Today is International Women's Day! How lovely, that women have their own special day. It almost strikes me like Valentine's Day, where you tell everyone how much you love them on February 14, and then ignore them or take them for granted the rest of the year...
Except I'm not totally that pessimistic, and I like to think I do justice by the many, amazing women in the world by empowering women through yoga and therapy. I find it rather easy to acknowledge the superhero powers that women possess because of women in my life who regularly remind me of what being a woman is all about. There are many wonderful women in my life, but today I'm focusing on 4 close to my heart.
Of course, my mother! Dancing Nancy, as many know her well. My mom has taught me the importance of being independent, of not being in a situation where you are completely reliant on somebody to support you. We make bad choices when we feel we have no options, and I've worked with many women who end up in bad situations because they have no money and no place to go with their children. Now let's face it, as a yoga teacher and therapist I'm not a sugar mama by any standards, and if I said I was 100% independent in that regard I'd be lying. But I am my own unique person with life and career goals, in addition to being a wife. My mom has taught me how to demand equality and not tolerate someone treating me less than anyone else because of being a woman, in any and all situations. And I love her for that. All the time. Because not everyone's mother teaches those beliefs. Trump's mom obviously didn't teach him that (I couldn't help it, I'm sorry). My Mom is so adamant about equality she once spontaneously wrote a rap song called "Balls", because she was so fed up with all of the songs about women's body parts. I am lucky to have had a role model who helped me find and maintain my value so that I knew my worth, and was not at the mercy of defining my value based off of someone else's perception of my worth. Not only that, but my mom is hardworking, determined, disciplined, smart, and fun. She completed nursing school while working, raising 2 kids, and going through a divorce. She worked full-time, came home and took care of my sister, me, and my adopted sister/best friend Meghan, and didn't kill us even when we ignored everything on her handwritten daily note of things to do and not to do before she got home. She has instilled the importance of eating well and exercising to stay healthy, which is a belief not nearly enough families pass down to their children. Dancing Nancy didn't get that nickname by being a wallflower. She can keep a conversation going with anyone she encounters, and you can always talk her into hitting the dance floor, even when that dance floor is a cooler in your college apartment on graduation weekend. Since being a therapist, I've also learned that not everyone's parents know what unconditional love is. No matter what my sister or I do, she will always be there for us. Nanc can get mad and upset at you, for sure. But she will always love you, and that's not something I take for granted!
My beautiful mama!
Zeni. My mom's best friend. She would be here today if a drunken fool hadn't been driving his car when he was well over the limit. Zeni was fierce. She was Chinese and Cuban, and I'm pretty sure if you google "How to make a firecracker", that's the recipe you'll find. She was kind, compassionate, generous, and powerful. She supported my mom in being a "working mom" when my sister and I were younger, which was quite frowned upon and stigmatized against back in the day (we don't need to put dates in here, my mom may not appreciate that). Although I certainly did not know this at the time, she gave my mom extremely valuable advice while going through my parent's divorce, and to this day I share that advice with many of my clients going through similar divorce situations. My favorite Zeni memory is when she wanted to get a job, and her husband told her she could not, that he did not want her to work, but wanted her in the home. Well, that wasn't going to sit well with Zeni. She got a job, and her husband didn't talk to her for 2 weeks. Finally, he told her he would accept the fact that she was working if that's what she wanted, after which point she left the job. Nobody was going to tell Zeni what she could and couldn't do with her life. I wear her unbelievably beautiful ring very often, but especially on days when I need to harness my inner power and strength. Having her ring on my hand, which I wore on my wedding day and have on today, reminds me that I have to fiercely go after the things I believe in and am passionate about. I cannot rely on other people to support my beliefs and agree with my goals. I have to move forward boldly, and go after my dreams (and hope my husband will talk to me by the time my yoga therapy training is over...).
Simone is my other favorite role model for women. The office manager where my mom was a nurse, she has believed in and supported me from the day she met me, awkward grade school years and all. She had a quote on her desk that read "There's a special place in hell for women who don't support other women", and I absolutely love that. There's enough stress and pressure fighting our way through life to begin with, let alone the extra barriers that present themselves for being a woman, we don't need to add to that turmoil and chaos but pushing each other down. Simone helped me find my passion in mental health, and has supported me every step of the way. I hope I have the opportunity to be a mentor for someone down the road to be able to pay back the support and compassion that was gifted to me.
Mother Melinda! Matt's mother, and now mine, too. I've NEVER encountered a person who didn't say "Matt's mom is just so sweet." And that's saying something, because Melinda has been a teacher for 30 years, and knows just about everyone in a 30-40 mile radius around the farm. Melinda has 3 boys, and lives on a farm. That alone is a serious job description, and yet she's been a high school teacher, and an adjunct college instructor, for most of her kids' lives. And a volunteer at the church. And 4H. And high school fundraisers and events. And she has a pretty extensive social calendar. On top of that, I've never been at her house when there wasn't delicious food to be eaten, a baked good in the oven, and another meal being prepped. Melinda is actually a superhero, except she would never hurt a living thing as part of her superhero duties, unless you hurt one of her family members. Then maybe she would go after you, but who wouldn't? Although we live farther North than what could geographically be considered "central Illinois", growing up in the suburbs makes the farm feel like the South to me, and Matt's heard enough tractor jokes at my family parties to confirm that most "city folk" feel the same. Melinda is the absolute essence of Southern hospitality. She welcomes anybody in, has food and drink to offer, and looks beautiful and graceful throughout. I have a long way to go in every one of those categories, because if you showed up at my house, I'd be making you ramen, wearing sweatpants, and be muttering under my breath about how I really needed that time to finish my "yoga stuff". And I don't have kids yet, either. I am forever grateful to have an amazing mother-in-law who inspires me to be graceful, kind, capable of healing hearts with delicious food.
And her fabulous Thanksgiving table spread :)
Who are your female role models?!
Use that as inspiration to go out into the world and harness your strength, power, grace, compassion, and kindness!
Yoga for harnessing that feminine side:
- Goddess pose
- Warrior 1, 2, and 3 (focusing on strength but also fluid and graceful movement)
- Moon salutation
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined butterfly)