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Celebrate women who work (that's all of us!) and the many kinds of work we do!
Celebrate women who work (that's all of us!) and the many kinds of work we do!
AFFIRM our own and each other's worth.
Where there is woman there is magic.
–Ntozake Shange, poet, playwright, performance artist
It's so easy for women
to slip into self-doubt
and feeling inadequate.
we shoulder a lot of responsibilities—
being supportive of our mates,
nurturing our children,
staying in touch with extended family,
holding down jobs
while holding down the fort at home.
No wonder we sometimes feel
We need to know
we're not alone.
We need to hear
that other women
share our experiences.
"Atta girl" never sounded so sweet
as when coming from the lips
of another woman.
she's been there, done that.
She gets it—
she gets me.
We take turns
cheering one another on.
We learn to do it for ourselves, too.
Just reach right over your shoulder, girl,
and pat yourself on the back.
and you and I both know it.
Thank goodness for women in the world who "get it." Girlfriends who notice all the things we do well—and comment on them. "What a great outfit—I love the way you combine colors." ... "Thank you for the thoughtful birthday gift—you're so good at picking out the perfect present." ... "I love having you as my friend—we always have such a good time together."
I do the same for them. I let other women know when they do something I especially like. I affirm how much I value them as friends—as people. I live by the maxim, "Catch people doing something right," ... then acknowledge them for it.
No one responds well to guilt and shame. So why is it that people try to scold, nag, nitpick, and fault-find us into changing our ways? Don't they know it doesn't work? Not only is it ineffective, it's infuriating. From the "Stand up straight" of our girlhood to the "You should ..." we hear every day, I vote we put away the negatives and try to accentuate the positive—for ourselves and others.
Everyone is hungry for appreciation. We all want to be valued, cherished, and respected. Sure, there will always be critics ready to point out our shortcomings. But the women I'm most grateful for are those who celebrate what's right with the world—and the people in it!
BE CURIOUS and ask good questions.
I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.
–Eleanor Roosevelt, UN delegate, social activist, first lady, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
When I came home from school each day
my mother didn't ask me,
"Did you get the right answer today?"
Instead, she would query,
"Did you ask a good question today?"
She understood that
asking the right questions
is much more useful than
trying to have all the answers.
Asking questions about history
helps us learn from the past.
Questions regarding biology
help us understand the natural world
and our place in it.
Inquiring into anthropology
helps us learn from others
who are different from us.
Queries concerning philosophy
help us determine the meaning of life.
The more I learn,
the more I realize how valuable
my mother's lesson is:
Knowing everything isn't the goal;
being curious about everything is.
How to be Curious ...
Cultivate a habit of asking good questions.
Understand that we can experience miracles if we're inquisitive.
Realize that we know very little and there's discovery and adventure around every corner.
Inquire into new ideas, people, situations, places.
Open our minds to others' points of view.
Unleash our inner child, who is naturally inquisitive.
Suspend judging and evaluating—there's always time for that later.
The power to question is the basis of all human progress.
–Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India
COMMIT to excellence.
The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.
–Maureen Dowd, syndicated newspaper columnist
Committing to excellence is not the same as committing to perfection. We don't need to become driven, Type A, maniacal perfectionists in order to commit to excellence. Excellence simply means striving for the highest standard that each situation calls for, to the best of your ability.
Few things in life need to be done perfectly; brain surgery is probably one of them—maybe human space shuttle missions, too—and work with hazardous chemicals or radiation. But most everything else does not require the same exacting level of perfection in order to be excellent.
Excellence simply means doing the best job you can with the information and resources you have available, within the time allotted. Being an excellent parent means knowing when to insist that your kids toe the line and when to let things slide. Being excellent at work requires you to work with others, make the most of the time and energy you have, within certain budget constraints. Being excellent in taking care of your body and health means educating yourself about nutrition, eating sensibly, making exercise a regular part of your life, and getting enough rest as well as adequate medical care.
Being excellent does not mean that you have to keep the perfect house, raise the perfect kids, have the perfect body, work at the perfect company in the perfect job. It simply means having the highest standards possible, appropriate to each situation.
Sometimes, if something is worth doing, it may be worth doing only modestly well ... if other, more important things require a higher level of performance. Only you can decide which thing you need or want to do perfectly and which things you can simply do well.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
–Aristotle, ancient Greek philosopher
You know what real power is? Real power is when you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing the best it can be done. Authentic power. There's a surge, there's a kind of energy field that says, "I'm in my groove." And nobody has to tell you, "You go, girl," because, you know, you're already gone. –OPRAH WINFREY, actress, talk show host, media executive
DIG deeply into life's mysteries.
Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when He did not want to sign.
–Anatole France, Nobel Prize-winning author
Every situation—nay, every moment—is of infinite worth; for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
–Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, German poet
The Mystery of Being in the Flow
Creativity is a mystery to me. I don't understand exactly what it is or how it works. It seems to be some sort of energy, like electricity, that I can't see but I can feel it and see its effects. Being in the flow of creativity is a mystical experience ... feeling in sync with life forces and the universe. One of the loveliest experiences I had with the mystery of flow occurred recently when I took a class on furniture painting.
We were instructed to bring a small piece of old furniture for our class project. I brought a yard sale coffee table. Our instructor gave us the basics, and we began painting—first the base colors, then the decorative designs on top.
And as I worked, I remembered another class I'd taken, called "The Artist's Way." What I remembered was, "You have to give yourself permission to make bad art before you can make good art."
"Bad art?" I said to myself. "I can do that." So I gave myself permission to use my coffee table as a trial-and-error piece, a sampler, an experiment, an opportunity to explore this new art form.
We painted all day, taking a break for lunch. At the end of the class, my table was not done, so I bought some more paint from the shop where the class was held, and took my project home to finish.
I had a bite of dinner and resumed painting. I was on a roll. I was having so much fun—painting flowers, squiggles, words, phrases, dots, symbols, textures, and colors all over the table—even the underside. I decided not to go to bed until it was done. I wanted to stay in the flow.
The hours rolled by, and I kept painting.... lost in my fun and lost in time. Finally, it was finished. I was happy. I went to the kitchen and glanced at a clock—it was 3 a.m.! I was shocked. Never in my life have I gotten so immersed in anything that I lost track of time. What an amazing experience! It was as if time fell away while I was in the flow of painting. You've heard of out-of-body experiences? Well, this was an out-of-time experience.
I came away from it with a new appreciation for the mystery of the creative process—and for what it's like to be in the flow. I loved it. I felt completely happy, at peace, free from any worldly cares and concerns. Any stress I had disappeared....
And I had a new coffee table.
To be a woman is to be a mystery,
and as many readers will attest,
nothing beats a good mystery!
So dig deep, sister sleuth....
Look far and wide,
and don't forget to look inside.
You certainly can't judge a book
by its cover,
or a woman either.
Enjoy your inquiry;
explore what intrigues you;
inquire into what puzzles you;
seek answers to vexing questions.
women are a wonder!
We are wonder-full.
Exuberance is beauty.
–William Blake, English painter, engraver, poet
EXPRESS ourselves authentically.
About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won't like you at all.
–Rita Mae Brown, feminist, author, educator
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
–Judy Garland, actress, singer, petite performer with a huge stage presence
Very young children are totally authentic. They express their delight and displeasure with equal intensity—pulling no punches, hedging no bets. They just let it all hang out, unconcerned for what others may think. You always know where you stand with a toddlers—their wishes and moods clear and unambiguous.
But socialization soon teaches youngsters to put on masks, disguising their true feelings. Adults teach them to put on a happy face because no one wants to be around a grumpypants. We teach children to squelch their requests because it's rude to ask for presents. And we routinely toss verbal wet blankets on them because their noisy exuberance is a bit much to take sometimes.
It's all done with the best of intentions, of course. We want our little ones to develop social skills to fit into the adult world. But in the process, we impart a subtle, not-so-positive message: "It's not OK to express your feelings. It makes others uncomfortable. They might not like yo u—they might even punish you." And so they develop layer upon layer of filters, screens, censors, and masks—all designed to keep them safe and to maintain social order.
Fast forward to adulthood, and we wonder why we feel lonely, even in our own families sometimes. We long for emotional connection, but we can't reach each other through the layers of masks.
Expressing ourselves authentically means removing some of our masks, shedding some of our layers of social niceties, much as we would slip out of sweaters that are too stifling. It's a slow, gradual process of trial and error, learning what works as we go. It doesn't mean that we become toddlers again— blurting out indiscriminately. No, authentic expression means being true to yourself without bruising or bullying others.
Expressing ourselves authentically involves being clear and honest while at the same time accurately gauging the listening of others. Knowing your audience as well as knowing yourself.
Be clear about your motives when you speak. For honesty without love is simply brutality—but love without honesty is just sentimentality. Expressing ourselves authentically means speaking our truth with love.
What does it Mean to be Authentic?
FEEL our fears and rise above them.
When I'm about to take a risk, I consider the down side. If it's not death, I do it.
–Nancy Sardella, President/CEO, Women's Referral Service & Women's Yellow Pages
Fear Can Be a Plus
When I left my corporate job to start my own business as a writer and speaker, a good friend told me, "Fear is a great motivator." We both laughed. He was talking about financial fear, of course. When you're a single mom and decide to become self-employed, you suddenly realize that your future really is in your own hands, and whether you succeed or fail is totally up to you. It's exhilarating ... and terrifying.
Fear motivates me to keep new projects in the pipeline at all times. Fear helps me meet deadlines. Fear enables me to focus on my priorities and not get distracted by too many things that are fun, but not income producing.
On a personal level, fear reminds me to lock my doors and turn on the alarm in my home when I leave. Fear tells me to look both ways before I drive through an intersection. Fear is especially vigilant in nudging me to watch in the rearview mirror for those black and white cars with the red lights on top.
Fear tells me to get my regular mammograms and checkups. Fear reminds me to take my vitamins. Fear gets me out of the house every morning for a two or three-mile hike with my dog. Fear of illness and infirmity makes me want to take care of my body.
Fear takes the form of butterflies in my stomach before I deliver a keynote speech or teach a seminar. I channel that fear in a positive way—it makes me alert, on point, lively, and dynamic. That kind of fear is fuel for my performance, helping me shine and sparkle.
I think my friend's point was that fear isn't always a bad thing—some fears are healthy and helpful. They keep us on track and in focus. We can use our anxiety, tension, and fear in positive ways—to give us energy, motivation, and determination to get our work done, to compete and excel, and to perform at the top of our game.
I have to admit ... sometimes fear is my friend.
What is FEAR?
Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.
–John Wayne, movie actor and Western icon
Excerpted from Women's Work Is Never Done ... by BJ Gallagher. Copyright © 2006 BJ Gallagher. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Women's Work Is To:
AFFIRM our own and each other's worth,
BE CURIOUS and ask good questions,
COMMIT to excellence,
DIG deeply into life's mysteries,
EXPRESS ourselves authentically,
FEEL our fears and rise above them,
GIVE 110 percent to life each day,
HEED our own intuitive wisdom,
INITIATE new projects and possibilities,
JUGGLE many roles and duties ... while making it look easy!
KEEP our sense of humor, especially when others have lost theirs,
LISTEN with love,
MANAGE our time effectively,
NURTURE relationships at work and at home,
OWN our own lives,
PREPARE our children for life,
QUESTION assumptions and old habits,
REBOUND from setbacks and failures,
SEEK spiritual sustenance,
TAKE GOOD CARE of ourselves,
UNDERSTAND and manage our finances,
VEER AWAY from negative people,
WORK for peace–in our hearts, in our homes, in our work,
XPLORE and XPRESS our creativity,
YEARN and learn for personal growth,
ZERO IN ON what's truly important,
AND FINALLY ...
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