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A couple of weeks ago I had a terrible nightmare. I don’t usually have nightmares, so this was particularly memorable. In the dream, I was in the driver’s seat of a car, staring out the windshield at a dark, winter forest road. The skeleton trees just barely visible in the night sky. As we do in dreams, I knew that a car would be coming around the bend and that the driver was a very bad man who stole little girls. I knew I’d have to drive fast to escape him. I saw the light from his car come ’round the bend and illuminate the bare branches and deserted road. I began to panic, I knew it was time to drive away and stay safe, but I couldn’t move. And then, suddenly, his gloved hand was over my mouth and with his finger to his lips he bent down and whispered, “shhhhhh” into my ear. I woke myself up screaming “NO NO NO…”.
It took me a couple of hours to shake off the feeling of fright and fall back asleep. But the dream stayed with me for days. Now, I believe that dreams mean something significant. That they tell us something about what is happening deep inside our mysterious mind. So, over the next several days I began to unpack the dream…
I think there are two distinct things signified in this dream. One, large and connected to what’s happening right now around women speaking out against sexual harassment and abuse, and a smaller more personal reaction to my understanding of who I am and who I have been.
There is a paradigm shift happening that is finally allowing women to feel courageous and supported enough to stand up and say “yeah, of course me too.” And even more encouraging is that we’re being believed, and there’s even some consequence for the men who have been the perpetrators.
And my story? Yes, of course me too. I was both date raped and assaulted in college. I have been whistled at and cat called at and told to smile by strange men on the street so many times it’s ridiculous. But for me, this is about understanding, at a deep level how quieted my own voice has been and the effect THAT has had.
At this point in my life I’m not much bothered by what occurred in college. I don’t know why not. However, I certainly understand and support women who are still haunted and effected by their assaults. What I am very bothered by, however, is that as a young girl growing up in the 70’s, I was told and instructed and shown and persuaded to be quiet, to be nice, helpful, courteous, and easy. Maybe you can relate to some of these things I was told:
- don’t rock the boat
- don’t take it so personally
- don’t overreact
- don’t upset him/them/us
- don’t forget to say thank you
- don’t be so sensitive
- (and my personal favorite) don’t be so DRAMATIC
I was told this not only by the men in my life, but also by the WOMEN. No wonder we’re all so confused and outraged. And no wonder we’ve been under the spell to stay quiet and safe. Enter the bad stranger in my dream.
As I’m waking up, literally and figuratively, I am having to fight my way out of the fog of being told to “shhhhh”. I have had to accept that I believed ‘them’ instead of me. I have to come to terms with all the keeping quiet, and where that’s gotten me. I’m pissed off, tired of playing the game, and ready to use my voice. I will not be a victim to some faceless, nameless, overbearing stranger, and I will absolutely use my voice to make sure my daughter, AND my son, won’t be either.
(For an excellent article on how we gaslight ourselves…read this: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/25/565729334/gaslighting-how-a-flicker-of-self-doubt-warps-our-response-to-sexual-harassment)
As you’re coming to terms with what’s happening in the world, perhaps some new understanding of your own acquiescence is emerging as well. Perhaps you’re outraged. Or maybe you’re just plain weary of it all. However you’re feeling right now, it’s ok and it’s normal. And if you feel like you want some support, please reach out and get some.
Together we are stronger and now is our time. I am optimistic that we are indeed in a paradigm shift and I for one want a front row seat! See you there…
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