Earlier this week, I read a quote that was simple, and perfect for how I've been feeling.
"Don't complain, create!" - Michealene Cristini Risley
The best part of this quote, other than the fact that it totally commands that you take responsibility for the things you want to change (awesome), is who said it. A quick Google search revealed that Michealene Risley is a real life superhero and someone that I really look up to.
Michealene Cristini is an award winning writer, director and human rights activist. Her first film, Flaschards (a short film on child sexual abuse), won numerous awards, screened in the Shorts du Jour program at The Cannes Film Festival and was picked up by American Public Television for PBS stations. Her new documentary, Tapestries of Hope (follows social activist Betty Makoni in her efforts to help sexually abused young women in Zimbabwe through her foundation the Girl Child Network) has also won numerous awards and launched in 107 theatres on Sept 28th for one night only. The film is also being used as a tool for grassroots efforts with over 45 groups to push Congress to sign and FUND I-VAWA (International Violence Against Women Act) one of those key partners is FACEBOOK who actually helped her to get out of prison in Zimbabwe.
A member of both the Writers Guild and The Directors Guild, Michealene also co-authored the best-selling book, "This is Not the Life I Ordered", selling over 50,000 copies. Miss Risley also blogs frequently for the Huffington Post on issues of Women and Children, Human Rights and Africa. She was recently honored as One of Silicon Valley's most influential Women.RIGHT?! This woman is incredible. Talk about CREATE. Michealene is a human rights ACTivist who has fought hard to educate and shift the conversation, expose injustices, and facilitate huge strides towards change. She has risked her life to expose the unjust treatment of women. She was imprisoned and deported to South Africa by the Zimbabwean government for the footage she shot for Tapestries of Hope. But this didn't douse her spirits or her intentions. As soon as she returned safely to the U.S., she hopped into action and became a large part of the push for the passing of the International Violence Against Women Act. THIS woman does not complain. She creates new possibilities and new efforts to enact change. And, coincidentally enough, much of her efforts are to support the empowerment and proper treatment of women and children, which is extremely close to my own heart.
Reading about Michealene and being reminded of so many powerful women who have paved the way for change was a big wake up call to me: no one has ever accomplished anything great by complaining about the things they want or pointing out the obvious obstacles to achieving them. Then, the message hit home again last night when I explored the topics of "desire" and "risk taking" in a women's group. Everyone shared something that they desired, something that they desperately wanted to create in their lives, and then naturally shared the reasons why that can't happen or how they are being tripped up. As the listener, it's so easy to hop in and offer an encouraging nudge and remind them of the power they have and the possibilities that await for them in the wings. It's easy to put a positive spin on "risk" and talk romantically about how the body craves change and loves to be jolted awake by healthy, follow-your-heart risks.
But then, when I reflect on myself and my desires, and it's my turn to put on what the women are offering me, it's not so easy. The doubt seeps in and I retreat back to the place of security, the place I know and can comfortably operate in. And then, like clockwork, seeps in my resentment/complaints/'stuckness' and desire to RUN (not walk) away from that place entirely. But I don't. I just complain. It's a vicious circle... the inherent habit of craving change, but staying in the 'safe' place to avoid conflict, harm, or surprise. It's like cavemen survival instincts that are etched into our being, but no longer applicable. In fact, often times, it's actually it's detrimental to our happiness and wellbeing to not take those risks. Every time we avoid risk, by default, we are also forfeiting all of the magic that could unleash if we trusted our gut and took those jumps. Will we always land on our feet? Will it always be greener on the other side? Absolutely not. In fact, it may be terrible! But guess what? We can try again, and again, and again, until it's not terrible... until it's wonderful and everything we imagined. We can manifest that and draw it into reality if we keep taking small leaps to get there. But we sure as hell won't get there by standing still, remaining in the state of desire without action.
All that being said, I would like to drink the "risk kool-aid" and take the first step towards change -- changing the conversation I have with myself about what is possible. I have written up a personal narrative that clearly communicates what I desire to do professionally and how I would like to spend most of my time and energy. I am posting it here to make it more real, and less of a fantasy or unattainable desire. I am also posting it here to hold myself accountable. So instead of asking me how I am, you can ask me how I am taking strides towards making this intention a reality.
It is my deepest passion to make an impact on others, with love and encouragement as my tools. I want to enact social good, breathe life into others’ dreams, and to lift people up to experience their true potential. What a warm, embracing world we would live in if everyone was in touch with their own inner magic. I think that the most crucial time to experience this tingling realization of ‘potential,’ our inherent power and endless possibilities, is as a child. The young mind is fresh, expanding, and welcoming. It is also very vulnerable and susceptible to the impact of outside factors - love and encouragement, unkindness and judgement. Therefore, it is essential that the young mind be well-versed in the greatness of itself, such that it can easily embrace the good and confidently ward off the bad. The young spirit should feel its power and use it to deeply love and cherish itself and others, before it is buried beneath doubt, coercion, and fear.
Why am I so committed to this? I didn't meet my inner magic until after my childhood. I starved for the attention and acceptance of others, never knowing how wonderful I was at my core. It took a lot of hard falls and soul searching to realize that the power I was searching for in my boyfriends, in my grades, in my friends, at the mall, in my parents... was nestled within myself all along. There’s a bit of a learning curve when you learn this later in your life (it’s hard to teach an older dog new tricks). It is a struggle every day to remain tapped into my inherent power. There are days that I deny its existence, feeling like a victim lost in my own life. I make excuses so that I don’t have to be the one accountable for my own life. I give the power to someone or something else, and I marvel at their control. But then there are the days when I feel my inner strength and I exercise it. I don’t feel stuck or dependent on anything or anyone else. Rather, I feel like anything is possible. I feel limitless and radiant with happiness and possibility.
Muscle memory is real. When the body learns what it feels like to BE the creator and the fulfiller of possibilities in its life... it does not forget. The brain reminds the heart, the strongest and most hard working muscle in the body, of that raw power and pure bliss. It remembers what it feels like to be woken out of that slumber and gives you purpose. Connectivity with that inner power induces the release of creativity and vivaciousness from within, and it creates a desire to help unleash those things in others, too.
And that’s where I am. I have lived on both sides - letting things happen to me and feeling (un)lucky, and also making things happen and feeling unstoppable. I now have a desire to help others to release their power. I feel particularly drawn to tween girls, who are young and most susceptible to a society that has positioned them as lesser in many ways. Living powerfully is the most beautiful and freeing way to be a part of (and experience) this universe. To know and own this power at such a young age and have an early start on being the commander of your own life... now that would be world-changing.