Asking for What We Want

About a week before Christmas, my daughter Miranda asked me if the two of us could go see The Nutcracker.

She seems to want more mom-daughter time of late. Perhaps because she's getting older, perhaps because she feels ‘work time' is displacing ‘mom time'. (My friend Stacey has encouraged me me to share the challenges of my recent on-ramping. There are many; one day I'll go into more detail.)

For now, it's enough to know that one of the challenges is — my children liked having mom around more, and now that I'm around less, they miss me. So I wasn't all that surprised that Miranda suggested a girls' night out.


What did surprise me was her ability to articulate so easily what she wanted. Because — I just don't know that many women (including myself) who ask for what we want all that well.

Think about it.

When was the last time that a woman you know (or you yourself) asked simply and directly for something?

No martyrdom, no manipulation, etc., etc, — just stated their want (without making it a need) and asked.

That's what I thought.

In Anna Fels' article titled Do Women Lack Ambition?, she writes that our cultural ideals of femininity do not include women asking for resources, whether those resources involve time, money, praise. If we do ask, we feel selfish, and others are likely to believe us to be selfish as well.

This Christmas there were many lovely gifts given and received (including my Blackberry Curve), but taking Miranda to see The Nutcracker (as my mother did me), and hearing her ask for this outing, without even a nanosecond's worry that she would be jeopardizing her femininity, was without a doubt, among the best gifts.

When was the last time that you were direct about what you wanted? For example, just today, when I wanted something I'd left in the car, instead of asking my husband, “Will you go out to the car and get me x”, I said “Are you going out to the car?”

Do you know an adult woman who ask for what she wants — and gets it? What can we learn from her?

What can we do to encourage our daughters to continue asking, and believing they'll receive?


P.S. Is this one happy girl or what?

Related posts:

Rachel vs. Leah: Reclaiming the Power to Dream
Throw Down Your Pom-Poms and Get in the Game
Psyche's 3rd Task: Fill the Flask
Commentary – For Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect Too
Psyche and Choice

Getting Gratitude

I have not been able to get Anna Kerr's comment that “we are desperate and depressed because our society encourages us to be dissatisfied” off my mind.

It was a reminder that we need to not only look up and ahead, but down and back, and that as we dare and dream, and then ‘get', if we aren't grateful for ‘what we get', we'll still be desperate and depressed.

With a nod and big thank you to Anna, here's a list of things (and their respective categories) that I am grateful for:

1) God's grace — God's grace is something we don't deserve, but are given anyway, unfettered and unconditionally. For me, it is the fall foliage in New England. It is glorious to behold.

What providential gift, or gift of grace, are you grateful for?

2) Gift of another's self — This is a gift that comes when people play to their strengths and give us something we very much need or want, but can't give to ourselves. Because it is generously given, it is systergy at its purest, but certainly not the exclusive domain of women, as my friend Aaron demonstrated this past week.

LaNola Kathleen Stone is a superb example of this ‘gift of self'. Kathleen has taken our family's Christmas pictures since Miranda was a baby. Because she is willing to play to her specific strengths and intelligences, every year Kathleen sees magnificence in my children that I certainly couldn't, and dare I say, few photographers could, as seen below.


What gift of another's self are you grateful for?

3) What I'm good at — This will likely be the hardest one to come up with as it requires us to do precisely what Anna Fels' research and the Bem Sex Role Inventory indicate that feminine women don't do — pull attention toward ourselves. Even after months of ‘soapboxing' about this, I would have readily deflected had my friends Brooke and Stacey not gently encouraged me to stiffen my spine. And so…. I'm grateful that I am good at coming up with an idea or vision for a project AND that I can then execute against my vision; take Know Your Neighbor, for instance.

What are you grateful to be good at? What are your strengths? Is there a way that your ‘good at' can be given as a gift of your self?

4) Simple pleasures — This is something that makes us happy. Period. Like listening to Earth, Wind and Fire's Can't Hide Love. I loved this song as a 16 year-old. And I still love it. Every time I hear that magnificent horn introduction on my iPod, I am happy. A simple pleasure.

What simple pleasure are you grateful for?

P.S. Just this morning there was a terrific article in the NY Times titled Let us give thanks. In writing., and includes a quote from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

Psyche’s 3rd Task: Fill the Flask

For her third task, Psyche must fill a flask with water from an inhospitable stream, etched into a jagged cliff and guarded by dragons. “To help her in this seemingly impossible task, the eagle of Zeus, CEO of Olympus, has the ability to see what it wants and plunge from the sky and grab it with its talons,” writes Jean Shinoda Bolen.

Psyche’s ability to fill the flask is symbolic of her learning how to set a goal and to achieve that goal, avoiding the inevitable distractions.

Tomorrow I begin working full-time on one of my dreams. There are so many things that need to be done to get this business up-and-running (legal documentation, bank accounts, insurance, payroll, etc), the start-up tasks could easily occupy all my time. But, the fact is, these tasks are secondary. The primary task is to invest wisely and well the monies entrusted to us.

Would it be easier and less frightening to focus on secondary tasks?

Absolutely. I could probably even persuade myself they are primary tasks, and become distracted as Psyche no doubt did; fortunately the eagle was there to help.

Photo courtesy of David Watson aka astrothug

Do we get easily distracted when working toward goals?

Worse yet, do we even bother to set and achieve goals, to dare to dream?

Sadly, a lot of women don't. Because for many, if not most women, from the time we were young girls, we may have been placated, even pampered, but our dreams were subtly, if not overtly, discouraged.

Could this really be true — you ask.

Just take a moment and ask yourself these questions:

When you compliment women and girls, what do you emphasize?

What about men and boys?

Would it be accurate to say that with women, we focus on their appearance, or how kind they are (e.g. giving something to someone else) and with men, we focus on accomplishments?

If you're still in doubt, over the next few hours, why not compliment women/girls on what they are accomplishing, and men/boys on how they look and what they do for others?

Feels kind of weird, doesn't it? Which is why filling the flask isn't as easy as we might have supposed.

So, the next time you get that awkward little feeling as you're daring to dream, maybe, just maybe, it's not because the dream is bad or wrong, maybe it's because we haven't really dared for a while, if ever.

Happily, we're not alone as we dare — the eagle's there.

What if Madeleine L’Engle Hadn’t Dared to Dream?

You have something that IT has not. This something is your only weapon. But you must find it for yourself. Mrs. Which, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle.

One of my beloved childhood books was A Wrinkle in Time. In re-reading the below passage from Ms. L'Engle's memoir A Circle of Quiet, I couldn't help but wonder, what if she had given up on her ambition, if she hadn't dared to dream?

She writes:

I am often asked how I came to write A Wrinkle in Time.

Even with all the hindsight of which I am capable I can't quite explain it. It was during a time of transition. We had sold the store, were leaving the safe, small world of the village, and going back to the city and the theatre.

While we were on our ten-week camping trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again, we drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. And suddenly into my mind came the names, Mrs. Whatsit. Mrs. Who. Mrs. Which.

But why did those names come to me just then, and from where? I haven't the faintest idea. I suppose that my writing mind, which is always at work no matter what is happening on the surface level, took over from there. I had brought along some…Einstein, a few other books on cosmology…and…the influence of these books on Wrinkle is obvious. I was also quite consciously writing my own affirmation of a universe which is created by a power of love.

After an early rejection (there were many), “X turned down Wrinkle…saying he loved it, but didn't quite dare do it, as it isn't really classifiable. I know it isn't classifiable, and am wondering if I'll have to go through the usual hell with this that I seem to go through with everything I write…

[and yet] this book I'm sure of. If I've ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it. This is my psalm of praise….

…In 1963 (c. three years after the above entry), when I was in Chicago to receive the Newberry Medal for A Wrinkle in Time, a woman who was a fine editor…but who had rejected Wrinkle, said to me, “I know I should have published this book. But I wonder: if I had accepted A Wrinkle in Time, would it have been the right moment for it? If it had been published then, maybe you wouldn't be here now….”

She was a very wise woman.


1. Are you in a time of transition, a “bleak period of your life” as L'Engle describes the period during which she wrote Wrinkle?

2. What activities are you involved in, what books are you reading, that could be furthering your dream?

3. Are you in the unknown right now? How does it feel?

4. If your dream is facing rejection after rejection, is it possible that the timing is not yet right?

5. When you tell your story, in whatever form it takes, what beliefs will you be affirming?

6. For those of you that have read A Wrinkle in Time, think for a moment about protagonist Meg Murry and how her journey parallels that of Psyche's: Meg willingly undertakes a journey fraught with danger so as to find her father.

7. If you don't dare to dream, what gift to the world that only you can give, might not be given?

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