Revolutionary Women: We are not our mother’s daughters

women_against_veil

As many of you may know I am a writer. For those of you that don’t know I have written 3 books all of which are heavily influenced by my experiences as a Puerto Rican woman born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Last night I had the opportunity to talk to a phenomenal woman who read my book Letters to My Daughter and one of her favorite lines is “You preferred me voiceless” from a piece I wrote entitled Skin. That particular line comes from what I saw as child growing up in a traditional Puerto Rican family.

I grew up in a family where the men made all the decisions. Generational conditioning had acclimatized the women in my family to do as their husbands, fathers, brothers said and to never question them about anything. To me, these women were voiceless; powerless. They were nothing more than trophies, porcelain dolls, or expensive pieces of art to be hung on display. They were to be seen and not heard.

My paternal grandmother played her role well, always mindful of my grandfather’s needs and desires. If she was the trophy he was the conquistador equipped with charm that comes only from experience. A big spender, he knew exactly how to court a woman. His wandering eye often impelled him to send over a round of drinks to any woman who happened to gain his attention at the night club. Other times, if he was feeling particularly cocky he’d invite the woman over to his table to join him. If she agreed, she’d be on one side of him and my grandmother would be sitting on the other. For a poor man who migrated to the US from Puerto Rico without much, he knew that as long as he had money there was nothing he could not attain.

My father was like him in that sense. He also knew that with money came respect, status, and power, though not always in that order. And while my father was the younger version of my grandfather mirroring everything about him from his name, to his flashiness, to how he pursued and treated women they both wanted more for their own daughters. They never wanted their daughters to be one of those women.

My mother admits that it was my father’s nice car and flashy style that she was initially attracted to and although my father wasn’t as brazen as my grandfather with his infidelity there were always rumors. As I got older and started to get a better understanding of gender roles (both traditional and non-traditional) I began to wonder why both my mother and grandmother allowed themselves to be disrespected and in a sense de-valued. For a very long time it affected how I viewed relationships and marriage. By the time I was 17 I’d decided that I didn’t want any of it. I didn’t want a relationship nor did I want to get married. My fear was that I’d lose myself in a relationship; I equated being in a relationship and more specifically being married with loss of freedom and power.

For years I had seen my mother ask my father for permission for everything as if she were a child. If she wanted to go out with her friends or sisters she needed permission. When she wanted to go back to school (an endeavor that my father supported) she needed permission. When she finally started working (after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years) she’d hand her paycheck over to my father and then have to ask him for money when she needed it. To this day she has never paid a bill, lived on her own, or made any major decisions on her own. If my sister and I wanted to do something or go anywhere it was my father who we needed to get permission from. My mom had no power as a woman, wife, even mother.

After years of successfully avoiding a serious relationship I eventually met and fell in love with the man who would become my husband. When I got married I started doing the very things that I’d sworn I would never do or put up with. Little by little I saw myself metamorphosing into my mother and while my husband didn’t cheat (not that I’m aware of) there were other similarities. I found myself asking for permission to do basic things like go out with my sister and girlfriends. As a married woman I thought it was what I was supposed to do. That was due in part to my naiveté as a young bride and what I saw between my parents growing up. Subconsciously it had been embedded in my psyche.

My desire to be a good wife (whatever that meant) as well as be an independent and progressive woman, clashed. I did not know how to reconcile the two, resulting in my husband and me separating many times. I was continuing the cycle. I was repeating everything I had witnessed in my parents’ and grandparents’ marriages. My grandmother eventually divorced my grandfather and although she re-married a couple of times she died alone with no spouse or partner.

My parents since then have come a long way. They now have a healthy and loving marriage where they each are equal partners. Still, it did not come without hard work and sacrifice from both of them. They realized that in order to make it work they would both have to give up some of the things they had conditioned themselves to do. This was true for my marriage too. After many separations my husband and I realized that if we wanted our marriage to survive and thrive we had to be willing to break free of the cultural conditioning we had been taught –either directly, or indirectly on gender roles. We needed to decide if our marriage was worth it or if we were going our separate ways. In the end we decided it was worth it.

A while ago in a writing workshop I was asked what my origin story is. Initially, I didn’t have an answer. After giving it some thought, I realized everything I witnessed as a child has influenced who I am, but more specifically my writing. I realized that my desire to write comes from the things I wished my grandmother, my mother, even I would have said all those times we conceded to our husbands. I realized that I write so that I never lose my voice or power. I write so that my daughter does not repeat the cycle. I write so that I can tell the stories of women who are not brave enough to tell their own. I write because I refuse to be anyone’s trophy, porcelain doll, or piece of art. Am I a feminist? Maybe. All I know is that I want my voice to be the voice of the voiceless. My writing is my revolution. I write so that we can be heard. I write because I refuse to be voiceless.

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On love and finding the person who completes you

“i found god in myself and i loved her. i loved her fiercely.”  – Ntozake Shange

Most of us spend a great deal of our lives looking for love, chasing love, recuperating from love or complaining about love. Never realizing that in our quest for love we are neglecting the person that matters most.  Ourselves.

I believe that as women we often disregard our own needs as a result of always taking care of other people. We spend so much time seeking out and working on developing external relationships that often times we forget to work on the relationship within.  We give so much of ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually that  eventually we end up depleted seeking fulfillment from someone else.

However, we can not look to another to fulfill us, “to complete us”, as eloquently stated in Jerry Maguire. We can only seek to fulfill ourselves, to give to ourselves that which we freely give to others; others, who often times don’t deserve it and that is LOVE.  Learn to fall in love with YOU!

Love yourself! Deeply and profoundly! Know that the most important relationship that you could ever have is the relationship that you have with yourself. When that relationship is strong you will see that you will be happier, healthier, and that you will no longer put up with or accept mediocrity from anyone.

Walk in your divine self. You are love, made from love and made to be loved. By loving yourself you teach others how to love you.  Love is not something that comes from someone else; it is an extension of our own minds, reverberating back to us in what seems to be another person’s smile (Williamson, 1993).

When you learn to truly fall in love with you, your entire life begins to change. It changes because when you are in love your main priority is making the person you’re in love with happy. Imagine applying that concept to yourself. Imagine putting your own happiness first. Only you have the power to do this. When you take back your power you take back control of your happiness because you now realize that happiness comes from within. Any happiness that you find with someone else is in addition to the happiness that you already have.

There is no other person on the Universe that can complete you. You were born a “whole” individual, you were not born in pieces. Movies and music will have you believe that in order to be completely happy you need someone else. This is a fallacy. When you allow yourself to believe this you are saying to the other person “I can only be happy if I am with you”…This sort of thinking is the thinking that allows many to stay in hurtful, dysfunctional, abusive relationships because the individual believes that they can only be happy with this abuser. Here’s a reality check if it hurts chances are you aren’t happy. Therefore, why stay in a hurtful situation? Love isn’t supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to encourage, uplift, inspire, motivate, empower. Love is supposed to feel good. When you love yourself you don’t hurt yourself. Therefore, you should never allow someone who says they love you to hurt you either. If they do then it’s time to kick them to curb.

I am aware that until we get to the point where  we’ve had enough of things that hurt and long more than anything for a peaceful love, we are bound to take painful roads. We are destined to play out frivolous disasters until we declare ourselves finished and done with them (Williamson, 1993). This is the nature of life, but when you truly love yourself you will put up with far less nonsense and get out of that unhealthy relationship much sooner.

The following passage I read somewhere and post here for all of you. It reminds me of the power that I have when I choose to take control of my thoughts and feelings.

You can completely transform any relationship, no matter what it’s like right now.  Every single relationship you have is a reflection of how you feel inside about you. You are a magnet attracting to you all things, via the signal you are emitting through your thoughts and feelings. Every relationship you have and every interaction with every person, is a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings in that very moment. To transform every single relationship you have in your life:

Fall in love with YOU!

Make lists of the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful things about you. Keep adding to it every day. Know that you are perfect. Do not think any negative thoughts about you. Know that you are worthy and deserving of anything and everything you could possibly want in your life. Focus on the wonderful things in every person. Look for only those things. Do not blame or criticize anybody, ever. Set an intention that you are going to see the best in everything and everyone. Make your happiness the number one thing in your life. Happiness is an inside job. Free yourself of the responsibility of trying to make other people happy. Respect and love them enough to allow them to take care of their own happiness. Get your attention off those things in others that don’t make you feel good. Appreciate and love yourself in every moment you can. Do not expect others to behave in a way you want, so you will be happy. Release yourself forevermore and know that you alone control your happiness and it is a choice, no matter what anyone else is doing. Love and respect yourself completely. Know that you are perfect right now.- Unknown

Because you are.

The FIERCE Woman™

The Power of the F.I.E.R.C.E Woman Brunch unites F.I.E.R.C.E Women

This past Sunday, April 13, 2014 I held the first Power of the F.I.E.R.C.E Woman Brunch at Katarina’s Bar & Grill in Kew Gardens. From the moment I woke up that morning I knew that the day would be full of beautiful moments and energy. Mother nature, in all her F.I.E.R.C.E-ness cooperated. The weather was perfect. The sun was radiating, a reminder that when we bask in our own light there is no one or nothing that can take away our shine. The sky was a beautiful azzure blue  without a cloud in the sky. The 75 degree temperature was an indication that Spring indeed had arrived. As the Spring weather wrestles its way in this was the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate, re-assess, and re-invent ourselves. 

The Spring is often used as a metaphor for new beginnings especially as we begin to transition from the cold and barrenness of the Winter. In Spring the flowers are reborn again and begin to blossom. The birds fly back East and can often be heard in the early hours of the morning singing their songs. It’s rather hard not to notice the beauty and spiritual meaning connected to this season.

Like the birds, we too have our own song to sing, but how many of us are actually brave enough and  fearless enough to sing our song and share it with the rest of the world? Re-connecting with ourselves and our god given gifts was the impetus behind the Power of the F.I.E.R.C.E Woman Brunch. I wanted to not only unite and connect women from all walks of life, but I also wanted to prove to them how powerful they are. By bringing them together I was providing them each an opportunity to network and to create connections with other women that they otherwise would have never had.

We had over 50 F.I.E.R.C.E women in attendance. The venue was packed from front to back and at times was standing room only. The turnout was everything I had envisioned it to be. These ladies showed up and showed out, each one so well put together that just by looking at them you could tell that they indeed embody all that a F.I.E.R.C.E woman is.

Our guest speakers, Justine Hornedo and Wendy Angulo (both successful in their own right) were phenomenal. They each shared with us their own stories of success and despite the many challenges and obstacles they’ve encountered they demonstrated to every woman in attendance that success is inevitable if you believe in yourself and work hard.

As I connected with the women in attendance I saw in each of them a bit of myself. I saw pride. I saw excitement. I saw nervousness.  I saw heartbreak. But most of all I saw hope. Each woman that came to the event came because something propelled them to be there. Even if they didn’t know what the reason was at that moment, they were meant to be there. There are no coincidences. They were meant to hear the message that the brunch was designed to convey. Sometimes we lose hope and when we do the Universe works its magic and puts us right where we need to be at exactly the right time.

To the women who showed up, not only for me but for themselves, I commend you. I commend you for showing up. You took the first step in transforming your life. You have planted the seed to re-inventing yourself. You have put out into the Universe, by your actions, that you are ready to stand and walk in your F.I.E.R.C.E-ness.  You have made the choice, now make a plan and execute it. I look forward to seeing you all again at the next Power of the F.I.E.R.C.E Woman Brunch. Shine on my sisters and stay F.I.E.R.C.E.

Motivational Speaker Justine Hornedo talks to us about the importance of speaking into existence what you want. “If you speak it, it is possible.”

 Author & Motivational Speaker Nancy Arroyo Ruffin talks to us about the importance of dreaming BIG.