The Tender Warriors — Our Hope

I don’t usually reblog or repost things from other people. But this article From Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper today hit so close to home that it nearly burst my heart. So, today she’s the guest blogger. I hope that linking to the original makes this more okay.

She writes of the divine feminine, which I’ve always associated with our interconnectedness with each other and nature. She writes of tenderness, a trait we see less often these days. She provides hope for the future.

I don’t know about you, but I need it right now. I pretty much shut down yesterday and ditched my commitments. I had to breathe. These words support and uplift me. (I will link to the original when I can find it).

My activity level yesterday.

Maria Shriver is my age, and has seen a lot in her privileged life. To read her thoughts is comforting!


I’ve Been Thinking…


Not too long ago, a friend suggested I write down the definition, values, and characteristics of the “divine feminine.” He said it would be a “good exercise” for me moving forward.

“Mhmm, OK,” I thought.

I sat down to give it a try and ended up staring at the paper for a long time. I wrote something and erased it, and I tried again and again. Nothing really felt right to me.

Then last Sunday in this newsletter, I wrote my essay about courage and tenderness. The response I got was overwhelming, from both men and women.

“That is what we need!” people wrote to me. “That’s who I want to be!” My friend Elizabeth suggested I even curate a new conference called “Courage and Tenderness: The New Hero’s Journey.” Others wrote that they had never contemplated tenderness in the public space, but that they were open to it, even hungry for it. (An old video of Joe Biden resurfaced this week that visualized what I’m talking about.)

As I read all the responses from readers like you, I allowed myself to be touched by the words. I allowed myself to receive your kindness and gratitude for the idea, which wasn’t really my idea at all. It was the Pope’s! But, perhaps I presented it in a different way, maybe even a feminine way.

Several people also responded to the paragraph I wrote about bestowing tenderness on my tough mother. People told me those lines really took them aback. I’ve thought a lot about that in the days since. The truth is, I have spent many years trying to understand the towering warrior that was my mother. My quest has, in turn, helped me to better understand myself.

Better understanding myself is not why I wanted to understand her, but it is the gift I got from delving deep into my mother’s drive, restlessness, rage, pain, and determination. I learned a lot from seeking to understand the way she wielded power in the halls of Congress, in her extended family, and in my own immediate family with my father, my brothers, and myself as her only daughter. I could write forever about my mother, from whom I learned feminism, although I’m not sure the word itself resonated with her. But the concept of women being equal to men sure did.

But today I want to focus on the description of the hero or heroine’s journey at this moment in our collective journey. It is, in its own way, the realization of the divine feminine. Women of my mother’s generation were not seen or valued, much less understood. If they had an idea, they were passed over or silenced. If they wanted to compete, they had to be a warrior 24/7. They had to bury their tenderness and femininity and show they could out-men the men. And even then, they were often invisible to the people around them.

Thanks to so many women of my mother’s generation and my own since then, we have paved a way. Today, many young women are brave enough to step out and speak up without giving it a second thought.

Women today, like the men of today, have the opportunity to lead in a more evolved and humanistic manner than those of generation’s past. In fact, they must if we want to survive. Yes, survive. You see, I believe that our collective humanity is on the line right now, and that it will take tenderness and courage, coupled with the divine feminine to resurrect us all.

Today in our midst, there are record numbers of cases of anxiety, depression, suicide, abuse, and addiction. People report being bullied. Millions are desperately lonely and feeling anything but “seen or understood,” much less “included or valued.” It is time to reimagine the way we walk and talk in the world, as well as how we lead in our homes and places of business. It’s time to shift the old power balances that still exist around us, because it simply doesn’t feel like it’s working anymore.

It is time for the tender warrior: courageous in thought, word, and deed. The tender warrior is vulnerable in action. Compassionate in speech. Fully alive and fully realized. The tender warrior uses their eyes to see what is, not what the deluded mind says what is. The stories we tell ourselves and others are critical to moving forward in a realistic way. They are critical to know what needs reframing and reforming.

The tender warrior is an empathetic storyteller, one who is courageous enough to tell the story of where we are with honesty. Their mission is not to scare us, but to reassure us that the future we imagine is, in fact, possible for all of us. (Just look at New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her handling of the pandemic in her country.) They use a new language. They use words that we can collectively embrace, not hurriedly shove down our throats.

So, who is this tender warrior? Well, you can be one. Yep, that’s right. Each and every one of us can be a tender warrior. To become one requires a tender heart and a courageous spirit. It requires a commitment to compassion, empathy, and the journey ahead. Everywhere I look, tenderness is needed these days. Everyone I know can soften under its expression. Even the toughest of the tough.

I know this because I was one of those tough people for years. I felt I had to be tough to survive the family I was born into and the profession I chose. And yet, when tenderness touched my armor, the walls came tumbling down. Imagine that power. Imagine knowing that you have it to bestow on another. Think about that and let it sink in.

I pray we can jointly commit to stop the bullying in our public square. It’s ruining lives and damaging psyches. Expressions of hate demean us all and destroy the very fabric of our humanity. Racism. Sexism. Ageism. Any “ism,” really. Let’s put them to bed once and for all. They are beneath us. It’s time.

People are tired. People are scared. Who hasn’t had enough? A good friend told me that after watching the news the other night, she turned off the TV and wept. She said, “I can no longer tolerate the meanness. It’s destroying us all.” I said to her what I’ll say to you, “It will get better.” It will get better because the majority of us want it to get better. Now me must work to make it so.

There is light ahead, this I know to be true. There is a new energy coming our way. So, let’s each open ourselves to it. Let’s open ourselves to being tender, fellow warriors. Be tender and embrace the divine feminine that exists in you. Do not be afraid of what’s feminine, regardless of your gender. It is healing. It is nurturing. It is soft and vulnerable, and yet it is so strong and courageous. In its magnificence, it can mirror to another person their magnificence. It can show them their own divinity, which in turn will allow them to fly. How extraordinary is that?

It turns out that I know exactly the definition, values, and characteristics of the divine feminine. Now, will you join me in living them?

Love,
Maria

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Dear God, please let us all be brave enough to embrace the divine feminine that lives within us. May we all be tender and courageous and reimagine how we show up in the world. Amen.


Thank you for reading! It’s worth subscribing to her newsletter for more like this.

Goodbye from the ranch.

Book Report: The Overstory

If you know me or have read this blog a few times, you won’t be surprised to learn this, but I’ve always been a tree hugger, and I mean always. My poor mother (happy birthday wherever your spirit is) used to find me as a toddler wandering around the yard talking to the huge oak trees on our property. When I moved away, I mourned the loss of my tree friends around the town, and even now, when I go back I make sure to check in and see who’s still around and who’s gone.

That may explain why I have been reading so many books about trees, forests, and how they work for the past few years. It may explain why I became a Master Naturalist. It certainly explains why I have a hard time with cutting down trees for human convenience, though I am trying my best to be cooperative with other folks’ agendas in that respect. It explains why I bought the parts of the Hermits’ Rest ranch that I did – there were lots of trees, not a monoculture of non-native grass. I was born an annoying hippie tree hugger!

Of course you use your Sierra Club bookmark on the tree book.

So, then, why did I wait so long to read The Overstory, by Richard Powers? It won a Pulitzer Prize last year and everything! And it’s about trees! Anita and I both ordered it this time last year and planned to read it, so I had good intentions.

But, the first chapter was so sad it made me cry. And the second chapter had nothing to do with the first chapter, so I got confused, put the book down, and read all those other things I keep writing about (of interest to no one but me).

I ran out of books I hadn’t read last week (at least ones I could easily locate). I gritted my teeth and picked up The Overstory again. This time I looked at the table of contents, which was quite helpful. There, I saw that the first chapters were all about different people. I figured I’d just need to hold my horses through those first chapters and it would all come together in the gigantic middle section. Spoiler: it does.

Table of contents that makes reading the book easier!

By the way, they aren’t kidding when they say this is the greatest novels ever written about trees and perhaps one of the greatest about anything. There’s nothing I like better than a complicated plot that weaves new knowledge and a much-needed perspective on how to change the world. No, make that a much-needed perspective ON the world, one I share.

That Richard Powers. When I was in grad school, he was already a legend, the topic of many a conversation in the English department. He left just a semester before I got there (I was in another department, but many of my friends were in the English department with my brilliant boyfriend). Probably because I got sick of hearing about him, I didn’t read his first book. I got bogged down in The Gold Bug Variations (about music and genetics) but should probably go back and find that one to read.

Because Powers is such a polymath and so incredibly gifted, he crams a lot into a book. It’s not one of those quick summer novel kind of things. It’s more of a book to read when you are all alone, overwhelmed by real life, trapped by a pandemic, surrounded by people who don’t want to talk most of the time. Hey, that’s ME! I was in the right situation to immerse myself into the interwoven plots, make it through the deep despair the novel can raise in a tree hugger, and come out of it with my personal beliefs validated.

I sort of needed “Do Not Disturb” signs when I was trying to finish The Overstory, because it came right when Lee was in one of his talkative moods. My sometimes elusive goal is to stop what I am doing when he starts talking, so I had to re-read a lot.

Maybe that was a good thing; maybe it drove the message home. I’m finding it very helpful and very comforting to take that message to heart. We are not in charge of the earth. There are other minds and other forces at work, ones our perception of time makes it hard to notice. I take comfort that no matter what crazy Armageddon humanity is hell-bent on driving itself toward, Gaia, the trees, and the deeper consciousness will heal and persevere. It gives me the grain of hope I need to keep a-going.

Anyway, yup, good book. Read it.

Hopeless or Hopeful

Hopelessness is everywhere. Life is challenging.

The world seems upside down. Or it seems like “up” for one person is “down” for another. People I once respected disappoint me so much.

What’s up to you is down to me. What’s down to me is up to you. Image by @JosiEpic via Twenty20.

I think any of us in the US could say this, right now. The distrust is palpable, isn’t it? Even from within the tiny bubble I’m residing in right now, I feel it.

With all the new guidelines I’m following, I end up spending most of every day in a dim, 10×10 room with no windows, with the door closed. That’s hardly a recipe for optimism, cheer, or hope. But I realize I’m privileged to be able to work and not interact with the public.

Others have a whole different set of challenges. Some of us have jobs that require us to be outside or in busy buildings. These people are relying on others to help them stay safe, or, if they are of the group looking at things the other way, are being forced to do things they don’t want to do. Either way, it’s not easy.

And how do we all cope with that? Do we pray for each other’s safety and respect each other’s viewpoints?

I wish I saw more of this. Image by  @lelia_milaya via Twenty20.

No, we are so frustrated that we spend our energy attacking each other and reinforcing our divisions. That’s really why I feel hopeless.

Love one another. Give each other hope. We need it.

You tell, ’em, rock.

The Darkness Fades: Spring Is Coming, I Think

It’s such a sunny, clear morning that the fog and gloom of the last week or so seems a distant memory. It’s got me thinking.

Bobcat Run at sunset.
Tenpetal anemone, which is named after another Greek myth, but is a welcome early sign of spring at the ranch.

I’m thinking and hoping the glorious sunset that I got to enjoy with the Austin neighbors seems to signal that maybe I and all my associates can start to crawl out of their holes, and rise, like Persephone, from the darkness. It’s a little late, but I have hope today. If kale can grow in the middle of the messy garden at the ranch, I can deal with the mess in my life.

Free food! Carlton inspects the volunteer kale I found. You just never know what’s going to come up, from the ground, or in these weird-ass times we live in.

I’m thinking of the sad person on my friends’s blog yesterday. We’ll probably never know how much help we were, but I was touched by the kind words fellow blog readers sent their way. At least a whole lot of positive energy came that person’s way…and I think energy like that can’t hurt.

I think a lot of the energy around me that is so sad has to do with being tired: me, my family, my friends, my cuber-community. I’m a lot better after my day off on Sunday. My poor friend at work was so exhausted from traveling to the other side of the world and getting flu that she turned blue and started shaking. ARGH. “Just exhaustion” is still exhaustion!

In a total aside, guess who was really thrilled to get to Austin? This dapper guy, along with his photo-bombing buddy in the corner. He later got to destroy the squeaker in his tuxedo.

Think!

I think I can!

Keep thinking and wondering. New life and new adventures always await. Look at the very early Indian Paintbrush blossom I found on my walk last Sunday. It’s a little bedraggled, since its brethren are still sprouting up, but the little bursts of orange on the side of the road were just what I needed to see.

Maybe the colors will keep getting brighter as the sun and rain wake up all the wildflowers and bring the middle of Texas back to its yearly celebration of pollination and abundance. I think so.

May the pansy fairy remind you of cheerful faces, even in the darkness.

My old friend Kathy D. reminded me that the pansies of winter always keep me going (even though I didn’t have any real ones this year). I just have to look to see that magic is everywhere and it’s not all bad. That’s just me, though, after all my years of positive thinking training.

Yep, I get it that it’s sometimes harder than others, and for people dealing with depression it’s worse. I do NOT want to be one of those people spewing forth platitudes like “just smile” or whatever. If it’s not in you, don’t. But DO keep putting one foot in front of the other and at least nod to the beauty you pass by, so you can enjoy it later.

Let’s stick together and see what we think about this spring. Change is in the air. We may NEED to stick together!