IN PRAISE OF THE INNER CRONE!
(Somebody asked me the other day if I would re-post this message I wrote last year on Facebook, so here it is….)
Dear Ones –
OK, we all know about the "inner child", right? The innocent being who still lives inside of us, who needs and deserves love and care, and whom we sometimes have to channel in order to learn self-compassion?
I'm a big fan of the notion of the inner child. It can be a really healing construct. Once, when I was going through a particularly dark season of self-loathing, I taped a sweet photo of myself (age 2) on my mirror, and taught myself that any harm I did to me, I also did to HER. It made me kinder and more tender to myself. Imagining other people's inner children makes me kinder and more tender to them.
So the Inner Child is a good thing.
These days, though, I find myself spending less time thinking about my Inner Child, and more time focused on my INNER CRONE — the old lady who lives inside me, whom I hope to someday be.
Because she's a serious bad-ass.
The really old ladies always are bad-asses. I'm talking about the real survivors. The women who have been through everything already, so nothing scares them anymore. The ones who have already watched the world fight itself nearly to death a dozen times over. The ones who have buried their dreams and their loved ones and lived through it. The ones who have suffered pain and lived through it, and who have had their innocence challenged by ten thousand appalling assaults…and who lived through all of it.
The world is a frightening place. But you simply cannot frighten The True Crone.
Some might consider the word "crone" to be derogatory, but I don't in the least. I honor it. The crone is a classic character from myth and folklore, and she often the bearer of great wisdom and supernatural power. She is sometimes a guardian to the underworld. She has tremendous vision, even if she is blind. She has no fear of death, which means: NO FEAR.
I keep a wall of photos of some of my favorite crones, for inspiration. The photo below is of a Ukrainian babushka named Hanna Zavorotnya who lives in (get this) Chernobyl. There are a group of about 250 such women — all tough elderly peasants — who have all recently moved back to the radioactive area around Chernobyl.
You know why they live there? Because they like it.
They like Chernobyl because that's where they came from. They are natural-born farmers, who got kicked off their farms when disaster struck. They hated being refugees.They resented being shunted off their land after the catastrophe. They hated living in the shabby and crime-infiltrated and stress-inducing government housing in the city, and much prefer the independence of living off the land.
So they moved back home — illegally — to the most contaminated nuclear site on earth. They have formed a stupendously resilient retirement community there, in what some would call the world's most terrifying landscape.
Is it safe? Of course not. Or, whatever. After 90 years of hard living, what does "safe" even mean? (If you survived World War II and Stalin and famine and communism's ravages, how worried can you be about "safe"?) They drink the water. These women plant vegetables in that radioactive soil and eat them. They butcher the wild pigs that scavenge around the old nuclear power plant, and eat them, too. Their point is: "We are old. What do have to fear from radioactivity? At this age? Who cares?"
All they want is their freedom. So they take care of themselves and each other. They cut and haul their own wood. They make their own vodka. They get together and drink and laugh about the hardships of their lives. They laugh about everything, then they go outside and butcher another radioactive boar and make sausage out of him.
They are living longer and healthier lives than their peers who stayed behind in refugee housing in the cities.
I would put these women in a Bad-Ass Contest against any cocky young alleged Bad Ass you've got going, and I guarantee you — the Chernobyl crones would win, hands down. Put the lady in this picture in a survival contest against any Navy SEAL; she will endure longer.
We live in a society that romanticizes youth. We live in a culture where youth is considered a real accomplishment. But when you look at a seriously powerful classic crone like the woman in this photo, you see how foolish we are to obsess over youth — to imagine that the young offer much for us to aspire to, or learn from.
No wisdom like the wisdom of survival. No equanimity like the equanimity of somebody who plants a garden right on top of a nuclear disaster and gets on with it.
So these days, when my Inner Child gets all fluttery with the panic of living, I just ask myself: " WWMICD?"
"What Would My Inner Crone Do?"
Ask yourself that same question. See what she tells you.
One thing I can promise you she will never say? She will never say: "WORRY.
She will more likely tell you this: "ENDURE."
So listen to her, and get on with it — get on with the powerful act of LIVING.
Hang in there, all you future awesome crones!
ps — and if you want to read more about Hanna and her fellow bad-ass Chernobyl crones, and see more photos, here is a really wonderful article: https://bit.ly/1wa9hT7
via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall
EGO vs SOUL
Dear Ones –
Here's a photo I thought you might like: last night at dinner with Pastor Rob Bell and Iyanla Vanzant, after Oprah's The Life You Want Tour…all of us tired and happy and warm with the friendship that has grown out of this amazing event.
I wish I could share with you every moment of wisdom from these great people (and I will try to share more, over the coming week) but here is one beautiful lesson I picked up over the weekend.
A woman asked Rob yesterday how you can tell the difference between when your soul is talking to you, and when your ego is talking to you.
Rob started with an explanation of the ego, as a force that is never satisfied. Nothing will ever be enough for the ego — not enough money, not enough praise, not enough shoes, not enough Facebook likes, not enough donuts. (He didn't say the bit about donuts, but you get the point.) And when the ego DOES get something it wants (success, attention, a swimming pool), all it can do is crow about it.
Like: LOOK WHAT I DID!
As for the soul, though, all it wants is joy and light and love…and excitement. When you are living the life that your soul wants to live, you will wake up each morning and say, "Oh my god, I can't believe I get to do this today!" (Whatever "this" might be — write this book, work in this garden, live in this house, see this friend, eat this food, raise these children, walk in the woods with this dog, go to this job, visit this family member, etc, etc…)
There is a place in our lives for our egos. (As Martha Beck, another great teacher always says: "Don't leave home without it.") You need some ego, to shore up your boundaries, to give you a sense of self, to keep some fire in your belly.
But don't let your ego make the big choices for you. Because it will do nothing but forever demand more, more, more, more. It will always say, "We don't have enough yet."
Look for the things that make your soul say, "I can't believe how lucky we are to have this!"…and try to surround yourself with as much of THAT as you can. And don't sacrifice the things that make your soul come alive for the things your ego demands.
Last night's dinner was a soul moment for me. I could not stop smiling. I could not stop hugging everyone and for some reason I really could not stop eating off Iyanla's plate. I could not stop thinking, "I can't believe I get to be here with these great and good people."
Love to you all,
via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall
READY AS I'LL EVER BE…
Dear Ones –
I took this photo at 6am this morning in Seattle, getting ready (in the green dress you all kindly selected!) for the 7th stop of Oprah's The Life You Want Tour.
Let me tell you something about life on the road. Some days you are more confident than others. Some days it flows out so certain, so easy. But other days, you have to dig a bit deeper, to find your power.
I've been distracted over the last few days by myself, in a way that isn't necessarily helpful. (My friend Rayya and I call this state of mind "feeling our humanity," and it usually means: processing some pretty hard stuff.) Not to go into great detail, but twice in the last few weeks, I have lost my temper in ways that took me by surprise, and humbled me. Both times, it was in professional settings, and both times I felt like I was defending myself or holding vital boundaries, but I lost control of my emotions, and I lost my perspective, and certainly went blind to the holiness of the other people in the room. I didn't start screaming or throwing things, but I didn't love the way I acted — this is not at all the person I strive to be — and I have been processing some serious shame this week over having failed to rise to my highest self. I certainly did not BRING THE LIGHT, as I always strive to.
So when you're in that place, feeling that you have let yourself down, and then you have to go on stage (as I've had to do three times this week) to dispel life advice to others….well, sometimes you can feel a little shaky on your feet.
And yet, and yet…that "humanity" I've been feeling so hard this week is also the humanity of connection, of honesty, of the reality of life in a human experience. We've all been there. We are all working through our stuff, fighting our way to the light, trying to move on past our shortcomings. So I try to bring that truth to the stage, too. Like: We are all in this hard but magnificent game together.
I read a lovely quote recently from the actor John Cleese. He was asked who his hero was, and he said, "Most people. Because everyone is doing their best."
What I will try to bring to the stage today (beneath my words) is an awareness of this truth — that it is not always easy, that sometimes we let ourselves down, that our humanity can sometimes feel cracked and heavy and deeply flawed…and we might not be where or who we want to be yet…and still: we are all doing our best. We rise and do our best. That's the heroic part.
So now I'm gonna dry my hair and put on my SPANX and stand tall in my own boots and my own truth, and go speak the best and highest love I can to a giant room full of beautiful beings. All of us, feeling our humanity.
It's not perfect…but it's so, so perfect.
via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall