Wintry Morning Thoughts

November 7, 2018

It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted an entry.  Writing is very personal and intimate, especially when sharing deep thoughts.  A chill runs up and down my spine to imagine someone else reading my innermost thoughts.  Writing is a revelation and often I clutch protectively to what I hold sacred knowing that when it is released–just by pressing a key on my keyboard–I release a breath into the world.  After reading my journal entry below I feel safe after holding on to it for over 24 years.  I have matured spiritually and grown to realize that it is important to share your life lessons with others.  So it is with special blessings that I share an intimate morning in my cabin as I lived in the quietness on a mountainside without tv, running water, and just an electric typewriter and my books to entertain me indoors.  Outside the wintry landscape was winter wonderland that only the Alaskan wilderness could behold.  Enjoy.

February 26 1994 – 11:35 AM

All is calm.  All is white.  All is quiet on the mountainside.  I can even hear my breath and feel it’s warm departure from my body.

I have a compulsion to write the passions of my heart—to write of my path to triumphant victories and the valleys I trudged through along the way,

At age 46 one realizes that life is just now beginning to blossom.  For me it is an emergence from half a life of learning to a time of building—or rebuilding—influencing, teaching.  I view my time in Glennallen, AK as examination time.  Making sense—or better sense of past experiences and directing present and future actions.

So—so what?

I used to think that my physical health was most important.  Then I thought, nay, the spiritual is definitely more important since it keeps one in touch with Who really counts.  Immersed in academic study, I was easily convinced that intellect rules.

Ah, but as long as one is trapped in fleshy garb, one soon realizes that above all, time rules—in this physical realm, anyway.

I grew up learning that the “four sticks” of life consist of the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual realms.  Mastering these four realms is the quest of life.  We choose our own playing fields, and somehow, through some unknown formula (fate?), conscious or unconscious actions, we partake in the chosen game…as though knocking on doors for answers or simply to practice that golf swing, so to speak.

But the four sticks are really to be viewed holistically, each realm receiving distinction and definition from the other three.  Too often, easily influenced by the physical realm, I have permitted behaviors—mine and others—to establish and determine rules for appropriate behavior that resulted in certain lifestyles.  I tend to agree with Toqueville who described Americans as living by “Habits of the Heart.”  I believe I have lived 46 years of my life that way.  Habits of culturally appropriate physical behaviors, even though spiritually, morally, and intellectually I warred internally.  Behaviors in the physical realm are reflections of our belief system governed by the three other realms.  In other words our behaviors reflect our beliefs and values.  The very laws of the land, however, can only guess or come very close to defining “intentions” of one’s actions.

But what else is there?  We do not agree on what is moral or whether or not there is even a spiritual realm at all.  We do not even agree on reality.  Is there hope for peace among earthlings who hold vastly different definitions of the four sticks?

The bottom-line is that we all share earth as home, and our actions and behaviors effect everyone else.  We cannot avoid interaction.  In intercultural circles we call this method of learning, living or doing research as “immersion.”  It constitutes living within a society to study its culture.  The set-back to this method, as you can imagine, is that one also effects that culture by living within it,  I do not mean to suggest that we live on experimental earth.  (I actually cannot be sure.)

To state it more clearly, we have limited space on this earth that we must share.  And while we may share different realities at the same time our actions and behaviors reflecting those respective realities lend a hand in changing our perspective of ourselves and the world.

My task at hand is the define my square footage of space…one that is owned by time, left behind at death, and somehow relate that measured time and space to the real “me.”  That which belongs only to “me” is ever being revealed and refined.  Time has no claim on “me.”  The process, however, is both internal and external, and for completion, I need the help of the “other.”

I need “you” to love/accept me.  You need me to love/accept you.  We must communicate this message successfully to each other.  The most effective way is through direct interaction.  When you receive my message and I receive yours, we share in the ultimate celebration of self-love.  It’s the old “I’m O.K. You’re O.K.” theory.

The whole process really begins with inward journey to clarify one’s needs, options, desires, addictions.  After having discovered the basic human needs of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-esteem, then one is equipped for celebrating the outward journey of experiencing others through the ability of relating honestly, authentically and openly.  The result is truly a celebration of two people communing in the mental/physical realm while being sensitively attuned to the presence and interplay of the moral/spiritual realm.

Anytime one relates to another, there is a risk.  A risk of being rejected, misunderstood, betrayed.

I struggle with my desire to isolate and insulate myself from a world whose values are very different from mine.  Ah, values—a loaded noun.

Let me rephrase it by saying that I once cared too much about what other people thought of my behaviors and actions.  I still care, but I am owning my life like never before.  I have given myself permission to live according to what I determine is right and good for me.  This, however, is not without concern for others.  I need others.  I respect others.  I am, however, more articulate about what my intentions are and why.  Perhaps the clearer I am at this task, the less conflict will develop during an interaction.  Not that conflict can ever be eliminated, but at least I know what my bottom line is.

I do not know exactly where this monologue is taking me….

It seems I am searching for the end (or the beginning) of a rope; or the end of the ball of yarn that is somehow deeply entwined in the center of the ball.  Perhaps if I keep pulling at it I will find the end (or the beginning) but not without tangles.

Some deep internal passions I have experienced that shout for fulfillment include the complete absorption of the colorful, majestic sunrises and sunsets I have recently witnessed.  Can a person drink up the sunset?  On my walk I gazed down a narrow snow trail lined on both sides by tall evergreens lightly dusted with new snow.  At the distant end of the disappearing trail Mt. Drum stood in radiant purples and pinks, adorned with a glowing golden tint for a crown and an array of blues for a throne.  Over its left shoulder the moon was waxing full, rising to brilliance.  I stood for a moment.  Awed by beauty, challenged to remember every detail to “keep” it.  Humbled by un-manmade perfection—a skill and creation beyond humankind.  My heart overflowed with a passion to know its Creator; to look over the Artist’s shoulder onto the palette of colors; to fly over and beyond the mountain, yea, even to the moon to behold an equally majestic earthrise.  The cold arctic wind quickly reminded me at once of both flesh and gravity, and turning, I continued my walk, passion unfulfilled, until reality undressed herself and I became a part of all that I saw…an integral part of it all…that I, too, am part of the majesty of all that is.  That somewhere at the other end of the rainbow there stood an observer with like passion who beheld the majesty of my presence.  After all, I am a child of a king.

Another deep passion I have is to understand the Ahtna people.  I look for ways, using my personal, academic, and professional background to bridge gaps between cultures.  I want to learn their history, and all the great things their people represent.  They have so much to give and contribute to society.  I hope I can be an instrument to make their story known to the world.

Women Leaders Stay the Course

Recently I was asked what I thought were the challenges women in positions of leadership, or those who wish to move into positions of leadership, face in our society today. I was happy to oblige.

The challenges facing women in positions of leadership or those who wish to move into positions of leadership within western society differ from woman to woman. I see, however, four fundamental challenges that can be overwhelming to women leaders. They are one, a personal conflict within the woman herself regarding her leadership abilities; two, the challenge of cultural role conflict; three, the public perception and acceptance of gender leadership styles; and four, the fierce competition of rules of engagement in the executive boardrooms.

These are complex challenges that can overwhelm intelligent and excellent women leaders, many who eventually prefer to start their own businesses rather than aspire to or remain in the boardrooms. Others prefer to move into leadership roles within institutions with predominantly traditional female occupations, i.e. education and health services, where women leaders easily move horizontally and vertically quite comfortably and confidently within these organizational structures.

Let me briefly describe each of the four challenges mentioned above with a few suggestions that may open a crack in the door toward full leadership participation for women in western society.

First, many women leaders question their leadership abilities nearly every day. Good leaders always look for ways to improve their leadership skills, and rightly so. But women experience a paranoia that differs from men, which is the constant questioning of their leadership abilities, including their own perceived notion of being constantly judged by her executive peers and subordinates, not just as their leader, but as a “woman leader.” The paranoia includes the questions, “Why me?” and “Did I get this position as a token female?” These questions often add to the already heavy load she carries as the top executive. Add to that burden the thought of being “the first” and the pressure to “set the right tone for other women” coming up the ranks. One of the reasons for this paranoia of doubt is that women do not have vast role models or women mentors in leadership positions—historically or present day—to affirm her as a destined and successful leader. Very often the “stand alone female leader” is still proving to the world and herself, that women are just as capable, intelligent, and strong as her male counterparts.

A confident woman at the helm may say she isn’t “performing” for anyone except to do the job she is paid to do, and I say so much the better. However, you can be sure that everyone, or most people around her and in her industry is measuring her “gender leadership style and success.” And so is every woman standing in line to break through the glass ceiling and into the executive boardroom. Women hunger for mentors and will watch and learn from those who made it to the top. Go to the bookstore and see how many of these successful women have written books, or have been interviewed, regarding their success and how they made it and how they are maintaining their positions. So although she may reach the top to the boardroom, it is an overwhelming challenge to feel comfortable and to keep her chair as head of that executive team.

On the other hand her male counterparts have had generations of mentors and he has to only open a history book, watch the latest war film (or almost any film), or listen to or watch C-SPAN to affirm his success, or his “right” to be a leader. As women begin to gain confidence in their abilities and remain in leadership positions without fleeing or feeling guilty for choosing the leadership position over a more maternal choice of life endeavor, the numbers will continue to increase, hopefully at a faster rate, so the next generation of women will have more role models to emulate and affirm them.

The second challenge overlaps the first in that there is always the conflict of whether I “should” be in this leadership position and “how long” am I “willing or expected to be” in this position. Men consider these questions in regard to the next steps toward achieving their career or life goals. When women consider these questions, it is not only about their career goals. The questions are also related to cultural norms that define appropriate woman behavior, and the ticking of the biological clock. The fact that many women feel that their decisions are “personal choices based on personal values,” attest to the strength of cultural norms that are deeply rooted and formidably resist change.

Although there are many socio-cultural gender rules that are continually changing, the most difficult ones to change are those which define roles because they are tied to the social welfare of the community’s infrastructure, i.e. the family and employment. The challenge still exists for a woman executive to balance career and home life. More than ever women moving into leadership roles admit that they hear their biological clock ticking. And this is just the tip of the dilemma.

The third challenge is about educating society regarding women’s strength and abilities as leaders. The media in its entirety could be the single change agent to improve the perception of women as leaders. A woman’s leadership style must be shown in a positive light as an accepted cultural norm. For example, it is okay for a leader to cry (there are appropriate times to cry openly), to not be over 6 ft. tall (and a former professional athlete), wear a skirt or become pregnant while she’s in a leadership position. She doesn’t need a deep, loud voice, or anything masculine to intellectually and rationally decide what is best for her organization, or her country. Until society can separate leadership from masculinity, a woman leader will continue to be in doubt and frustrated because she is asked to deny her feminine strength, which she knows is an effective leadership tool.

I believe that given all the qualities of an effective leader such as good communication skills, handling conflicts, strategizing, etc. it is a person’s total ability to be graceful under fire, keep focused in the midst of chaos, be able to unwaveringly hold fast to one’s belief though everyone disagrees, and to truly “lead” through the ever present turbulent emotional storms while keeping all elements of an issue or project in their right places–in thought and form–until they willfully and timely obey her command, making strategic decisions like placing pieces to a puzzle in correct order, resulting in successful business and management decisions, is how leaders earn their stripes. And with all the deep personal and professional conflicts that inundate a woman leader in addition to the obligations of ensuring corporate profit, a country’s dignity, or a team’s success, a woman may just have the edge over her male counterparts because she lives and breathes these challenges every moment of every day in her capacity as the leader in the boardroom.

The fourth challenge is the reason why we have such few role models. Once she gets to the boardroom it is difficult to remain mainly because of how the game is played. Men know the game and it is second nature for them. The woman’s challenge is the need to assert herself—even when she is called “a bitch,” and still maintain dignity and civility—and participate in male activities and be present where business is really discussed—at the bar, the golf course, the club—and there are places she still can’t access, like the men’s steam room. After awhile it just makes sense to flee the high profile leadership role and start her own company, be her own boss and follow her own rules. However, in the web of society she cannot flee completely because “he” is her business competitor, and “he” is still in charge of the institutions that establish and enforce public policy.

How have women responded to these challenges? Those who have succeeded have stood up with passion, purpose and persistence, and didn’t back down from the challenges. Examples of such women who rose to leadership and gained the respect of men and women are Madeline Albright, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  And in the business world we have Mary Bara (GM), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), and there are a few others listed on the Fortune 500 list.  The number is few when you look at the top crust of women leaders. In fact, an article in Fortune 500 magazine noted that in 2014 there was an increase in women CEOs–six new faces, and one departure.  Also, women CEOs now is 4.8% of the overall CEOs on the Fortune 500 list (Caroline Fairchild, Fortune 500, “Number of Fortune 500 Women CEOs Reaches Historic High,” June 3, 2014).  There seems to be a polite outcry of this poll, and Sheryl Sandberg has made great efforts, including writing a book, to encourage women to step up to the plate, as well as reminding corporate America that there are eligible and qualified women who are ready and willing to take the helm of large corporations.  [Note:  Read my blog entry on Women Being; the interview with Deborah Gomez of Alaska Business and Professional Women in 2002.]

Take a look at mid-level management in any company and you’ll see it flooded with women-in-waiting–waiting for the opportunity for that upward mobility. Meanwhile, women learn what it means to “lead from the ranks,” and they do. The middle ranks are less threatening on a woman’s esteem and overall career when she has a child,  takes some time off for childcare or to pursue higher or more specialized education.  Our corporations are flooded with educated, qualified, experienced women leaders.  But it is the most passionate, purposeful, persistent and courageous woman leader who can meet and overcome the challenges and stay the course.  I hesitate to say that it takes a “thick-skinned and ambitious” person to survive the bullpen of corporate CEOs because I want to redefine that rough and raw strength in other terms.  I will say that a woman who uses her gifted intuition to out maneuver her competition and convince her board and employees to trust and support her decisions, has a strength mightier than an army.  And I strongly encourage women to recognize that intuition strength, believe in it, and use it.  It is a gift that this human race speaks about but has not yet given it the full credence it deserves.  Leadership using faith and intuition?  I’ll stand behind that woman!!  And I want to hear more stories from women who depend on their faith and their intuition to govern their decisions–and the successes they have achieved.

In summary, it is not as bleak as it may sound. Cultural concepts are ingrained, but they all change with time. As the old cigarette ad said, “We’ve come a long way, baby.” The doors to the voting polls are open, the educational institutions are open, and opportunities abound for women to become leaders.  And women make up a large percentage of college graduates.  As long as the rules and definitions and perceptions of leadership remain the same, we still have a long way to go.

It is true that the number of women in leadership has increased. It will take, however, continual education and courage for society to accept female characteristics into the leadership paradigm. Leadership characteristics such as bravery, courage, intelligence, astuteness, trustworthiness, voice depth, experience and just simply the word strong must also include powerful feminine traits such as emotional passion, quiet fortitude, elegant composure, compassion, gracious wit, openness to listen to opposition, and INTUITION as positive leadership qualities. What? You think these are funny adjectives to describe leadership? Think again. In managing a business and dealing with conflicts these qualities are very effective tools at any negotiation table, in establishing and keeping good business and personal relationships, and competing in the global market.

Some of the challenges I present may seem “old and outdated” from the 70’s and 80’s. The fact that we are not yet even close to gender parity in leadership positions in private and public sectors, as also indicated in the Fortune 500 article, attest to the slow change of and resistance to the last 30 or more years of diversity education, and a forever idea that woman is the weaker sex.

The world needs to know and inherently understand woman’s points of view and recognize the viability of her leadership skills and styles. I believe that even as Nature seeks balance–flowing rivers seek a level valley or the ocean; the ocean seeks the shores; the plants plunge through the soil seeking the sun– so, too, are our human organizations, institutions and relationships destined to seek equity in how we are valued and treated. Although cultural inertia fights hard to keep the norm of defining leadership strength as synonymous with a man’s masculinity Nature will keep moving us towards improving our understanding of different gender leadership characteristics until both genders are appreciated, valued, recognized and rewarded equitably for their effective leadership attributes and worth.

Baby, we still have a long way to go, but we’re not turning back.

© Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.com is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Roma Welcomes Me!

September 27, 2010 – 4:30 AM – Rome, Italy – Columbus Hotel

Rainwater is flowing through the old metal drain pipes hanging off the cement eaves I saw yesterday as I sat under the trees in the garden having dinner.  The bell at St. Peter’s Basilica just two blocks up the street is chiming 4:30 AM.   As I lay snuggled in the strangely comfortable bed in a high ceiling room with an old musky smell,  I hear the sighing of a yawning dog somewhere on a patio followed by a momentary schreech of a cat.  The sounds of early morning in Rome.  All is so still except for the movement of my breath. It is very quiet with only the constant dripping and gurgling of rainwater falling through old pipes, and an occasional thunder somewhere in a distance, as a storm seems to be passing through the Eternal City.

Why are these sounds so familiar?   A homely peace and comfort surrounds me like I have lived here before.  Less than 12 hours ago I arrived in Rome, and my heart rejoiced.  As I walked the cobble streets I searched the homes on the hillside looking for what?

I want to embrace the city and have already taken almost 500 photos.  Perhaps it is my love for the historical novels about the ancient Romans and their rich and lively culture with its  rudeness and crudeness.  Perhaps it was the audacity and arrogance of a church that dragged a world through a personal and social revolution to recognize and face its Creator by any means necessary, perhaps losing some of its soul to save humanity.

I can’t put my finger on the magic, the mystic.  The intrigue.  All I know is that I’m here.  Rome!  The struggles of the human story surround me and I drown in the epitomy of human drama, triumph and sorrow.   The scars of past triumphant days  proclaim a time of complete and total expression when man looked into the soul of heaven and grasped images too large for life and molded them into gigantic decorative pillars; some constructed in the first century still stand magnificently.  The statues, colorful paintings grace the high expansive ceilings of the domed basilicas for the human eye to see God’s expressions; man’s attempt to portray the human-ness of the divine, and God’s willingness to gift mankind with His creativity; God’s powerful thoughts and images placed in the hands of man.

In fleeting moments I struggle to fathom the capabilities of man’s intelligence and skills; the immense effort, commitment and dedication put into converting stone and marble into human images, and blank canvases into colors of light, love, life, doom, happiness, and sadness.  The human story, recorded in stone, on canvasses, in clay potteries, in flying buttresses, glasswork, while our literature overflows with myths, heresies, speculation and silent tombs.

A gifted humanity!  Why do we still have wars?  The question hits my brain with an echoing gong.  Such a sorrowful waste of human talent and God’s existence in man on earth.  God can and does mighty things through humankind!  And through the gifted talents of the ancient artists, God reveals Himself through the ages.  And He is not done with us yet.   A thought burns in my mind, “We are again approaching the corner to a new age and time.”  I close my eyes and search diligently for men and women of my day who are helping humanity turn the corner safely.

What a laborious thought.  I open my eyes, roll out of bed and peer out the window.   Ah, Roma!  I had my first authentic bruschetta sandwich made by real Italians yesterday for an early dinner.  I was so famished because the last  meal I had was on the plane over 24 hours ago enroute from Philadelphia to Rome, a small bowl of pasta and a leafy salad.  The bruschetta was a huge sandwich with large slices of fresh mozerella and juicy tomatoes garnished with basil leaves and potato chips on the side.  The crustless toasted bread covered nearly the entire plate and I left just a little slice of bread and tomatoes to let the chef know that I had just the right amount to eat.  It was served with “still water” as opposed to sparkling water.  The meal satisfied my hunger and made my day.

Two things I did yesterday that symbolized what Rome does to a person:  one, I climbed the steps to the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica.  It was over 300 steps in crunched tight quarters.  So tight that I placed my hands on the walls on both side of me as I climbed for balance….and at one point a rope hung so I could pull myself up, step by step.  The steps, literally,  are less than 8 inches wide.   Someone humored that it probably  was built by and for monks either as punishment or a way to focus on their meditations.  Whatever!  By the time I reached the cupola I already dreaded the walk down, which, although easier, was just as grueling on my knees.  When I finally walked down the wide corridor onto the terrace at dome height, still well above and behind the statues that grace the top of the Basilica’s roofline, I felt that undergoing the intense physical and emotional experience was my pennance for whatever wrongs I had committed in life!!  I searched my mind and couldn’t find another comparative experience.   It was an achievement.

Two, I attended Mass after my climb to the cupola.  A fitting event after a humbling experience.  A balancing moment in life.

It is now 5 AM.  I’ll continue to rest and look forward to my visit to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel at 11:00 AM.

No special closing words.  Just listening to the sounds of Rome awakening with the rise of the sun.  Sounds like street washing???  I hear some kind of a water pump running.

Oh, Roma, I am enthralled by thee.

 

Vatican

 

 

 

Wisdom for the Holidays–Timing is Everything

Timing is everything.  Time does not stand still.  Time changes all things.

Standing in a long line at a department store one day, my spouse asked, “Why do we always end up in the longest line?”  I responded, “Because we have not yet learned the virtue of patience.”

 He grinned and groaned simultaneously bracing himself for a philosophical treatise. I really can’t complain because I’m most often in the shorter line, the times I felt lucky.  It also works with parking spaces, too.  My spouse will vouch for me that 98% of the time I will find a parking space on a crowded and busy street.  When my sister, who is also aware of my “luck,” and I were in London and a friend drove us to the opening of Carmen we landed a parking spot  near the door of the theatre.  She looked at me and said, “It works here, too!”

 There is a secret about human movement that everyone should know—the secret of being in the right place at the right time.  Read carefully, because this bit of wisdom will serve you well during the busy holiday season.

 Movement is about timing, rhythm, and sharing space or proximity.  The secret of being in the right place and the right time requires a heightened awareness of movement and changes occurring in your environment including movement of people, air currents, moods, and anything susceptible to change. 

 Change requires movement which occurs in rhythmic cycles.  Athletes are keenly aware of this fact and they train to “peak” at the right time—at game time, or at a championship game, or during a tournament, because they believe and expect a “change cycle” in performance.  Meteorologists report on the rhythmic weather patterns and we prepare our daily routines around their predictions of fair or foul weather. 

 Humans are certainly creatures of rhythmic movements.  Each day we walk or drive by hundreds of people and it is a rare occasion when we bump into someone.  We call it an “accident.”  What do we do?  We say, “Oh, excuse me!”  Bumping into others is an inappropriate social behavior, and if done on purpose, it is a deviant behavior deserving punishment.

 Here are some rules about time and movement that we already observe:

 Rule #1:  We all watch and are aware of everyone else’s movements to prevent bumping into each other!  When you go to the malls and grocery stores the next couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, watch the wave-like movement of shoppers, especially when music is playing in the mall.   You’ll witness shoppers latching on to the rhythm and beat of the music in the way they walk and talk.  When someone zigs, you zag. 

 When you move in rhythm with your environment, you’ll get on and off the merry-go-round of holiday shopping with ease and comfort.  You may even drive into the parking lot of your favorite store just as someone is leaving, as if the parking space was waiting for your arrival.  What perfect timing!  A tip here is that a positive attitude goes a long way in making the rhythm work for you.

 Rule #2:  Timing is cultural!  This means our rate of movement is learned behavior, which begins in our mother’s womb.  We inherit and first move to the rhythm of our parents.  The Hawaiian hula expresses the calm, laid back and carefree aloha spirit of the Islands.  We call it ho’omalimali, or “take it easy.”  When I fly home to Hawaii and get the first whiff of Hawaiian air at the airport, I “automatically” feel less stressed and more relaxed. 

Rhythm includes proximity, or space of movement.  For instance we drive on the right side of the road, and when we push our shopping carts in the supermarket, do we push it on the right or left side of the aisle? And what happens when someone is coming down the aisle on the “wrong” side?  It trips us up!  One day I accompanied my daughter to the military PX in Fort Lewis, Washington, and noticed that the military store had footprints on the floor for shoppers to follow,  and if you wandered off in your own direction, you were kindly reminded to follow footprints.  When we go to another country or visit homes of friends we experience different rules of rhythm and movement.

 So, be aware of the different cultural rhythms and be willing to adjust to the change, as others are constantly making changes for you, too.   This is especially true in non-verbal communication.  If the cashier is moving slower than you, or speaking too rapidly for you, pause and adjust your synchronicity.  If you’re standing in a line and a child in front of you is moving and wiggling all over, it is not the child that is the irritant; it is the off-sync rhythm that is bothering you.  Languages also display different timing.  Do you notice how different languages have different rhythms and accents? Rule #2 requires discipline and effort to recognize and accept different rhythms, then to positively adjust for personal comfort.

 Rule #3:  It’s true and we know it–time stops for no one…which means that change is constant, so expect and recognize it, and make positive adjustments.  You’ll be surprised when what you are looking for will pop up right in front of you at the right time.  For example, you frantically look for pink house slippers for your daughter for Christmas.  Suddenly, you see a pair of red slippers with delicate pearl design.  Wow!   Rather than pushing the red slippers aside, you “suspend” pink, and allow yourself to realize that the red slippers will match her robe which has both red and pink colors in it, and the red slippers are fancy and she’ll love them.  How lucky you are to have been in the right place at the right time because these are the last pair on sale.  So the pink slippers changed to red with pearls and it worked because you “flowed” with change.

 How do you make these rules work for you?  First, a positive mental outlook is necessary to deal with changes, because when we develop a heightened awareness of all movement around us, we dance the “universal dance” respectfully.  We don’t “take up” space, but rather “share” universal space with others.  We stop getting irritated, and instead seek the comfort of synchronicity without blaming others for our discomfort.

 Next, believe that the universe wants to and will supply our needs and all we need do is ask.  We help the process and increase our chances of attaining what we want by believing, visualizing and expecting positive outcomes and they will happen.  The trigger is belief and a positive attitude.  For example, if someone pulls into the parking space at the front door of the store right before you do, know and expect that there is another space waiting for you—for the universe supplies everyone’s needs.  Relax, stay positive and find the rhythm of the universe at the moment.  It will guide you to your parking space.  

 Finally, positive thinking and expectations include not wishing ill on anyone nor envying your neighbor’s property or success.  Negative attitude blocks all opportunities coming your way.

 So my special wish for you as we move into the holiday season is to think positively, visualize and expect positive outcomes, and be aware of and embrace change.  Find the rhythm and dance the dance and you’ll be the luckiest and happiest person standing in short lines, and finding all the right gifts by being at the right place at the right time.

 P.S.  You may want to read The Dance of Life:  The Other Dimension of Time by Edward T. Hall, my favorite cultural anthropologist.

Snowed In Cabin Day

Cabin Life 3 – Life’s harshness sculptures strong people.  Humility overcomes strength and births love.  Today my cabin becomes a classroom, and my Spirit Self (SS) challenges me to seek her fully because she is the real me.

Saturdays are for exploring, after filling all my water containers, checking my oil supply, occasionally cleaning out my oil stove, and sanitizing my cabin.  A typewriter ribbon doesn’t last too long, and it is a good excuse for a drive to Anchorage, but today is a full “snowed in cabin day.”

Today the snow is falling steadily.  My typewriter at the table faces the front window overlooking my little porch.  I tie my green curtains to the side and watch the giant snowflakes fall softly, like light cotton candy balls piling up rapidly, inch by inch until the front steps are hidden.  Silence embraces me, her friend, and I search my bookshelves for lively entertainment.

I receive telephone calls only at the office.  My cabin is without telephone and television.  With no wires connected to my cabin, a telephone is impossible.  The hill has bad television reception (according to the previous tenants), and I have my little portable radio that I bought while in college and it catches only three stations.  The clearest reception is a Christian Bible station which intermittently becomes static nonsense.

So books and the electronic typewriter are my true indulgence, and my Spirit Self constantly challenges me to seek and define my higher self to gain knowledge and understanding beyond the physical realm.  I am permitted…no, invited… to step through a veil just by closing my eyes for a clearer vision of a life without regrets, and a promise of a destiny not without struggles but certain completion of my life’s purpose fulfilled.

My cabin time is to chart that road—so says SS.  This morning nothing on my bookshelves jump out at me, so I sit once again at my typewriter, letting SS type at her will.  I am a woman with gifts and graces not meant for storage with mothballs, but to wisely grow and fulfill my purpose.  She further instructs, Study and work to find your higher self, redefining and acknowledging your values and rediscovering my attributes.

SS loves sitting on my shoulders whispering in my ears.  She is my higher self and we have deep discussions, and today we discuss “passion.”  Ah, passion, so carnal, it wreaks havoc with the physical body as it cries out in pain, ecstatic joy, deep sorrow, yearnings and longings.  Those are the cries of mental anguish or pleasure, and the lie is that such emotions are only met and remedied in the physical realm with the aid of medical devices, drugs and counseling.

No, it is the spiritual that looks at the physical “child” (for that is what I am) in the eye and says, “Those are just emotions, feelings that belong to another place and time.  They are not forever.  I am forever, and in me the pain and sorrow fall away.”

Oh, Spirit Self, what of the joy and love?  They are emotions, too.

 Jen, there are emotions, and there are truths.  Love is not an emotion.  Love is, just as your spirit is, just as God is.  Joy is an attribute of love, and therefore, where love is, joy abounds.

The greatest love expressed to us, oh Spirit Self, has been the sacrificial love of Christ.  And there were much sadness and sorrow in what we call love.

Again, Jen, you must discern the physical from the spiritual.  There is physical pain, and Jesus expected it and endured it.  However, it was through the knowledge and promise of the spiritual world—the world of His kingdom that Jesus overcame.  We are spiritual-physical beings, and not physical-spiritual.   When you understand this truth you will master your emotions.

Although I speak with SS a great deal it helps me to put my thoughts on paper in an orderly fashion.  She encourages me to write and oftentimes I feel she is dictating my writing.  It’s like painting a picture—you never know the result until it’s done.  And while the artist is at work she becomes one with the paint and the canvas and she paints the picture that is already there, inside of her, and she mixes colors and brushes and dots and smears paint on paint until out of all the thoughts and blobs a picture emerges, and she exposes the simple, plain truth she has learned.

© Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.Wordpress.com, November 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.WordPress.com is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.Wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thoreau’s Influence

Cabin Life – 2 – Left unguarded the mind easily yields to brute emotions and today anger visits.  Suddenly another voice joins the conversation.  The great and simple Henry David Thoreau, recalling his own cabin days says, “Give me that poverty that knows true wealth,” and he wins the day!

 Opening the front door this morning Jack Frost greeted me and pinched my nose and ears.  I quickly closed the door and decided it was too cold for a walk and in no mood to play or fight with Mr. Frost today.  Instead, I boiled some eggs for a sandwich and warmed a pot of water for my tea.

My table was close to the pot belly oil stove which had a flat metal top like a griddle which measured about 2 ½ ft. long and 1 ½ ft. wide.  As long as the oil stove was stoking that flat top was hot, which was “always” during the winter, and it helped to keep the cabin warm.  It was an excellent place for my hot water kettle to sit while I typed and drank tea.  Sometimes in the morning while dressing, I would squish my underwear and undershirts on that flat top and it was a real treat to slip on hot clothes.  They kept me warm for a long time.

All morning I’ve been brooding about how I came to live in a cabin.  Wisdom escapes me and I angrily wish vengeance on those who betrayed me.  My Spirit Self abruptly engages me in sporadic conversation.

That pride of yours needs squelching, she said.

Is defending my dignity a proud thing to do?  I responded.

Well, no, it is just the way you do it, I guess.

Anger rarely overcomes me because I don’t like the person I become when possessed by it.  So it is very important that I avoid anger.   However, I am a passionate person.  I play passionately, love passionately, and fight passionately.  This means I strive for perfection—in academics, office tasks, teaching, and sports, and my shortcomings disappoint me easily.  But this also means that if you are my friend, we are friends for life, and yes, you can really count on me.

Competing oppositions have equal strength here.  The depth that I can love is also the depth that I can experience anger.  So I guard my anger closely and work to convert the negative emotion to positive energy.  It is such drive and energy that propel me to take advantage of opportunities that come my way and to keep reaching for the higher plane of life.  It urges me to keep searching, learning, trying new things, meeting new challenges and embracing new adventures—good or bad.  At times that fierce energy generated the concentration I needed to hit that forehand down the line for a winner, or to sprint that extra twenty yards, pushing on towards the goal, outrunning the fullback and finding the extra energy—sometimes in anger—to place the soccer ball in just the right angle and distance away from the goalie, but within a few inches from the post…for a goal.

So perhaps it is not anger, really, but a passion for validity and justice.  Sitting here in my cabin a passion to “suck all the marrow out of life,” as Henry David Thoreau did at Walden Pond, overcomes me.  My instinct tells me I won’t find that challenge living the “high” life, but rather living with simplicity.  I find myself totally in sync with Thoreau’s cry to “Simplify, simplify!”  (Ah, Thoreau has saved me from my anger!)

Pure, wholesome beauty resides in simplicity.  Today beauty resides in absolute silence.  I suppose silence has different meanings for people.  To a soldier at the war front it could mean either peace or rest before the battle.  For a mother a long silence is reason enough to check on the kids.  And a long silence between lovers could mean the relationship is under strain, or that the relationship is so comfortable that constant talk is not required.  For me, silence in my cabin on this hillside brings rest to my spirit, renewed strength and the reminder that simple is beautiful.

Ah, simplicity abounds when I undress and climb into my sleeping bag, pulling the zipper way up to my chin to keep warm.  When I awake in the morning I gloat in the simple task of pouring water into the pot to heat, then stepping into my little bucket to soap down and rinse clean.  It sounds absurd, but there many simple joys of life waiting to suddenly and joyfully expose themselves to you.

Two bunches of tulips I bought at Carr’s in Palmer brighten my cabin.  One bunch is deep red and the other is red and yellow.  I love flowers, and especially love to receive flowers for no special reasons, but “just because.”  When Jesus referred to the lily of the fields He noted that they didn’t toil or spin all day yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as the lilies growing freely in the fields.  I leave my typewriter to warm my tea and inspect the tulips closer, their rich colors, firm but delicate texture, strong stems sucking in their life line from the water-filled vase.

 The tulips remind me that the richness of life lies in the natural simplicity of all existence.  The Creator is a perfectionist and everything was created good and perfect.  Even the decaying process returns all life to dust to support new growth.   Nothing wasted.  All exists for His glory.

Perched in a clear vase on a white tablecloth the tulips are majestic.  The color white, as a backdrop projects clearer the richness of the objects.  Perhaps this also best explains simplicity.  Oftentimes we are too attracted to the objects that we are unaware of the background, or the things that really count as simple truths of life.  A single tulip simply arrayed reveals more truth and beauty than a complicated queen on a complex throne adorned with a precious jeweled crown.

            “Give me that poverty that knows true wealth.”   Henry David Thoreau

 © Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.Wordpress.com, October 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.WordPress.com is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.Wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Esther: The Risk Taker

History provides a vast array of women mentors.  One of my favorite is Esther of the Bible who, from a minority status uses wisdom and faith to save herself and her people.

Societies extol living and playing safely.  Responsible citizens obey the rules of society and live within their means.  Taking risks elicit wary raised eye brows, and we frown upon deviants and rebels stepping out of the norm.

 To develop her uniqueness however, a woman must step out of the mainstream and respond to her life’s call and purpose.  Historically, God has called ordinary people out of life’s comfort zone and provided significant opportunities for spiritual growth and personal achievement.  This is risky for the chosen because when a person steps out of sync with societal norms the consequences are often damaging.  The risk is even greater if the person’s race, occupation or gender already represents a low status in society.

 Interestingly, sociologists describe a minority woman’s position as “double jeopardy” because there are two strikes against her; she is a woman and a minority.  Some women are in “triple jeopardy,” being a woman, minority, and old.  Although these negative challenges minorities face, particularly women, are real, it doesn’t mean that living a purposeful life is unattainable.  (That these social statuses exist is for another blog!)  Esther of the Bible is our mentor in such a situation.

 Initially her older cousin, Mordecai, used Esther as a pawn.   When Persian King Xerxes sought a queen beautiful Persian maidens posed before him.  Mordecai arranged for Esther, his young Jewish cousin, to join them, concealing her Jewish identity.  The king chose Esther because of her exquisite beauty.

 The Bible says that King Xerxes loved Esther.  Her submissiveness and obedience found much favor with him.  His previous queen, Vashti, publicly disobeyed him when he wanted to show off her beauty to all the princes but she refused to comply with his wishes and failed to appear.  The wise men advised the king to dispose of Vashti at once because her outright disobedience would influence the rest of the women in the kingdom and they, too, would disobey their husbands, and the king complied. 

 Women’s role during Esther’s time was to please and entertain men, and to carry out the household chores.  Esther, as a Jewish woman, would have had lesser acknowledgement and status in this Persian society.  But her true identity was kept a secret.

 Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, had once saved the king’s life, and in gratitude the king appointed him an advisor in his court.  His appointment angered the king’s general, Haman, who sought ways to get rid of Mordecai and the rest of the Jews.  This is the cast of men Esther faced in her challenge to save herself and her people.  These were men seeking status, power and wealth.

 Esther finds herself in the crossfire between Haman and Mordecai.  The general, wishing to destroy all the Jews,  convinced the king to pass a law forcing the Jews to kneel down and worship the king or be killed.  Knowing the Jews would never comply, it would give Haman the excuse he needed to destroy the Jews in the Persian kingdom.

 Mordecai, however, played his pawn turned queen, Esther, to retaliate in the feud asking her to tell her husband, the king, of Haman’s wicked plot.  Mordecai prophesied to Esther, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14-14, NIV) 

Esther, hedged between two threatening choices, seriously considers the challenges of one, presenting herself to the king which the law prohibited without him first requesting her presence; and two, risking revealing her Jewish identity which would surely mark her betrayal and put her life and her people’s lives in danger.  Or, she could do nothing and remain queen.

 But Esther, raised by Mordecai when she lost her parents and had a solid understanding of her heritage, became a risk taker by faith.  Fully aware of the devastating consequences that awaited her if she confronted the king unrequested to make a plea for herself and her people, she carefully weighed and analyzed the costs and benefits of the risks she was about to undertake.

Calculating her every move, Esther did not storm into the king’s throne room, announce her heritage and demand freedom for her people.  That would have been suicidal.  She did not outright disobey the king as her predecessor, Vashti had done.  She took the time to carefully conceive a plan, developed it step-by-step, and patiently worked it.

 Esther planned not one or two, but three special feasts to honor the king, and requested General Haman’s presence at each feast.  She further honored her king by being submissive and obedient, using these qualities as her offensive moves to gain the king’s favor.  Her submissiveness and kind gestures were her strongest resources for a successful strategy. 

 The king found favor with his queen and on a sleepless night as he read through chronicles of his reign she reminded him of Mordecai’s good deed in saving his life.  It was the timely intimate moment Esther had prayed for and she carefully informed the king that her life and the lives of her people were in jeopardy.  The king asked, “Who wants to destroy your people?”  She replied, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.”

 Haman was eventually hung on the gallows built for Mordecai’s execution.   Esther humbly revealed her heritage and still remained in the king’s favor.  She eliminated her adversary and saved the Jewish nation.

 Esther’s success resulted because she firmly maintained her values and was well acquainted with her God and her Jewish heritage.  She demonstrated that a disciplined person committed to her values could afford to take risks.   She remained subservient to her king and husband and wisely used the limited tools within her possession.  It required wisdom, patience, and tenacity to carefully consider the risks, develop the plan and carry out the strategy.

 Esther is a heroic mentor for today’s women  risk takers.  She crossed cultural boundaries, lived definitely outside of mainstream, and remained true to her faith and values.  She knew her risks, the consequences, the timeframe necessary for a successful venture, and by faith she believed that her decision was right for herself, her people, and her king, and she was in tune with her role at a critical, historical moment aligned with the stars and God’s plan.

 The Lesson – A risk taker does not mean living a carefree and reckless life.  Rather it means being willing to step out of the ordinary to grow and discover the unique woman you already are, combining the characteristics of humility, self-sacrifice, servitude, and obedience with strength, courage, initiative and decisiveness.  These are attributes of strong, risk taking women and men who are unafraid to face the daily challenges, big and small, and by faith live their purposeful lives.

  Risk it wisely!

 © Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.Wordpress.com, October 2009.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.WordPress.com is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and WomenNewDefinitions.Wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.