August 31, 2012

{The Feminine Heart}

 [This is the second of two essays (extracted from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride) posted commemorating the 15th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.]

Fifteen years ago today, like other strangers around the world, I awoke to the startling headlines that Princess Diana was dead. And also like millions of strangers, I sat with my disbelief in what felt like some deep soulful missing.
I had watched her glittering wedding in 1981—hosting a 4 a.m. tea and scones party in Atlanta—but the tabloid quality of her life that followed held no appeal. However, Diana became more intriguing to me in the aftermath of her death. I began 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—and saw into the background where what was really happening over Diana’s short lifetime came out of the shadows, something even touched with a bit of the divine.
Jungian analyst 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, including as a way to bring balance within women and men individually. Diana’s death became a universal recognition of “what we thought we lost was our moment of finding ourselves.”
So was the princess who said she “[led] with her heart, not her head” here to assist in bringing “our imbalance as humans” to a close? Was the princess who dared to hold her young sons close to make them strong yet tender-hearted men—challenging royal custom—here to start a revolution of the heart? Was the “ungloved” princess who taught a staid, out-of-touch monarchy (and culture) what real compassion was like—as she fearlessly embraced the diseased and maimed—here to break open a world of equality, even a world of do-unto-others love and kindness? Was the princess who, in her search for love and deep connection with another, who stumbled and felt insufficient and made some deceitful decisions, also the same woman who opened the hearts of a tired and complacent people? 

Is it any accident then that Diana’s life not only came on the cusp of the third wave of modern feminism, but also landed during the beginning energies of what some consider the Aquarian Age? This is the age said to bring the feminine principle of relatedness and cooperation, the age of “Holy Breath”; a new era  geared to last over the next several thousand years. Was Diana’s life to help us interpret these feminine energies so that both women and men could integrate them into their personal experiences, then send their healing quality out into a harsh world in need of nurturing?

Whether we’re under the compassionate influence of the Age of Aquarius or some other 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 own heart, underneath the resignation and fear, it’d be hard to deny that the world is not dancing to a new, breaking-open-of-spirit tune! And although the naysayers and complainers and mean-spirited pundits out there may be really loud and forceful, and a world of 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.” (A princess who wanted to be the Queen of people’s hearts couldn’t have said it better herself!)

Hmmmmm. I don’t know if Jupiter aligns with Mars or not, or what House the Moon is in, but I do know that “love  [can indeed] steer the stars” and just maybe we are in—dare I hope?—the true dawning of the Age of Aquarius …dawning into a world really in need of a “love-in”! ~


August 28, 2012

{What If?}

[This is the first of two essays—extracted from my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride—to be posted commemorating the 15th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.] 

Do you ever wonder about the nature of fame, and what it is about fame and celebrity that attracts us, and why and how certain people capture the attention of an entire population—even becoming an icon of a culture? This is someone whose life becomes bigger than theirs alone and sometimes what we learn from their life proves opposite of what they actually got to experience.

Princess Diana, who died fifteen years ago on August 31st, was certainly one of those illuminated personalities who take the world stage and hold our attention with such charisma that we simply can’t turn away. Her dynamic appeal even inspired a mythological language, a “what if?” kind of mystique, turning her into—what Jungian scholars called—“a legend that never dies.” 

Diana did not invent our fascination with nobility and their grand rituals; however, British royalty acquired the status of super stardom when she entered their elite fold. Her wedding to the heir to its throne in the summer of 1981 energized England’s notorious media machine and the tabloid mentality that followed not only made Diana a mega-celebrity, but it also perpetuated the decline of decorum and darn near ended the concept of wonder and mystery, turning a willing public into an adoring, yet leering audience. Once the tabloid press breached the boundaries of private and public lives of royalty in those days, it laid bare our lives as well. So as we became voyeurs into the lives of royalty, we invited voyeurs into our own.

But perhaps it took this personal exposure and immense celebrity of a beautiful princess—feminine, open-hearted, compassionate, yet conniving and imperfect—to break apart a harsh and controlling patriarchal culture, forcing us to peer deeply into our own lives in order to face the intimacy we had been avoiding. Is that why Diana attracted us like few others? The romance and fantasy and dazzle of celebrity may have gotten our attention, but something else had us linger. What was she trying to tell us? What was she unraveling that seemed to move through our hearts and have us ask those “what if” sort of questions about our own life? 

Here in the particularity of this one life—a princess who was a wounded healer, a mother who was an agent of change, a beautiful woman who turned things and people inside out—we may pause and wonder what it all meant. Then we go and tell our stories, looking for our own paradise, wistful for the sense of magic and mystery we lost. She may have schemed and plotted, but in the end, Diana was a woman beginning to find her spiritual center and we see that legacy in the lives of her two heart-centered sons.
Diana's is a story that will be told again and again, and in the retelling it will not be celebrity or politics or shiny, glittery objects or even accuracy that matters. It will be something more tender...something that has us slow down and notice each other...something that feels like your heart opening. ~
[On Friday, a new post on the 15th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.]

August 24, 2012

{Excerpt: The Diana Mytholgy} Part Four

[This is Part Four of "The Diana Mythology" section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride (and last excerpt of this section to post.) Simply scroll down or click on "The Diana Mythology" in the labels group below to read previous excerpts.]

“Because of Diana’s worldwide celebrity,” Sally Bidell Smith shared in her authoritative 1999 biography, “every character trait, gesture, action, and utterance was amplified. ‘She lived in an extreme state,’ said friend Cosima Somerset. ‘There’s no normal middle ground.’” Her holistic therapist and confidante Simone Simmons said that Diana “was forced to grow up in public and no one taught her how to cope.” And similar to the rest of us, she developed “life managing” patterns that became her persona; some patterns worked in her favor, many did not; and most masked the truth of her heart’s desire. Like a clever politician countering an opponent, Diana “went on a charm offensive to woo the media,” Paul Burrell revealed in his first biography of his boss. Because of her shaky emotional grounding yet immense charm, her patterns took on a broad personality that stretched boundaries—wooing the world to her side to get what she thought she wanted: a prince, a marriage, a home without divorce, someone to love her. But then to “woo” there has to be someone willing to be wooed—and she always found plenty candidates. (Our ego can always find willing participants to play in our drama games!)

What can we do in our own lives to ease our ruffled ego when we’re in that “got to be right, got to win, got to look good” place? How can women find our powerful self-expression no matter the circumstances, without blame or manipulation; being fully responsible for our words and actions; and being lovingly receptive to the contributions of others? Taking responsibility and “fessing up” is not always easy, but if indeed “the truth will set you free” (as Jesus was said to declare), then it’s worth the practice, no?

In Diana’s already complex life, her tangled relationship with the truth complicated things to disruptive proportions. “She exiled everyone associated with helping her produce the Morton book,” Tina Brown said about the tattle-tale biography. “So rattled was she by the controversy, she denied her participation even to herself.” A friend for the last four years of Diana’s life, Simmons shared a sad encounter with Diana when caught in one of those tangled webs: “‘How, she asked, could she start telling the truth now when to do so would expose all the lies of the past?’” Simmons said later in her 1999 biography about another “cage” where Diana found herself, as usual, one of her own making: “Within this new trap she was sad, partly because she knew she had [to], for once and at last, take some responsibility for her place in that cage.”  

What does it take to shake us free from our own entanglements? What’s tugging at us at those times when it’s so hard to admit when we’re wrong? What stops us from taking responsibility for our actions? Is it the power of our ego, always fighting to be right, that has us prefer to live in a dream—or in a cage—instead of facing what we know in our heart is true and right for us? What are we afraid of? With juggling all of her cover-ups and lies, no wonder Diana’s life was so at odds with her sensitive nature. As Mark Twain humorously reminded us, there’s another way to find ease: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

At the end it seems Diana was finding another way—more peaceful, more inclusive and more on purpose with her true spirit. And perhaps it was more honest. ~

[This is Part Four of "The Diana Mythology" section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride (and last excerpt of this section to post.) Simply scroll down or click on "The Diana Mythology" in the labels group below to read previous excerpts.]

August 18, 2012

{Excerpt: The Diana Mythology} Part Three

[This is Part Three of "The Diana Mythology" section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Other parts of this chapter will follow. Simply scroll down or click on "The Diana Mythology" in the labels group below to read previous excerpts.]

An angry woman is not always easy for men to handle and expressing anger is not always easy for women to do. And like for Diana, many times a woman’s anger got expressed by abusing her body. “How can she manifest her anger or her grief?” biographer Beatrix Campbell asked about Diana in the tangled and suppressive circumstances of her life. “If the discovery of her own disappointment could not be revealed, because it could not be tolerated, then it made sense to keep screaming….”

There were then and there are now a lot of angry women out there—some aiming straight and hitting their mark while others being passively aggressive, sarcastically nasty (or just plain mean), and some seething quietly until they snap. Diana may have been the representative of eons of women’s collective anger coming to a head. When the young princess began speaking up about feeling abandoned by mother, husband and monarchy, women were the first to lean in and really listen. “It was Diana’s treatment as a woman, and her sense that she was sustained by the sympathy and strength of women, that made her dangerous” to the patriarchal establishment, Campbell added in How Sexual Politics Shook Up the Monarchy.

Full of unresolved anger from childhood, Diana’s volatile temper as an adult surfaced occasionally. And sometimes there was even a warning before the crash: “‘Stand by for a mood swing, boys,’” she’d say to her private secretary, biographer Tina Brown explained. Whether these moods were from the frustrations of not being heard and not being allowed a voice, or chemical imbalances caused by her bulimia, or living under the stress of so much suppressed emotion for so many years, or some sort of personality disorder, or even complications of a complex astrological chart (they all had been cited as possible conditions)—but Diana could create a battlefield-like, walking-on-eggshells environment that was disconcerting to everyone around.

Any kind of “letting go” or “turn the other cheek,” non-resistant, “getting off it” action must have been a tough one for Diana when she was wound up so tight inside her emotions. (But I bet many times underneath her bluster and outburst, she could “see” herself and learn from it.) Unfortunately,  with her intensity and when feeling frustrated and boxed in, Diana did what she did so well: set up a strategic battle plan to try to out-maneuver or over-power whomever she appointed as her “opponent”—husband, friend, employee or family member. She may have felt that she was a “survivor,” as her biographers claim: “‘Remember, you’re a Spencer’” she’d say to herself to buoy her resolve. However, if you think of life as something you have to “survive,” then it probably means that you think of life like a war zone set up for winning/losing, right/wrong, looking good/looking bad—some kind of duality waiting to do battle. Beatrix Campbell declared that Diana was not a victim but a survivor. That may have been so, but “surviving” is an exhausting way to live! The other side of this coin (and there always is one) is that it took someone with Diana’s persistence and strength—and survival instinct—to break through the patriarchal infused barriers to living life with an open heart.

Remembering that words have power, what’s a more empowering way you can express your life? Instead of “surviving” what about thriving, flourishing, prospering? Instead of being “intense,” how about being strong, centered and powerful? By finding words that ground you, that are inclusive of others and don’t set-up a winning/losing mentality, then everyone gets to win! ~

[This is Part Three of "The Diana Mythology" section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Other parts of this chapter will follow. Simply scroll down or click on "The Diana Mythology" in the labels group below to read previous excerpts.]