Today is International Women’s Day and there’s no greater woman in my life than one who isn’t alive anymore. Here’s a toast today to my grandmother, a resilient yet loving woman who was born in 1916, the magical spirit who raised me. She was physically by my side until she died of cancer when I was 16, and has emotionally been by my side ever since.
Many years ago, an entrepreneurial friend of mine who also an author of technology and other business books sat me down to do a reading. Mystical by nature, he is one of the few people I know who plays in both the science and spiritual realms, embracing them both equally and with ease. It was an aura reading and during my session, he saw a warm yellow glow around me, an angel of sorts he said, and as he described it, I knew it was same warm yellow as the shutters on my childhood home in upstate New York. This aura was a protector of sorts, he said, something I have always felt throughout my life.
You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘he/she marches to the beat of a different drum.’ There’s always one family member who does just that and they are often referred to as the black sheep, the one who strayed from what the rest of the family considers ‘normal.’ It is often the different drum folks who appear to have no discipline externally, but inside, discipline drives them. It takes courage to take the internal road again and again.
“Just Trust Yourself & You Will Know How to Live.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goet
She lived her life to powerful and passionate drum and raised me to live my life that way too. I think about that different beat often these days as our country cries in so much divisive pain. I recall a precious moment in the back patio of our wood paneled den, an add-on to the original house, and one my grandfather built by hand. I was cuddled up with a stuffed animal and one of those hand-knitted afghans that she had knitted as it was a cold winter’s night. She said she planned to always be there to protect me — her voice is as clear today as it was 40 years ago.
With my wide blue child eyes, I looked up at her and asked why I needed protection. With sadness in her voice, she said. “Because you will choose a more difficult path and I won’t be there to help you. And, because you’re a woman in a man’s world.” As children, we never think our guardians will disappear, leave or die because it’s not in our realm of possibilities yet. I remember thinking: well I’ll protect you too forever and ever, as small children do. There’s always a forever and ever.
It took me many years to understand the man’s world piece and how prolific it is, largely because I have always ignored traditional rules. They have a way of catching up on you however because reality is reality and as a woman, you’ll eventually hit a stone wall you’ll need to overcome in which case you need to make a decision: how do I want to cross over?
Mom always said to take the high road and so I always have. There are times when we need to make tough decisions and be harsher than our nature, in order to stand up for ourselves and for what is right. That often comes at a premium and as women, we often pay the price. If we are protecting our children and a way of life for them, we may temporarily make that sacrifice out of love. And, sometimes we need to stand up and say No More, Enough. And, sometimes we need to bond together with other women to support what they’re going through when you know they’ve been dealt a bad card and only by unifying can we overcome.
I applaud International Women’s Day for being there as a day we can celebrate each other. I, like many women around the world, marched on January 21 (I even shot some video on the day), wrote about the proposed cuts on Planned Parenthood, and go out of my way to make sure no little girl suffers from poor self esteem. As a woman who went through Anorexia in my teens, it kills me when I see girls who feel unworthy and make unhealthy decisions because of it. We should embrace individuality, regardless of how we and the girls and women around us want (and need) to shine.
My grandmother and other powerful women in my life served as mentors and guides and in some cases, angels. Their faith in me gave me faith in a universe that will always provide what we need, when we need it….trusting in ourselves. Without family support and my dearest friends being far from my own back yard, I rely on that belief system which starts with gratitude and a sense of purpose.
Deep down, we all know our purpose and must live our lives beating to that purposeful drum, regardless of what that path and calling happens to be. Our inner voice guides us to that path and it’s merely up to us to listen and follow that voice for true magic to happen.
More often than not, I’ve been a solo journey since 16, and my grandmother’s spirit has been with me, reminding me to take the high road, have dignity, honor, integrity and grace when ugliness gets in the way, whether that be in my personal life or business one. And along that high road, sometimes we need to make wrongs right and have the strength and courage to do the right thing, so that other women around us and who are not yet born, never deal with the same issues.
“Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
My grandfather played a role in that too. When I was a teenager and about to embark on a year abroad to South Africa on a scholarship within days, I had just ended playing a piece on the piano that my grandfather loved. He came up behind me sitting on that mahogany wooden piano stool and put his hands on my shoulders, a rare move for this disciplined and often hard man born into a 1916 world. “Whatever happens, I want you to know that I’m leaving you the house and everything in it when I die.” Where did that come from I thought? It was so out of the blue. “Your mother made me promise that I would do this before she died and I’m going to honor it. There will be will anger towards you, not from your father but from your uncles but there is nothing I can do about that after I’m gone. They won’t understand.” Then he repeated: “I promised your mother and I agree with her: this is the right decision.”
I guess it had something to do with both of them wanting to protect me. The truth is that the money I got from that corner house in small town America barely scratched the surface. Living in Silicon Valley, it didn’t even cover two years of rent after taxes but in her own way, it was an effort to make sure I was taken care of as the only girl in the family. And sadly, my grandfather was right. My favorite uncle whose knee I bounced on as a child, who I devoured oysters and drank wine with as an adult and who I understood the most, never talked to me again.
This has very little to do with me being a woman as it does family dynamics and the fact that situations like this after a death are not uncommon. It saddens me in this world of growing divide under the current leadership however, that we don’t pay more attention to what connects us rather than excuses to break important bonds, whether they be family ones or personal ones.
We have to remember that our view of how life should be and how people live their lives, is one microscopic view, such a small lens of which to see the world around us. And, as women, I feel the need to think beyond again and again, is even more critical. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes (when it’s a man’s shoes, think about how he was conditioned – this is key), gives us the strength to break through barriers.
Women, at least the ones in my circles around the globe, have exceptional nurturing spirits. The feminine energy is known for this and now more than ever, we need to cherish it and share it with everyone around us. And, we need to do whatever we can to not just give girls and women the ability to shine, but to thrive and make their own choices about their bodies and their lives. Here’s to the incredible women still living in my life whose heart and spirits touch me every day.