Wednesday Wisdom: Independence

Independence Day is tomorrow. As a woman, I’m inspired by the concepts of independence and freedom as personal rights to hold sacred. To break away from the mindsets that diminish and erase our worth requires a metamorphosis from groupthink to individuality, silence to confession, denial to courage.

Freedom is earned when we face our worst selves—our fears, shames, and silences. Hidden stories provide clues to the wounds we carry, scars of a previous life, or perhaps, an ongoing drama that requires our truest and most courageous voice.

As a girl, I used to play ‘Opposites’ with my sisters. The game would last half a day, or maybe ten minutes, depending on the moods and activity in the house. It was a simple game, requiring a shift in response, from ‘Yes’ to ‘No’, or its opposite, ‘No’ to ‘Yes’. The objective was to trick each other in timing, voice intonation, and observation, waiting for the other to be distracted enough to lose their focus before posing a question. Requiring us to answer the opposite, we’d lose if we answered the truth.

It was a manipulative game. Girls grow up, and I know now that living in false pretenses is a script to override with honesty. Independence is a permission we grant ourselves to be our most vulnerable, wounded, and scarred individual, to expose our humanity in a sacred offering of flaws and mental and emotional illnesses, and to expect shared honor of our worth in everything we pursue.

While Americans celebrate freedom tomorrow, I will remember and honor the silent women of history whose voices were never heard, whose yearning for education was never an option, and whose truths were never exposed. This invisible force drives me to share my story with the hope that resonance will ignite courage. Together, we can make beautiful explosions against the dark.

Wishing you all a safe and grateful holiday.

Love, Barbie

Photo by Erwan Hesry

Wednesday Wisdom: Father’s Day

With Father’s Day upon us, I’m inspired to share a bit of tragedy and a bit of grief. And maybe, a bit of wisdom.

Last night I started reading Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of infamous Apple guru Steve Jobs. She begins her memoir three months before his death, taking items from her father’s house, slipping small things like toothpaste, nail polish, and pillowcases into her purse.

Then, she explains. Before she had a sense of right and wrong, her father denied her as his daughter. At two years old she took a DNA test, and scoring the highest percentage at the time, 94.4%, he still rebuked the fact that he was her father.

Years later, taking things from his house sated her. At the time of his death, his net worth had been recorded at around 10.2 billion dollars.

I have yet to read beyond the first chapter, but the reader is left eager to learn her story, the untold truth of a girl made to feel insignificant by the man whose role as a father was supposed to empower her.

I’m a Lisa. I know the tragedy of a father who could not be happy with daughters. I heard the insults, diminishing me to the ways that boys were better-equipped for conflict, for ‘getting over’ it, and why couldn’t I be grateful for what I had. But girls are not boys, and as soon as the expectations are made for girls to behave like them, the shame begins.

I know now that the wounded are the ones who wound. The ways my father had been abandoned by his own father were left unhealed, probably unacknowledged, probably diminished. And given to me.

Everyone owns the right to access or deny their pain. It is a choice of self-awareness, of compassion, of curiosity, and ultimately, of expression, to address the wounds that fester beneath the surface. We have two options: to confront them or to pass them on to our children.

As a girl, my father was young, girded with fear and the expectation to remain stoic. This didn’t work. The societal pressure for boys to turn down their emotions has a fallout, but we don’t have to adhere to the norms. We can be brave, stand in solidarity with our truth, and practice self-love. And when we accept our own story based on the principles of love over shame, we empower the vulnerable inner child who lost an identity to fear.

Wednesday Wisdom: Scale

As a French student in Paris, my top priority was to visit the Eiffel Tower. After arriving on train from Charles de Gaulle, I left the Gare du Nord with a backpack of belongings for the semester. Loaded with books, adrenaline, fatigue, and culture shock, I walked and walked toward the steel sculpture that loomed above the rooftops.

The sun was out, and sweat ringed my underarms. I was hungry. People scurried in and out of doors, across streets, and in front of cars. Everything was foreign. I lumbered. I slumped. I continued.

The steel frame appeared larger, but not closer. The sun eventually lowered behind tall buildings. I still hadn’t eaten. I was exhausted. Sirens wailed.

How small I felt when I could no longer walk on aching feet. How small I felt when I heaved off my backpack in the Métro, relieved to sit, disappointed to admit it. How humiliating to recognize the scale of my dream in proportion to my own size.

Scale is a filter that denies our truth. How often do we diminish the hard things, the things that wear us down, corrode us? How would it feel to unload the burden? Maybe we’re afraid to admit weakness. Maybe, because we’re human, we’re afraid of comfort.

Pain aligned to worth is not worth. Pain aligned to love is not love. With self-dignity as our destination, the balance shifts from worthless to worthy, from unlovable to loved. If we are weary, we must remember how largely important and lovable we are.

Paris, France

Wednesday Wisdom: Imperfection

My yoga instructor once said, “I used to be perfect, but life wasn’t very fun.”

I love being in my 40’s because it allows me freedom from the pressure of impossible demands. I missed the past two weeks of blog posts, because, well, I’m not perfect!

Earlier this month, I found myself in the middle of a creative swell, and I spent a lot of time diving deep into the creative work of writing my memoir. It was time well spent because now I’ve reached another tier on the writing mountain, gaining the vision to see it from a new vantage.

Letting go of my self-imposed blog schedule gave me the freedom to reach further toward my life goal of finishing a book. Not that I’m close, but I’m closer.

Guilt holds us back. When we let go of perfection, we let go of the guilt that pressures us to meet small demands, making our large aspirations that much more daunting. But when we let the small demands be insignificant, we free ourselves to attend the priorities that give life meaning.

Everything and everybody in life is a ripple on the lake of our being. I know now to prioritize the inner ripples, to keep myself surrounded by the hearts and souls that lift me instead of pouring their burdens on me, the outlets that inspire instead of drain, and to climb the mountains that celebrate instead of coerce.

Wednesday Wisdom: Creativity

I’ve created good writing the past two days, shirking off exercise and other balancing activities that make me a mostly well-rounded individual.

Creativity requires stepping away from the world to dive deep into the needs of the project. Much like a newborn baby, art demands its needs without a language.

It isn’t until you’ve spent hours and hours agonizing over the possibilities that you begin to understand a project’s needs. Sometimes, the writing wants a detail, the color red to call attention to this spot here, or action, an explosive shift in the plot’s direction there.

I know the struggle and joy of being pulled toward my writing. When we burrow into art, we burrow into servitude. The ebb and flow of creative work requires strong communion with our state of being, opening ourselves to a place of potential and possibility, trusting that we’ve created a sacred harbor for self-expression, no matter how limited in time and space, within our immediate world.

Building the sacred harbor takes courage. You might have to push people away, people who bring toxic and negative energies that deplete you. On the other hand, that space will soon be filled with support and respect for the art that only you can make. Giving ourselves permission to feed creative impulses becomes not just a want, but a need, to engage in communion with our emotional and spiritual landscapes. Often, we are afraid to admit these needs, or, we don’t know how, because we haven’t learned the language.

The art will speak for you. I was forty-two when I began to write. When I allowed my voice to fall onto the page, my world transformed from fear to courage, hate to love, shame to pride. It’s never too late to reinvent a lifestyle based on art or to adopt a new way of living in service of your needs. It only takes courage to try.