To write what I learned from Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter would be another book in itself. Period. But here are the highlights, the select few that are not necessarily the most important wisdom I came away with, but ones I think are the easiest to express here and now.
For those not familiar with Sue, she is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. Before these books, however, she was a regular contributor to Guideposts and other faith-based publications. In The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue describes her journey from a "conventionally religious, churchgoing woman, a traditional wife and mother" into a vessel of the divine feminine spirit. With that said, the lessons below will not be preachy or even heavy with religious and non-religious blurbs. So many of you can breath easy.
Lesson #1 -- I must continue to write what pulls at me. Some of you might've been offended by my "Vagina vs Toody: When Do I Update My Daughter's Vocabulary?" post. I'll admit I hesitated before I wrote it. But the blurb in my inbox intrigued me, the question about my daughter came naturally, and I wanted to explore it. However, I still censor myself. Not as often anymore, but it's always in the back of my mind, "What will so-and-so think." Sue reaffirmed that I must write what pulls at me. In fact, I need to permit myself to do it more often.
"If you write to please others or write for success or stardom or money, you're writing out of your ego. When are you going to write out of your Self?"
How is this applicable to those of you who aren't writers? Replace the word 'write' with 'live' and you've got yourself a pretty heavy question.
Lesson #2 -- I need to become a woman on the loose. Simply put, I need to stop being scared to voice my opinion. Now there are times when it's appropriate to hold my tongue -- I know this, just as I know that I don't want to be someone whose opinion is the "only correct opinion" and feel free to spout it off anywhere and everywhere. We all know those people and despise them. But I find myself more often than not letting situations occur without giving input, often when it affects me personally. Why? Because I'm scared. I don't trust myself enough to express myself orally. I loathe confrontation, but even in times where I know there won't be any, I hold back. I need to believe in myself and start voicing what truly matters to me.
"The motto that the women on the loose adopted is: 'To improvise, surprise, and come uninvited.' That's not a half-bad motto… She is an improvisational artist. Rather than bypassing or shrinking from situations where her consciousness is needed, she speaks and acts, relying on something inside herself. All improvisational artists know that you must trust yourself. To improvise you must value your own knowing… Which means stepping out of the expected and becoming a daring and dissident presence."
Lesson #3 -- I am incredibly lucky when it comes to the friends in my life. I have women who accept me for exactly who I am, even though we have very differing views. My friends here at home share a bond that goes back to kindergarten, and now we connect through our children. We inevitably talk politics and religion occasionally, but it doesn't prevent us from loving each other the way only old friends can. As for my friends from college: I can't describe what connects us, but to be honest, we're soul mates. All five of us. Some people find it odd that I describe it in those terms, but fate brought us together to that horrible on-campus job nine years ago, and an unexplainable bond keeps us connected though we're scattered about the southeast now.
"The best female friendships are about encouraging full personhood, giving the other permission to follow her Big Wisdom, even when it means going out on a limb, even when it means her thread takes her away from conventionalities."
Lesson #4 -- It's okay to appreciate even the crappiest times of our past. I made mistakes that even today make me shudder. In high school I betrayed a friend in the most horrific way; I dated men and stayed with them despite the demeaning ways in which they treated me, and for far too long; I kept a monumental secret from my parents for years. Am I sorry, for the ways I hurt the people around me and the way I hurt myself? Absolutely. But should I dwell in the mistakes I've made? No.
"But our earlier lives aren't wrong, they are just pre-construction, that's all. Our lives are meant to unfold, to evolve, and that's good. The only wrong thing, perhaps, is permanently hesitating on the verge of courage, which would prevent this process from taking place."
Lesson #5 -- I am growing older, but also growing wiser. My journal, my blog, my friends, family, experiences… they are all pushing me to become a better person, a 'me' who is loving myself, knowing myself a little more everyday. I shouldn't dread the coming of my birthday, I should revel in the joy that I am alive for this birthday, that everyday brings me closer to the person I want to be.
"We put down roots. And if we are patient, if we are true to ourselves, if we are willing to see ourselves through the growing seasons, an inevitable thing happens. We become hearty women who have our own ground and our own standing, sturdy as oak after the winds. We become women who let loose our strength, whose truth, creativity, and vision fly like spores into the world."
Lesson #6 -- I am on the right path. For much of my life, I doubted myself. Every road I chose would inevitably have me looking back, wondering if I should've taken the other. Which sounds contradictory to Lesson #4, but it isn't. Not really. I don't regret these decisions, just wondered if they were right. In the past few years however, and in the past few months, I've gained confidence in the decisions I make, from the smallest, incidental ones to the life-changing ones. Like this book. My cousin recommended it to me two years ago, right after my cousin's death. I was questioning so many things at that time, and although I bought it and read the first chapter, I put it down. I wasn't ready. This time around, I had to keep myself from devouring it. Because it was time for Sue's and my paths to cross. I reveled in her journey -- so many of her stories felt like my own. I haven't come full-circle as she has, but I know I'm on my way.
"My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period."
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