Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The age of discontinuity

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Recently, I was told that my sweetness and light halo was cracked because in a moment of extreme provocation, my "dark side" was glimpsed.

I have spent many hours thinking about what that meant and how I felt about that statement. I guess its against an expectation that girls are meant to be sugar and spice and all things nice. Most of my life I have played that part...peacemaker, harmoniser, daddy's sweet lil girl, mum's pillar of strength, sister, girlfriend, wife, and mother...trying to make everyone happy and worrying about myself last.

I also contemplated that statement in the context of some leadership and culture stuff we are doing at work, where we are using a pride of lions as a symbol of high-performing teams, not without contention, because some believe lions are not a good example because they are not always purring pussycats.

Leaning philosophically towards Eastern philosophies and the notion of balancing yin and yang energies, and even considering the ecosystems of the natural world, I find it hard to understand how anyone can expect others to be the same ALL THE TIME- sweetness and light in rain or shine, notwithstanding challenges, hormonal cycles, and the stuff that makes up life.

Of course we have dark sides, of course we lose it at times!!!

If we didnt have these dimensions, be that aggression, sadness, drive, power etc, we would be the equivalent of blanc mange - a great big tasteless jelly incapable of achieving great things, crashing through hurdles, scaling barriers, loving deeply, living passionately. Its all a matter of channelling energy - and if the Yang energy dominates at times, its about recognising it, and in an evolved consciousness, restoring balance as quickly and as often as one can.

But alas, the discontinuous world in which we live, where one person households and single parenting is statistically more the norm than the exception, energies get out of sync and most don't have the luxury of time-out, holidays or even a baby-sitter as they struggle to simply make ends meet and survive.

At 3am this morning, I was reading a book that looked at the growing trend of homelessness across the globe. Yes, its real and yes, it happens to more and more people as they fall victim to the mechanics of modern life, discontinuity in marriage, employment and sustaining connections of any kind. The biggest impact- as always- is on women and children who were dependent on a father/ husband as breadwinner.

Interestingly though, evidence indicates that the ones who cope best with discontinuity and creating new survival habits, are those who grew up in family units headed up by females. The reason is not because women are better at parenting, its because women know about sacrifice, making trade-offs, adapting, and creating a life in spite of having dreams for self-actualisation interrupted by family, marriage, childbirth, divorce, caring for the young, the old, the sick, the insane. Of course, there's more to it.

The author (Mary Catherine Bateson) goes on to examine the lives of women and the role of caring, and states that "to be nurturant is not always to concur and comfort, to stroke and flatter, to please and appease. Often, it requires offering a caring version of the truth, grounded in reality. Real care includes both the cold shower and the scented tub. Self-care is about setting priorities and limits."

I re-read that paragraph a few times. INDEED! This coming from a Harvard Professor of Education and daughter of the world's most famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead. This book, titled "Composing a life" offers a radical rethinking of the concept of achievement, and suggests that fluidity, flexibility, openness - the adaptive style of women that succeed in spite of setbacks -are the key survival traits for the age of discontinuity in which we live.

I read that, and take comfort that as a survivor of a discontinued marriage, discontinued income (at times), discontinued country of residence, discontinued friendships through death and moving, and discontinued family support structure - my ability to care, nurture and support two young lives is largely thanks to my "dark side", my animal instinct and female ability to sacrifice self and adapt, but also setting priorities and limits so that I don't crumble in the process.

Yes, your energy gets imbalanced. Yes, you have stronger Yang. No, much as you want to be sugar and spice and only nice, you cannot be soft and feminine and yielding and dependent and sweet and light all the time - a solitary leopardess in a foreign environment, no back-up family or team, with cubs dependent on only her ability to adapt...adapts! They survive, they even thrive!

I have abandoned the notion of being the perfect woman in terms of some out-of-sync ideal. Without conceipt, I am proud of what I juggle everyday without dropping balls: socio-economically contributing migrant, successful business executive, loving 24/7 parent, homemaker, friend and sexy goddess, to name a few.

I know that I am raising a generation of girls who will get up and go riding waves again and again even when life's rhythms and patterns dump them- repeatedly!

We are women- hear us ROAR!

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