finding my way to MEANING & WELLNESS31 May 2019 Written by By Kristine Cataldo
Published in June 2019 Articles
And Bringing a Host of Lion-hearted Women with Me on the Journey
Seven years ago, my marriage dissolved. There were no serious arguments or fights, so the end came suddenly and surprisingly. The subsequent divorce, however, was hurtful, hateful, and hard. The only wonderful thing to come out of it, which is wonderful indeed, is that I am the proud mama of two amazing children, one son (18) and one daughter (16).
The failure of my marriage threw me into a state of pain and confusion. Old patterns, habits, and conditioned behaviors that had given my life identity and meaning were “gone with the wind.” I reached a spiritual and emotional bottom. I didn’t know what else to do, so I began a process of self-examination and analysis. I conducted what AA calls “a fearless moral inventory.” One thing that became clear was a dysfunctional pattern of always trying to be the go-to person that others could depend upon. I would make any sacrifice required to do whatever was asked of me. As a result, I had become overworked and overcommitted, which meant that I was not really good for the people I was trying to serve. I was not good for my family and certainly not good for myself.
I came to the liberating realization that those time and life-consuming acts of service didn’t come from a healthy place of kindness and generosity. Rather, they had grown out of an ineffective and unhealthy need to help others so that they would think I was a good person. Or, even worse, so that I could feel that I was a good person. As a result, my life lacked strong boundaries; I let people walk all over me for fear of what would happen if I failed to live up to their expectations. It was time to change things up — to find out what my needs were and to take care of them. The starting point was to embrace the foundational truth that I couldn’t care for other people effectively until I took care of myself.
At the beginning it was difficult to find ways to effectively cope with the horrible losses I had experienced and my shameful personal failures that had been partly responsible for causing them. However, I developed an empowering conviction that God intended to use the dreary series of events that had brought me to this place to teach me valuable central life lessons. I adopted the principle that Denis Watley spoke of when he said, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.” Then he added, “Failure is…a temporary detour, not a dead end.”
That “fearless moral inventory” had pointed to behaviors and attitudes that needed to change. Before taking the first steps on my journey of recovery and renewal, a deep darkness lay on my spirit. However, a wonderful reality is that the darker things get the brighter a light will shine; and during those dark days a light began to grow in my spirit as I finally embraced my faith with my whole heart. The truth that God could become both my Strength and my Guide grew stronger as I began to share my faith openly and honestly with others — encouraging anyone and everyone to adopt an open, powerful, and relationship-focused way of moving forward.
A growing fellowship of women — a “sisterhood” — began to gather around me and to accompany me in the process of drawing from an unfailing and divine reservoir of power. By doing so, we could break free of the social constraints and psychological choices that cause us to be self-destructive, depressed, compulsive, overweight, lonely.... (I could go on.)
It didn’t matter in the slightest what religion the women coming around me had, or even if they had one. It was all about relationship and nothing else. I sometimes don’t agree with the particular beliefs, clothing styles, politics, sexual preferences, or moral choices of people who come into my space. But none of that matters. We are able to love each other because of who we are becoming and not because the beloved person meets any particular standards. “Just as you are!” and “Just as I am!” are the foundational ego states that we occupy and work from.
My emerging mission assumed an amazing structure at a Tony Robbins conference. Robbins led us in a guided meditation and prayer event during which he asked us to seek for an image that would serve as our particular symbol of strength. While my spirit was searching for the mind of God in the matter, a vision suddenly flashed in my imagination of a pride of lionesses. I knew that lionesses did all the work in a pride — hunting together, raising the young, and keeping the pride strong — while the lordly lion does little except to maintain royal indifference to the day-to-day operations of the pride. We are joining together as a pride of lionesses to protect ourselves, our cubs, and each other from the dangers that threaten to bring us down. We need each other. We need to have each other’s backs. And we do.
I gathered the women in my network into an online social group that I called “MyPride Sisterhood.” We work together to break the molds and patterns in identifying attitudes and behaviors that kept us from finding our true identities. We seek to use body, mind, and spirit to practice authentic living. We resist making meaningless cosmetic changes to clothing, our weight, or hairstyle simply to conform to the vacuous and shifting standards that society tries to impose. I encourage MyPride members thorough writing, public speaking, and one-on-one coaching. I create “Daily Roar” inspirational videos.
TAKING THE MESSAGE TO AFRICA
I’m living all parts of my life at healthy levels including my day job, which is developing curriculum for The Mosaic Company. I landed the position two years ago when a hiring manager found me on LinkedIn and reached out to me. As a part of being transparent and authentic, I chose to leave my Christian identification on the résumé because, after all, why would I want to work for them if they didn’t want someone with religious convictions?
Mosaic turned out to be a rich resource for expanding my caring relationships with women. The founder, Clint Morese and his wife, Shelly, the owner, participate in an outreach by Adonu — an organization that sponsors an annual concentrated community development in Ghana. Last February, I spent ten days with the tribal people in Mafi Seva — a village with fewer than 1,000 residents, some of whom had never seen a white person. Wherever we went, crowds of children would follow us around.
We were undertaking seed projects — starting community development efforts that would be completed later by other groups who were scheduled to follow us. We laid foundations for a library and a community bathroom area. The men in our team joined villagers in hauling sand and water, mixing the ingredients, packing them into brick-molds, which were then put out to bake in the sun.
A dentist on the team distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste, spoke to children of dental hygiene, and then talked to parents about caring for themselves and for their children. A nurse spoke to young girls about their bodies. Team members conducted classes with the children, teaching them math, art, and other subjects.
Art is a passion of mine, so I gave art lessons to a few dozen kids in two classrooms, and then took the lessons outside to a group of kindergartners who had gathered in a faux classroom beneath a mango tree. I brought donated paper, paints, brushes, and pencils and taught them to make pictures using pointillism. We had sewing kits with us and would sometimes stitch up a hole in a shirt sleeve while the child patiently held his/her arm in the air.
The villagers are beautiful people. It is a strongly Christian community. We arrived on Sunday and showed up late for the worship service being conducted in a nice church building. As soon as they saw us, the worship leaders called us up before the congregation and greeted us with a warm and welcoming ceremony. They gave us beautiful hand-made bracelets sprinkled with talcum powder, which symbolized peace.
We joined in the life of the community and tried to assimilate as much of their culture as we could during the brief time we were there. The villagers taught us how to prepare a basic dish that occupied a central place in their diet. It is made from cassava roots that are peeled, grated, run through a sieve, and roasted over a fire to create a meal-like substance that they then use to make dumplings and bread. The dish is actually a major industry in Mafi Seva. Each family has their own processing center for making these, which they sell to people who come from other villages. They also take them to a local marketplace.
The women had to bring in water carried in pots balanced on their heads from a pond that was a half-mile trek from the city center. I wanted to join the women, so I picked up a pot, carried it to the pond, filled it with water, put it on my head, and brought it back to the center. I felt like I had become part of the village life.
There were some minor differences, however. The village women were balancing their pots on their heads without using their hands, while I had to hold my hands over my head and hang on to my pot every step of the journey or it would have smashed on the ground. For another thing, the women filled their pots full of water, while my pot was only half full. In addition, most of them walked while carrying a baby strapped to their back and, of course, I didn’t have this.
Otherwise, I nailed it!
During the ten days we spent with them, those beautiful Ghanaian women, who had seemed so “foreign” when we first met them, had become our sisters. The best thing on the trip happened when I sat down with a gathering of women from the village for a session of question and answer. As they began talking about the challenges they faced, I was amazed to discover that they were confronting the same issues of pregnancy, abuse, and childcare that members in our MyPride Sisterhood were dealing with. I had tears in my eyes by the time I departed and a new appreciation for how superficial differences in geography, culture, and language become when people share with each other from the heart.
So now I have extended MyPride to include an international component, connected through social media. One of the Adonu staff members, a Ghanaian woman, in particular — named Rita Siaw — is a woman empowerment guide who, besides being a public speaker and teacher, has written a book in English, called “You Are Unstoppable.” The two of us are connected on social media. I’m looking forward to what we might do together.
I keep moving forward in my outreach. I’m creating a nonprofit foundation and am working with a life coach to develop the program to the point that I can share my message of encouragement with women before larger audiences. After seven years of doing this, I’ve maxed out on Facebook’s 5,000-friend limit.
The Bible says that a chord of three strands is not easily broken. When thousands of us empowered lioness-like women get together, we can create an indomitable force that can change the world for good.
That’s what I want! That’s what God is making me part of. That’s what He is doing through me!