Lean Sideways

Swan

4/23/2013

This is how I like to remember it now, so many years later:

I am six and in as deep as I dare. I dive through filtered hot summer sun to check the shadows of clouds on a peeling, aqua-blue canvas below. A push of water to my right abruptly breaks my focus. I turn to see a girl much like me gliding past with big effort, on the wave of small brown arms and the legs of a lopsided kick.

She is precariously close to the abyss.

I hold my breath as she spins to look me straight on.

Her fish-like eyes do not speak, but I hear challenge, clearly.  

A moment later, she breaks jail, sweeping under the rope and into the deep end.

I do not have enough breath in me to think. Without adequate time to consider, I plunge in, sweeping my own brown arms and longer legs to follow her taunting kick to the other side.

It was a small moment, really. Why it sticks with me is this: I would not have crossed into the deep end of the pool had she not bumped into me and dared me to follow.

She caused me to exceed my brink, to cut the bounds where my comfort still touched the shallow. She set me adrift in the big, blue world, perilously close to the drain which lie below the 3-meter diving board, poised to haunt and swish in swimmers, at its whim, extracting them elsewhere, as simple as that.

And I swam.  

Fear of that drain kept me captive on the shallow side of the rope on all previous occasions. In that safe zone, I perfected somersaults where my head reassuringly scraped bottom. I practiced hand stands where my toes still peeked above surface. I dove to the shallow left field spying pennies more easily on the short side of the pool. 

On that day when I bumped into the bravest and strongest of girls, I followed her lead before I had time to think otherwise.

I thought of this incident in the days following the death of Margaret Thatcher and in the wake of the conversational hullaballoo stirred by Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In.”

Having had little experience in the world of corporate board rooms and having seen 10 Downing Street only from a respectable distance of a little ways down and across the street, what popped into my mind was something that happened to me when I was six. In the midst of discussion about whether we do or do not like strong women and the perpetual need for women to lean in and lead, I remembered a little girl who tugged bravery out of me.

I remember her as being one of the first–in a list now a life long–of many females that led me on my way.  

I swam in the draft of other girls and women in the years to follow. My mentors were not Margarets or Sheryls, but I trailed plenty of strong women as they steered me right. And whether they delivered their message with kindness or grace or tough-minded zeal, they prodded me to go past the rope, they handed me courage when I was being sucked under and they gave me confidence with their gifts of attention.

I owe much of my life’s good moments to other women.

But I must say, and I suspect you might agree, we women can be very, very good critics.

We debate the worthiness of the differing roles we women choose and we compare the merit of the varied walks we women make.  We measure women who stay at home against those women who work, we compare women in the ranks with women who make it to the top, we consider women with children as different from women without children, and we measure ourselves, sometimes cruelly, by peering into the mirrors of other women. 

With Ms. Sandberg’s book, we might now measure women who “lean in” versus women who don’t.  She rightly encourages stick-to-it-ness and big effort while discouraging women’s tendency to hold back in board rooms or in response to big challenges. Women, she says, are caught in a catch-22: they can best eliminate external barriers (such as corporate culture and social policy) by achieving leadership roles—but until those barriers are gone, women can’t get into those roles in the first place. She calls it the “ultimate chicken-and-egg” situation. “Both sides are right. They are equally important. I am encouraging women to address the chicken, but I fully support those who are focusing on the egg.”

All good points in our continuing discussion.

But may I lean in to make one extra point? 

Shouldn’t we give more careful consideration to what exactly it is we are leaning into?

Given the collective angst in our world, is it wise to lean into tables around which status and strength is measured primarily in terms of power, competition, domination, growth and acquisition?  

What if we women lean toward balancing the table?  Why not use our time and effort and debate to shift our measure of success so that the big arrow that gauges our worth points much more in the direction of character, nurturing, wisdom and caring?

Women are half of the world and mother to the other half, after all.

I clearly hear the challenge in her fish-like eyes.

 Stairway

“It has always seemed strange to me……the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.”

 —John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

I am adding one more very important link which refers to a book I learned about after I posted this:

I’ve just ordered the book 🙂 .  I think it sounds like it will add a lot to this conversation!

And if you missed the last two most beautiful photos at Through the Lens of We, here they are:

Flash and Flash Again

Simply Needed

Good and Beauty

A quick hello to you this week—-

Yesterday, I worked on remembering there is good and beauty in our world—-all around.

Here are two of the last posts from Through the Lens of We that I hope will make you smile today.

If nothing else, you should get a chuckle from the photo of my very bad hair day  :-).  

Peace, friends.  

http://throughthelensofwe.com/2013/04/12/womanandthesea/

http://throughthelensofwe.com/2013/04/15/whatyougetiswhatyousee/

All in a Blog’s Time, My Pretty

Spring Morning:  Lucky Dog Ranch

Spring Morning: Lucky Dog Ranch

4/9/2013

In the excitement and diversion of launching Through the Lens of We, I paused for a moment and thought about the beginning of my musings as Winsomebella.

I started scribbling here just about two years ago, during a visit back to the cabin at the Lucky Dog Ranch. I had moved to the Denver area but I returned for a weekend to care for the place, to scrub and paint and open it for summer. But when an uncommon steady rain interrupted planned outdoor chores, I got diverted and started writing.

I was still quite tender about the Ranch when I started this blog.

You probably could tell that then. I wrote about life in a log cabin at an altitude of 8000 feet on 40 acres in the midst of acres and acres of national forest. I wrote about the Ranch tempting me with its wild hand of new adventure and how my hand was weary and slapped silly by the poor results of a long marriage. I wrote about moving there when my marriage had gone under for the last, ugly time and how it felt to live alone for the first time in my life, at the overripe age of a few years past 50.

You can see its place in the vastness in this picture.

You can see its place in the vastness in this picture.

I wrote about plowing snow with an ATV; about shoveling earth to divert run-off water to irrigate the meadow properly; about wielding a chain saw and rather handily cutting brush for fire mitigation; and how I eventually took the time to cook a meal-for-one that did not involve Cheerios. I recalled that aha! moment when I first realized that the clutter and mess I had blamed on a husband and two sons for nearly 30 years was actually my mess and mine alone.

Saturday night at Lucky Dog Ranch

This view is one of the reasons it’s called The Lucky Dog Ranch.

My body ached at the end of long days of hard work. But my heart may have pumped its greatest clarity there, at night, in my bed, as I stared at the stars.

My what-next plan hatched during a very long night about four years into my Ranch adventure.

I was thinking: What might happen if I traded my plow for a bicycle?

Surely, I’d breathe easier by giving up 3000 feet in elevation. Without a couple hundred inches of snow to plow, I’d have time instead to dig more deeply into me. Maybe without the burden of a sixty-mile round-trip to the grocery, I’d find a way to feed my soul. Instead of spending my remaining years and energy trying to figure how to irrigate the far meadow, I could work on that never-quenched thirst in me.

I’ll give you some hands-down big advantages of the old life: solitude, space, view, quiet. All that, plus the smell of sage after the rain, the sight of elk grazing in a greening meadow in spring and the satisfying chill of making the first and only tracks on a bluebird powder day.

But, I was tired. Tired, I thought, of small town living–fearful of a life filled with repeating fundraisers, dinner parties, service clubs, card groups, book groups and people. I was overwhelmed and under-energized by the work it took just to keep the “ranch” afloat–though afloat is not the right word to associate with a property in high desert.

What played most in my decision to leave the ranch, however, was the gradual realization that a place built for shared retirement and visits from grandchildren was not as appealing as a place for me to live alone, as me alone.

Dogging at The Lucky Dog

Dogging at The Lucky Dog

I miss the Ranch some days.

Besides the view from the deck, I miss people who made me feel very much a part of community, even if I was living in solitary. I miss the ones who popped up in the aisles between produce and bakery and along the meat counter or in line at check-out. I miss the conversations I had with them about when it might rain, I miss their persistent pitch to buy cookie dough to support 4-H and I miss the various versions of buzz about the ornery lady with the ugly metal barn who lived down the road.

I miss the very kind neighbor who kept track of my whereabouts and made sure I made it home and had not ended up in a snow-filled ditch without cell signal when the wind blew in two feet of snow in the span of a work day. She knew there was no one at home waiting for me and that no one would notice if I did not return when I should.

But she took the time to check on me.

That kind of neighborliness can be hard to find in the city.

I still visit the Ranch now, carefully planning my visits to avoid big snow storms. I have lost the urge to irrigate the meadow to an out-of-place and unnatural green. The plow waits alone in the garage. And now more than one chair waits on the deck for visitors.

In my new life, I am not over-committed to dinner parties and service organizations and book clubs and card groups. I have the perks of convenience, amenities, urban vitality, lower gasoline costs and two granddaughters five minutes away.

Here, I don’t have a view of the stars from my bed.

But if I walk just around the corner, I see the peaks of Evans and Pikes and Longs and in only a short drive, I am in that outer crop of Rocky Mountains that hints of better things to come.

And now there is a new tent and sturdy four wheels to explore more of those mountains and see a whole new vision of stars.

The tent which will take we Lucky Dogs to new adventures.

The tent which will take we Lucky Dogs to new adventures.

Which should be interesting since it will be the first time I have camped since I was in my 20s.

This may bring new adventure for me and new fodder for Winsomebella.

All in a blog’s time……..my dear :-).

One of the nicest things that came from giving up my plow for a bicycle is the time to dig deeper and muse with words and pictures that quench and feed me.

And to share with you and you with me, in a new version of neighborliness.

Thank you for coming along—I’m really glad you do.

 

 

(P.S. I hope you’ll enjoy my occasional alerts for new postings at Through the Lens of We, like this one from yesterday: Into the Mystic.)