Researchers are trying to prevent and treat CTE, the brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma – including combat blasts. Here's how vets can help:
Ancient Celtic society is as intriguing as it is mysterious. History laced with folklore, rumor and grandeur to weave a beautiful yet convoluted image of one of the most historically rich cultures of our time. Many Celtic goddesses may have in fact been inspired from actual Celtic women. Some of these goddesses were so beloved, that even the Christian church could not part with them so they elevated them to Saint status and called it a day.
What we do know for sure about women in Ancient Celtic society is they enjoyed rights that women in Greek and Roman societies were not afforded. Celtic women were protected by the law and could own property, get a divorce, be a priest, a judge, a doctor, a poet, fight in battle and even own her own fighting school. They were honored as much for their minds as their bodies and served as both warriors and rulers. Marriage was viewed as an equal partnership, and they could conduct business without the consent or involvement of their husbands. They could serve as political diplomats, become priestesses, poets, and healers.
Since many Americans are in fact descendants of these famous Europeans via Welsh, Scot, Cornish and Breton pedigrees, it is worth noting how we may share a kindred spirit with these ancient deities.
Just as a tree will always produce the leaves of its roots, we also still display the same independence, artistic and audacious nature as these bold beauties.
Here are 11 Celtic Goddesses that should send you on your own kind of odyssey (and may even inspire a special Halloween costume):
1. The Natropathic: Aine of Knockaine– was the Celtic Goddess of love and fertility, later known as the fairy queen. She is affiliated with the moon, crops, and farms or cattle. Aine is revered among Irish herbalists and healers and is said to be responsible for the body’s life force.
2. The Green Thumb: Airmid- was a healing Goddess of the celtic order of Tuatha de Danaan, Goddess of medicinal plants and keeper of the spring. She is a regenerator, and brings the dead to life again.
3. The Tempted: Blodeuwedd – was changed into an owl for committing adultry. She symbolizes wisdom, lunar mysteries, and initiations. She is also known to help a garden or a child grow.
4. The Multidimensional: Brighid– Some say there are actually three Brighids; one is in charge of poetry and inspiration; one is in charge of midwifery and healing, and the last is in charge of crafts and blacksmithing. When Christianity was at its onset, so loved was Brighid that she was elevated to a saint. However, the upkeep on her flame was considered pagan by the church and it was extinguished out of more than a thousand years of burning. St. Brigit symbolizes human potential and remains one of the most popular Irish saints today, alongside Saint Patrick.
5. The Dreamer: Caer Ibormeith- was the Goddess of sleep and dreams (think “counting your sheep). She often took the form of a swan who lived on a lake called Dragon’s Mouth, and wore a copious golden chain with 130 golden balls on a silver chain about her slender neck. She was vehemently adored and sought after by the God of young love. When he awakened from a dream of her, he sought her out. After he found her, he too became a swan, and the two of them flew and sang the sweetest, most calming music ever heard upon this earth. They are said to have put all of Ireland asleep with their music for 3 days and 3 nights.
6. The Horse Lover: Epona- was the Goddess of horsebreeding, healing spring, prosperity and mountains. Called Divine Horse and the Great Mare, the Goddess of horses was acknowledged and also worshipped by Roman soldiers.
7. The Animal Activist: Flidais– was the Goddess of the forest, woodlands, and wild things. She had a magic cow that could produce milk enough for three hundred men in one night. Also a shapeshifter who rode in a deer-drawn chariot. Heavily associated with protection of wild animals.
8. The Man-Eater: Maeve- was the Goddess of Earth, fertility and war. She was a great conqueror and enjoyed enslaving the men of the various armies she defeated as spoils of war to pleasure her at will. An extremely lustful woman. The mere sight of Maeve blinds enemies, and she runs faster than the fastest horse. With her heavy sexual drive, she needs thirty men a day to ease her sexual appetite. Also a fertility Goddess.
9. The Avenger: Morrigan– was the Celtic Goddess of war and death who could take the shape of a crow or raven. If you’ve ever been one to “get even” this Supreme warrior Goddess has got you covered. She is associated with the frightening aspects of female energy. She symbolizes the power of the dark Goddess’ prowess, death, war, and fate. A shapeshifting war Goddess of sensuality, magic, prophecy, revenge.
10. The Fallen Hero Helper: Nemain- was Celtic war goddess who appears to help heroes at their death.
11. The Money-Maker: Rosmerta – was also know as “The Great Provider”. She was the Celtic Goddess of fertility and wealth. Her symbols are a cornucopia [the horn of plenty] and a stick with two snakes. She may be invoked for fertility or money.
Now let’s be honest, more than one of these goddesses represent layers of our own personas, but which is your favorite? May we always live a life so out of the ordinary that a future civilization is left to wonder if we were in fact real or a beautiful legend.
What makes you feel alive? Here are five tools I use to help me feel alive:
1. Above all, take risks. No caterpillar can become a butterfly without risking leaving the cocoon. You must live unbridled!
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller
2. Fill your world with sensual pleasures wherever you can find them: the smell of a BBQ, the taste of your favorite ice cream, the sound of the ocean, the feel of your lover’s touch.
What are your sensual pleasures? I went from a secretive life to a sensual life. A material life to an experiential life. Don’t be ashamed to seek out what pleases and excites you in whatever form it takes, as long as it’s not harmful to others.
I enjoy dancing, the sound of the music, skating around the dance floor and laughter among friends. What is your pleasure?
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
3. If you want to feel alive, give life and give of yourself. Strive to make the world a better place because you were here. It definitely will make you feel alive. Pick something that you want to change and be the change you want to see. Is it sharing a love for cooking? Is it helping to empower women? Is it nurturing mother earth by gardening?
Mother Teresa was asked why she helped the children of Calcutta and she responded, “Because it gave ME so much joy!”
4. Don’t let anyone “suck the life out of you.” Negative people will bring you down to their victimization. Most people live lives of quiet desperation, dying with the music still in them. Seek out friends who are excited about life and all the opportunities to enjoy life.
“I do not want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman
5. Be aware of your life. Do you remember what excited you yesterday, what simple pleasures you enjoyed? We can be the co-authors of our life to create the life we want, to feel alive! It just may take thinking about what we want and then taking the risk to make it happen!
“Most people think once or twice a year. I’ve made an international name for myself by thinking once or twice a week. “ George Bernard Shaw.
How about giving the gift of time?
If you are a wounded warrior or wife of wounded warrior you are eligible for a free Ski Get away with Vail Veterans or National Ability Center!
If you’re a civilian you can volunteer with these programs!
Here’s an excerpt from the book WOUNDED WARRIOIR, WIFE showing the healing power through recreation!
When a soldier, marine, sailor or airman return home wounded–grappling with PTS and plagued by nightmares–he may struggle to feel connected to his wife. Married couples who have been close for years, even decades, who are used to trading secrets and sharing life-altering experiences, suddenly feel like they are from different planets. Even like they’re living on different planets. The space seems vast, and the silence seems deafening.
Finding a way to reconnect is essential. Therapy and sharing, bonding over the struggles of a new way of life, and working through difficulties by talking them out are all helpful practices. But sometimes it takes something more–something unexpected and drastically different–to forge a new bond.
This was the case for Jane.
Jane met her husband Kyle while working as a park ranger at Vail mountain , Colorado. He was a big guy, bald and blue-eyed, with an appealingly athletic build and personality to match. Jane was an outdoorsy person herself, and they fell in love hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter together. They were engaged six months after they met and married six months later in October 1990. Kyle was in the Navy reserves then, doing his duty on weekends and two weeks a year. After they were married nearly 20 years, Kyle was put on active duty and was required to leave for longer periods. Eventually he was deployed overseas.
In Afghanistan, Kyle’s Humvee was hit by an IED explosion, and both of his legs had to be amputated. He was lucky to be medevaced out within an first hour or it could have been much worse. After bilateral amputations to the knees, he was fitted with new legs and had to go through intense physical therapy.
Once he was back on his feet, Jane thought their life together would be easier. She didn’t notice the aftershocks of PTS and traumatic brain injury until after Kyle was discharged and had been home for quite some time. He often got dizzy and had ringing in his ears; his eyes became light sensitive which forced him to wear dark glasses all the time; he was very distressed by noise and could not be around crowds. Jane believed they had a strong marriage – they had been married for over 20 years — but his injuries changed how they treated each other.
“We’re still very close and love each other very much,” she said. “But I feel I have to leave the room at times because of something he says or does.”
One of the changes that is most noticeable to Jane is Kyle’s temper. Whenever he became angry he had no filter when he spoke.
“He’s emotionally regressed,” Jane confided. “He’s not the man he used to be. Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.”
Jane found that her husband’s PTS took a psychological toll on her as well. She would get depressed because she couldn’t always do the things she wanted to do. What bothered her the most was having to make excuses to their friends and family for their absences. Sometimes she would cope in unhealthy ways such as eating more or not going to the gym. Self-care can fall to the wayside when all of your time and energy get used up caring for someone else. It’s natural, but frustrating.
She still puts time, energy, and effort into her relationship with Kyle, though, and focuses on cultivating patience.
“When I was younger I was a bit of a hot head myself, but age has mellowed me, so I can go with the flow better in certain situations.”
Jane has taken it upon herself to study up on PTS to get a better understanding of what triggers Kyle’s outbursts. She also formulates strategies for heading it off by removing him from situations that cause him anxiety or stress.
Jane was grateful that she’d had the chance to travel when she was younger, because when her life changed and she was convinced her globe-trotting days were over, she felt content to stay home and care for her husband and grandkids. But just when Jane had resigned herself to letting go of traveling and adventures, Kyle told her about the Vail Veterans’ Program.
And in the blink of an eye, they were packing their bags to go to Vail.
The Vail Veterans’ Program was founded in 2004 to provide rehabilitation sports training to severely wounded warriors and their wives. Jane was excited about this organization because although it was focused on helping her husband heal, she got to participate too.
As you might expect of a program based in Vail, this one was all about skiing. Kyle’s instructors at the Vail Veterans Program strapped him into a monoski and put him on Golden Peak’s bunny hill, while Jane skied along with him. She watched him open up and transform before her eyes. This program got him out of his shell and added a new dimension to their life through their shared love of the outdoors.
“Gliding through the snow on ‘wings of wood’ is the closest thing to flying,” Jane explains. “We felt a sense of thrill and joy soaring over the shining crystalline whiteness.”
The healing process is a journey that lasts a lifetime—for wounded warriors and their caregivers. The four days Jane spent with Kyle in Vail skiing and sharing meals with other Wounded Warriors and their wives was a turning point in both of their lives. They met skiing, and it was skiing that brought them back together again. Now these two are healing their wounded souls through sharing new positive experiences, and gently forcing a world that can feel small and suffocating to expand and unfold.
As a physical therapist working with patients in rehabilitation, I have seen how most patients can’t wait to get out into the great outdoors after being in a hospital for months. I’ve taken patients skiing, fishing, hiking and horseback riding, and have watched their eyes light up as they experience the world beyond the hospital room.
For the caregiver, getting away from the hospital was as beneficial to her as it was to her husband. The desire to escape can be irresponsible, but at times it’s essential. Wives of wounded warriors can’t “suit up and show up” day after day without ever taking a break. There are times when she must face her responsibilities and dodging them is not the answer. But every once in a while she needs to break free.
Sometimes I think the very best thing couples can do is run like hell — as fast and as far away as they can possibly go. Because there are circumstances in which a change of scenery can change their minds. There are times when spending time away from the hospital, away from the city, away from the stress, can be just the balm their wounded soul needs to recover. And when you feel trapped in the stifling space of a home filled with angry outbursts, flashbacks, and night terrors, leaving home together can be the key to unlocking a whole new level of recovery and reconciliation.
Taking a running leap can, at times, gives you a better chance of learning to fly. Leaping together can help you reunite in flight.
The winter holidays are here! And that means many of us are bracing for one of the most joyous and stressful times of year. This is especially true for those of you who are caregivers. Gift-buying and the associated financial strain, family gatherings with their trying dynamics, and coordinating multiple schedules around dozens of events is even more taxing if most of your energy goes toward helping an ill or injured loved-one. When your role within your family is that of a caregiver, ordinary stress is automatically doubled.
Reducing stress is tricky because each of us does it differently. There's no one-method-fits-all way to ease tension or minimize worry. But there are also a variety of techniques and ideas for de-stressing that aren't widely known and may appeal to some of you who are grappling with a heavy load. So with that in mind, here are some easy, effective ways to lessen your anxiety and tension as a caregiver.
1. Connect with other caregivers – in person or online
Stress experienced in isolation feels so much more burdensome than stress that is shared and discussed with truly understanding listeners. Talking with individuals or communities that can sympathize with your struggles relieves pressure instantly. If you are a caregiver to a wounded warrior, reach out to the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network for online support or Operation Family Caregiver, which offers one-on-one counseling. Hearts of Valor provides support groups and connects families to one another, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation offers community programs, fellowships, and grants to military caregivers. Caregivers to parents, children, and others can investigate the Family Caregiver Alliance, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, or the Caregiver Action Network.
2. Take a 10-minute walk
Exercise always pops up as a great way to de-stress … but when you're a caregiver, the very idea of leaving the house for a 40-minute yoga class seems laughable. It's still true, though, that moving your body is incredibly beneficial. So start small: Let yourself take a 10-minute walk around the block every day. You'll boost your endorphins, give yourself a breather from your tasks, and allow some of your stress to float away.
3. Let go of the “shoulds”
As a caregiver, you undoubtedly have a long list of things you must do each day, and an even longer list of things you “should” do. That second list lurks at the back of your mind, right? Scolding you silently for all the household chores and social niceties you've been shirking. Well, you've been shirking them because you have limited time and energy! You absolutely cannot expect yourself to do everything. Make a list of those “shoulds,” look at it long and hard, then crumple it up and throw it away. Release that guilt and feel its burden lift.
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”
~ Richard Bach
We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Every news cycle seems to produce a new story about a prominent man sexually harassing women in his orbit. No one knows who will be called out next, but we all know that this string of exposés is far from over.
I’ve found it interesting to hear from women who summoned up the courage to speak out only after hearing other women do so first. And even more interesting to hear that some of them didn’t understand that what they’d experienced actually was harassment until news stories broke about others enduring similar treatment. It’s like a part of our collective unconscious is waking up, and linking women all over the country in unexpected solidarity.
It might seem odd that anyone could lack the self-awareness to know she’d been violated, but it’s really not. We all strive to know and understand ourselves, but few of us achieve that knowledge and understanding beyond the surface level. We fail to identify and face our strengths, weaknesses, and defining traits, which leads us into the same behaviors and frustrations over and over again. Leadership expert Warren Bennis says that true self-awareness is “the most difficult task any of us faces. But until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.”
One of our strongest desires as human beings is to have the freedom to be ourselves, and when we do, we access the power to transform our passions into realities. But we may face obstacles, both internal and external, to this knowledge and freedom. We’ve all heard the parables; A fish swims in the ocean, but out of water he struggles. An acorn grows to be a towering oak tree, but only when given the proper nourishment.
To live the life we want we need to know ourselves. But this is easier said than done.
Self-understanding through archetypes
“Extraordinary individuals stand out in the extent to which they reflect—often explicitly—on the events of their lives, large as well as small.”
~ Howard Gardner
Although we must explore and embrace our uniqueness, sometimes the things that unite us make us stronger. This has definitely been the case with women who are speaking up about sexual harassment; Their shared experiences have created a tidal wave of courage and support. Along these same lines, our individual quests for self-knowledge can be kicked into high-gear if we begin them by examining our relationships with timeless archetypes. By seeing ourselves in these eternal dimensions—Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage—we begin to unlock the tools we need to understand ourselves. And the deeper we dive, the more able we are to leverage these tools to grow our power and achieve our goals. These tools can help us live more productive lives, both professionally and personally.
When we consider the four archetypes, we’re better able to understand ourselves. This self-knowledge is crucial because we can build happy lives only on the foundation of our own natures, our own interests, and our own values. With wisdom, experience, and insight from the four archetypes, we can use our time more productively, generate better ideas, suffer less stress, and get healthier.
Plus contemplation of the four archetypes helps us to better understand and engage with other people. We can live and work more effectively with others when we identify their archetypes. As coworkers and bosses, teachers and coaches, husbands and wives, parents and children, health care providers and patients, we live more harmoniously when we see and acknowledge each other on deeper levels.
Understanding the four archetypes gives us a richer, fuller understanding of the world.
Four faces in flux
When I describe the four archetypes, I sometimes get the impression that people want to identify with only one. But although some of us may resonate with one over the others, they are all part of us. The happiest, healthiest, most productive people are those who have figured out how to harness the strengths of each archetype, counteract the weakness of each archetype, and build their lives accordingly.
It’s also important to note that these faces are fluid. While one may emerge strongly during one phase of life, another may take over as time passes. We are a hybrid of all of them, and our expressions of Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage can emerge in isolated or blended ways. In my own life, I have seen my relationships with these four ebb and flow. I’ve sought to find balance among them, and doing so has helped me get in touch with my deepest desires and strive toward my loftiest goals.
Refine without confining
“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3
Bear in mind that the four archetypes framework is meant to help us understand ourselves more deeply, not to limit our sense of identity or possibility. Some people say, “When you define yourself, you confine yourself.” I’d argue that systems of self-definition are very helpful because they serve as starting points for our self-knowledge explorations. This framework isn’t meant to be a box that stunts our growth or a label that captures everything about us. Instead, conceptualize it as a spotlight that illuminates hidden aspects of our nature.
Think of exploring the archetypes as augmenting the best parts of yourself, supercharging traits and strengths that were always there. When your inner Warrior sets goals, she doesn’t just write the book, she gets it published. When your inner Mother gets promoted, she doesn’t just praise her direct-reports, she makes them feel deeply appreciated. When your inner Lover works the lunch shift at the diner, she doesn’t do it on auto-pilot, she speaks kindly to her patrons and gets bigger tips. When your inner Sage goes on her dream vacation, she doesn’t just take photos, she journals and meditates and uses the time to explore her internal landscape. Connecting with each of these aspects within yourself can help you build confidence, achieve more, and have a deeper impact on the world around you.
These archetypes have been a powerful influence on my life, and I’m currently working on a project that will help YOU dig deeper into your own understanding of them. Stay tuned for more posts on this topic, and a few hints about the larger archetype project!
THANK-YOU FOR YOU SERVICE and MEGAN LEAVY are films in theatres now that show us the wounds of war! Hope you get a chance to see them… After watching them I had an enlightening discussion with military experts.
In the moment, battle decisions seem very black-and-white. It’s kill or be killed, take down the enemy or risk losing men, losing ground, losing strategic advantages. The men and women who serve in our armed forces are trained to follow orders and focus on immediate goals. They make split-second decisions, but those decisions are based on directives from the officers and commanders above them. Choice rarely factors in. They do what they must.
But in the aftermath — back home and attempting to adjust to civilian life again — veterans of war often find themselves replaying disturbing scenes in their minds and questioning their own actions. Many have killed teens and children, witnessed brutal rapes, shot people who seemed to be targets but turned out to be bystanders. They’ve watched their comrades die and felt the guilt of surviving. And looking back, they begin to wonder: Did I have a choice? Could I have done something less damaging? How can I live with myself after taking part in such ruthless activities?
“You know it’s wrong. But … you have no choice,” explained Nick Rudolph, a 22-year-old Marine.
This quagmire of confusion and contradiction has become painfully familiar to returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After seeing similar reactions in countless soldiers, experts have begun to identify this state as moral injury: pain and confusion resulting from damage to a person’s life beliefs, values, and moral foundation.
This might seem like it could get lumped in with post-traumatic stress (PTS), but the mental health community has determined that while PTS stems from fear, moral injury has to do with an individual’s sense of right and wrong. Symptoms are similar and can include depression and anxiety, difficulty paying attention, and loss of trust. But the morally injured feel sadness and regret, too. They are trying to reconcile the ethics they brought with them into battle with the ugly realities of conflict.
Modern wars have no trenches and our enemies don’t always look like soldiers. Our warriors are put in situations that test their ethics and values every single day, and they’re fighting wars that much of the American public now believes to be pointless. Of course they return from battle confused and damaged.
“Civilians are lucky that we still have a sense of naiveté about what the world is like,” Navy psychologist Amy Amidon told Huffington Post reporter David Wood. “The average American means well, but what they need to know is that these [military] men and women are seeing incredible evil, and coming home with that weighing on them and not knowing how to fit back into society.” [http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/moral-injury/the-grunts]
PTS has gotten some attention from the medical community and the media, moral injury is still in the shadows, wreaking havoc on our veterans but mostly unacknowledged. And it is shockingly widespread: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that while 52,000 have sustained physical injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, between 275,000 and 500,000 returning soldiers are coping with PTS and/or moral injury.
Which brings up many complex questions: Should we find ways to harden our fighting men and women against moral injury so they won’t suffer later on? Or would that be worse for them in the long run? Should we, as a nation, insist on changing how wars are fought? What is the responsibility of the civilian population in helping these fighters heal?
There are no easy answers. But there are a few things we can do that will help until bigger, better solutions are uncovered: We can listen to combat vets who want to talk about their experiences. We can be patient with them if they are withdrawn, angry, or overwhelmed. We can research support networks and connect veterans coping with moral injury with resources and people who can help them.
And we can acknowledge that black-and-white decisions are a relic of wars past, and that our modern-day warriors are coping with far more complex situations every day of their fighting lives.
Plenty of kids get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” but only a few lucky adults ever get the same question thrown their way. And I'm one of them. When my daughter Christine was just seven years old, she tumbled into the kitchen one Saturday morning and said, “Mommy, I'm going to be an astronaut when I grow up. What will you be?”
My heart swelled and my brain did a somersault. At the time I was a wife to my college sweetheart, a loving mother, and a Physical Therapist. I'd been so focused on getting through the present, I hadn't thought about what or who I'd become later on! Clearly, though, my evolution was on my sweet daughter's mind. She knew there were bigger things in store for me.
And she was right. The years that followed brought huge changes, both sweet and bitter. I strayed from my marriage and divorced my husband. I followed in the footsteps of my late grandmother, and took a life-changing trip to Ireland, the land of my ancestors, where I danced with horsemen and communed with priestesses. I wrote my first book about those experiences, created a foundation to support the wives of wounded warriors, and launched myself into a life of writing and speaking. I researched and wrote my second book, learning about the strength and bravery of my fellow women in the process. I completely remade myself in ways I never could have predicted.
But my daughter knew I was on a path to change, even back then. She knew I was meant to dig deeper into myself, and maybe she also saw my desire to connect with other women and amplify their voices. That desire is something that was dormant for decades, but once it woke it stretched its wings and took flight. Now everything I do seems to center on the strengths and stories of women. My life has taken many unexpected turns, but I always circle back to two things: The archetypes that define all women, and the incredible stories those women have lived out.
In the coming months, I'll be diving deep into a project that marries the two. I want to highlight and hold up the compelling stories of strong women, both real and mythical, who have blazed trails for the rest of us. Some relied on their book smarts and ingenuity to drive their passions, others leveraged deep creativity, athletic prowess, or innate talent. They tapped the gifts they were born with or worked hard to cultivate skills, they listened to their hearts and demolished every obstacle, they harnessed their inner fire to step up to challenges, show up authentically, and stand out as individuals.
And every single one of them has lived a life guided by one of four central archetypes: Mother, Lover, Warrior, or Sage. These ideals may feel familiar, but they can manifest in unexpected ways. The Mother is the nurturing, healing, empathetic side of a woman, but she may not be a parent to her own children. Pioneering nurse Clara Barton used Mother energy to nurse and care fore countless Civil War soldiers, and Pearl Buck worked tirelessly to fill the needs of orphaned children. The Lover represents the passionate, playful, sensual creative side of a woman, and I see her in Bessie Coleman's unending love for aviation and Mother Teresa's love of humanity. The Warrior is the assertive, goal-driven side of a woman, and shows up in everyone from Joan of Arc to modern-day feminist Sheila Michaels. And the Sage brings out the intuitive, spiritual, wise side of a woman. She dominates in inspirational writers and speakers like Malala Yousafzai as well as artistic muses like Catherine Denevue. When this project is complete, you'll be able to meet them all, and marvel at their persistence, ingenuity, and ambition.
As I've researched profiles for these trailblazers and visionaries, it's made me reflect on my own life once again. Digging into their diverse backgrounds, unconventional tactics, and willingness to break rules has prompted me to ask myself which values, goals, and aspirations are truly important to me. What in my life is being supported or muted by my current life choices? Am I on the brink of a new journey, a new stage of growth that will allow me to expand further into my own passions and unique desires? It's been so enlightening, learning about these luminaries and icons, and their choices have led me to think critically about my own.
And I sincerely hope that when the project is complete, they'll do the same for you. That you'll recognize their achievements as remarkable, but also see their bravery and intelligence reflected in the women in your life and family and friends ... and perhaps most importantly, in yourself. That they'll inspire you to embrace what makes you unique, encourage you to release your fears, and lead you to be daring and bold in your unfolding life. I hope their stories weave into your own story, and that their journeys spark your own wanderlust. Just like Catherine de Medici and Wonder Woman and Mother Teresa, you have greatness inside you. Sometimes you just need a little whisper of encouragement to let it out.
I've admired Marie Curie since I first learned about her spectacular accomplishments in grade school; Here was a woman who'd won Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines in a time when women were all but banned from research labs! She was brilliant, brave, and changed our world forever with her discoveries. She was a heroine to me, a shining example of how intelligence and determination could prevail in the face of adversity.
I recently visited her hometown of Warsaw—which is packed with monuments to her life and discoveries—as well as her adopted home country of France. Visiting her childhood home, seeing the tremendous pride the Polish people take in her work, and exploring the museums that celebrate her achievements rekindled my love for Madam Curie.
And I wanted to write about her here because I realized that while most people might see her as a Sage archetype, I know her to be a Warrior through and through. She was forced to fight at every step. She fought to learn, to keep pace, to get full credit for her world-changing findings. So let's meet Marie Curie, Warrior.
A childhood of challenges
“I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.”
~ Marie Curie
Marie's mother died of tuberculosis when Marie was just 11 years old. This tragedy shaped her life in more ways than one: It led to her spending more time with her father, a math and physics instructor, who helped her cultivate her knack for the sciences. He even brought laboratory equipment into the family home so his children could run experiments!
His guidance was invaluable, and led Marie to become a top student in high school … only to be denied entry to the local university because of her gender. Undeterred, she continued her education at the Flying University, a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. There, she studied alongside her older sister, Bronislawa, and dreamed of moving on to an institution with proper labs ... and less sexism.
On to France
“I never see what has been done. I only see what remains to be done.”
~ Marie Curie
Both Marie and her sister longed to go abroad to earn official degrees, but they simply didn't have the money. Unwavering in her resolve to learn and achieve, Marie worked out a deal with her sister; She would work to support Bronislawa while she was in school, then Bronislawa would return the favor after she'd completed her studies.
After fulfilling her half of the bargain, Marie made her way to Paris where she enrolled at the Sorbonne and threw herself happily into her studies. Paying for her tuition and rent made her crushingly poor, and she survived on buttered bread and tea. But although she was exhausted and broke, she was mentally engaged and wildly successful. And her hard work paid off. She earned first place in the master's exam for physics in 1893 and second place for the master's in mathematics in 1894.
Shortly after earning her degrees, a colleague introduced her to French physicist Pierre Curie, who helped her locate a lab space for her research. A romance developed between the mastermind pair, and they became a scientific dynamic duo. They were dedicated to science…and each other. In fact, during a time when most women were expected to either raise a family or pursue a career, Pierre ensured Marie could do both. They were quite the modern couple!
“A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: He is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.”
~ Marie Curie
At first, Marie and her husband worked on separate projects. She launched into work on a doctoral thesis, exploring Henri Becquerel's work on the strange emissions created by uranium. (Her revolutionary ideas created the entire field of atomic physics, and Marie herself coined the word “radioactivity” to describe the phenomenon.) Soon Pierre put aside his own studies of crystals to support Marie's work.
Working together, the pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. They named the element polonium, after Marie’s native country of Poland. They also detected the presence of another radioactive element and called it radium. The Sorbonne refused to fund their research, so they performed it in an abandoned shed, working in hazardous conditions to prove their theories and isolate pure radium.
Marie recalled the night she first realized the magnitude of her discovery. In the darkness of the shed, she murmured, “Pierre, look!” as she saw the radium glowing with a ghostly blue light. She would soon prove that it was nearly 1 million times stronger than uranium.
And 1903, she was honored for this discovery when she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. She shared the title with her husband and Henri Becquerel, who both contributed to her groundbreaking work on radioactivity. The duo planned to use their prize money to continue their research.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Tragedy and triumph
“Have no fear of perfection; you'll never reach it.”
~ Marie Curie
Just two years after their win, Marie suffered a heartbreaking loss when Pierre was killed in Paris after stepping in front of a horse-drawn wagon. Although she was stricken by grief, she decided to take over his teaching post at the Sorbonne, becoming the institution’s first female professor. Five years into her tenure, Marie received another great honor; In 1911 she won her second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry.
When World War I broke out, Marie devoted her time and resources to helping the cause. X-ray machines had been invented based on her research, and could be found in many French doctors' offices, but Marie realized that X-rays could help doctors in the field. They could use the technology to see the bullets and shrapnel embedded in the soldiers’ bodies and remove them, as well as locate broken bones. So she championed the use of portable X-ray machines, and even trained 150 nurses to use them! Her love for the mysteries of radioactive materials never died.
Unfortunately, her constant exposure to them took its toll.
Years of being exposed to radiation began to wear down Marie's health. She had spent almost her entire career working with radioactive elements completely unprotected, and even carried test tubes of radium around in the pocket of her lab coat, something a modern scientist would never do! In the end, she died in 1934 of aplastic anemia, which can be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation. But she died doing what she loved, after decades of fighting for her place in the scientific elite, and became the only woman laid to rest in the Panthéon in Paris.
Thank you Marie for displaying passion and dedication until your last days. You worked as a warrior for science, busting through every barrier put in your way, and unlocking discoveries that still save lives every single day. May we all find something that grabs hold of us and never lets go, may we all fight as hard as you did for our rightful place in this world.
Earlier this year, I met a woman who I recognized instantly as a Soul Sister. Have you ever had that experience? You strike up a conversation and although you've never spoken with a person before, it's as if you've known each other all your lives? It's absolutely magical in so many ways. And although this woman and I were only together for a few short hours, I knew we were forging a long-term friendship. And when I emailed her to tell her how much I'd enjoyed connecting, she replied, “It felt so good to be seen and understood by you!”[Sarah McG1]
That phrase really struck a chord with me. It made me think about how human beings have a deep-seated need to express ourselves, but more than that, we want to be heard, seen, and known. It's one of our most primal emotional instincts.
Yet many of us struggle to be fully heard, seen, and known because we don't know ourselves.
We've got a handle on the basics, of course; the roles we fill in our relationships, the skills we've honed, our likes and dislikes. But although we yearn for the freedom to be ourselves, we sometimes wonder who the hell we'd BE if we could fully and authentically be ourselves!
There are countless ways to undertake these internal explorations. But today I want to touch on two key ways to discover more about your core identity, both of which have helped me tune into my true self: Friendships and archetypes.
Friends as mirrors
There's literally nothing more personal than identity. Who you are is utterly unique and specific to you, so the idea of understanding yourself by examining other people may seem downright strange! But if you're eager to find out who you are and struggling to unearth anything useful just by contemplating your life events and personality, it can help to turn your gaze outward. You don't need to define yourself by comparing; In fact, doing that can be destructive and painful. Just think of the women you admire as mirrors, reflecting elements of your inner self back at you.
Think about your close friendships, but also family members, work colleagues, any women in your life about whom you have strong and definite feelings. Then ask yourself these questions:
- What do I admire most in this woman?
- What does she do in her life that I wish I could do, too? What do I want to emulate?
- What about her personality or behavior rubs me the wrong way?
- What decisions has she made that caused me to sit up and take notice? (In either positive or negative ways.)
- What do I have in common with her?
Whenever we see a quality in another person that we want to nurture within ourselves, we are inspired tap into that quality and cultivate it in our own lives. When we admire a trait within another woman, it's often because it reflects back something about ourselves that stirs our pride. When we are irritated or turned off by a quality or behavior, it's usually something about ourselves that we struggle to understand or manage. When we consider comparison from this angle, it becomes less about competing and more about processing.
We can discover who we are by seeing ourselves in other women.
What we see in them may seem specific, but is often universal. The women we admire emulate archetypes through their decisions and choices, whether they realize it or not. And when we see archetypes outside of ourselves, it helps us see them within ourselves.
Archetypes as guides
So much of my work comes back to the four central archetypes that each woman channels: Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage. I see these four figures everywhere, in my own life, the lives of those around me, art and culture, relationships … they pop up again and again! Just this summer, I saw them so clearly in the film “Wonder Woman,” a character who embodied all four so elegantly; the mother (nurturing), lover (sexy and passionate), warrior (brave and strong), and sage (wise). And seeing her channel them helped me see those qualities within myself.
I firmly believe that these archetypes can be helpful guides for anyone eager to explore her inner self.
These archetypes are far from new. In fact they are ancient, and have been present across many cultures for millennia. But I hope to present them in a new way, one that will help you find out who you, as an individual, truly are. Let's start by making the universal into something personal. Ask yourself these questions:
- What does the Mother mean to you? How do you express being a Mother, even when you are not parenting?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
- What does the Lover mean to you? How do you express being a Lover, even when you are not being sensual?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
- What does the Warrior mean to you? How do you express being a Warrior, even when you are not fighting for your beliefs or defending yourself or your family?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
- What does the Sage mean to you? How do you express being a Sage, even when you are not steeped in contemplation?
- What about this archetype feels important to you?
- What about this archetype clashes with your ideas about yourself?
You may NEVER have thought of yourself in these specific terms before, but they resonate, don't they? When we, as women, are given the language (Mother, Lover, Warrior, Sage) we are suddenly able to see those dimensions within ourselves.
Naturally, one or two of the four may feel more strongly resonant to you. I consciously struggle to balance them myself; Sometimes I’m off balance and one characteristic dominates. But I strive to keep them all in the mix, and draw on their guiding energies when I feel lost or overwhelmed.
And I hope you'll consider that tactic for yourself. Keeping these four dimensions of self in mind as you seek deeper understanding is a rewarding and time-tested way to unlock your true identity. Of course, it won't be easy. As women we can be impatient and eager for a quick and easy answer. But we need to call in the Warrior to do the hard work needed to unearth profound insight and understanding.
I hope to write more on these topics in the coming months and am planning an exciting larger project around identity and the four archetypes, so stay tuned for more!
And I welcome your questions and input on the ideas I've shared today. How have YOU sought to understand and embrace your true self?
[Sarah McG1]This is something that happened to me, but I figured it was universal enough to use here! Hope that's OK!