December 30, 2012

{A Romance with Self}

[At this time of year, here's a lovely way to end something completing and begin something anew—“A Romance with Self” ... an excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride....enjoy!]

Like so many characters in a Jane Austen novel, some people sell themselves short in the area of romance, not considering themselves worthy of what their hearts truly desire. They make an “arrangement” where they settle for something meager with no romance at all, with nothing that lights them up. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s dear, rather plain friend Charlotte Lewis considers it “best not to know too much” when considering the slim possibilities of marriage—a rather necessary state for women in a world at that time where their legal rights and education opportunities were suppressed. Women had learned they were not able to trust a societal system that had let them down in so many ways. A humble Charlotte to a bold Lizzie:

I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’ character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.

We are all worthy of being a full partner in our relationships and in marriage—even a royal one! Full partnership, however, requires an open heart, trusting in yourself, asking for what you want, and a forgiving spirit. It takes a lot of courage not to “settle” for things in our life—whether choosing a single life or one with a partner. If what your heart desires is being deeply related to another who recognizes and accepts who you are just the way you are, then it’s not the romance that gets you there—although its passion can warm your heart at first. It is intimacy that guides you into the openings for this kind of love.

What if Princess Diana had realized that romance was just the first step in a relationship—a way to “warm up” for the harder stuff? What if she had been able to see romance as a way to soften the heart when expectations fall short? What if she had been willing and able to recreate the love she felt over and over, like a “soulful romance,” giving her relationships a chance to grow? What if she could have loved herself in a way that love for a partner was fully given and fully received? Where do you see yourself in this scenario?

Oscar Wilde said: “To love one’s self is the beginning of a life-long romance.” This is one way where I see romance having an authentic, vibrant role in our everyday lives. When we allow every moment to be a precious gift—with or without a partner, no matter our circumstances—and learn to love ourselves just the way we are. Like a romance with self! Then every moment is an “enthusiasm” as Webster’s definition reads and, as author Ann Albers so beautifully expresses, “cooking becomes an act of love, cleaning an act of harmony, work an act of self-expression. Our life would be a romance with self, a romance with the divine, a romance with every moment in time.” Amen. ~
[At this time of year, here's a lovely way to end something completing and begin something anew—“A Romance with Self” ... an excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride....]

December 21, 2012

{This Moment}

[In honor of all the cosmic changes swirling this time of year and the connections to the ancient Mayans, I share this excerpt from "Is That the Truth?" in Chapter One of my upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]
        In this book’s introduction, I spoke of the significance of the year 2011 in the legacy of Princess Diana. [It was the 30th anniversary of Diana and Prince Charles' wedding, the year of her 50th birthday, and the year her oldest son William—with whom she had a deep soul-level connection—married.] But what I described as a shapeshifting sort of year also held some far-reaching cosmic landmarks for people, containing ideas that move beyond our sense of time and space and beliefs, yet continue to shape our search for deepening awareness—and encourage us to question “is that true or is that illusion?”

One such landmark related to a discovery about the legendary Mayan calendars—yes, there was more than one and all a complicated series of inscriptions, codes and glyphs. Yet one of those calendars, according to Dr. Carl Johan Calleman, was a timeline marking the evolution of consciousness from the beginning of time, some 16.4 billion years ago, into the future—and that future is now! This is what had people focusing on the year 2012 for decades. However, October 28, 2011 was the date that Dr. Calleman and other Mayan experts, reconfiguring this ancient almanac of sacred time, declared as the calendar’s actual last recorded day; not December 21, 2012 as long thought. (Nor, as talking-heads had shouted for years, was it to be “the end of the world”—only the end of “old time.”) So whenever you read this—the age of new beginnings, the “new time” is here. At this very moment, we are inside what the wisdom of ancient mystics foretold: the new era of “developed consciousness.” What that means may be a bit fuzzy, but this is what it says to me: You are now free of your past! The world is your co-creative playmate so go and celebrate your life, trusting in this blessedly sweet moment, and do what lights you up.

And if the world looks a little bleak still (it usually gets darker before the light breaks through), there’s a reason since these kind of global shifts take time—it’s a big ole universe! One of those Mayan calendars, experts say, was tracking Earth’s galactic alignment and according to its calculations we’re still on the dark side of the Milky Way—we have a few more years before we’re “out of the Cosmic Woods and back into the ‘light’,” author and Taoist teacher Michael Winn explains. (Unless you’re reading this after, say 2016, then we’re already there!) ‘Til then, hold deep in your heart what the heroic Dr. Calleman’s years of study discovered about the Mayans and their divinely guided revelations: That we are at the beginning of the “long rumored” Age of Enlightenment, or as others may call it, the Golden Age, Heaven on Earth, the 1,000 Years of Peace.

Is all this the truth? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I choose the story that comes from love instead of fear. I know that when I am quiet and look to the wisdom of stillness within, I feel this new consciousness and I trust. So whatever year it is, whatever pain or obstacles are in front of you, choose love in the magic of this very moment.

What else is it about 2011 that may shine some light on this magical mystery tour we’re all on? It was also the year that welcomed the “day of ones” on November 11, 2011: 11.11.11. Numerologists say that eleven is considered a “power number” and elevens together form a gateway of no obstructions, of open flow. So on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour (Greenwich Mean Time) of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, people worldwide came together for a moment of quiet awareness and simply paused—just to be in the moment. And in so doing, it became a moment of unity consciousness and your life was changed whether you participated or not—or even if you had no idea what day it was! (A little over a year later something similar happened on December 12, 2012—perhaps attention on the date was as much about the anticipation of the publicized end of the Mayan calendar on the 21st as it was about rare numerology and unique astronomical alignments.)

However, something shifted in your life and the world not because these numbers or dates essentially “mean” anything. (Paraphrasing transformational teacher Werner Erhard: Something happens—it is what it is—and then we make it mean something. Then we live our lives out of the “meaning” that we made up!) The world shifted because of where the numbers had us go: within, and what they had us notice: each other. It wasn’t about numbers, but about relationship…about where we put our attention. These phenomena did and will show us that in the infinitesimal gasp of a moment, we can feel connected to the world.

Consequently these numbers and dates were perhaps just a vehicle to create an awareness of a new possibility; to bring people together in like consciousness to really see each other. It was an opportunity to look into the galactic mirror of ourselves—perhaps to know the truth? And then again, maybe it was something else.
So whatever future day or year it happens to be when you are reading this, keep in mind and heart:
Every belief can be reframed with another meaning and every meaning has a different interpretation; ancient wisdom can affect the present, yet the present reinvents itself in the moment; every moment is a possibility of the discovery of something divine and the divinity is already inside you; nothing is completely what it seems and what it seems is simply a clue into its truth; there is nothing that holds you back from creating the life you love that your mind cannot re-imagine; all of life is a mystery of the heart and it takes an open heart to hear the message you were born to receive. 
And the life of a beautiful princess—its shadows, its light; what we think we saw and heard and read about it, or what mysteries happened a bit “beyond the veil”—is just the life of a beautiful princess. It can inspire us to open our hearts and be a compassionate force in the world or it can dazzle us ‘til we lose ourselves again. It’s what we do with our life that makes the difference. And you get to choose, this very moment.
Given the “as above, so below” mysteries of the universe, perhaps it was no accident that Diana, who became an archetypal princess known for her compassionate heart, appears on the world’s radar the same time, around the winter solstice of 1980, that the Earth began its transit across what experts call our galaxy’s Dark Rift—a journey to last as many years as she lived. Who knows why people give up their lives—I believe the timing is connected to some bigger calling—but maybe the worldwide blasting open of hearts at Diana’s death (and followed by Mother Teresa’s death a few days later), midway through the Earth’s transit, was part of this comic puzzle. The heart energy released has been helping move us safely through the remaining years of darkness as, in Winn’s words, “the Earth’s slowly tilting axis fully crosses this darkened area of the Galactic center.” The Mayans predicted this astronomically many centuries ago just as they saw we are now moving literally, figuratively, cosmically, spiritually—however you want to call it—into the light of the new consciousness. (I love it when modern culture has to acknowledge that ancient wisdom may be far beyond our own in some ways and that modern science is not the only way to “see” things!) 
Heavenly bodies have been busy with mysterious movements and alignments for the Earth to get poised just so, but heaven has also been busy re-aligning our hearts in anticipation of what’s next. Almost fifteen years after Princess Diana’s death, the planet named after the ancient Roman Goddess of Love was in the news. The transit of Venus becomes a kind of eclipse in rare and historically foretelling occurrences, “but instead of the moon covering the sun or vice versa, the planet Venus shows up outlined against the solar orb,” as spiritual business blogger Elizabeth Locey explains it. (The Venusian girl takes center stage in front of Old Man Sun!) A rare happening, yes, but it happens in pairs eight years apart and the “Venus Transit” in 2012 was the back-end of the pair, creating “a huge portal of energy.” In the past, this wave of feminine, inventive, open, intuitive energies “ushered in a new age” like the European Renaissance which was the first blush of an age of enlightenment; and during other Venus Transits, Magellan discovered the world was round, the telephone was patented and additional mass communication methods were devised—all building to this era of a network of global interconnections. And according to those who are keenly tuned-in to these cosmic energies, this most recent Venus Transit was a humdinger…bringing the rebirth, the renaissance of the Divine Feminine. And if 2012—considered the year of choice—was indeed the year, according to Locey, that “at one critical moment, every heart [was] read” by those of some divine realm in order to see if love outweighed fear, then wherever you are this moment, it is the perfect time to breathe in the energies of love and light—like the Goddess Venus herself—then breathe love back out into this amazing, abundant world where your best self is patiently waiting.

“This is our time now to shine,” spiritual teacher and healer Jo Dunning shared as she explained the energetic flow of the Venus Transit. “Our time to live from our heart and allow our belief in something much greater to carry us through the changes currently taking place. This time right now is just the completion of the old ways to make room for the creation of something new.” If there was ever a time for us to realize that there is always another way to look at things, it is now. “This time of change is sometimes known as chaos, or the Divine Chaos of Creation,” Dunning added. “It is from the chaos that we will begin to create something much more wonderful for everyone.” Whatever time it is, whatever doubts you may have, whatever is happening in the heavens above or bubbling up from the Earth beneath us, it is time to believe in love. ~ 

[In honor of all the cosmic changes swirling this time of year and the connections to the ancient Mayans, I share this excerpt from Chapter One "Is That the Truth?" from my upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]


December 6, 2012

{While Everyone Is Looking}

[This a reprint of my article in the Winter 2012 issue of SEASON Magazine. Once online, click the cover image and scroll to page 86...or just enjoy here! CP] 


I remember as a young associate editor at Vogue magazine in the early 1970s when fashion director Polly Mellen—famous for starting international style trends—told me she wore black to a friend’s wedding. Once I caught my breath I responded: “I don’t think it’s a trend that’ll catch on!” There was a time—hard to believe now with the ubiquitous black bridesmaid dresses—that wearing black to a wedding (as a guest or bridal attendant) was unheard of since black had long been considered the color of mourning in our culture.

I may have been wrong about the future popularity of wearing black to weddings and perhaps a bit old-fashioned in this anything goes modern world, but sometimes what’s “appropriate” is also what’s most “attractive.” And maybe I’m stepping on toes here, but black is not a color that looks good on everybody, it doesn’t photograph well (haven’t you seen photographs of bridal attendants where it’s mostly a black blob?) and it’s just not a happy color! (Aren’t weddings about celebration?)

Another wedding fashion trend not on my favorites list is the obsession for strapless gowns. (Although I believe when a “trend” lasts longer than most marriages, it becomes a “classic” whether we like it or not!) I understand the strapless appeal in our over-sized, over-casual, over-sexy world: without shoulders and sleeves, it can be an easy fit for all sizes, comfortable to move around in and yes, even glamorous—d├ęcolletage is in! 

However, in an effort to save us from ourselves, I’ve written articles and blog posts for many years with titles like “Consider Not Wearing a Strapless Dress, Unless…” explaining how when you move, your strapless gown doesn’t necessarily move with you, nor does it camouflage anything and it exposes much more than you ever imagined. But it’s not even the underarms, the explosion of breasts or having to stare at bare backs during the wedding service; it’s that ugly “tug.”
I’ve seen brides and bridesmaids—who have great poise otherwise and look good in their strapless gown (from most angles)—do that awkwardly unattractive underarm “yank and tug” like they’re in the privacy of the ladies’ room instead of while everyone’s actually looking on! I understand that the gown feels like it’s falling off, but if brides don’t want their wedding remembered for such “oops” moments, then maybe every strapless gown should come with a must-read “code of conduct” before wearing.

(Although there was no correlation in the strapless trend and the closing of my bridal art-to-wear shop in Atlanta at the end of 1999, but my designers did vow to strike if they had to make one more strapless gown!)

All that said, every generation has their share of “How could I have done that?” kind of trends. Maybe it’ll be okay if we make choices as best we can and just hope there’s no cell phone camera around at those awkward moments when we assume no one is looking! (And with the high divorce rate, you think it’s true all that black worn at weddings does indeed deliver ominous wishes for the bride and groom?) Even more than ever, it’s a brave new world! ~

November 30, 2012

{A Divine Destiny} Part Two

[This is Part Two of a two-part excerpt from "A World of Celebrity"... a section of my upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]

Derek Lamar speaks about Diana’s healing force in her expression of femaleness and how, at her death, “our sense of loss was also finding something that we didn’t know was there…the female aspect within ourselves.” This nurturing, more compassionate feminine dimension has been missing in action for the world as a whole, as well as within men and women individually. Diana’s death became a universal recognition of “what we thought we lost was our moment of finding ourselves.”

No wonder that young, feminine, vulnerable, beautiful bride drew us into her world so profoundly, capturing something of our hearts to make sure that we paid close attention so not to miss the deeper messages that would require our “big Self” to hear and see. Looking beyond the glitter, beyond the drama and angst, beyond the soap opera-like life style—even beyond her bold acts of hands-on kindness—we see into the background of what was being acted out. And there, what was really happening over Diana’s short lifetime comes out of the shadow.

After her divorce and a year or so before her death, Diana was searching for a greater sense of freedom: for love and relationship, for a place to live to have a safe and more private life as well as to be able to explore a deeper relationship with herself. She may not have found such personal freedom, yet we see results of her influence in the more authentic lives her ex-husband and two sons are living, including Charles’ and William’s relationships with their wives.

So whether we’re under the influence of the Age of Aquarius, or the energies of planet Venus, or some new world order shaped by a beautiful princess—or whether you only trust and believe what you can see, hear, taste, smell or physically feel—whatever you believe or don’t believe, once you’ve looked deep into your on heart, it’d be hard to deny that the world is indeed dancing to a new tune! And although the naysayers and complainers and mean-spirited pundits out there may be really loud and forceful, and equality and cooperation may seem like a distant dream, “nothing changes the environment,” as Neale Donald Walsch wrote, “like one person deciding to love another, no matter what.”

What if we used Diana’s life—not what we might consider“right or wrong, or whether she found “true love,” or if she stumbled or soared but if we use the immense energy of her life’s impact (that became undeniable at her death and we can now see years later in the lives she helped shape), to inspire a worldwide movement? A movement where people get to choose from their wise, authentic self to build empowering, nurturing relationships where, no matter their background or family traditions or personal fears, they are encouraged to open their hearts to give and receive unconditional love. What if this bigger picture of Diana’s life—looking beyond the story, the illusion and the fairy tale into the deep spirit of her life—inspired establishing a platform for the possibility of, what author Gary Zukav calls, “spiritual partnerships”? What if?

I wrote the above paragraph five or so years before Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding and now, thanks to his mother’s legacy, are we not seeing this possibility realized? I believe we’ll see in the relationship of this open-hearted, grounded, aware and appealing modern couple—the future King and Queen of Great Britain—a template for “spiritual partnership” lived out on one of the most spot-lit world stages. “What if?”indeed! ~

[This is Part Two of a two-part excerpt from "A World of Celebrity"... a section of my upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]

November 22, 2012

{A Divine Destiny} Part One

[This is Part One of a two-part excerpt from "A World of Celebrity"... a section of my book-in-progress The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]

As experiences of archetypal personalities can do, living out her life on a world stage put the spotlight not only on Princess Diana’s “small self” (fearful and manipulative) and her “big Self” (intuitively aware and kind-hearted), but also on the weaknesses and strengths of all of us. And I believe the message of her life is about honoring our life by learning to love ourselves just the way we are and be willing to grow into the person that our wiser self knows we can become. Some call her life a sacrifice; I call it a divine destiny.

Astrologer Steffan G. Vanel, author of a book on Diana from 2005, stated in Oracle 20/20 magazine: “…there is no doubt that there was something archetypal in our collective experience of Diana, something involving a Princess, being royal, and thus something elevated or potentially attuned to higher spiritual forces, with divine feminine qualities.”

Nor is it an accident that Diana’s life came as signs pointed to the beginning of what’s known as the Aquarian Age; an age that is said to bring the feminine principle of relatedness and cooperation. “Or imbalance as humans,” Derek Lamar wrote, “is coming to a close as we begin to realize ‘Oneness.’ Princess Diana expresses the love, care, and nurturing aspects of true femaleness which mankind intuitively was attracted to, as a magnet has a force which pulls until there is contact (Oneness).” Diana’s life was to help us interpret these feminine energies so both women and men can then integrate them not only into our personal experience, but also into a harsh world in need of nurturing.

As the world is opening more and more to the feminine heart, it’s interesting to explore what ancient scholars meant by these astrologically named universal energies. In her studies of matriarchal societies, author Ellie Crystal wrote:

The Aquarian Age is meant to reconcile ancient dichotomies, to integrate male and female energies, and to coordinate heart and mind and right and left hemispheres of the brain. Wherever polarities exist, we have an opportunity to raise consciousness and find a higher perspective from which to view life—a more balanced position, if you will.

From what I understand, on this metaphysical level, it requires the feminine energies to take the lead in order to have an era of consciousness and light. Was that part of Princess Diana’s purpose—to help prepare the way? “Within the psyche,” spiritual author Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee writes, “the feminine carries the mystery hidden in the dance of creation. As much as she is a temptress, she is also a guide who, like Dante’s Beatrice, can lead a man to the secret places of the soul.”

Of course, as it can with an individual, both masculine and feminine energies can get out of balance on a broader scale with an entire cultural era becoming skewed. And “just as in our time line we see masculine force misused, evidence is that at a certain time in the past, woman over-reached her power,” Crystal explained. But thank goodness the pendulum swings and we’re in a cycle of civilization moving back toward fairness similar to “the last era of equality, [where] allegedly male and female powers were of equal importance.”

It may not feel like parity from where you are standing; there’s a great deal of turmoil out there. However, notice the key topics in today’s news: people’s health; the welfare and rights of women and children; quality of food and water; condition of the Earth; standing up for democracy—issues that spring from the nurturing aspect in us. “There is a reason that the Divine Feminine has awoken first upon the Earth,” explains teacher and natural healer Norma Gentile about current events. “She provides the context, reflection and container (Grail) into which the Sacred Masculine energies might safely fall. Without this container, the Sacred Masculine energies are more apt to be utilized in a linear ‘get it all done’ manner.” (Or in more day-to-day language: Left to their own “small self” devices, men may over-do, women may under-do, but working together with their “big Self” leading—being reflective, thoughtful, patient and creative—we are more apt to move toward peaceful resolution and equality.) ~

[This is Part One of a two-part excerpt from "A World of Celebrity"... a section of my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. Part Two will be posted in a week or so!]


November 13, 2012

{Changing Times & Girl Power} Part Three

[This is the last of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." ]

There is a wonderful song, written by the late Linda Creed and Michael Masser and made famous in the mid-1980s by Whitney Houston, called “The Greatest Love of All.” The ballad reminds us that the greatest love is inside us. The song’s lyrics are a call to adults that their most important job is to teach children how beautiful they are inside and out, to encourage them to play their happy dance, and to be living proof that they too can always find strength and courage through love.

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.
The song lyrics encourage us to “find your strength in love” and to “not give away your dignity” and that “love is always inside you.” However, there are times when we may feel love is not enough, especially when we have to explain some difficult things to our children since television and the Internet bring a volatile, hostile world graphically into our laps. The fears that rise up with the changes in global societies are also bringing increased abuse to women and children around the world. When we learn of these atrocities via the news, documentaries, books and films, it’s hard to know sometimes what to do to help or what to tell our children.
During her lifetime, Princess Diana went straight into this fire with open arms and a mother’s courage to bring her loving energy and to put the world on notice: Women and children will not be denied a voice! ~
[This is the last of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. For the other two parts, click on "Changing Times & Girl Power" in the Labels list below.]

November 1, 2012

{Changing Times & Girl-Power} Part Two

[This is the second of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." ]

Diana also felt more open to bring her lighthearted playfulness into her life and relationships—something that at times had been criticized as inappropriate as HRH. But her giggly joke telling, big appealing laugh and sense of fun was one of the things her friends remember the most. “Laughter was ‘the essential ingredient in our relationship,’ wrote longtime pal Annabel [Goldsmith] in the Daily Mail after Diana’s death,” reported biographer Sally Bidell Smith.  

Jungian analyst Josephine Evetts-Secker believes that one of the strongest archetypes or models in the Diana complex was that of puella—the playful girl. It is an energy that, although it can “carry vital spiritual energy,” can be “misunderstood and misinterpreted, because of its lightness and intense spontaneity.”  Evetts-Secker explains in her essay for the book When a Princess Dies that “our culture does not know how to love maturing girls; this is an area of deep neurosis. We seem to sentimentalize and/or exploit them. There is much fear of them, because of their power to seduce. Yet we are so susceptible to innocence, longing for it and mistrusting it simultaneously.”
Do we fear what fully opens us to our most tender, spacious, light-hearted self? Is it our vulnerability that frightens us the most? What would the world be like if we had more wholesome playful energy; more lighthearted thoughtful energy; more genuine spontaneous energy; more lovingly shared touching energy? Was this at the heart of what Diana was attempting to bring to the world? “We might give Diana’s story the title ‘The Princess who wanted to play’. This does not exclude the possibility of being taken seriously; in fact, it must enforce it, if we can only reform our conception of play,” Evetts-Secker concludes.

The “playful nurturer on a serious mission” is perhaps Diana’s most personal legacy for women. To play with heart is the way to keep the “power” in the “girl-power” that began stirring again throughout the world in the 1990s. We are encouraged to use our innate nurturing abilities—no matter the circumstances swirling in our lives—to help “tender” the world’s frayed edges, as we bring a tenderness to our own. And we are set free to play! To be a “well-rounded” grown-up, a life coach friend of mine encouraged his class to “combine the playfulness of a child with the intelligence of an adult.” Shake loose any “shoulda, coulda, woulda” cobwebs that might be holding you back and go play in the divine, blessed, infinitely abundant universe awaiting you.

Finding our own lost or suppressed “little girl playfulness” can assist young girls in finding their authentic self—and love what they find! In this noisy, frenzied second decade of the still new millennium, young girls—the puella of our time—have many harsh, mean-spirited, and vulgar role models. They are pressured to conform to a peer group, many of which are based on these same extreme anger-prone role models. They are bombarded with messages in today’s youth oriented, image driven world to look beautiful and sexy like a Barbie doll or fashion model or rock star. Young girls are bought padded bras to wear even before their breast develop, sending misconstrued messages to boys in their world. The confused mixed messages are dizzying. Girls are served up un-natural, refined, fat-producing foods while being told they must be thin to succeed. They are encouraged to succeed without being taught good manners where kindness comes first. They are being told that women can be independent yet being inundated with media images and examples of the aggressive ‘he’ man and the coy but seductive ‘girl-woman.’

Shift that message by demonstrating in your life that there is power in tenderness, and success in being loving; that being cool is reaching out to people who are different, and that being different is just being different—not right or wrong. And that to love and accept yourself just the way you are is the coolest thing of all!

There may not be a royal princess with a whirlwind life in your world, but I bet there are girls and women of all ages and stages of their lives who could use someone to reach out to them—and every “rite-of-passage” type occasion is a perfect opportunity. Look for ways to connect with young girls and teenagers to encourage their vision. Look for ways to connect with older women to encourage your vision, and their wisdom. Go dance your playful power dance and invite others to join in. ~

[This is the second of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." Click on "Changing Times and Girl Power" in Labels list below for the other excerpts.]

October 25, 2012

{Changing Times & Girl-Power} Part One

[This is the first of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." ]

As the world is shifting and the role of women becomes more open and far-reaching today, it is even more important for women to connect with each other in empowering, mature, loving support and friendship. Whether to help fill in the self-esteem gaps missing since girlhood, or to boost one’s confidence with some ‘that a girl!’ cheers during life’s transitions and rite-of-passages, or just for some heart-to-heart conversation—circle up the women-folk in your world! Attend to each other. Teach young girls not only how loving and supportive women can be for each other, but how satisfying the rewards are.

The young Diana may not have gathered ‘round women from her personal world during her own wedding planning time, but she reached out to women friends for supportive and nurturing company at other times of her life—especially when she needed to find her balance and direction again. And she gave as good as she got. Despite her royal status, the changing times swept into her world and the princess looked at her life with an independent eye and to her community of women friends to buoy her along.

For Diana, “…as the fantasy began to crumble,” Rosalind Coward, author of Diana: The Portrait, stated, “something more interesting began to emerge. In that era of female self-discovery, Diana, too, was a young woman forced into creating a working life and identity for herself.” Like women all over the world, the most glamorous woman of her time looked to see how to organize her private and public life, including motherhood (since she was a hands-on mother despite the old royal protocol) and a busy work schedule (public appearances and charity work were her duty and she was in constant demand.) And also like a lot of modern women then and now, Diana looked toward her personal happiness beyond children and work.
Post-divorce, as she was re-focusing and re-defining her work commitments and re-assessing her motherly role, she spoke to Paul Burrell (her friend, butler and helpmate) about her boys and a secret wish for herself. “‘They have both been brought up with enormous love, support and direction,’…then added: ‘Now it is time to find my happiness…if I’m fortunate enough.’” You may not have the protocols of royalty or the schedule of a sought after princess to deal with in your life, but if you were peering through your full, busy, complicated life, what would “finding happiness” look like for you? At this time in her life, Diana felt as thought she’d lost herself and seemed ready to explore new paths of self-discovery. How would you find that sense of belonging to yourself again?
Quoting from Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love: “If I am to truly become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian.” What would it look like, sound like, feel like to be the true “guardian” of your own life?  ~

[This is the first of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." Part Two posted soon!]

October 15, 2012

{Relics of a Marriage}

Elyse Defoor's current art exhibition in Atlanta, Relics of a Marriage, features a collection of wedding dresses worn by a variety of women through the years. Not shown as delicate "princess gowns" but hanging more like shouds, naturally on their own weight, the gowns become unromantic reminders of what was, what could have been, what never was. Elyse's vision for the display is to act as an invitation to open "a dialogue on the mythology and  beliefs around the concept marriage."
The exhibition ends on October 27; Elyse is having an "artist talk" on Sunday October 21. Click here for more information.

Below is a short excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that speaks to this "white wedding gown" mythology.

Scholar Elizabeth Freeman, in The Wedding Complex: Formsof Belonging in Modern American Culture, points to the industrial “white wedding” phenomenon that exploded after the middle of the twentieth century and the judgmental attitudes that grew out of it. She asks: “Why does the white wedding make the couple, especially the bride, look sacred and untouchable even as it puts them on an often embarrassing regulatory display? Why does it englobe the couple in mystique, and yet also seem to make them run the gauntlet of spectators and pass a series of tests?” In modern cultures marriage is a choice, but a choice of what? For some couples the wedding ceremony seems to have become a robotic procedure to go through while dressed in fancy costumes. Does the heart of the “wedding complex” often reveal, as Freeman says, a woman’s “longings not for marriage necessarily but for public forms of attachment, ceremony, pageantry, and celebration”?   

Darcy Cosper describes young women becoming brides in her novel Wedding Season as a chance to “live out a dream that may very well have haunted them from girlhood.” In parts of the world where the “white wedding” is de rigeur wedding protocol, a particular womanly ritual is repeated over and over. Brides-to-be, usually with an enthusiastic entourage, gather in mirrored salons devoted to ‘princess myth enthralled women’ trying on those fabled white feminine-to-the-core gowns. “The grandest dress of her lifetime,” as Carol McD. Wallace described it in All Dressed in White, and the bride wanted to make the most of the occasion! “This was as glamorous as her life was going to get, as close as Everygirl would come to being royal,” the author added.

The activity of trying on gowns—these potentially deeply connecting, heart opening rites-of-passage with friends and family—have all too often become angst-riddled girly ceremonies driven by too many opinions and much too much “all about the dress”—and cleavage—commercial drama. (And now fathers or male friends or fianc├ęs sometime get in on the once hallowed all-female ritual.) Over-the-top television reality shows dramatically portray various aspects of the “wedding complex”—from courtship to the complications of planning the wedding.
Shows like “The Bachelor” and “Say Yes to the Dress” drive the notion deeper into the culture’s susceptibility that weddings are part of the entertainment industry instead of about intimacy and deepening relationship and connection. But it seemed to always come back to “the dress.” “Even the feminist writer Naomi Wolf, in an essay called ‘Brideland,’ confirms the unreasonable grip on the psyche that this white gown possesses,” Wallace shared. ~

[Excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress]

[Bridal images from "Say Yes to the Dress"]

October 8, 2012

{The Goddess Bride} from Season Magazine

[This is a reprint of my article from the Autumn 2012 issue of SEASON MAGAZINE.  I feature Princess Diana, the ultimate "goddess bride," in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.]

A practice from ancient cultures—that continues today in parts of the world—heralded the bride as a heroine, honoring and attending her like a queen. These intimate bridal rituals included being bathed, perfumed, painted, pierced, bejeweled, coiffed, wrapped, draped, veiled, adorned with flowers, extravagantly dressed (sometimes changing costumes several times over days- or week-long ceremonies)—and elevated to goddess stature!

For thousands of years, according to mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, honoring the goddess was a “primordial attempt on humanity’s part to understand and live in harmony with the beauty and wonder of Creation.” Modern culture continues to be enchanted with the “goddess-like” image of the bride—is that because she is a reminder of that harmony…the continuity of life, love, and all that our hearts hold dear?

Even the origin of the word “bride” comes from the legend of the goddesses. In her book, The Ancient British Goddess, Kathy Jones explains that in Celtic ancestral wisdom, the goddess Brigit, considered the Maiden Goddess of Springtime, is also known as Bride in its Gaelic form. It makes perfect sense that our bridal traditions have their origins in the essence of spring: an abundant, life-giving time of renewal and beauty. I tell brides in my book, The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself, about Bride as the goddess “who gave her name to a woman about to wed. Therefore, as a bride, you are the true namesake of a goddess!”

But a bride’s goddess legacy doesn’t stop there. Kathy Jones also includes this reference in her stories about Bride: “Bride is symbolically a horse goddess and her consort, the young god, is depicted as her groom, lavishly attending her.”  Perhaps that’s a confirmation that being a bride also comes with your goddess birthright to be lovingly attended and cared for! Isn’t that what we all want in relationships—to be deeply appreciated and attended to in the most loving ways? (What woman would not want to be “honored like a goddess” at all times of her life?)

As many modern weddings became more notable for their amazing lack of intimacy—lovely to look at, but a bit formula-like and commercial—the goddess legends can be reminders how real beauty is an inside job! It’s natural for brides to want to look beautiful on their wedding day, but being “goddess-like” is putting your attention on something deeper. It takes opening your heart and sharing what you find there in all of your relationships. (It’s just naturally what a goddess would do!) Here’s a tip: Be the “goddess of love” today—then all of life, including our wedding celebrations, gets just a little bit sweeter. ~
[This is a reprint of my article from the Autumn 2012 issue of SEASON MAGAZINE. I feature Princess Diana, the ultimate "goddess bride," in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.]

[Bottom photo: David Willems]


September 30, 2012

{Half the Sky}

[This post and book excerpt is in honor of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women—the book and the two-part PBS program broadcast in October. This particular excerpt from my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress, is from a section called "Women Attending Women."] 

There are times when we may feel love is not enough, especially when we have to explain some difficult things to our children since television and the Internet bring a volatile, hostile world graphically into our laps. The fears that rise up with the changes in global societies are also bringing increased abuse to women and children around the world. When we learn of these atrocities via the news, documentaries, books and films, it’s hard to know sometimes what to do to help or what to tell our children. During her lifetime, Princess Diana went straight into this fire with open arms to bring her loving energy and to put the world on notice: Women and children will not be denied a voice!

The book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Pulitzer Prize winners (and husband and wife) Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is a passionate call to arms against what has been called “our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.” Kristof also added: “These kinds of abuses—along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work—arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.” Through stories in their book, the couple shows how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls; they assist us in seeing that “the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential” and they share ways how we can do our part.

from Half the Sky on PBS
Half the Sky also explains—the 2010 book as well as the subsequent PBS special inspired by it two years later—that throughout much of the world “the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population….” Kristof goes on to say that “countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy.” Take this information as your call to arms. It’s so easy to fall into the “but what can I do?” syndrome. Yet, one person can/has changed the world.

That’s one reason I appreciate the life of Princess Diana. Granted she had a spot-lit, high profile, privileged life that few others had or have—certainly not the ‘you and me’ of the world. But what I point to in this book regarding Diana’s impact is that it was made through the heart. Not by what she knew or because she had a perfect and happy life or that she was without faults, but she made a difference with something we all have: the ability to open our heart and take action from there. When we allow the love and compassion that comes from our open heart be our guide, we can rock the world. When we encourage other women to do the same, nothing is impossible.
So “circle up the women-folk” in your world! Connect; share; take action; encourage; love. ~