This is an epic post of great proportions. We’ve taken a break from the norm to bring you an entire collection of thoughts in one stellar post. Seven of us have responded to the theme Fortunes, Predictions & the Year of the Dragon as a tribute to a prosperous new year of good luck, great fortune, and personal well-being. So grab a cup of your favourite tea, maybe some delectable chocolate, and tuck in for a wistful journey through the hearts and minds of women from around the globe. Happy scrolling and Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Enter the Dragon
How can we grow stronger as a world community? What a great question for a year that is purported to be – according to the elusive dragon – core-shaking and transformational. If we had the answer(s) I’m sure we’d be blissfully rolling around in Eden-esque valleys of milk and honey by now. But since we’re still striving for something more, and looking to unify our communities and strengthen the bonds we share with others, I can’t help but think the response is quite elementary: to get to Z you have to start with A; ‘A’ being you, me and the other 7 billion+ inhabitants of planet home via ditching the pessimism and taking on the “be the change you want to see in the world” ideal.
Wait! I know, I know, I used to find the mantra somewhat contrived and magnanimous too (yes I can make changes in my life, but it doesn’t guarantee that anything around me will be transformed for the better and that others will change) but upon reflection I think one big problem was that I aimed the bar too high and had wild expectations. I mean really: “I’m going to cure cancer, be the broker of world peace, own a multinational company and build a time machine” is painfully cute when you’re 12, but it becomes a ridiculously huge task list to juggle when the reality of “adult-life” kicks in.
Forget the big stuff. It’s about heeding Gandhi’s straightforward wisdom and starting with the simple things, the personal things. The stuff we don’t need to wait on tomorrow or next week for, but that we can get on now. Right now. Whatever changes are on the agenda, let’s get started and incorporate them with all the gusto we’ve got. Let’s drop our expectations and stop lamenting the things and people we can’t control as we attempt to find that elusive eudaimonia (what a word!). Even if it’s short lived. Even if it’s only for today. Even if we lose it…let’s find it and enjoy it. Let’s share it. Let’s encourage others to find it. Let’s lose it, find it and share it again.
Vitality, strength, empowerment, ambition, good fortune and success are in the forecast for 2012, so why not give into some of the astrological mysticism and see what can be made of the next 342 days (341, 340, 339…) starting with making a better version of ourselves. As we make our way towards whatever “Zs” we have in mind, our stardust is bound to rub off on those who cross our paths to strengthen the bonds already in place and lay the groundwork for creating new ones. According to our Chinese-inspired horoscopes there’s no better time for action, change and movement, so let’s run with it and see if the butterfly effect takes flight. Let’s look for ways to embrace the onset of another spring and let go of the old so we can incorporate the new. Let’s clear the dust and open the windows, clean out the closets, tidy the corners and make a bit of space since extra room is always needed when transformation comes knocking. Let’s lay out the welcome mat and open the door. Wide. Let’s open it really wide. Enter the dragon.
All fortune stick shaking related items & drawings were conceived by Bridget.
Hong Kong SAR, China
Strength & Courage for Change
From where I’m sitting now, out my window looks quite productive. There are small businesses around my house, which make very specific pieces and parts of the stuff we use everyday. It’s not very nice living next to these noisy small factories, but despite the noise they represent a part of Japan that is disappearing. I’m sure the landscape outside my window will change, if not this year, than soon as the owners of these small businesses retire. People say that manufacturing is dying, so what’s next? In my dreams, I buy the little factory right next door and build a dog park for Ein. Gotta have dreams right….
Looking wider at Japan, I can’t forget about Tohoku, which like any injury is the part you want to hold onto tightly because somehow the pressure makes it feel safer even if it doesn’t stop the pain. Good progress has been made, but there is so much more to be accomplished, I know that the recovery will continue on and that’s a big source of hopefulness. Most of all, the earthquake certainly changed the way I feel about being here, it changed my attitude about my environment, I’ve become a lot freer. I hope that this next year will provide some opportunities to travel around outside Tokyo more.
As far as world events, 2011 was riveting, I’ve not been glued to the news in the way I was during the protests in Egypt since 9/11, no doubt as people were during the earthquake here in Japan. More and more I wonder if we as human beings are ready for something new, for a real investigation into equality in other’s lives. We have been fighting for our own equality but when it’s possible to look outside and fight for others real change has started. Was I proud of the US during the Arab Spring? Did they speak up loud enough and quick enough? Isn’t that what is really means to be an American? To stand up for freedom, to fight when necessary, to speak the truth, to protect the safety of those who speak the truth? Big changes happened and have paved the way for a bright new year of possibility and hard work. We can’t continue on sleepwalking through our lives when we are comfortable, so many people are not.
Rebellion is not a comfortable choice, but it may be a necessary choice. Can we rebel against inequality? If we are truly living in a dystopia, and all signs point to yes, do we each have the strength, awareness, and courage to make some change? Take a look at this summary of the 2012 World Economic Forum in London http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/318144. Pretty bleak, right? Or not. I think reading this we have to stand up and say that we each are global decision makers, we can be powerful, and we can impact the world around us. Empress Tea, although lighthearted and fun is proof of our hyper-connected world, and I’d like to challenge the ladies of our blog to brainstorm with me how we can create change in our communities as a team.
Perhaps we can start a community project, or plan a day of service as a global team of powerful female social change-makers? I’m excited to hear your ideas!
Yours in rebellion,
It’s snow, hard packed, traveled over, waiting for a dusting of freshness to add sparkle and desire. My hair, barely makes it into the elastic, the first pair of glasses I could find in the dark adorn my face, they match my stained fuzzy robe by chance. I’m waiting for the
tile guy to let me know when he will arrive to fix our shower so I can plan the rest of the day, but really, I’d rather be sleeping.
Baby kicks, or more accurately, at this point squirms, inside my belly, I remember why I’m so tired and why I’m not at work for the next year and a wash of je ne c’est quoi over comes me. This is what I’ve wanted for so long, but the best word I can find to describe this current sensation is over whelming. I have become responsible for a life. I will push her out of me with a body that has been learning how to give life for centuries. I will push her out by instinct when I’ve spent months holding her so close.
I am meant to relax; the process will be easier and shorter if I relax. We practice breathing and different positions that will help our daughter make her debut into the world, but have no idea what works for us until the moment arrives. I trust that the three of us will figure it out.
I want her to be kind, to know that everyone is different and that change comes whether you like it or not. I want her to know that you can’t judge anyone without all the facts and even then, well, you just can’t judge and that in order to be loved, you need to love yourself
first. I know how this is done in my dreams, reality will be the test.
I visualize our life together in the sun, playing in the park, free. I don’t often see the snow or feel the cold. Though, I’d like to think I can dress for it if it arrives.
I see the three of us, always warm, cozy and sheltered from the winds of the sub-arctic climate we live in. Life here has a harshness, if you let it, if you’re unprepared, if you don’t plan ahead, if you think you can control or change the weather, but if you accept it, for what it is, it has a way of being a whole lot less fierce, sometimes, even comfortable. Yes, it can be that simple.
Medium: graphite, watercolour & a digital splash. An original artwork by Lem.
Lem von Brünken
Say it with Kindness
There are some days, as I maneuver through Addis Ababa, I wish I had my camera with me. A beautiful girl of about 12 years old tentatively approached me, asking for money to buy bread. This is different from the norm in that there’s usually an “express lane” in any foreigners’ direction in attempts to ask for money/bread/food etc. But as sweet as her face was, putting a camera in a stranger’s face is not my style. I know some cultures believe that having your photo taken can steal a person’s soul. And I think by being a happy snapping foreigner here, I could yield that power over a subject. I bought her oranges instead and drove away before I could sense any inclination of thankfulness (or lack of) on her part. I really just wanted to be kind for kindness’ sake. And that’s how I want to continue 2012. With kindness. And I don’t want to do it because Oprah or the G-O-D folks say I should. I want to do it because my soul needs to. And I don’t mean my glorygloryhallelujah “soul” but that inner-me that’s beginning to speak louder and louder – she’s happy, she’s tearful, she’s joyful, she’s angry – and she’s even a little bit scary because who knows what she’ll be feeling from one minute to the next. But I want to listen to Her.
As much as I know there will be bigger buildings and more availability (and hopefully ballet lessons for my 4 year old) in Addis, many things will stay the same. Often when you see so many people in need, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Despite the fact there are dozens upon dozens of NGOs, there is little access for those who live here to be able to do some good on a grander scale. So I’ll start with me. I want to give freely and without question as to who might be more deserving. Aren’t we all deserving? I’m going to keep my Kindness Box stocked in the back of my car and when I’m approached (or even better – when I’m NOT approached), I’ll give clothes and toys and peanut butter freely to those who obviously have so little. Maybe the clothes won’t fit just right but it’s for them to decide what to do with them. They can sell them for that night’s dinner and have their little ones go to bed with full tummies. There is sadness and joy in that for me. My soul will be fed as well.
There is beauty in Ethiopia. And it’s not all about what people DON’T have. There are smiling faces upon more glowing smiling faces. There is love and peace and family (and even greenery!). I would like to think that by showing Kindness in the place I now call home, where my daughters were born and are loved by so many that I can give on a small scale and help another family find there way as well. One orange/t-shirt/jar of peanut butter at a time. When you start plotting Kindness, there seems endless ways of surprising people – 20 birr hidden inside some bread! A new shawl for a mama to carry her baby! It’s going to be exciting. And no, it won’t be selfless acts of giving because I plan on getting something out of it as well. I want to hear my soul sing in a way that I’ve never been open to before. That seems a little scary to me but I want to grow and change this year. So 2012 – the year of Kindness, Soul Searching and Change.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Experiment with Happiness
Sitting in the living room of my new apartment I see an already familiar vista… the sun setting over snow covered roofs, steel grey skies turning blue in the coming twilight, melding with the distant dome of a church. In the coming year I hope the view remains unchanged, but anticipate seeing at least one condo tower spring up somewhere west of me, increased traffic congestion (and the attendant air quality issues), and a deterioration of our cultural landscape. I only hope that the changes that our Mayor, Rob Ford, intends for Toronto are not too damaging or irreversible. My greatest wish is that someone finds a way to depose or impeach him before heʼs able to put a lasting blemish upon the face of this city. I do hope, however, that this experience will teach Torontonians to work together, speak out, and lobby for effective change at city hall. A city that is notoriously apathetic and generally spoiled, we need to learn how not to take it all for granted.
Our country managed to vote in a voice for significant change in the guise of Jack Layton, with his NDP party becoming the official opposition in a staggering leap of representative seats. I hope that somehow, despite the passing of Gentleman Jack, the party can solidify their power and keep the momentum theyʼve gained proving to be a formidable voice in Canadian politics and weakening the hold that the Conservatives have had over the past decade.
Worldwide, I think it will turn out to be a bad year to be a dictator. I believe that the “apocalypse” some people predict with the ending of the Mayan Calendar is less an end of the world than an era of great change. Weʼve already seen the beginnings in the major uprisings in the Middle East. Kim Jon Il has passed, and while it is evident that his successor is no better than he, we can hope that his tenure as ruler is fated to end before it really begins.
The internet has already begun to bring us together as a global community. It is a valuable tool not just in communication, but also in revelation. We can now see and virtually experience what life is like all around the world. Images flood our screens with a few keystrokes. What we need to do with the information that we now have access to is let it guide us morally, encourage us to raise our voices against injustice, and think more clearly about what those in other parts of the world experience. One of the clearest areas we need to focus on is the status of women, both home and abroad. Supporting the strength and generosity of women invariably leads to growth and innovation within communities.
As for me? Iʼm experimenting with being happy where I am in life. Iʼm going to focus on living in the now with an eye to the future, but not the restlessness and dissatisfaction that comes from that comes from focusing on tomorrow not on today. I am going to judge my success by happiness and personal joy, not measuring myself on some imaginary timeline. There is no such yardstick. It is a falsehood propagated by society, and has no bearing on actual individual happiness. Some people do everything at the right time, hitting all the marks on the timeline; some people do none of it. In neither instance is one guaranteed to be happy or unhappy. Happiness is where you find it, and Iʼve decided to find it right where I am. I may never win an Oscar for Excellence in Costume Design, or find “the one” and get blissfully married, or even own my own house. I certainly didnʼt do any of those things by thirty as my twenty year old self expected. And if I happen upon any of those things any time before I shuffle off this mortal coil, Iʼm certainly not going to berate myself for not having done it sooner. Life is what happens when youʼre busy making plans. So Iʼll keep planning, but Iʼm also going to take the time to enjoy the scenery as I do.