The philosophy behind the Tao and defiant movement began as a personal quest for me: I wanted to discover just what it was that allowed some women to face their life transitions with joy and grace, while others were less successful at confronting the same challenges. The notion of Tao and defiance was born ten years ago, on the day that my friend, Kathy, celebrated her sixtieth birthday. Joining in the festivities, I appreciated the significance of the day and her obvious joy and enthusiasm for this leap into a new decade.
Kathy had always seemed to glide smoothly through the transitions in her life, viewing each new stage as an adventure. She’d certainly experienced rocky patches along the way – personal health problems, major surgeries, the passing of close family members and worries about her children – yet she always found an inner strength to tackle each and continue on rather than giving up and giving in to remorse and lethargy. And now she felt blessed to be blowing out the candles atop her birthday cake, fully embracing this new part of her life’s journey.
I, on the other hand, had always had a more difficult time facing each major life transition as it was thrust upon us.
“How do you do it?” I asked. “How do you deal with these changes and seem so serene with it all?”
“It’s all a natural part of life, isn’t it?” Kathy replied. “You have to accept what you can’t change.”
She continued by suggesting that I “go out there and talk to other women. See how they deal with life’s transitions. Talk to them about birthdays and family, jobs and fashion, health and friendships. Talk to them and see what advice they can give you, and, in turn, what advice you can start to give them as you learn more of the ‘successful secrets.’”
I began by questioning friends, acquaintances and family members and asking them about the transitions they had faced in their lives – nothing was taboo. This first group introduced me to others – all eager to participate in my very timely and intimate survey. Ultimately I hosted seminars and full-day workshops where we discussed family and children; love and loss; age and health; weight and clothing; work and play.
“How did you react when your child/ first went off to school/a left for college/ got married/ had a child of her own?”
“How are you planning for your new job/ leaving your job/ retiring from your job?”
“How did you deal with the passing of a loved one?”
“How will you change now that you are newly married/ newly divorced/?”
“How do you decide what to wear when the newest fashions aren’t the most flattering for you?”
“How do you feel about your weight/ height/ age?”
And the women responded freely and enthusiastically.
I discovered was that there is a real need for women in our communities to come together and face their life transitions together. And I found that these women were eager to help others navigate the ever-changing stages of our lives for, by doing so, they were able to help themselves also. They, like me, wanted to feel good about themselves; to stay young in spirit, hip, fun, beautiful, exciting and happy.
And, that which I learned is in order to do so, one must adopt an attitude of acceptance – accepting the transitions and challenges that we find along our life’s paths. This acceptance lead me to revisit the ancient Chinese philosophy. Ah, yes, now that fit the bill, for the Tao teaches us to recognize that we are all one with nature and that our lives are going to follow a natural path. Fighting that fact only brings stress and unhappiness.
However, acceptance is only one part of the equation, for once we acknowledge those transitions we need to use the situations to our advantage. That is were defiance comes in; defying negativity, cultural stereotypes and self-defeating behaviors.