I am woman, hear me roar, and all that.
I’m not making light of the very serious and ongoing worldwide challenges women face at the hands of men, mind you. I’m just saying that, by and large, it hasn’t been my fight.
Over the decades of spiritual practice, my early gender rage and frustration have slowly given way to genuine empathy for the other half, the hairier half of the human race. Sure, as a global group, they make some seriously appalling blunders based in fear and anger. And the consequences of those actions are never pretty. But let’s face it—the stonefaced and steel-balled ideal of masculinity (as the world defines it) is a nasty bit of business altogether. And trying to live up, or down, to that code of behavior can’t be easy. Most guys, in my estimation, are honestly doing the best they can.
• • •
These days, I’m all about the attempt to go home to God with empty hands. And that’s an interesting process. You look down and notice all the useless baggage you’re carrying. The old grudges. The phobias, the various beliefs in limitation.
And as each one comes up for examination, you ask yourself: Would I rather remain scared of this spider, or hang out with God?
Or maybe it’s: Would I rather be disgusted with the banking system/oil companies/government corruption/insert your pet peeve here? Or would I rather spend quality time resting in God?
Because of course you can’t have both, you know. You always have to choose.
So I’ve been agreeing to drop the mismatched set of luggage, piece by piece. Because I’m starting to finally recognize that all the juice, all the peace I crave can only be found in God. And the peace of God is way better than any baggage I currently own, no matter how much I might enjoy carrying it around.
But after the hands are empty of readily visible suitcases…well, that’s when it really gets interesting. Because the other stuff—the bigger stuff—has to go, too. The opinions and behaviors that run so deep, they form your worldview. The ones that are so automatic, so unquestioned as truth that you can’t imagine who you’d be, or what your life would be like without them.
• • •
So I was surprised to find myself triggered a bit by all that old gender stuff again recently. Only this time, I was seeing it from completely outside my own frame of reference, as if my spaceship had just landed and I was viewing this aspect of humanity for the first time.
I saw and felt the vast scope of the world’s rage and hatred toward women. And it kind of took my breath away to notice how we, as a species, have all collectively agreed upon the idea that women, simply because we exist, are so scorned, so feared, that we are therefore legitimate targets of violence anytime the opportunity arises. That this is an unfortunate, yet unavoidable fact of life.
By ‘collective agreement,’ I don’t mean to imply that we all approve of this concept, by any means. I would guess that most men, and virtually all women, are appalled by it. But when we fight an idea—when we take karate classes, or choose a jogging buddy, or helpfully offer to walk a woman to her car, we reinforce the solidity of the very structure we rail against. We accept this hatred and control of women as a real and permanent condition, and we plan for it by fighting fear with fear. Rage with rage. And in doing so, we guarantee it will persist as a fact of this world.
I don’t really know why I found all this enmity so astonishing. It certainly isn’t news.
I guess I just personally noticed in full enormity for the first time, that I am not welcome on this planet. And in age-old response, I seem to have been sporting some hella thick emotional armor all this time. I also noticed I never go out walking by myself, and never, ever alone after dark, if I can help it.
So here’s the truly interesting thing about all this: I absorbed that hateful message way back when, without even knowing it. And only now have I suddenly recognized that, in response to this collectively agreed-upon belief in my own vulnerability as a target, I’ve chosen to live my entire life in a self-made prison. The armor keeps me in, a whole lot more effectively than it keeps anything out.
And I don’t go to the park by myself. I rarely walk alone at night. Hell, I rarely do much of anything alone at night, really. Because you never know who might be out there hating me tonight.
Why have I agreed to live this way? Why do so many women choose to live this way?
For every actual attack that takes place, ten thousand other women attack themselves every day by not going where they want to go. Not doing what they want to do. Not feeling free to simply exist, just as they are. Without airbrushing or apology.
We clip our own damn wings.
I suddenly noticed I’ve chosen to live my entire life in a cage that’s no wider than my shoulders. Clipped or not, I’ve never even bothered to raise my wings and try to fly. I don’t even know if I can.
• • •
So who might I be without this shoulder-width cage? No idea. It’s very hard to imagine a “me” who is unbound by these constraints. And honestly, it’s even harder to imagine a me who is free of the old, calcified fear and rage that make up the bars of that cage.
But really, who is there to be angry with? The jailer is me.
Nobody in the world has the power to do to me what I freely chose to do to myself. Men are certainly not to blame. And I’m not mad at myself for choosing the cage—not really. I know I did the best I could with the choices I thought I had at the time.
So…am I willing to open my hands and drop this rage I feel at nobody in particular, in order to hang out with God?
Ok, then. Am I also willing to know myself in a completely different way—as somebody who is unconstrained and unafraid to walk the world in safety and confidence in my right to exist?
Yeah. That one’s a little bit easier said than done. Because it’s hard to imagine that which is hard to imagine.
Meaning, the mind can only grasp what it knows from experience. And that kind of fundamental change in worldview is beyond anything this particular mind has ever known.
But I’m willing. And I’m pretty sure willingness is all it takes.
So. How to go about taking a leap beyond where the mind can go? The first step is to believe that you can.
No, seriously. I’m not launching into a song about ants and rubber trees, here. This is important. Significant change comes only when we allow the possibility for it. Prayer without believing that what you’re asking for is possible…is just aimless wishing.
Luckily, I’ve already learned that anything is possible IF I SAY IT IS. This world of dreams is infinitely malleable—and as the collective architects of this dream, we can change the rules on it anytime we choose to. I, as an infinite creator, have that power. And so do you.
So if I can manage to authentically believe it’s possible for me to experience myself as being free of fear, free of rage…hell, just plain free… then it is possible. Even if I have no idea what that freedom actually feels like, or how to go about it, I recognize that it’s possible.
So I’ve been choosing that possibility all week. Feeling it fully, believing in it completely. Claiming it as my own.
Step two: I’ve been stating clearly to the universe that it’s my choice to start walking this earth in confidence, safety and trust. Open and un-armored. And just by claiming the possibility and stating this intention, I seem to have broken free of the collective agreement for fear-based gender control.
(This doesn’t mean all worldly precautions should be ignored now. I still probably won’t lounge around in Central Park alone at midnight, festooned in my most ostentatious diamond jewelry. That would be foolish. But it does mean willingness to learn how to walk in trust and open-hearted forgiveness, seeing the world—and my place in it—with fresh, loving eyes.)
So the collectively agreed-upon structure of gender-based hatred has lost one pillar. I’ve stepped outside the building. Actually, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me who did the stepping. My job was just to recognize that it’s possible to see another way…and then to make good on that recognition by choosing to release all crusty old fear and blame. That’s where the empty hands come in.
Step three: Yes, I recognize that it’s possible to release my grip on fear, hate and rage. Because anything is possible. EVERYTHING is possible, including this. I can know myself without fear, without hate for my so-called oppressors, even though I can’t yet picture what that’s like. So I open my hands now, and because it’s possible to do, I agree to let these old beliefs and old protections slip through my fingers and be gone forever.
And once I’ve let my attachments to the old hatred slip away…hello, Step Four: I can then ask to be airlifted higher than my current perception would allow.
As far as I can tell, this method seems to be working. The view seems a bit different up here.
• • •
Yes, sometimes major shifts really can be that easy. Airlifting is my new preferred mode of travel.
But be warned: This method of release is accomplished without drama. Without plumbing the depths to revisit old pain. I let it all go without examining every injustice I suffered, every wound inflicted, in an attempt to find resolution and healing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when that kind of excavation is very appropriate. But take it from me, because I’ve done it both ways: Hard work and pain take a whole lot longer than simply letting yourself be lifted. And they’re way less fun.
WAY. Less fun.
So this is my heartfelt advice, if it interests you: Take the quick and scenic route. Let your liberation unfold in a way that’s free of agony. Stop rolling boulders uphill, and let yourself be lifted instead. Four easy steps. Really. That’s all it takes.
If you’re anything like me, and your wings don’t work so good yet…divine helicopters are standing by.