So many women friends have meekly confessed to me about feeling oppressed by anxiety and shortcomings. They do not feel whole.
Mind you, all of these women are strong. And accomplished.
And yet every day is a battle with themselves.
Growing up, I idolized my Mom. As many of her friends did as well, apparently.
She was capable of doing anything and everything – all at once.
And, yet I didn’t understand her.
There were so many contradictions. And I wanted the world to be black and white.
This or that.
If I had known more about the gray reality of her life, perhaps I would have been able to accept her as she was, not only how I wanted her to be.
Apparently, she struggled with migraines nearly everyday while we were kids. As well as anxiety, worry and fear.
I didn’t see this pain. I saw the smiley faces on my hand-packed lunches and her frowny face when I didn’t do what I was told (which was most of the time).
I saw her seemingly opposing truths as flaws, instead of realities of being human.
Perhaps in her perfection-seeking aims, she saw them as flaws too.
Now, as a grown woman I see these contradictions in myself and in the women in my life: of fragility and tenacity, of shyness and initiative, of joy and fear, of generosity and scarcity, of love and ambivalence, of self-doubt and confidence, of unworthiness and sacrifice, of judgment and grace, of wonder and control, of candor and secretive, of protective and overbearing, of real and larger-than-life.
I see now this is what it means to be a whole, living being.
And I see that my own experiences with anxiety, worry and fear stemmed from doubting my own wholeness.
Here is what I know about the women in my life.
These women have created their own lives with a self-efficacy, or the ability to control and manage one’s behavior, only recently available in history.
For some that’s a business, for most it’s a career (or careers).
Many have paid off their own student loans and many have fronted the down payment for their own home.
For some it has been carrying, birthing and/or raising children.
For some it has been sustaining a healthy partnership.
Many have traveled alone, or lived alone, or moved alone, or grieved alone, or suffered alone. And woven these times of solitude into their being.
Coming back into community, family, relation with the world, again. And again.
And yet, they regularly doubt their choices and their instincts, spinning options in their minds and often coming to the conclusion: they haven’t gotten it right yet.
The life they have painstakingly created is still not right.
They are distracted and fragmented by anxiety and worry that they are not complete exactly as they are.
I look around at the women in my life and I see a list of accomplishments that could go to the moon and back.
To look at most of them you’d think: Dang, she’s made it.
And yet in conversations I hear the same thing again and again: self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with life.
And so, these women walk through their lives feeling the wind blow through their holes and wondering why it doesn’t blow them over?
Because, ladies, there are no holes. We are whole. We are done. We are here.
And here is how I know the women in my life are whole: they get up every morning.
They get dressed.
They consider the day and know it holds too much. And they still attempt it anyways.
They start over a bazillion times a day.
Their default is how to make things better.
They wish they talked to their girlfriends more.
They wish they thought about everything less.
They praise about ten times as much in their hearts as comes out of their mouths.
They question if they can ever be as ______________ as someone they admire, yet they have the answer already simply by being aware.
They don’t think they really know grace, compassion, lovingkindness, just like they forget they are breathing.
They start over a bazillion times a day.
They make the best choices they can with the information they have.
There is always more to do and rarely a sense of enough.
They dream for generations, not only for themselves.
They see the best in others, unless their intuition tells them there’s danger.
They take care of others’ needs about ten times as much as they remember to take care of their own.
And then they go to bed. And do it all again the next day.
That is what the women I know do.
Being Whole, Being Alive
That is also what the men I know do. That is what humans do. That is what living beings do.
But especially women.
In the 21st century.
In their deep doubt. Yet resounding faith in life.
That is what I know about the women in my life.
So what can these women do to live wholly and soulfully?
Meditate. Reflect. Breathe. Exercise. Express. Laugh. Cry. Affirm. Rest.
And not just occasionally. These are part of a daily and lifelong practice. To practice living.
But the first, the most essential thing, is going deep within, looking their deepest fear in its pale face and saying: “I believe in me.”
And then looking their sweetest self in its eager face and saying together: “I believe in me.”
This is not easy, and often takes a long time. But, once seen, it is known.
Showing up everyday knowing and believing, in the same unquestioning way they know they’re alive, that they are inherently whole and complete.
There is nothing to prove, to earn – it just is.
That is why they can be contradictions—fragile and tenacious, shy and take initiative, joyful and scared, controlling and trusting—and still be whole.
Just as all living beings are. This truth provides the infinite strength and compassion to see others and see all of them.
To be whole together.