We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.
~ Mary Lamberton Becker

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.
~ Katherine Hepburn

April 13, 2015

Gloria Steinem’s 1983 book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions was a favourite of mine. The title has always resonated with me, for I am drawn to outrageous acts – both doing them and watching in awe at other women who do so. For me it’s about stepping out of the closet of expectations and in some way doing something that elicits shock, dismay, and admiration, and furthermore, is done without regard for the good opinions of others. Thwarting the expected plan. Challenging the stereotypes that dictate what we (as well as anyone else) are supposed to do.

Engaging in every day rebellions needs to be cultivated, for it is very much a practice. It is also a reminder to be mindful of what we are doing – or not doing – in order to place our own needs first. Many rebellions in my view are not necessarily the result of major external change. Rather, they are marked by doing something a little bit different, or refusing to do something that is expected of us. But the doing of something a little different is not possible until we have shifted inside. There must be a necessary mindset that helps us imagine something accompanied with the resolve to carry it out. And small shifts can have long-term impact. Outrageous acts can be those once-in-a-lifetime “out there” kind of experiences, like jumping out of an airplane if we have a burning desire to do so. I don’t! But I think more often they can be smaller steps out of our comfort zone that take remarkable courage. And when we observe rebellions or outrageous act in our women friends we need to support, celebrate, or at minimum, avoid judgment.

What I am referring to is not the same as the challenges life throws at us from time to time. I am struck by the remarkable equanimity I see within ordinary people in the midst of difficult life circumstancet. This can be a serious diagnosis; a struggling adult child trying to find their way ( you are as happy as your least happy child); loss of a job; a separation; ageing parents; and so on. We all  handle these situations differently, but as a whole I am amazed at the dignity and grace people demonstrate – doing what needs to be done and carrying on.

Other situations, though, are ones we invite into our lives. Ones that we are not required to do but we decide to do them anyway. One of my favourite acts of courage is that of a dear friend getting up to do a TED talk with her son. I cannot imagine doing this but she did it with such apparent ease (regardless of how she felt inside) and managed to look cool at the same time! When I told my colleagues at work that a friend was about to give a TED talk ,the response was a resounding WOW!!!!

And so, I dedicate this entry to those brave women who dare to engage in  outrageous acts and every day rebellions. The ones below are a few from my life experience. What are yours?

  • Starting to run in my 50’s.
  • Buying a bright fuchsia coloured ball cap for running rather than a neutral tone.
  • Signing up for a kayaking yoga retreat in Algonquin Park ( a friend who had not kayaked did this).
  • Going go-karting with my sons and trying to avoid getting hit by other cars.
  • My mother-in-law Corrie, in wanting to overcome her fear of the water, signing up for guppy lessons at the local pool.
  • My mother, at the age of 64 and in her new role leading a service organization, giving a speech about her plans for her term. The first time I heard her speak publicly.

These happen more than we realize and they are powerful! But do they matter? I think they do. In some way, outrageous acts and everyday rebellions reveal something about us – both the strengths and sense of playfulness. Once you start to “break the rules” of expectations, it is easier to continue doing so. And in so doing we release the limitations that leave the path clear for a new direction. Moving us along from here to there.

* Title of Gloria Steinem’s 1983 book.

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