A story runs through my family. It weaves the theme of the challenges of women manifesting themselves. My daughter Corinna has a photo blog called Bird Wanna Whistle. She’s a writer by profession and a mother and she’s good at both. Very good. Ezra is at a challenging age. He is stubborn and willful. If you say, “Go west young man” he runs east. Her professional life is stepping up very well too. She’s had a couple of promotions over the last few years and a lot of people depend on her. It’s my impression that when she tells people to go west, they go in caravans – well-organized caravans. Will is a research scientist and is at that stage in his career when a lot depends on what he says too. Their life is super full and yet, a year ago, she decided she needed to stretch herself. She had started using her camera regularly to post pictures of Ezra for all his admiring family. She had warmed to its use. “I find the click of the shutter sends a little ripple of wakefulness up my spine and my eyes search the details of my environment like never before. It gives me the feeling of being a traveler in my own life and encourages a mindfulness that the familiar patterns of the day-to-day can blur.”
So she made a commitment to post a picture every day on this blog. More than that, though, she found herself exploring these images with words “because that’s the realm I’m most at home in”. The year comes to an end in a few weeks. What a journey it’s been. I’m not sure what she’ll end up saying about this experience but it has been a powerful and moving thing for me to observe.
The name of the blog, Bird Wanna Whistle comes from the song, Corinna Corinna. It evokes a powerful image of that woman, my daughter, making a commitment to let out of her something natural. In the process, using a ritualized discipline, she has learned how to stir up a sort of music that is beautiful, explores the great unknown and comes from a deep and soulful source.
Of course, and I am sure she would be the first to say, it doesn’t happen every day. But she gets it more often than she doesn’t.
And where does this tie into the family story? My grandmother had a song she wanted to sing too. She had the dream of being a doctor. I’m not familiar with the details and neither you nor I need to be. That was an extraordinary and rare dream then. But she was a stubborn and willful woman by all accounts and she became one of only two women to graduate from the University of Michigan – School of Medicine in 1900. She did practice briefly, but as the story goes, the prevailing belief of the day was too strong. In order for her to have a family she was forced to retire before having children. My own mother faced similar prejudice when after graduating near the top of her law school class also at the U of M, the only job law firms were interested in offering her were as a legal secretary.
And what does this family story have to do with Women’s Health? I’ve been using the term “wellbeing” with a number of my clients lately. I like it. As a word, it encapsulates my belief that a person’s wellbeing may the most powerful index of how healthy they are and how healthy they will be. My grandmother was well until near the end of her life, as was my mother, but I have it in my mind that neither of them ever really were able to sing their most beautiful songs because of a subtle and pervasive societal view that women shouldn’t really sing – at least not very loudly. They both led lives full of meaning and influence but I also think there was a hint of sadness in them both and perhaps a touch of anger that may have hurt them. Go look at Bird Wanna Whistle. See what the change in our world’s tolerance of, if not celebration of, the songs of women means.
And be well.