or pretend to believe) that it’s a private matter and not a public health epidemic. The world loses 5.2 trillion dollars every year due to violence to women.
We continue to hit and physically abuse (and pretend that it’s discipline) our children and wonder why our daughters accept violent boyfriends and why sons do not understand what violence is. (Listen to Indrani’s TedX talk:“Expressing Love With Violence is a Lie”)
If you are reading this then 2018 is at an end (or gone) and we are welcoming 2019, either eagerly or in some other way.
Please look for a moment at the photo. It is of the meditation pod at Auroville, outside of Puducherry India.
It is known as the Matrimandir.
Auroville, City of Dawn, is an intentional community. It was first envisioned by a guru called Mirra Alfassa. She was a European woman who devoted her life to spirituality.
The City of Dawn, is built on land that was “approximately 20 square kilometers of barren wasteland.”
The earth was unable to support both plant or animal life.
A small group of believers began (what must have looked like madness to the non–believers) to rehabilitate the land by planting trees. When I visited about 4 weeks ago, the area was a veritable forest. Species of plant life that had died out were flourishing. Animal life was abundant and humans from many countries were permanent residents in the village. Permanent residents are expected to work 8 hours daily in exchange for living there.
It seems to be flourishing by all accounts.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by 124 nations who sent delegates with gifts of their earth to be all placed together in one urn. It was held on Wednesday 28th, 1968.
On that day, I was living in Trinidad and was 15 years old. I was actively filling in to be the caretaker of an 11 year old brother and a 7 year old sister. I was in over my head.
I had no idea that on the other side of the earth, a small group of people were gathering to celebrate a vision of a future and that as a 65 year old in 2018, I would be lucky enough to visit.
That 15-year-old, was also unaware that she would go on to do some amazing things.
Things like finish a triathlon and marathon after she turned 50 or get a handle of clinical depression and make her pain the foundation of a nonprofit, or have a wonderful husband and children, or speak at the UN, or (and most importantly) end generational violence in her lifetime.
I was unaware of all of this and more.
As I write this message to you, I am blissfully unaware of what will happen tomorrow, next week or 10 years from now.
I am not worried about not knowing.
I have learned to trust and believe that if I follow my path to end violence to girls and women, I will be fully living my destiny. I also know that when I do not trust my gut, I get burned.
I did not always believe I had a destiny. I believe it now.
I am asking you to give yourself time to uncover your own destinies and to allow yourself to take small steps in the direction of what you know that destiny to be.
Some of the tools to help you uncover your destiny include physical exercise, yoga, meditation, gratitude journaling, setting and keeping healthy boundaries by saying No to things that do not support what you know your destiny to be.
I wish you a happy and joy-filled 2019. I wish you the clarity of mind to find joy in the midst of inevitable pain and I wish you the courage to love yourself as deeply as you love the most precious person on your life.
Love and light
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Your donation will be used towards eradicating gender violence, training community leaders and sharing behaviour-change tools with people who are ready to leave violence behind and create a brighter, more peaceful world.