Well, you all missed a fabulous show last night. It was heavily attended by the dog...she sat with rapt attention while I belted out Helen’s best hits. Of course, I give her treats and feed her and take her on six mile hikes everyday...my children were nowhere to be found!
Regardless, I had a great day contemplating just how much all the women that came before me sacrificed so that I could stand on a footstool in the living room of the house I own on my own, with the utilities in my own name, raising children on my own, while running a law firm that I helped build from the ground up. I was able to stand there last night in my living room scantily clad owning my femininity and my strength...at the same time. I felt unified and grateful to be me. Grateful to be female with all its dubious and not so dubious characteristics. I used the think men had it better...but last night standing in the hub of the life I created, I realized that I wouldn’t change it if I could. I love that I am woman. The End.
But just as much as I get to take these momentary breaks from the grind to check in with myself, I also have an obligation to ensure that my present conduct paves the way for the girls coming up behind me. I do not see this as a battle with men and males in general. I see this as an opportunity “to spread my loving arms across the land until I make my brother understand.” Seems to me that Helen knew that it was more about finding a platform to talk to men, than it was being resentful at them for where we females found ourselves. Sure I can look at all the ways men get over on women in our world. And I can see that there are as many ways that women get over on men, really. The main and enduring difference is the wielding of power.
But while I will be the first to admit that there is a lot of ground to still cover, I want to make sure to honor what I have seen men do over my lifetime. I have seen them step up. Most men are active in their love and raising of their children. They participate and sacrifice, just like we do. They love and talk about how they feel. They have met our cries for domestic equality far more than any other generation. Overall, I think men really love us and want us to be happy, whole and able to see that they, like us, are trying.
No one can summarily resolve to change the course of history in a lifetime. But we can make progress. And I think we have. Men I know have willingly given up control and power to stand on a more equal footing with us and I am grateful. Please know that this is not to say that women’s issues have been addressed and we are all good. There are still gross inequities that exist. I am simply saying that in my life, I have seen, participated and benefitted from a great deal of growth, in large part due to the growth of the men I have been lucky enough to know, love and live with and among. I meant it when I said yesterday, “mantle passed, Ms. Reddy.” I know there is still a lot of work to be done...
Which leads me finally to today’s topic of integrity...the quality or state of being complete or undivided; soundness.
And last night as I stood in my living room, I felt it. I felt complete, undivided, sound. I felt like my relationship with myself was the most balanced and equaniminous that it has ever been. I see my own dysfunction, am painfully aware of how much I lack and still need work, but at the same time, I can see how very far I have come. I am not the shitshow I used to be. I know who I am. And, dare I say, have come to love her.
I stood on the floor of the house I own, solo, and loved the fact that I was here in middle age feeling the best I have ever felt. I loved my life. I was grateful for all that I walked through, around and over and under to get right there last night to that moment where I was happy to just be me.
I stood there with a heightened sense of awareness that I still have a lot of work to do on me. Loving me and accepting me is not an easy job because I can see my own dysfunction so very clearly. And I want to do better, be better. I do not think I have arrived, no, just taking a break to review all that I have gained, and lost, and reclaimed.
Perhaps the most important thing is integrity. This belief and state of feeling complete and undivided about myself. I do feel sound even though I am far from being worked out. I am complete in my incompleteness because I know that it is a lifetime job to love and honor oneself...and last night I felt perfectly ok where I was in the process.
And as I stood there with Helen blaring, I felt the most immense sense of gratitude for all the women who came before me. Who paved the way for me to find myself standing in my own home’s living room, belting out a second wave feminist anthem with nothing but love in my heart for all of us: men, women, children. Before we are a gender, we are human. We all love, bleed, hurt, feel, live, breathe the same. And last night I felt it deeply. There was no divide for me in that moment, just a whole feeling of love for us all despite our confusion, hatred, greed, anger, lust and apathy. We are all here, living life and doing the very best we can...and we could all do better.
I am forever grateful to all the champions of women’s rights (which includes the men that supported us and helped us along the way) for all they gave up and suffered to allow me the moment I had with myself in my living room. I felt the integrity of my life while at the same time saw the places where I need to do some work. And it was good. All of it. The entirety of my life was filled with wonder, purpose and most of all love.
I miss you Helen. And am so very, very grateful for all you gave me throughout my life. You will be missed, honored and never forgotten. One cannot forget those who have written script on the lives of others...not ever.