Recently I had an experience that made me lose my ground. It shut down ALL my chakras.
I felt the air sucked out of me. I felt like I had NO physical self. I was but a swirl of energy. Someone asked, “What are you thinking?” I said, “I am only feeling.” They did not know what else to ask. I felt like the wet towel on the floor. This feeling used to be very familiar. I worked hard to learn new behaviors, and worked harder to cement those behaviors.
Here is what I wished someone had said …. “Indrani, can you hear me? Shake your head if you can.” (I had no language. I only had preverbal behaviors like crying and flailing). I would have shook my head.
Then I wished they would have said … “Can you feel your toes, feet, legs, hips, belly, chest, arms, head?” In other words, I wished they had done the body scan on me since my brain was off line, and I could not have thought of this tool myself.
Then I wished they had said …. “Indrani, breathe with me. Look at me. Hold my hands.” I wished they had grounded me. But they did not. They did not know how.
So I collapsed in a heap on the floor.
My spine crumbled life a crushed egg.
I could not hold my weight.
The sonic boom I was not expecting, happened. The energy demolished me. It took me many days to recover from the daze.
Now I know. Now I understand that old behaviors that were not useful then are still not useful now.
Now I know. I will hold on to this knowledge.
Do you have someone to help you with energy surges? I hope you do. It will save your life.
I do not recall exactly when I discovered Rum Raisin Ice Cream. I think it was when I was living in New Jersey as a new bride and my husband brought it home from the store. I believe he said, “Taste this,” and he fed me a spoon of this nectar and I must have screamed and yelped, because he looked scared! (My brand of extroversion tends to be loud. I am often over the top in my enthusiasm and I tend to scare people).
So all these years of “sweet married life” later, my hubby will bring me rum raisin ice cream and I still squeal! Often times if we happen upon an ice cream store, he will ask for it on my behalf, while I am reading the favors on the wall.
I LOVE rum raisin ice cream. I also love RUM CAKE! I grew up on rum cake in Trinidad and whenever I think of the glorious cakes my mom used to make, I smile. My brother makes a great rum cake and this is what he gives me for Christmas every year.
Imagine MY absolute delight when I walked into “Neuhaus Company” the other day and saw that they had RUM CAKE ICE CREAM! (Yep! I squealed, in the store, on Madison Avenue, in Manhattan!). My extroversion is always ready to show its enthusiasm.
I was thinking… “Maybe it has raisins it in also!” So I asked for a taste. The sweet young man took a plastic spoon, smiled at me, reached into the appropriate bin and scooped out a HUGE taste. He ceremoniously reached over the tall counter and gave me the spoon. My eyes never left the bulging scoop of ice team balancing precariously on the edge of the tiny spoon. I carefully took it from his fingers and put it in my mouth as I closed my eyes….
And I ran to the trash and spat it out!
It was awful.
I did not like Rum Cake Ice cream at all!
I did not like it on a spoon. I would not like it on the moon.
I cannot tell you how much I disliked that ice cream.
I thanked the young man and bought some chocolates, which I loved, and ate one to get the taste of the rum Cake ice cream out of my mouth. Then as I walked down Madison into the cold and blustery day, I knew I had the makings of a blog post.
So here goes …..
Let us suppose that you meet a great looking guy and he is everything you wished for, and he seems to feel the same way about you. He made you feel safe, secure, protected, loved and cherished. You were all warm and fuzzy inside as you pondered a life with this man.
Then one day, as you two are having a lovely day, out of the clear BLUE …. He hits you, or verbally berates you, and you are stunned!
You look at him and he seems the same, his features are the same, his voice sounds the same but the flavor of human coming out of his mouth is horrible, distasteful and nasty, and you need to escape.
Let’s say you DO leave. You were strong enough to leave. A few days pass and he calls to apologize and gives some very sound reason for his nasty behavior, and you go back to him.
That is like me going back to the trash and picking up that nasty rum cake ice cream and eating it because I have told myself that I like rum cake, AND I love rum raisin ice cream ….. So I SHOULD love RUM CAKE ice cream. I force myself to swallow that distasteful ice cream because of some strange reasoning that I make up in my head.
Let me be clear. I know that a person is more important than ice cream. I also know that YOU are too special and lovely to accept nasty behaviors from ANY person. If you were abused as a child and you think that love looks like abuse, think again.
WATCH my TEDxTalk here:
As an adult you have the power to set boundaries that you could not set as a child.
Set your boundaries. They will protect you. When you have clear and clean boundaries, you will know in a flash what is and is not good for you. Try it.
Love and light.
(P.S. Did you like my TEDxTalk? Please share it with your friends and family. Let’s start spreading the word to live in peace within our four walls at home. http://bit.ly/1SMK1NZ)
I spoke to a social worker when I was in Trinidad in October, and I heard about a child who was brought to her office by her guardian with a bag of clothing. The guardian is the legal guardian and a very close family member. The social worker was told that the child was stealing food. The child was a very young teenager and was emaciated and clearly hungry. There was no place for the child to go so the child was sent back to the house with the guardian.
A few weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself. The social worker again sent the child back.
This story really left me feeling helpless.
Often times I am talking about past abuses and guiding the teller of the abuse story through the pain, and into a deeper understanding of their present power instead of a powerless past.
This was so very different.
This is clear and present danger and pain that was being experienced by a young person that I could meet. I could make a significant difference here. Yet, I choose to keep working at the global level and to use my time and energy to try to make changes at a different level.
I will reach out to that social worker to see how I can contribute to the care and feeding of that child, but I must do this from a safe distance. If I get too personally involved I stand the chance of derailing my whole path because I will get way too deep in the problem, and can potentially make the situation very much worse. This is very hard to accept.
Unless I am willing to step in to legally adopt this young teenager in a different country and devote my life to her future, I can only help in different ways.
When we face situations like this in life, we can only really do what we can do. If we need to work from a safe distance, that is the decision we must make.
If we can do something deeper and significantly contribute to the situation we can choose that path. The option is NEVER to beat yourself up about what we “could” have done or “should” have done. To be this centered in difficult decisions like this we must practice this centeredness in other less difficult aspects of life.
Luckily for us, life gives us many opportunities to practice centeredness …. from ordering from a menu, to choosing an internet provider, to dealing with the technical advisor of said internet provider who has such a thick accent, we just want to bang our heads with the device we are trying to trouble shoot. You get the picture.
Look around you and attempt to deal with the next small irritant with a deeper level of groundedness and presence.
Maybe it requires you to use your ears more than your mouth. Maybe you get to use your mouth but in the complete opposite way, like whispering instead of yelling, or smiling in the face of the instigator instead of scowling, pouting. Maybe you decide to use your feet and leave a hostile situation instead of staying and begging the others to please, please, please see it your way.
Only you can decide what to do.
Expect to make mistakes and expect pushback. Pushback is really good because it tells you that you are making waves in the status quo. If you want to quick start this practice, look at the status quo of your life and see what you would like to change then start there.
In my case, the status quo of my life was that of a “stay at home mom,” very little travel and a very confined, albeit very comfortable, world. These days, my status quo is a far cry from yesteryear.
Almost a year has passed since I wrote the original “Female Avatar” post, and I have been waiting, and waiting, to write a victorious follow up. A post where I could tell you that using a female character in that video game, and the conversations that followed, made a difference in how my son views gender.
The problem being, there were no earth shattering changes for me to report from that original conversation.
Sure, there were little signs of change. My son would get excited and cheer on the female contestants in America Ninja Warrior competitions, but he would also comment that “the girls never make it as far as the boys” (which is true, but still made me wonder if his view was changing).
We read, Wings of Fire, a series of books with some female main characters. However, these characters were also dragons, and my son LOVES everything dragon. So, I wasn’t sure if he was accepting the female characters completely, or if he was accepting them because of their dragon status.
My son has also become more accepting of the colour purple, which may seem unimportant, but for years purple has fallen into the category of “princess colour” and “boys don’t like princesses”. Unfortunately, pink, is still a colour that forms a grimace on his now 8-year-old face, and a disgusted comment of “pink is for girls.”
Now, to give the poor little guy a break, he is only 8 years old, so I am not expecting him to approach me and ask to have an in-depth discussion about gender norms and how he can work towards behaving in a manner that supports equality (to be honest, if that DID happen I would be a bit wigged out). But, I have been hoping that something “8-year-old big” would happen, showing that he was starting to see that boys and girls are equals.
That 8-year-old-big event happened last week.
We were in Kids Books, an amazing bookstore in Vancouver BC, shopping with Fionn’s cousins for some books for his birthday the following day. I was looking through some 7 to 10-year-old book series when I felt a poke. Looking down I saw Fionn, three books precariously clutched in his arms, looking up at me.
“Daddy, how about these books, they sound awesome”
“You’ve read the backs?” I asked, taking the books from his hands.
“Yes, they sound really cool.”
“For you to read, or for me to read to you?”
“I think I can read them, but I want you to read them to me.”
I looked down at the first book and the 8-year-old-big moment happened when I saw the cover:
Let’s break this down from the view of a Dad, trying to teach his son about gender equality, and see that boys are not better than girls:
The picture on the front of the book is clearly a girl, and he still chose to pick up the book and read more.
The subtitle of the book has the word “witch” (a “girl” word) in it.
Most importantly, and amazing for me:
The subtitle has the word “princess” in it. A word that my son, and all of his friends usually have an allergic reaction to, with much frowning and spitting, followed by “princesses are dumb.”
All right, as earth shattering as this book selection already was for me, it might not be convincing for you. Totally understandable.
I smiled down at Fionn as I turned the book over to read the back, which read:
“Silk tells stories. It sings of secrets long forgotten. It sings of fire. Maia dreams of being a Story Teller, or a Weaver, like her father, Tareth. But when the Watcher names her Sun Catcher, she must face a destiny that Tareth has kept hidden from her. For Maia is more powerful than she knows, and she is about to discover that though the sun’s fire may be dangerous…so is she.”
The back of the book makes it clear that the protagonist is female, and, from the sounds of it, a female that will be kicking some serious butt. Looking at the backs of the other two books, each book is clearly about girls leading the way and being the focus of the story. Not just a side character in the book, but a female protagonist.
For me, after just a year ago when my son refused to even think about reading Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness Quartet” because the main character was a girl, this is a big sign that our conversation around gender equality has shifted.
Whether it was switching my video game avatar to a female character, or the follow up conversations we have had, or the changes I have made in my own behaviors that has brought about this shift I cannot say.
To be honest I don’t care what has made the difference, but I cannot explain how much pride I felt in this simple moment in the bookstore when my son chose Sheila Rance’s trilogy of books to be our next “Dad and Son” reading project.
I looked up from the backs of the books and smiled, “you bet buddy. Let’s get them all, they sound awesome.”
Fionn smiled, turned, and ran off down one of the aisles to look for more books.
It was a faded gray and it had roll up windows, an AM radio and no AC. The heat worked sometimes.
The dash board had a gas gage and a speedometer.
A manual steering wheel was the driving mechanism.
I loved that car!
It took me on my first long trip from Ohio to New Jersey after Graduate school. There was enough space to stuff my meager belongings and drive off.
These days I still drive an import, just not a Japanese import.
My car has power windows, power steering, power adjusted seats that can be heated or cooled, a lumbar support that I cannot live without as well as a head support.
Air bags in the steering and the doors.
The dash board….
Well this is a thing of beauty.
I have a speedometer AND I can see a numerical display of my speed on the windshield.
The rest of the dash looks like I am in the cockpit of an aircraft.
I know when tire pressure is low. I know when there is a snail walking behind my car because of the rear camera. The car tells me when I am too close to objects in front and in back.
There are bells and whistles… Real bells and whistles that I have NO idea what they mean. I have to remember the sound and look up the sound in the 2000 page owners manual that came with the car.
I will NEVER understand this car! I won’t even try.
This car was the play thing of very inspired engineers and when the first one rolled off the line they all applauded and pretended that all the future buyers would give a damn about all the fancy schmansy stuff.
We buy the fancy cars and very few of us really give a damn about all the bells and whistles BUT we would never go back to the old car, like that first Corolla.
Yet, in our private lives, we keep using tools that are as outdated as that Corolla.
The tools we learned as a child to manipulate our parents, we try to use on lovers and partners.
The tools we learned in High School when we were first dating are the tools we insist on using in relationships that are way beyond the immaturity of High School.
We scream and pout as if we were teenagers and expect that people will just give up their positions to keep us quiet and happy.
We expect those tools to still manipulate like they did in the past.
We refuse to better equip ourselves to fully step into adult relationships.
What do I mean?
The tools I am talking about are readily available in e-books, book stores and libraries. It’s the billion dollar industry of the Self Help Movement; while most of us have purchased self help books, how many PRACTICE the tools inside?
It’s the practice of new tools and skills that will get us away from the “outdated dashboard” we keep going back to so that we can install a newer updated version.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
I was never taught how to say No.
I was taught to be “nice” and say Yes to all that was asked of me and furthermore to be sure to do it with a smile on my face.
I did this for many years.
Almost killed myself doing this.
The few times I said NO to things, I did it with such anger and animosity that the people around me looked at me like a had two heads.
Like Medusa, if someone tried to get me to be reasonable, I felt like they were chopping off one of my heads and so two would grow in its place. The multiple headed monster was what I would become.
I stumbled upon the book The Power of a Positive No by William Ury quite a few years ago.
I read it, re-read it and read it again.
The simple tools for saying NO were right there.
But, would they actually work in real life?
How would I know unless I practiced them?
I was at a small conference once where I told one of the participants about this book and how it changed my life and she said, “make it into a workshop. People, women need these tools and many won’t read the book. Give them a taste and then tell them to get the book and feast on it.”
I called the workshop, “Not Your Mothers Assertiveness Training.”
I did the workshop.
A few paid to attend and the rest of the seats I gave away.
It was a hit.
People loved the work.
I encouraged them to buy the book and to inhale the wisdom inside.
I heard from them from time to time that they were indeed using the principles.
A few times when they called to complain that they were being forced to do one thing or another, I simply asked, “What’s your YES!” (read the book to understand this question)
They got it and did the required work to make the decisions that would work for them.
There was a time when I would have readily accepted that “people like like me” don’t belong on global and powerful platforms such as the UN stage.
There was absolutely nothing in my background that would have prepared me to think that I was worthy of this honor or to belong to this exclusive club. “Spoke at the UN” is indeed beyond my wildest dreams.
What right do I have to claim such esteemed membership?
I received this right from the other clubs to which I belong.
I belong to the club of the abused. I belong to the club of the oppressed.
I also belong to the club of the women who said NO MORE.
The club of domestic abuse ends in my lifetime…. the club of claw and scratch your way out of stinking thinking and claiming a life of joy and peace.
These are the foundations upon which I stand to celebrate the new club membership that I have earned.
I urge you to begin to name the clubs to which you have belonged and to begin to lay the foundations for and build the bridges to the clubs you wish to join.
I should tell you that I never dreamed of being in the UN club and that is ok. You see, I was laying these foundations as I strove for other memberships such as:
The club of women over 50 who do Olympic distance triathlons and come last and have the nerve to still feel pride.
The club of 2 marathons the year I turned 50 and several half marathons in the ensuing years.
The club of founders for a non profit.
The club of motivator and encourager of all I meet.
So it is with this beneath me and behind me that I urge you to gain membership to new clubs. These memberships will require hard work. The price of admission will often seem to steep. In times of such stress, take a break, take a breath AND continue to strive. The membership is worth the effort.
Let us all belong to the club called “I too took a chance.”
Self-respect is defined by Nathaniel Branden as “the conviction of our own value. It is not a delusion that we are perfect or superior to everyone else. It is not comparative or competitive at all it is the conviction that our life and well being are worth acting to support, protect and nurture, that we are good and worthwhile and deserving of the respect of others; and that our happiness and personal fulfillment are important enough to work for.”
When a woman is forced into a marriage that she does not want, when she is forced to birth more children than she desires or is forced into aborting fetuses that are the “wrong” gender, that is not respecting a woman.
Some of these issues are couched in cultural language that makes it seem iron clad for women to “behave certain ways and accept traditional roles.”
I would like to float the idea that NOTHING is iron clad and traditions had to start somewhere, so we can be brave enough to make new ones.
This kind of bravery can only sprout from deep and abiding self-respect, nothing short of consistent self awareness.
We cannot fall asleep to how we live our daily lives, make daily choices and then wonder why our self-respect is in shambles.
“To appreciate why our need for self-respect is so urgent, consider the following : To live successfully, we need to pursue and achieve values. To act appropriately, we need to value the beneficiary of our actions. Absent this conviction, we will not know how to take care of ourselves, protect our legitimate interests, satisfy our needs, or enjoy our own achievements.” Nathaniel Branden
I urge you to read, no, to devour, Six Pillars of Self Esteem. It is by far one of the best books that anyone who has received abuse or is presently receiving abuse can read. It will give you the language to demand the respect you need for yourself, the respect you will expect from others and the strength to say NO, I will not accept disrespect anymore.
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.