“The world will be saved by the Western Woman” – The Dalai Lama, Vancouver Peace Summit, 2009
I first heard this quote 1 year ago when I was browsing the website for Nisha Moodley. Nisha leads seminars for women and retreats around the world. In one of her Vlogs she states the above quote was why she created her business. A few months later I found Sarah Jenks who mentioned the same quote in her online training series except she added her own spin to it: “The Dalai Lama said the world will be saved by the Western woman. But we can’t do SHIT if we sit on the couch all day in our sweatpants!” I laughed out loud.
The original quote is truly inspiring. To hear of the Dalai Lama’s intuitive voice speaking out about the role he sees women playing in the healing of the world is an extraordinary statement. But Sarah’s statement really got me thinking – how are women keeping themselves on the couch in our sweatpants all day? Was it a literal statement? It didn’t seem right. And then I began remembering.
In 2009 I was living in New York City and working at a small company. I had a manager who was nice enough, generous with us employees and really tried their best to be a good and generous leader. In many ways they were. Unfortunately, their managerial tactic of choice was to scare us into doing a good job. I remember clearly a conversation where a statement was made about employees being afraid of losing their jobs: “I WANT them to be scared!” To better understand this person, it was 2008 and a scary time for all business owners. Lay-offs were happening left and right and businesses were going under in a matter of days. I can understand why someone was fearful of their family’s livelihood, their employees livelihood, the lives, and would use any measure needed to save it.
Except the tactic didn’t work for me at all. I lived in fear of everything work-related. The effect of the scare tactic was, ‘why bother – by the sounds of it I’m going to get fired anyway – is it 5 o’clock yet?!’ Friday’s were the best night of the week because I would experience a full 36 hours of relief. Sunday’s were dreaded because I would have to go into the office the next day and try not to get fired for the next 5 days in a row. I feared making mistakes, asking questions, I feared a lot of things. One night the anxiety got so bad that I was up until 3 in the morning, terrified to fall asleep because that would mean I would eventually wake up and have to go into the office.
I found some relief through wine (don’t we all) and yoga (thank goodness for that). But work was so front and center in my life that it affected many of the decisions I made, what I did, what I thought about, what I talked about. And the funny thing was – I don’t remember really actively looking for another job. I don’t remember networking, applying for new positions, nothing. I don’t remember telling myself that I had the power to change my circumstances. I just let it be what it was without an end in sight. I was basically sitting on a couch, in my sweatpants not doing a damn thing to change a damn thing and letting my life pass me by. For 2 long years.
Now my outlook on life is completely different. But I know how easy it is to begin letting things slowly slip away. You could have what appears to be a great life with a full-time job, friends and all the trappings that make you appear fabulous on the outside. But your personal reality could be completely different. Maybe your job is hard and your co-workers annoy you. Maybe your landlord is making problems for you. Maybe you resent your family for things that happened when you were a kid. Maybe you think everyone else has it so easy and it’s just not fair that they got to live that life and you didn’t. Maybe you think that nothing will ever get any better and you had better just live with it. Maybe you think that you don’t deserve any better. Maybe you are angry at people for a seemingly awful thing they say to you “How dare they do that to me, who do they think they are!” and “Can you believe that email? Just read what they wrote!”
This is the nastiest trick that people who could have everything in the world, play on themselves. And it’s so commonplace today that many of us are letting our opportunities to shine like stars just pass us by. It’s so easy to get caught up in the cheap drama of our lives that we forget just what we are capable of. There is a line in one of my favorite movies, Love & Sex, where Famke Janssen’s character has a moment of clarity in a movie theater. Sitting next to her actor boyfriend, a surge of resentment about their relationship finally boils up in her and she explodes. “You know what my problem is? I’m a floater – I float through life like a corpse on a river bumping into rocks and logs. I don’t choose my path, I just…bump into stuff! I bump into you in a porno store, boom I have sex with you, boom we’re in a relationship! I don’t think I just BOOM!”
In early 2011 I had my personal BOOM moment , where I saw myself as that floating corpse on a river and began to course correct. I realized that all of the opportunities in the world could be available to me if I started taking myself and my life seriously. I started taking better care of myself and paying closer attention to the foods I ate, and the ways I spent my time. I began looking closely at my relationships and seeing what needed to be fixed and forgiven. I took a long, hard look at myself and my life and the choices I had made that led me to this moment. And let me tell you – it was fucking HARD as shit. But I was in it, I was in the muck of the things that were keeping me stuck on the couch. I was doing it. I was standing up, removing my sweatpants and putting on a clean dress, getting ready to say hello to real life instead of floating and bumping and hurting. According to a very spiritual teacher, we women have some serious work to do. No fear, no petty resentments, no anger, no holding on to the past, no sitting on the couch and letting life pass us by is allowed because there is no time for it. It’s time to get up, get dressed and show up for our lives because the world is depending on us to do just that.