Mar 8, 2022
As I write this, I am on a plane to London for what I call a 'Self-date'.
A 'self-date' is a concept taken from the wonderful Julia Cameron's book The Artist Way, in which a block of time is taken purely for oneself and by oneself.
For me, myself and I as some call it.
But how incredibly challenging a concept for many women.
I recall my own childhood of watching the women of many generations and their focus, attention, and actions.
My grandmothers were housewives and spent all their time fussing and fawning over various family members, especially the men.
My Granny Laidlaw was dispatched to boarding school (the REAL St Trinians) at the tender age of 5, when her parents, (my great grandparents), sailed off to live and work in India.
My heart bleeds for her even now for her parents to be so far away when there was no mobile phones or internet.
When I first heard about the cruel and unkind Victorian abandonment, to a stone-cold institution at this age, when many are only just starting to make sense of their surroundings, language and body; let alone loneliness and abandonment (or rejection as she viewed it) I was horrified.
Why would parents do that to their children?
How did she cope?
Who was there for her when she was sad, down or depressed?
Her girls-only boarding school taught her about the role of women during her years there.
She would later display her certificates proudly for Home Economics, aka about cleaning, hoover, washing dishes, and caring for their husbands.
Let's not forget that even as recent as the 1960-1907's women were expected to give up their work and fully attend to their home and husband after marriage.
My Granny Laidlaw was to take those certificates to heart and become an excellent wife and mother.
That was her role, and she committed such dedication and resolve to it (despite my Grandfather having a long term mistress and a roaming eye for the ladies).
My Granny Laidlaw was strong, loyal and full of duty.
Yet, as she got older, she would be weighted down by giving out too much to others, and did not know how to do 'self-dates' or spend time on herself and was treated for chronic depression and other debilitating mental illnesses.
I remember her saying to me how she felt invisible and worthless.
"Would anyone even notice Wendy if I was gone?" She would say to me.
"Of course, Granny!" I cried.
"I would miss you soo much!"
You see she was like a second mother to me, when my own mother was in and out of hospital after I was born with endless endometriosis, cysts and other medical complications.
My other Grandmother, my Granny Downie, equally had a strong sense of stoicism and had a strict upbringing in East Lothian on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Her family worked hard and provided her with lots of love.
Yet, she would meet my Grandfather (whose mother left him and his father at aged 5 and be brought up in a fiercely hostile environment). My Granny would give birth to 9 children (of which only 7 survived) whilst running a farm during the bleak war times of running to underground bunkers, in between collecting eggs, feeding cattle, driving the combine harvester and up all hours during the night helping during lambing season. Their farm was their contribution during war times, and they were responsible for providing certain milk quotas and meat for the local village and towns.
My Granny Downie had the most inspiring strength to navigate great uncertainty during her lifetime and bringing up her 7 children.
She also took on the role of family mediator to navigate the internal sibling squabbles and shenanigans around the dinner table for decades.
What I loved the most was her delightful sense of humour, and despite the challenges, life threw her way, she taught me how to look for the tiny shards of light in any dark situation or times.
So both of these amazing women taught me lots.
Their resolve and a firm dedication to the greater good during the period of World War 2 was impressive.
I am sure that a time of dodging bombs, taking care of evacuees, distributing food to nearby camps despite the limited food rations, and keeping focused on others left little or no time for 'self-dates'..
I sometimes wonder what my Grandmothers would make of women being given a day of celebration and their expanding roles in society now a days.
Personally, although I was inspired by them and their desire to take care of the home, husbands and family, I had a burning desire to expand further into entrepreneurialism from a young age.
I have tried to 'do it all' and 'have it all.'
I worked from home and set up my businesses when my children were born.
I wanted to make a difference in the world, and I was intrigued to see what I could accomplish but I did not want someone else to bringing up my children or see their first step or hear their first word.
The past few decades were incredibly challenging at times especially when I heard the judgement from other women about what I should and shouldn't do as a woman and mother.
But I am pleased to see that the world has finally opened up for more and more for women and their visions, dreams and accomplishments.
The heavy pressure to conform, to fit into a set box and stay confined to a particular set of antiquated rules, outlined by old fashioned and restricted values and ideals, are eroding away to make way for women to celebrate themselves, each other and future generations of women.
Historically, back in 8000-2000 BC, it is reported that men and women lived in a partnership model of society not a dominator model.
Both genders were once regarded as equals in all ways and I feel there is much still to do to get back to that cohesive and collaborative way of living for all.
So, as I ponder on the true meaning of International Women's Day today. I have taken time to reflect on my travels what the generations of women before me have had to endure or adapt to over the past 80-100 years.
I wonder what both of my Grannies would say now if they were both still alive.
Personally, I think they would be in awe at the progressive nature of women now, their continued accomplishments and the great opportunities available to women now; thanks to the introduction of the internet and the great work of so many women breaking through so many glass ceilings.
Also, they would be open-mouthed and wide eyes at the number of women spearheading the juggling act of home life, children and running businesses so eloquently as so many women do.
And they often do it without making much fuss but often with little alone time to allow for reflection and celebration at their wins and how far they have come.
What I love about celebrating women today, on International Women's Day, is this idea of cohesiveness and togetherness.
I grew up with a mother who felt threatened and intimidated by other women.
It always perturbed me that she was so wary and suspicious she was of her same gender.
I appreciate that there have been times in history that have not encouraged women's togetherness.
In fact, it was commonplace for the long-suffering, faithful and dutiful wife in golden olden times to be promptly replaced by a younger model and discarded like an empty crips packet.
History is littered with stories like this dating back to Roman times.
So, as a gender, we have come far.
We come together more and celebrate more, especially when we recognise that we often have the same common challenges we have been battling for decades, if not hundreds of years.
Women have been fighting the wage gap, the sexism and the outdated messages of 'stay at home, barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink' for many years. Which is fine if that is what she really wants. But often, like my Grandmothers, other talents and ambitions lie beneath the surface or are squashed by people who do not celebrate a woman's worth and contribution.
Old ways are thawing and breaking down.
I welcome that women are growing in confidence to question the old ways.
I love that more women are now tuning into their own instincts about their roles in life, relationships, society, and, of course, their careers.
There is nothing more uplifting than feeling the bond with a strong woman who sees your potential then mirrors that back, with the unwavering belief, of what is possible and her belief in you.
I have heard that some older generations of women (who have achieved great success) say that they felt they had to become 'a man in a woman's body'.
I don't think that helps any woman's growth in our society.
What does that say to the younger generations coming up?
"Don't be a woman but learn to act and behave like a man in a woman's body!"
And that then feeds back into the mistrust of women by other women.
I believe that women just need to be themselves; no matter what.
Women need to surround themselves with inspiring and supportive women who genuinely believe in them until they can believe in themselves.
The work I do now complements this intention beautifully.
Endometriosis can destroy a woman's confidence to its core.
Many women lose touch with their bodies and instincts and dislike themselves.
They may feel a victim to the condition, especially when it impacts their daily life and career in such a devastating fashion.
And I hope that more women will offer mentorship and supportive programs to hold the torch and be that light to allow millions of women to step out and step up into their power so more women can celebrate International Women's Day in greater numbers.
This brings me lastly to the women of Ukraine right now.
To see photographs of women coming together is hopeful for their future procession of the profound trauma they much be enduring right now.
It is heartwarming to hear about the many Polish families waiting at the railway stations, willingly with open arms, to welcome complete strangers into their home.
For women to embrace other women and their families in this way, at this overwhelming time, when their own homes, towns and villages have been blazoned to the ground, gives great hope for us all despite all the horrors.
To see two neighbouring countries be supportive is inspiring.
Especially when you consider, if there had been old feelings of threat and hostility on each other, it could cause the continued displacement of so many families for years to come.
The BBC news has quoted that out the 1,200,00 Ukraines who have gone over the border into Poland in the past few weeks, it is estimated some 500,000 these people have been embraced into the Polish homes.
What a heartwarming thought at such tragic times.
I commend these women (and men) for their generosity of spirit and openness to others.
For me, that is a true celebration and a wonderful example of International Women's Day right there.
Whilst one angry Russian man tries to rip apart a whole nation of Ukrainians and destroy their spirit, these acts of kindness, generosity, and togetherness may help the women, men, and children heal faster in time.
So, we need women to be women and not pretend to be men.
We need more women to recognise that if someone is threatened by their new emerging strength, then to use that as the fuel to realise their potential, as it continues to awaken from the past fear and threat passed down from generations of women before them.
So remember to celebrate all the millions of women's accomplishments and see them as the 'machete through the dense jungle forging a clear pathway' for our daughters, granddaughters and all female generations to come.
International Women's Day is a celebration for all women to celebrate all women.
Think of 5 women you admire the most and the reasons why? What is it about their character that you are drawing too? What is it about them that inspires you? How did they overcome the many challenges and obstacles thrown their way? What has been the meaning and message of their life and career?
There are types of questions that I ask of myself when I see or hear the presence of a woman who has eloquently been able to hold her own and clear away for other women.
I saw this huge sign in the centre of London earlier about International Women's Day and it said "Real change takes true character", but it is much more than that.
Real change requires the focus of women outwardly supporting other women, ensuring they are lifting each other up and not tearing each other down.
So, dear women, don't be a man!
Be 'ALL woman' and set out to unravel and discover your unique fingerprint contribution and change that you are destined to bring to the world!
To your health!
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