Happy New Year! We made it out of 2020. So far so... meh. How are you getting on during Lockdown III? Is homeschooling wrecking your head? It certainly is time-consuming... As a self-employed working Mama of two primary school aged children, I realised that for all my writing I never really talk much about my actual current family situation. One reason being that I try to keep my family away from (social) media and all that comes with it as much as I can. Another reason being that I am compartmentalising quite a lot of my life into "work related" and "other" categories. Truth to be told, it rarely works out that smoothly in real life (outside my head)... especially not when I'm with my children pretty much 24/7, without the freedom to sneak off every now and then, as I normally would. So all this got me thinking about a few fundamentals of my own, personal woman- and motherhood. I do not claim to speak for anyone else except myself, so in case you find this topic triggering (for whatever reason), please bear that in mind. After all, this is a personal journal (of sorts), reflecting what I observe, experience and think at any given time. So here goes...
In a time when we can't physically connect with others, we ideally would at least connect with ourselves. The combination of a complete lockdown with "January" feels extra harsh because the latter has sadly become synonymous with being told that we're not good enough the way we are. That our bodies need to somehow change and fit a certain image of an "ideal woman" whoever she might be. Moreover, we are supposed to improve and optimise our entire lives, if we are to succeed in becoming said "ideal woman" except that, of course, she does not exist. Which is why we are set up for failure from the very start, should we ever fall into this trap of believing we have to do anything of the sort. Nobody cares how this messes with our minds though, as long as we spend enough money on products, gyms etc etc... I have written extensively about how this is wrong, in my opinion. Nobody can or should try to dictate how we feel, least of all about ourselves and our own lives. Personally, I have opted out of this particular imposed narrative a good while ago and have chosen, instead, to love myself almost aggressively and as much as I possibly can. An outrageous act, if I am to believe the reaction I often get when I dare to point this out to others.
On New Year's Eve I went to bed with a lot of thoughts spinning in my head and fell asleep rather shook by most of them. A rather unsettling mix of emotions pulsing through my already exhausted self. On the first of January though, truthfully, I happened to wake up feeling distinctly (and at first inexplicably/miraculously) proud of myself! In an attempt to understand that literal change of heart (albeit for the better), I went through my various diaries, journals, and notebooks. Suddenly (ie a few hours later... I really write a lot down) I realised how much I have achieved despite last year's circumstances and regardless of a good few personal challenges. In fact, I had done exactly what I had set out to do, although in different, totally unexpected ways. Still, the result was exactly where I was meant to be, in my book. I couldn't (and still can't) control the circumstances nor the ways of the world but I am allowed to take up my little space in it. Yes, that's lucky, and for that privilege I am incredibly grateful. Moreover, I deserve to feel proud because while luck/privilege may be one part, hard work is the even larger part. "Luck", in fact, was often a direct consequence of doing everything I could and more. Despite literally making them now, I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
So there, I said it. And I don't feel ashamed of what some may consider "bragging". I believe we all deserve to acknowledge if and when we achieve some of our personal goals. It doesn't matter if they are big or small, that's so subjective anyway! If we work hard, we deserve any success it may bring. So I urge you to not let others belittle, downplay or begrudge you something you have honestly earned. Why am I writing this now, you may ask? Wasn't I meant to write about women? Well, here's another not so easily palatable thing I have noticed this past year: it's tragically not only men who put women down (which is bad enough in itself) but, often enough, other women. [IMMEDIATE DISCLAIMER before any of you who don't know me well enough implode: hear me out, this WILL NOT be a text that attacks women]
First of all, there's a difference between keeping someone grounded and putting them down. Why do women keep each other small in an already (still) largely male-dominated world? Where does this perceived sense of threat come from? Because it's exactly that, if you ask me. If you're dealing with certain insecurities of your own (and who isn't?), why not work on this yourself? Why drag others down if you could lift each other up instead? Why not remain open for the possibility to change this outdated narrative of "bitchy women", once imposed upon us merely to distract and keep us in our supposed place? Why not keep an open heart and mind? Why not show empathy with each other's struggles? Genuinely engaging and trying to understand someone else's motivations, looking beyond one's differences in character or personal choices... We don't all have to be "sisters" or "BFFs". I don't subscribe to this fake, saccharine-sweet idea of "universal sisterhood" that fails to include or allow for any individual character. No, it's not about that all. It's rather about respect for other women who kick ass in their own way, who fight their own battles and do their own thing.
Wouldn't it be marvellous if we all simply supported each other through respect and kindness? The reality is that I have had more women work against me than men have ever done. The worst about that is the hypocrisy that comes with it. Women who'd shout "sisterhood" from the rooftops while kicking down the ladder with every opportunity they see, for no reason other than... what? Jealousy? I don't know. Feeling better about yourself at the expense of another...!? The non-support of cruelly excluding someone when it would be just as easy to be including them. Why make life difficult for each other? It's little gestures that cost nothing but still mean the world to someone who is at the beginning of their journey or simply could do with a few kind words or a smile in passing. Again, who couldn't?
The arrogance displayed by some women I encountered, especially since I started out on my jewellery adventure, is beyond anything I will ever understand. The same cliquishness on every turn and corner is frankly sickening. This tendency to associate with only a select few is not merely frustratingly selfish but also condescending and, ultimately, boring as can be. At the end of the day, I couldn't care less about said women. I don't need to impress any of them. Nor do I feel inferior in any way. By principle though, it irks me because as much as this kind of snobbery is unsurprising it is also unnecessary, in my opinion. I know writing about it will probably not change a thing, except that perhaps... it may make others think, and raise awareness amongst those who look and live beyond their own horizons.
You know, I guess I may as well leave this there for you to digest. It is not my intention to further fuel the toxicity myself (and undoubtedly many others) have felt and are continuously exposed to. For my part, I just felt like I wanted to put the observation out there. I will continue to quietly do my thing, as I always do, and be as kind and respectful to everyone as I possibly can. Even towards those who clearly can't be arsed to do the same for me. Not because I have ulterior motives, not because I want anything, and certainly not because I want to ingratiate myself with anyone. I am polite and friendly with everyone because kindness is how I roll and operate. The "new you" attitude of January tragically never seems to befall those who could actually do with a bit of perking up on the character-front. Be that as it may, I am writing this as a reminder for anyone who needs to hear or read it that, no matter who you are, what you do or what you have achieved so far: it is simply not necessary to be up your own arse. You can be a successful creative and not be an egotistical narcissist! True story.
Now, said inflated egos aside, I also believe that we all make mistakes along the way. Not because we are women. Or daughters, friends, lovers, mothers... or whatever else. We make mistakes because we are human. And that's what humans do. We make mistakes. Big ones. We f*ck it up. But just like that, we can also change... for the better, ideally! Not in a "new year, new you - buy more athleisure and stop eating" kind of way but in a more meaningful sense of self-improvement. We all crave kind words, attention, being liked or loved or seen. If this pandemic has shown us anything then it's that we all miss the "human touch", the sometimes inexplicable connection we feel with other beings. As women, I thought we were in a rather privileged position... conditioned through nature/nurture for kindness. I believe this is what makes us strong, in fact: being kind and generous of heart in the face of adversity.
So here we are, enough said. I never make any New Year's resolutions but this year I am going to put a firm intention out there instead: to be a kick ass boss lady that will smother the world with my kindness, cheerful smiles even on the darkest of days, and indefatigable hope for humankind. I believe we have it in us. Maybe, hopefully, you do, too.
Otherwise, I'll see you on the other side of this lockdown, one way or another. For now, as always, stay safe, and true to yourself! If all else fails, you got this. And I got you...
Big love and warmest hugs,