We are the homemakers who also bring home paychecks. We are our children’s first teachers, and should be their best teachers. Why does it seem like the lessons we are teaching revolve around popular culture, rather than actual “culture?” Why aren’t we continuing to hone our critical thinking skills so that our knowledge of the political process is not reduced to sound bites of the mainstream media? Why do we hear a lot about the “threat of China” but have no idea why, and have not bothered to find out?
We move through each day discussing the headlines, not the stories. We make decisions based on advertisements, rather than research. If we made the effort to seek truth and depth in the world around us, it seems we would be better at discerning the emptiness around us, and less apt to succumb to the meta-narrative of modern-day society, largely dominated by status updates and smart phones.
Recent situations have forced me to consider whether life would be different if we were more concerned about our internal “intellectual” appeal rather than our external appeal – the life of the mind versus the physical. Are we, as women living in Northern Virginia, making the same decisions as we would if we lived in a small town in Nebraska or Montana? Am “I” still the “I” that I always thought I was? Each of us has several distinctive identities that become lost fragments of forgotten personalities in a world of bust sizes and diet crazes.
The desire to change our appearances seems to be the universal language of the so-called modern woman, at least by Northern Virginia standards, reflected in the media as well. We have long since passed the “grow old gracefully” mentality, and have decided that we can control this one aspect of our lives. But, sadly, the focus on diet and measurements has left “wellness” by the wayside.
By “wellness,” I am not referring to “clean eating,” although that is one fad probably worth trying. My idea of wellness is striving for wholeness through intellectual and spiritual growth – a return to receiving information in our lives that is life-giving and, even more than that, life-altering. Making the eff ort to cleanse ourselves through the discovery of an inner sanctuary of who we are, and celebrate the fact that women before us have been not only wives and mothers, but warriors and poets, statesmen and scientists. These women understood that life within the status quo, and without a meaningful purpose, wasn’t a life fully actualized.
Licensed professional counselor, Michelle Market, encourages women to create a life plan, focused on asking yourself authentic questions: What do I envision my future to be? What do I really believe about myself and my abilities? Am I honoring my values, or is there a disconnect between how I want to be perceived and who I really am? Taking action requires having a vision for yourself. What makes you feel alive? What aspects of life make you breathe easier? What is difficult? Relieve yourself of the pressure to be like everyone else, and live into all that you desire to be. “Wholeness” will result from that eff ort and a yearning for authenticity in everything else. Life coach Susie Miller suggests that “living with intention” and making deliberate choices about how we are spending our time helps us to live with purpose.
“What we want deep down in our souls drives us. Thus we must be aware of what those desires are if we are to intentionally pursue them,” Miller states. If someone wants to travel the world, then he or she has to choose to make the fi nancial choices that would allow that, even if it means not buying Uggs for our six-year-old. The question, as Miller states it, is, “What do I want more?”
Let’s make our conversations with each other more thoughtful and engaging, deeper and more signifi cant. Let’s talk about spirituality, politics, art, literature, music, and articles that move us. Let’s share our stories from a place of growth and refl ection, amidst and among our discussions on shoes, stretch marks, and chandeliers. Let’s find the place within ourselves that radiates who we are, so that others can see our lights, rather than our insecurities. Let’s cultivate friendships based on the depth we see within one another, rather than bonding over neighborhood strife.
Our lives are important. We are the stars of our own reality shows. Let’s plan family vacations that require us to think about the aspects of life that are important – raising our children to be tolerant, wordly, competent, and capable of using public transportation. Take them to places outside the “bubble” and see how life is for others, and explain how civilization has changed over time. Let’s learn through our adventures to faraway places, both socio-economically and geographically. Is this article idealistic? Of course. Is it possible? We have only to look at the spirit of the Renaissance to see that yes, we can expand our potential by focusing on the constant renewal of energy that is within. We are capable of limitless growth, making choices each moment about how we intend to be remembered.
RACHEL BAILEY DE LUISE holds a Ph.D. in English Education and an MA in English Literature. She is a professor, writer, wife, and mother of two, living in Loudoun County. She has published a book on early American literature, along with articles on education in the 21st century.