I have been thinking a lot about possibilities. Our cultures can be a determining factor in what we believe is possible – and THIS creates our reality – individual AND collective. This is a limitation. Culture, family and communities can also offer an expanding sense of possibility but no matter how you slice it, there will always be a boundary or a border to come up against, a place where possibility is hindered by the determinations of a culture. It might look like social expectations or obligations. It might be about money – a lack of money, or even respectable, acceptable ways to spend the money when it exists in abundance.
While I was living abroad, I was able to see exactly how this worked. I was a young, single, American woman traveling in Morocco as we entered the 21st century, I often saw myself floating beyond rules and responsibilities. I could move in and out of participation with what was going on around me almost at will. One of my favorite examples is always the social organization of men and women in Morocco. When invited to a large formal party – like a wedding or a post Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) celebration thrown for the pilgrims upon their return, the men and women would often sit on opposite sides of the room. They would interact and even get on the dance floor together – but often eating and chilling in different spaces. In the early days, I was not really sure what to make of this and I felt more comfortable in the men’s space – so I just went there and everyone was at least outwardly okay with it.
When I wanted to explore the women’s social circles, I was welcomed but noticed that I could easily slip back out to the street to grab a smoke with the boys or that I was often called into the men’s space to dine with them. This was in the very early days. As time progressed and I became better able to express myself in French and Arabic (as well as becoming more comfortable with exploring the possibilities around my role as a woman in these social contexts), I began to gravitate toward the women and felt the change in expectations from myself and others about where I was supposed to be and what I should be doing. When I married my husband in 2009, I noticed an immediate and dramatic shift in what his family expected of me in this way. I was suddenly being invited (and with an not so subtle undertone of obligation) to the women-only parties more often. Where I used to go everywhere with my husband and his gang of male friends, I was now being scooted over to the female side of the family and all the things they did.
The possibilities in those situations were different. (I had quit smoking by then but even if I hadn’t there would have been no way to duck out for a puff. Or, where I could have left a men’s gathering any time I felt like it, the women often expected me to spend the night). They fluctuated based on what I thought I should be doing and how others were behaving toward me.
It was interesting because I realized for the first time that possibility is truly relative. AND it is dictated by where we come from and what we are willing to accept about the assumptions we (and others) make from that place.
For many of us expats, travelers and explorers, we are presented opportunities to disrobe, if you will, from our cultural layers to try on new and other sheaths. Doing this creates the experience of opening to unforeseen, unusual possibilities. As I became more willing to be alone with the women of Morocco and the UAE – I developed surprising (to me) views about how women can be strong and feminine at the same time. I slowly began to unravel the tightly wound thread of obligation I felt to DO IT ALL – picked up from my rearing in the USA. Our feminist movement of the 60s and 70s (and the general patriarchal culture) often seemed to argue that women could or HAD to do exactly what the men were doing – in the same ways. Suddenly I saw that we might do it differently. And maybe (probably) even better (couldn’t resist that!).
It’s possible to be in command of your domain, of your divine and spiritual identity and still be receptive to new views, visions and ways of doing.
Before I drag you all off on some wild and wooly tangent into the cosmos – let’s bring it down to earth.
If you there is something you wish to see in your life right now. If there is something you want to do, to try, to experience yet that thing seems unattainable or even impossible, then take a look at the assumptions you are making about that lack of possibility.
It will be worth it to consider how those assumptions are derived from your culture. And by this, I mean – your family culture, the culture of your friends, your workplace – also your country, the culture around your native language or even other languages you speak on a regular basis. (OOOh, another time, let’s talk about how language creates assumptions in the beings who live through that language. I just got CHILLS!!!) Now that you are thinking about this, it will be easy for you to see how you have just accepted so many things about how life works – how you make money – what you are “allowed” to do to be considered successful – what is good – what is respectable because of where, when, and among whom you have grown up.
If you would like something different to happen. If you want to invite more of something into your life – something that seems far away – then you absolutely MUST call into question what you are believing, resisting, accepting, claiming that may be standing in the way of that thing you desire.
One more example, just in case:
Possibility is determined by collective cultural consciousness. We can argue that Hilary Clinton – or any other woman before her – has not yet been elected President of the United States because as a collective USA cultural consciousness (and honestly, even beyond the USA), we still accept a predominantly male perspective. Our country is run in a very yang energy – assertive, active, rational, mental, producing, and dominant. None of those qualities are bad in and of themselves. But they are ruling us in an imbalanced way.
Any woman who wants to compete in that environment must also up her yang energy, and minimize her natural feminine/yin qualities such as receptivity, intuitiveness, sensitivity, emotional intelligence, imagination. Hilary is just an example of how a woman has had to swing toward an imbalanced yang consciousness – to the detriment of many of her yin qualities to even have the chance to be invited onto the playing field in politics, law, and oh my – any number of professions. A certain female executive chef I once knew comes to mind. She was well known (and feared) for her explosive and swear-word splattered way of keeping order in the kitchen.
I am not saying that Hilary shouldn’t be assertive or that my executive chef at an upscale Boston restaurant should not be powerful and in command. No. But I am suggesting that it is possible that these women were culturally required to amp up that part of themselves to achieve what they did. When women (or anyone) are not permitted by the norms of the collective cultural consciousness to fully tap into their full range of qualities, gifts and talents (both yin and yang) then the possibilities for them to succeed with their own unique wholeheartedness or integrity are crippled.
What I am saying is that we are not yet ready for a female leader in the USA. We must alter our ideas – our assumptions about what it means to lead a successful, flourishing, wealthy, technologically innovative and intellectually advanced country. We must accept that feminine qualities ARE leadership qualities.
And this, my darlings, is applicable to your personal life just as it is to politics, education, work, spiritual advancement and anything else you need an open door to.
When we change the way we see a thing. When we recognize where we come from with ALL of the cultural assumptions we have unavoidably absorbed, then we have the power to reconsider which assumptions are no longer working for us. How are we using these assumptions to aid us in our own demise – resisting what we deserve and what we need to thrive in a truly human, whole-mind body spirit experience.
THIS IS WHAT FREEDOM looks like. And as soon as a growing number of individuals take on the responsibility of claiming their own freedom through cultural inquiry, we will see changes in our greater societies that have the potential to alter the entire course of humanity. That is fucking scary. I know. But it is needed right now.
Talk to me. I want to know what you think.
Oh, and ladies – join me here in our closed FB group for the well traveled woman making meaning and unconvering purpose: Worldly Women of Purpose