Lessons in Gentle-ness

Courtesy: Ethan Gray, Napa, CA

Courtesy: Ethan Gray, Napa, CA

Last night I did something big. Big for me. I was one of two guest on a radio show that I admire and for the first time a potential audience of over 30,000 would hear my voice. My voice. Wow, until I got on the call I did not realise how nervous I would be. There were thoughts floating in my head for days, for weeks about what I would say. Where I would mention my mum, my upbringing, my heroes. How I would frame my experiences, my purpose, my goal. I took notes, had colourful sticky reminders on my mirror so I would not forget a story.

Well, as it happens – sod’s law – things weren’t quite as smooth as I had hoped once we got started and my nerves went from slight jitters to proper shallow breathing and mild panic.
I heard my colleague speaking smoothly, with confidence and very clearly and here I was…flustered.

The intention of this radio show was for me to voice my mission, my quest in life, to give it form, shape and in my opinion for me, to make it real. There is so much I want to do in this world to end gender-based violence. A big cause, an enormous mission but I have ideas and plans. Ideas that tell me that if only kids grew up with the right kind of education through their parents and teachers we could have a world filled with gentle creatures. ‘Gentle-men’ and Gentle-women’. Thoughts that say that if only men and women opened up to try to understand the other and accepting our differences we could live harmoniously and there would be no need for gender-based violence or abuse – emotional or physical.

If only each individual could grow up loving themselves, valuing themselves they would know to value another. To respect and celebrate our differences rather than be threatened by them. If we could be ‘gentle’ and compassionate with ourselves then we would radiate that out to the rest of the world.

I had just spent about an hour describing that through curiosity about the opposite sex or a person to different to ourselves we can put an end to such violent attacks as those that took place on a public bus in Delhi in December of last year. If we were open to communicating with each other we could learn that in fact, we are not so different after all This is how I see change in the world coming about – starting with ourselves and permeating out.
No sooner had I hung up the phone with the radio show hosts congratulating me for a doing a good job with hug adrenalin pumping through my veins, my skin bursting with vibrant energy did my boyfriend call me (I thought to congratulate me and tell me what a great job I had done despite my nerves).

I didn’t take too well to the constructive criticism at that moment as my immediate thoughts were that I had just laid myself bare to who knows how many listeners and I came across as a repetitive bumbling idiot. The very notion had tears well up in my eyes and tears turned into frustration and utter exasperation. When all I needed and wanted was a hug. After all the stress I’d just been through couldn’t he have waited?

Through my tears and tiredness because it was now 2.30am in the UK I suddenly realised that I had just demonstrated so clearly how mis-communication occurs in relationship. A mere minutes ago I had been talking about responsibility for impact and responsibility for our thoughts as well as our words. About the importance of having the willingness to understand where the other is coming from and not judge based on stereo-types and possibly unfounded assumptions. He had the ‘you-always-cry-and-are-so-emotional’ hat on and I had one of ‘tears-emotion-sensitivity’

What would I do differently as per ‘The Gentle World’? I would accept my emotions and see him from the lens of his intentions and what I know about him rather than my unfounded assumptions.

The starting point being ‘me’ and by being gentle to myself I would put down my stick (that I use to beat myself up figuratively of course) and instead pick up a flower.

Without realizing it I had succumbed to judge myself based on what are traditionally (and stereotypically) masculine characteristics of pride, non-emotion and confidence rather than accepting and loving who I truly am – emotional, self-critical and sensitive.

We managed to identify what we did, made up and appreciated and acknowledged one another. However, what many in the world do is find solace and expression in emotional or physical violence against another.

What if it were that simple to create a world without violence? What if were as easy as looking at ourselves, accepting our responsibility in this world because it is OUR world?

Since I started writing this last week I have come across a very heartening news item of hope that I would like to share with you here about a few men in New Delhi apologising to Delhi women – Signs of hope and progression in the right direction. According to Soraya Chemaly 1 in 3 women is subjected to violence.
We cannot end this on our own. In her article she highlights several ways, including Ring the Bell: One million men. One million promises where men can get involved to fight for equality. We all stand to gain, not just the women.