Celebrating Self: The Process of Becoming
by Linda A. Firestone, Ph.D
As I sit at my computer, contemplating my birthday and the changes that have occurred in my life during the year, I am struck by the never-ending challenge I face to become me. I search for meaning in the daily events of my life: my career, my marriage, my children and relationship with my friends. My sense of myself as a woman, one who is changing with time, seeking and broadening her vision, gives rise to the notion that I am engaged in a process that is creative. It is timeless, without boundaries. It is an exploration of self that has no end. Fulfillment is found within the process.
Having stated that, I admit that there are times that I hate PROCESS. I am lulled into thinking that I know her, the woman I am. The external realities of my life seem to be going “according to plan” and thus there is no impulse to shake things up, to bring chaos and disorder into my life. Then, for reasons not always initially obvious, the “plan” shifts and my sense of self is shaken. I am immediately thrust up against myself, against my perception of myself as a woman, thrust up against an image of what I should accomplish, of what I can handle both physically and emotionally. I have learned that usually my image of myself is limited. I have learned that within me lies more strength than I give myself credit for possessing, and I have learned that I do influence many around me. I have learned all this through my friends, through their reflections of me. I was not raised to trust myself, but in my adulthood I have begun to learn to trust my female friends. Their reflections often give me the strength to confront the problem or crisis and find comfort from the belief that I can change for the better.
I am reminded of a woman I heard speak once at a conference. The conference concerned school violence. Her message possessed other meanings beyond school violence. This woman’s story offered us messages of strength and courage. Rachel, a blind, attractive, blond woman, was led to the podium. She began speaking. There was nothing tentative about her stance or her tone. She addressed the audience describing a program she developed to help at-risk children. But as she talked, the focus shifted to her own life. As I sat and listened, I heard a woman describe a night that changed her life. To summarize the main story, she was shot while driving on a dark road; the gunman pretended to offer her help but kidnapped, raped and stabbed her through the night. Playing dead, Rachel managed to escape the man’s apartment the next morning. I marveled at how she survived the brutality of the night, and at the courage she demonstrated after the incident. It was profound. She remained in the hospital recovering from the attack and from her wounds: not the least of which was the loss of her eyesight and the attending disintegration of her marriage.
Many women would have succumbed to despair. Yet Rachel was able to look inside herself and reclaim her life. She swore that the man who had ravaged her body would not possess another second of her life. Her creative spirit, her trust in the process of becoming, her ability to use her internal reality, her faith in herself and perhaps her higher power, channeled a path out of the darkness.
That kind of change comes through inner strength. It surfaces from deep within our beings. This core place houses a woman’s creative spirit, that which is part of her essential essence. Rachel was willing to move through the chaos of change and reshape her tragic event into a life giving force. The life around her and inside of her needed to be given new form. Inspiration and necessity were wedded. It was more than just surviving. It was taking control of her life.
During deeply personal moments of quiet meditation, a woman can see that everything in her life--even the most extreme trauma--is a part of her. Each new experience, though framed in the context of time, adds to the life that is becoming and offers one a reflection of the state of one’s process. The process can be a celebration of self. The possibilities grow as one’s understanding of one’s self grows. Sometimes, the growth comes through failed marriages, loss of employment, finding employment for the first time after many years, or through the death of a dear one. Sometimes it comes through unforeseen events. Growth and self-awareness can come through miracles, such as motherhood, or recovery or accomplishments. The challenge to confront one’s self requires movement and recognition.
There is a price we pay whether we willingly engage or not. The price paid can be positive or negative. Empowerment comes through the acceptance process and embracing change. The existential experience of this is profoundly creative. A woman seeking to understand the essence of her being and the limits of her talents must turn to her creative spirit. In the final analysis, it is creativity, in any manifestation: spiritual, intellectual, physical or emotional, that allows a woman to negotiate the challenges of living life daily--becoming. Women often short-change themselves and their creative spirits by viewing creative behavior too narrowly and separate from how they live. A life based upon a negative vision denies the potential within. Such a path is paved with doubts, fears and disappointments. When a woman utters “if only I had been…” or “if only I had done…,” she negatively shapes her internal and her external environment. Feeling ill-equipped and powerless to manage the flow of change isolates the woman from her creative spirit, and from the tolerance needed to explore. She grows stagnant, perhaps angry, sad or lonely: a harsh reality, and a painful creation.
Ironically, the process of becoming has produced exactly what was envisioned. Creativity is within. How we use it is a reflection of our sense of self and our willingness to become. Women who claim their lives, their creative essential essence, exude possibilities, boundless energy and an inner joy. Following one’s inner call to become and to celebrate the process requires intellect, instinct, passion, humility and trust in becoming. It requires a celebration of self.
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