Analyzing on Susan Sontag’s “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source?”

I love Susan Sontag’s essay “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source?” as it relates to a subject I am deeply passionate about, women’s equality. Susan Sontag wrote this piece for Vogue magazine in 1975 and my opinion is that many of the points she originally made forty years ago are still valid and, sadly, prevalent in the twenty-first century. Even though women today seem to enjoy a much bigger freedom to make choices about their body and looks, the beauty standards we are held to are equally present in our gender-biased society. We are criticized when we wear too much make-up and when we don’t. A woman in 2016 is still being scrutinized on daily basis for the way she looks, similarly to what Susan Sontag observed and railed against in 1975. Through her shockingly bold, emotionally charged language and the use of logic, Susan Sontag’s article is a revolutionary piece of writing. In her essay Sontag strives to challenge the American society of mid 1970’s to revisit the limiting views of woman’s beauty and urges her audience to define it in on their own terms.

The author sees women’s beauty as a curse, an obligation to meet certain standards set by the society. She weaves a story of how beauty was perceived throughout history. Starting with the Greeks who believed good looks meant attractiveness through and through, she observes that the influence of Christianity started the schism in the way we perceive beauty today; it created an irreversible rift between a person’s looks and virtues – Cartesian dualism. Sontag believes that women are scrutinized and judged based on their efforts to appear physically attractive. They are seen as narcissistic and shallow should they choose to make themselves beautiful. Their merit can even be in question if they indeed look attractive. Men, on the other hand, are judged based on their actions and rarely the looks. They don’t run a risk of being demeaned and discredited simply because they are good looking. The author’s final observation is poignant, yet powerful, she trusts that women can get away from this self-limiting standard of femininity if only they accept they are free to define the new terms.

Sontag’s essay was originally published in 1975. Media publications of that era are a good source of evidence that the gender roles were clearly drawn and observed with few exceptions. As an example, Cornellia Honchar in her article “Why Are Pedestals for Women so Illusory?” points out that a married woman’s job was to be a homemaker, even if she had a college degree to boot, while her husband worked to provide for the family (Chicago Tribune). Her happiness was directly related to her man’s success and satisfaction. In the 1970’s, media portrayed woman as a happy person engaged mostly in the matters related to her homemaker’s status. Sadly, there is little mention of her intellectual pursuits. Few women pursued a career back then and if they did, their chances to climb a success ladder and earn an equal pay to that of a man were nearly impossible. This naturally created an even deeper need for women to become “the caretakers of their surfaces” since the only way for them to have any power was through attracting a rich and an influential man (Sontag 388). Only through the application of their own beauty could they be seen, recognized and admired. Sontag observes that “it isn’t the power to do but the power to attract,” and doubts whether it is a power after all (Sontag 388). Perhaps that’s why Susan Sontag’s essay appearing in Vogue must have been a revolutionary and controversial piece of writing as it questioned the very sense of woman’s identity.

Vogue started off as a fashion magazine targeted to classy elegant women with high and above average income and was a rather conservative brand dedicated to luxury items. Over time, especially in 60’s, it took a slightly new direction and offered a little more edgy content to lure in a younger audience. Still, the magazine was predominantly catering to a female population between the ages of sixteen to thirty-four, mostly interested in fashion and beauty. At that time, “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source?” must have created quite a stir among its readers. In her essay, Susan Sontag has a limited amount of words to use – so she uses them wisely. She creates a perfect balance between the finesse of her vocabulary and being bold. Her language is brilliant and to the point when she says, “There should be a way of saving beauty from women – and for them” (Sontag 389). She is a masterful wordsmith, and purposefully weaves in the phrases that are powerful and shocking to her readers, who would most likely never use language like “Damned if they do – women are. And damned if they don’t” (Sontag 388). There is a clear intention behind Sontag’s choice of words, to shake and awaken her audience to find their beauty, redefine it and use it wisely, as a source of one’s power. Susan Sontag confidently relays her message to the audience through the use of contrast when she states “nobody encourages a man to dissect his appearance,” with “women are taught to see their bodies in parts and to evaluate each part separately” (388). She applies irony when she points out that “Nothing less than perfection will do,” when she is discussing how women view their body (Sontag 388). She takes on to expose and correct this error in woman’s thinking and by naming a body part after a body part she does it with her bold and scrupulous logic. Her writing, so well crafted and the fact that she is a woman, is an excellent proof that she herself has been able to succeed at something other than preening herself. The talent she owns, the mastery of the language is used expertly to enlighten and inspire Vogue women to go beyond the small talk and pursue more existential goals.

In her attempt to uncover the underlying flaw in our society’s view on the subject of beauty Sontag goes back to Ancient Greece and the beginnings of Christianity. With an unwavering logic she constructs a detailed analysis to determine why our views on beauty are so skewed. Her choice of historic names, facts and Latin words implies she has put some thought into her research and studied the subject. She starts with Socrates as a way to validate her own position on the subject, “One of Socrates’ main pedagogical acts was to be ugly – and teach those innocent, no doubt splendid-looking disciples of his, how full of paradoxes life really was” (Sontag 386). Later on, she dissects the meaning of beautiful as opposed to handsome, the latter reserved to men only. Sontag also mentions Jean Cocteau, a French writer and a playwright to bring more credibility to her words when she refers to beauty again. To keep her audience engaged she uses one of the most iconic actors of all times, Robert Redford as an example that proves her point that men don’t need to be perfect looking, in fact they shouldn’t.

Yet according to Sontag all women seek to be perfect. By giving us real life examples any of her readers can readily identify themselves with the author’s words. Susan Sontag undoubtedly speaks to our insecurities and fears when she describes what it takes to be a woman in 1975. “To preen, for a woman, can never be just a pleasure,” she notes and leaves us to ponder about the inequality of this statement (Sontag 388). We all know how society views a man as masculine and attractive when he sports macho, rugged looks. The same does never apply to his counterpart. If she appears somewhat disheveled she is deemed unattractive, sloppy and lazy. The author also knows how to appeal to our emotions by simply bringing up the fact that being pretty might be used against us. A woman can never be sure when her efforts to look good can attract unsafe kind of attention from men.

In my opinion, this essay must have polarized Sontag’s readers. Her bold and thought-provoking ideas could not be dismissed and ignored. I can’t imagine a woman not having a strong opinion for or against Sontag’s plea. Perhaps that is all the author wanted, to leave a mark, to encourage us to give her words a thought. Even if some of her readers walked away from reading the article being offended or unconvinced, there is a chance some took the writer’s words to heart. Maybe her essay inspired some women to be their true expression in the human form regardless of what the world thinks of them?

Works Cited:

Sontag, Susan. “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source?” 50 Essays A Portable Collection. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 386-389 Print

Honchar, Cornelia. “Why Are Pedestals for Women so Illusory? – Chicago Tribune. 13 May 1973 Web

A new beginning – 1997

It was a busy afternoon at work, and I was getting ready to leave. I smiled at the thought of a nice warm summer evening ahead of me with a promise of relaxing bath and a book, perhaps. As I was about to step outside a dog-grooming parlor where I worked, I caught a glimpse of the last customer opening the door. However, it wasn’t a last minute hurried shopper but my very own husband, Christopher. I smiled and raised my eyebrows to express my surprise at his unannounced visit. He simply answered he came to pick me up on his way from work and that he was taking me to eat out. Still puzzled, as this was rather unusual for him to act on the spur of the moment, I grabbed my purse and we drove to a restaurant. As we were passing familiar streets I started wondering about the reason he was inviting me to a dinner. I glanced at him and observed a rather forlorn look, an odd expression on his face. His hands were slightly trembling and this got me really worried. He looked as if something was eating him. I couldn’t contain myself and asked him to explain what was going on. His only answer was that he would tell me later.

We entered a restaurant, which appeared to be one of these fancy ones with perfectly white starched tablecloths and a golden glow of candelabra. The music was playing softly, and a delicate aroma of damask roses filled the air. Scattered around were the tables with couples holding hands; and here and there I could hear subdued voices. As our waiter sat us at a table I observed Christopher’s hands clutching a glass of water as if he wanted to break it. His hands were slightly shaking. I looked at him, met his eyes shortly but he averted them and stared into a distance.

The silence was poignant and painful. All sorts of thoughts were racing through my mind. I found myself going through gazillions of possible and ridiculously absurd scenarios. One of them was that he contracted a terminal illness and his days were numbered. I even had a glimpse of myself nursing him till his last day of life. Another thought that crossed my mind with a lightning speed was that he joined the army. A ball of fear started swelling in my throat.

Finally, he cleared his throat and quietly whispered, “I am in love with another woman.” Next, he added meekly, “I want a divorce.” His shoulders were hunched and he wouldn’t meet my gaze.

The time stopped and my universe came to a standstill. My heart paused, too. I was utterly shocked. This was the one and only thing I wasn’t prepared to hear. For what seemed like an eternity I looked inside my heart to determine what it was feeling. I was stunned to realize that it was numb and the only things that concerned me were the legal and financial ramifications of this sad situation. I didn’t feel any pain, sadness or disappointment, just the shock and the disbelief that this was happening.

Then, I had the most astounding and profound experience. I closed my eyes for a moment and all of a sudden I saw a huge imaginary white banner displayed in front of my eyes with the most surprising message. It read “FREEDOM” in capital letters. An odd and unexplainable sense of excitement filled me. In fact, I was elated in spite of the fact that I just found myself on the verge of the unknown.

“Here it is,” I said, as I took my wedding band off my finger and send it rolling across the table. I watched him catch it and noticed an expression of relief and astonishment on his face.

All this happened while the music was playing quietly in the background. No other person in the restaurant heard the exchange that went between the two of us. That’s when I understood his reasoning for choosing this restaurant. He knew I wouldn’t throw a fit in a place full of people and so elegant. He really was scared of my reaction, probably expected a scene, a big messy scene with lots of tears and bitching. I somehow denied him of all that, I thought. Instead I was calm. “Did his ego suffer because I let him off the hook so easily?” I pondered.

I let this thought and many others remain unanswered. Somehow it didn’t matter any more. My instinct was telling me not to worry about anything and to focus on the new path that was emerging right in front of my eyes.

With this simple act I concluded our five years of marriage. From today’s perspective, I can tell it was supposed to happen. I never looked back; very soon I started moving in a completely new direction in my life, which wouldn’t be possible, if I stayed married to Christopher. A few months later I met my next significant other and I was moving with him overseas. This was a brand new beginning. The transformation I was undergoing was immense; every single aspect of my existence was affected by it. I was happy again and full of hope.

On Morality

Morality is a set of rules that defines what good and what wrong is. As I dig deeper, I come to an interesting conclusion that morality is very much influenced by the time in history, the place and the level of our spiritual understanding both on an individual and global level.

Women of ancient Crete walked with their breasts exposed in public and it was as normal in their time and place as wearing jeans today. Minoan culture was accepting of the fact that the breasts were an attribute of a healthy woman and didn’t view it as inappropriate. Today, a nursing mom at a mall might be asked to cover up as the sight of the baby at her breast still offends many.

The Japanese Samurai understood loyalty and honor differently than we do today. They would fight to the death in a hopeless battle to protect their master’s honor, or commit suicide if they felt they had disgraced their lord. Samurai were only following “The Bushido,” the warrior’s code of conduct. Today we would argue whether a suicide is an act of honor and loyalty or not.

Ancient Spartans didn’t want to have anything to do with ill and unfit babies and routinely threw them from Mount Taygetus or abandoned them to die. To a modern man such a behavior is unacceptable and we deem it as barbarian and unethical.

In our times we choose to donate our organs to those in need, a huge no-no in the ancient Egypt where the body of a dead person was embalmed and preserved to ensure the spirit could live on forever. The Egyptians would most likely be appalled by our practice.

Time and place matter. Our standards are dictated by fashion and politics and juxtaposed against society’s morality canon. Only when majority sees certain virtue as favorable it is then welcomed to the pantheon of the morality standards. Throughout the history these have been very fluid. In the times of Hammurabi things looked different than today. Which brings me to say that there is no morality per se. There isn’t ONE set of rules that defines what good and evil is for the entire human race till the end of time.

So does that mean that we, as human race should not have any standards to be measured against? Does that mean that we should go on killing, robbing, cheating? That’s not what I am trying to say. However, accepting the standards at face value without ever reexamining them leads to stagnation. Moral rules should be there in place for us to refer to them but it is our job, on a personal level and as a society, to reassess them and look at them through the lenses of each new experience.

Each of us evolves individually as a soul and as a part of a group of souls at the same time. We grow though our experience, love and pain. One way to see our individuality and beauty is through the mirror of the society. What we do with our life is set against the backdrop of our culture. Only that way we can define our growth, self-actualization and self-awareness. Yet we should never adopt self-limiting and narrow-minded view of the world based on what majority thinks.

Some of the norms that were put on the pedestal of morality are not relevant today. Not long ago same sex marriages were illegal. Interracial marriages were frowned upon. Women smoking cigarettes were considered dangerously provocative. Clearly, with our society advancing in so many ways our consciousness transcends the old and somewhat ancient rules of conduct. Which leads me to say that most of the moral issues should be addressed on an individual level, weighed in our heart first and foremost. Ideally, we should have our own moral compass that evolves as we grow.

The Last Judgement

Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement”

When it comes to morality we humans are often very judgmental. I found out that in most cases when judgment is involved and the person’s morals are scrutinized it is because we don’t know the underlying causes of the situation, we have not walked in that person’s shoes. Most often we aren’t aware what circumstances and forces are at play. When we condemn with the highest level of cruelty and intolerance it is then when we haven’t resolved our own issues. I am not a Christian but I find an extreme level of humanity and logic in words of Jesus, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” Angry, hurtful words cut deeper than a stone. They also cause a negative ripple. Words are energy. Each one of us carries shame, pain and guilt for the things we had done in the past and would rather had not. The only way to overcome the guilt is to forgive our own self and learn from the past. Judging without knowing one’s personal journey and the circumstances is never a good idea. Compassion and kindness lifts people while judgment divides. Tolerance and love rather than arrogance serves higher purpose.

*Disclaimer: Written under a heavy influence of rock music and chocolate

My Body

My body is not me and yet it is. The fact is, I get to use it and enjoy it for a lifetime. It can give me an immeasurable amount of joy and pain. My body gets sick, tired and feels flawed sometimes. Then, it dances to the music only my soul can hear. My body can be on cloud nine and jump for joy. It likes doing yoga and walking on the sand. There are times it is curled up on a couch in agony. It is able to experience a symphony of sensations and I am grateful for it.

030c5b23ff9327f53789c8ce41f1620eMy body didn’t use to be like that. I didn’t see it as beautiful, I didn’t know it was. It belonged to me and I took care of it but didn’t really experience it fully. I wasn’t aware of my body in the sense I perceived myself in terms of intellect only.

Yet, I was meant to come across my sensuality sooner or later. It was a pleasant surprise to get to know my body eventually. And as I made a connection between it, my spirit and my mind, all elements of puzzle suddenly fell into place. Now that I consciously own it, I celebrate it as much as I can. I take glimpses of it while passing the mirror and I admire it and love it.

I am more beautiful than I ever have been. I am more aware of my body, my sensuality and in tune with myself. No, I am not narcissistic, just aware of who I am. My body is the seat of my soul and I perceive myself as an expression of God. As such I am not flawed, just perfect and beautiful.

My body is not me and yet it is. It does not define me. How I relate to it defines me. In the past, I perceived myself as unattractive and not worthy of love. This choice, albeit not conscious on my part, shaped my concept of self for many years.

Today I know better. I choose to see beauty in me. I determine how it affects me in relation to the outside world. I use my body to my advantage just because I can. When I walk in my high heels I know I turn heads. Does it make me happy? No, but it amuses me how important body image can be. Going from self-conscious to self-confident was a process all inspired by my relationship to my body. Now, in my forties I am more happy than ever. I am also grateful for the gift my body is to me.

Sometimes life gets so busy I am on an autopilot and forget about my body. It literally carries me throughout the day and I don’t even spare a thought to express my gratitude for doing so. Only when I find myself sick or in pain I refocus on it again. Its fragility frightens me and at the same time feels me with wonder. It reminds me of passing and death. Yet it is not death that scares me but leaving the loved ones behind.

My body is my temple. I am thankful for it every day.

On being a single mom

There is no right way to tell a story of being a single mom. There are as many unique stories as there are single moms. I will just attempt to tell you mine. I am not looking for pity or compassion because becoming a single mom was purely my choice with all the joys and tribulations that come along. But, I want you to pause for a moment and maybe reflect that so often we really don’t know what is happening in other person’s life. Maybe by reading this you can embrace the idea that life happens in so many varied forms and none of them is better than the other. My life isn’t less desirable or valuable than yours, just different.

Getting divorced was easy; getting custody was more of a battle. My-now-ex and I both knew we wanted to be divorced, at some point. But for me there was no question whether I wanted to share custody of our children with him 50/50. One of the reasons I wanted to divorce was that I knew he wasn’t capable of neither taking care of himself nor providing home for the girls. He insisted that he was perfectly sane and able to do so. The court didn’t think so and thus I landed full physical and legal custody. Our children live with me and he gets to spend a couple of hours with them during the week. He hasn’t held a job in over four years and lives in his car.

7dd475bb3c5d1bff173af8991fcc6335The responsibility of raising our children, providing them with a shelter, food, clothes, paying for their hobbies and pleasures falls entirely on me. As a matter of fact I feel proud of being able to pull this off; I am a woman after all. By saying this I admit it is harder to make money for a female when your most recent years were dedicated to raising the kids. No, I don’t feel inadequate, I am just painfully aware that my nurturing talents, my mothering skills don’t get recognized by potential employers and don’t translate into a nice executive salary. Instead, I sense that society would want me to feel guilty for the fact I hadn’t been pursuing a career while being a mom. I chose to be present in my children’s lives but at the expense of my own marketability.

I am a single parent who relies completely on her own financial, mental and spiritual resources to raise two young daughters. While exhausting it is also hugely gratifying. There is an undeniable bond that the three of us share. We don’t have any family in the US. In a way we are really as close together as we can be. There is beauty in it and sadness. I know my daughters through and through, I sense their moods and can guess their thoughts. It is extremely powerful, this attachment we share. Yet, sometimes I feel drained and lost. I am the only parent they can rely on. I am their sole mental, emotional and physical support and they have no one else to go to. I need to be extremely strong even when I am vulnerable like never before. I feel the burden of raising two humans who have an absolute trust in me.

I realized long ago that there is no point in comparing myself to moms who have the financial and emotional support of their spouses because I don’t. I am the moneymaker, the decision-maker and the one who gets up in the morning to get them ready for school. And I am a woman. I find myself sometimes awake at wee hours wondering how all this will work out. I have my fears and insecurities. I cry and the next morning I wake up and continue my solo dance in front of God’s eyes. I stumble and fall and I get up. Each time I rise I am wiser and stronger.

With all that I realize my happiness doesn’t depend on money or lack of it; instead it depends on relationships with the people I love. Most importantly it depends on my own relationship with the Universe and myself. The more I live my life surrendering myself to the divine the easier eventually it gets.

So this is my story. I also know a woman who has been abandoned and left without any resources to raise her two young sons. I know a woman who chose her own self-esteem over the comfort of a nice salary her husband was bringing home. These women go on living their lives and struggle often. They appear strong and composed even when they are falling apart. All we know is that they somehow manage. They laugh and cry, like all of us. I am telling you this story because I am one of them. It is bittersweet. I love my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything.


No way I could have known this in my twenties when I thought I knew it all. In my thirties I was sure I had an intimate knowledge of life and yet even being a mom didn’t quite cut it. Now, in my forties I am confident I finally am close to embracing the truth but something is telling me I might have a different perspective once I hit my fifties. Truly, life is an amazing adventure of self-discovery and I am an avid pursuer of its all flavors, bitter and sweet, intertwined for the purpose of our eternal amusement.

In my twenties I believed life was about an adventure, passion and an untamed potential I perceived in every living thing. I savored life’s essence dancing my way through the effervescent white nights in Norway when the day would never stop and the sleeplessness was a badge to strive for. I danced barefoot on the floor of a pub with broken glass on the floor to a loud music with the stars in my eyes. I drunk to my delight and let my amber-red hair sway to the rhythm of eternal youth that ran through my veins. I slept on the beach by a bonfire, my body drenched in a sweat, smoke and an aroma of love, My dreams were full of wonder and the life just seemed to be opening like a flower’s bud in the palm of my hand. Each day I woke up feeling happy and ready to just be. I was drunk from the mere possibilities that awaited me.

c51ede2376b6e83d476546b37e2e62b1Thirties came with a baggage of motherhood; a mellow and definitely more subdued type of an experience. I was a life bearer, a giver and a personification of mother goddess. This time the sleepless nights were of a different sort and they didn’t leave me ecstatic, just exhausted. I cut my hair short and I forgot how to dance to the tune of the Universe. My music was that of lullabies and nursery rhymes. The rare moments I could remember who I was were defined by my newly found peace in meditation and writing. In fact, writing was the force and the passion that was a reminiscence of my fiery and wild twenties.

Then came my forties when I found my beauty again. I grew my hair longer and started spinning new dreams. I yearned for a passion and life that would be meaningful. It all came to me in a sudden flash, in a moment I will never forget. It was in a smile, the eternal allure of new love, intoxicating and powerful. At the same time I realized I had a dream. I wanted to be a writer. This dream was so hard to believe in. I would tell myself that it was brazen to think I could even aspire to write because English is not my mother tongue. I would rather give up before I started. Yet, it is beautiful to dream… And so I kept on writing.

I love forties. I definitely find it easier to be just myself and not to give in to what other people think of me. I think most women discover that around this age. Life is too short to live it up to someone else’s expectations. I am only curious what the fifties will bring.

Life Is A Mystery

Life is a mystery. It has taken me on a journey I would have never imagined was laid out for me. Now I am here, sitting in my English 100 class and am marveling at the miracle that has brought me here today.

Tree2AIn my early twenties I went to college and studied like everyone else did. Then my nomadic spirit got the best of me. I was tempted to taste different flavors life had placed on a plate in front of me. Suddenly, my education was not on my agenda any more. I travelled across Europe, worked different jobs, moved to United States, started a family and was raising my daughters. Sadly, over the course of time, I observed I had become more of a mom and less of myself. My vibrant self was lost in an array of activities for my kids and rarely was I doing something I loved.

The only time I felt like my old self was when I could write. I savored each moment I could put my fingers on the keyboard of my old trusted Mac and I let them do their magic dance. The words like flowers would spring from under my fingertips. I felt alive again. The year when my youngest daughter turned one, my blog was conceived. I would journal my days and write about mundane things. Slowly, ever so slowly, my blog entries morphed into a plethora of sophisticated studies of human nature and cross-cultural observations.

Then my reality shifted again and I felt lost. I was in an abusive relationship; my partner’s mental illness was quickly getting out of control and taking its toll on all of us. Each morning I would wake up without any hope, scared and depressed. I would only get up because I had to be there for my daughters. The fear I felt was agonizing. I so wanted to leave the hell I was confined to and yet I was paralyzed to make a move. To make things worse, I couldn’t even write, sorrow was my only companion. My muse has abandoned me.

And then something miraculous happened. I found myself starting my life over, beginning from scratch. I rented an apartment and moved in there with my daughters. Bit by bit, I found a way to support just the three of us. And I was able to write again, to share my deepest and most profound thoughts. My passion was alive again. Then one day, an unorthodox thought crossed my mind. “What, what if I could go back to college and make my writing better?”

Once I decided to follow my dream there were people, some of them strangers, who offered me their help. One time, I was walking on the beach when I observed an unknown, older woman coming my way. The most genuine smile in her sea-green eyes warmed my heart as she handed me a white, sweet smelling flower. “To your dreams,” she said and walked away.
So here I am, in this class, knowing that this is what my heart truly desires and where I am supposed to be.

Life is chaos

“Life is chaos, build a temple of peace in your heart”

I was born a Capricorn and as such I thrived on creating my reality in a predictable way. Already as a child I liked to know what to expect. I enjoyed making plans and was anticipating special events as long as they were scheduled and announced in advance. I felt safe and secure knowing what was ahead and needed to know the exact details of any adventure to enjoy it. Certainty was the spice of my life.

In my late 30’s my guardian angel decided that I was ready to experience some new flavors and served me a plate full of surprises. Gone were my stability, predictability and a sense of knowing where I was heading. All of a sudden I was hanging by a thread, unsure what future had in store for me. I spent a couple of years not knowing how I was going to move on with my life. From that moment I only could TRUST that things would work out for me but I had no idea HOW this would happen.

My transformation was long and painful. I thought of it as the darkest hour of my life. I remember waking up in the mornings and not wanting to face the day. I was scared and could only pray for the better outcome. Slowly, ever so slowly things started moving forward and I could finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.

As I am finding a new footing in my life I am more aware that I am not the same person I used to be. My understanding of the life process is different than 5 years ago. I revel in the fact that I am a part of the perfect creation that we call the Universe and even though my part is small, it is still an important one. With this in mind, I feel protected and supported in all aspects of my being. Just that single thought puts me at ease and lets me open up a little more to be who I truly am.

I admit, it is not always easy to have an absolute trust in the process of life. My mind still gets in the way as it wants to convince me that being open and vulnerable is fundamentally a risky business. I see my mind or ego as an extension of what makes me a unique person, though. In contrast to my soul, which is eternal, all knowing and doesn’t experience fear, ego’s purpose is to keep my body alive. Ego is not a foe but a vital force that sets me in motion to reach for the stars. Most of the time I remember who I am, a timeless soul with a body and mind. Sometimes, though, I forget my boundless splendor and identify myself with my ego. I think it likes to play games with me. Whenever I believe I finally found peace I am proven wrong. Somehow, life has its way of throwing new obstacles to help me yet again revisit my fears and insecurities. Each time shit happens I need to go deep within, find my core and rebound.

12122793_885487184868410_2219852046682920422_nWhen I enter my heart I find my peace. Never there has been a time when I wasn’t able to find the answer to my questions, doubts or insecurities once I consulted my trusted and loving heart. My heart is my strength. It knows who I am, it is my essence. It knows no fear and is the seat of my soul. Naturally, when I go deep within, I find myself in my purest form. While it sounds easy, it takes practice to reach the heart.

Listening to my heart has not always been effortless. The mind often interfered and tried to convince me that my heart based choice was not sensible, that I would end up regretting it. It took a lot of nerve to defy the dispassionate logic of my mind, especially in the world where the success is measured by status, money and power.

Following my heart’s subtle motion, I relinquished control over my life and allowed it to flow and unfold in front of my eyes. The hardest part was to let go of it and trust that my path is unique and can’t be compared to anyone’s.

My last five years were rocky and the last two, even though less painful, still proved to be far from peaceful. I am still in transition: building a new relationship, watching my daughters grow, going back to college and figuring out my career options. This process of gaining equilibrium has been extremely long for me. I crave a little bit of stability in my life, a plateau of sorts. Starting on new adventures is exciting but it is also taxing and I simply want to rest. Apparently, it is not time for me to rest, yet ;-).


“You have an accent!” I heard again. I smiled politely and replied, “Yes,” in my thick Eastern European accent. Some people said my accent was lovely, some didn’t care and some obviously didn’t like it. That was a part of my heritage, a curse or my ace, depending on how I wanted to look at it. Surely, having an accent meant I was a stranger. I felt at times like I did not belong to this country and culture coupled with a strong desire to fit in. Surely, I was getting used to it and growing my roots. I came to United States in my late twenties with high hopes and I embraced this New World with an open heart and faith for a better and happier life.

It was year 2000 and I was in Dallas, Texas trying to adapt to this amazingly different environment. It was a mind-boggling place for a European like me with huge ten-lane freeways, enormous mansions, big cars, big hair, scary bugs and an interesting mix of people from all over the United States. Dallas was a crucible, a melting pot of sorts since this was a mecca of all telecom engineers from around the world as telecom companies were sprouting around each corner of freeway 75. Living in Texas, of all places, proved to be an interesting challenge to me, an Eastern European gal, who had an affinity for refined things like art and literature. Not that Dallas lacked any of these things, quite contrary. Dallas was a multifaceted conglomeration of various styles and profiles including quite an interesting portfolio of modern artists and a wonderfully well-appointed Dallas Museum of Art. However, it was also populated with people who loved roosters as the art on their walls and thought bigger was better. Well-off families who liked their suburban lifestyle inhabited the North area of Dallas. Men were making a 6-figure income and women happily spending it. Prior to coming to Dallas it never occurred to me that a woman’s goal was to have a perfect hair and make up and stuff her enormous room-size closet with the newest fashions. I was rather amazed to discover that so many Dallas women would spend their time going on extravagant shopping sprees to yet again redecorate the entire house. This was a new idea to me. After all I came from a family that would rather buy me books for my birthday than a make up. My parents’ favorite pastime was taking daily walks in nature with me and shopping was just a necessity. Here, life was different.

So different that I made so many faux pas simply because I didn’t know any better. I was embarrassed not once for breaking American rules and I made people laugh at me, too. Here, I recall some of the funniest mistakes I made.

Once I needed to deposit some money at my bank but it was past 5 pm and the door was closed. I was about to turn back and head home when a security officer advised me to go to the drive through. Now, there were no drive through banks in my country and I had no idea what that meant so I naively asked him how far it was. He said it was around the corner and to take my car. I smiled and thought, “these Americans don’t ever walk, they always choose to drive, I am sure I can get there by means of walking.” And I walked only to find myself facing three lanes of cars waiting their turn to deposit the money. As stubborn as I was, I kept waiting behind one of the cars feeling the absurdity of the situation I got myself into. I felt I should not be there, inhaling the exhaust and looking as dumb as I probably was at the moment. Yet, I stayed there. When it was my turn to make a deposit, I didn’t know how. There was a plastic tube in front of me but for the life of me I had no idea how to use it. I gestured to a driver in the car next to me and asked for help. That’s when I heard a thunderous laughter coming from all the cars in the drive through and I knew I was hilariously funny and ridiculous. But I finally figured it out and gracefully walked away from my scene of humiliation.

Next time I made a fool out of myself was at the Dallas Country Club. I thought it was a public park, naïve me. I managed to enter through a rear gate and unnoticed by security guards or anyone I kept walking and enjoying the grounds. At some point, I heard one of the golf players shouting to me to stay safe and watch out for the balls. Even this didn’t give me a clue that I was doing something wrong. As I continued on I noticed a cart. A rather stout man jumped out of it and with a heavy Spanish accent asked me if I were a member. “A member of what,” I asked. He starred at me with a disbelief and then explained I was at the Dallas Country Club and needed to have a membership. Flamboyantly, I assured him I was going to purchase one and asked him for the price. The smile on his face was priceless. I left the grounds and researched it, only to find that prospective members don’t approach the club seeking admittance—they can only be invited in. Even then, it can take seven years on average for an application to be accepted with the fees reaching $100,000 and more. I guess I wasn’t ready to apply at that moment ;-).

You are the master of your destiny

“Everyday you have an option to create your life the way you want it to be”

Yes, I have heard this phrase millions of times. The spiritual gurus’ newsletters I subscribed to have flooded my inbox with this or similar messages for months if not years. And yet, I always deleted them without a moment’s hesitation because I thought that this wisdom didn’t apply to me. I thought I had to be special, have a special life path and circumstances to be able to get what I truly wanted. I didn’t think I had a power to change my life and have it all.

12122793_885487184868410_2219852046682920422_nIt always seemed impossible and I was hurting just at the thought that there were others more capable of transforming their life and attracting the good. Sadly, I believed, I wasn’t one of them.

Then, one day when the heaviness of the existence seemed impossible to carry on any more I realized I had a single thought only, to remove myself from the source of my misery. It came from a deepest and utmost corner of my heart. I knew I had to be free again. Free to be myself and free to be happy. The predominant thought was to create a life free of drama and hurt for my daughters and myself. Once I knew what I truly wanted I DREAMED about it, I WROTE and TALKED about it. I was visualizing my new future and prayed for it each night before sleep.

Of course, I read “The Secret” as well as many other books and online resources on the subject, however, the way I was starting to shape my life now was a direct result of my inner readiness and certainty that I was right. There were days when I succumbed to the fear that I would fail. After all I was a stay at home mom without an income. Yet I dared to envision a new life without my husband. I knew I wanted to have my daughters with me and I foresaw the three of us living a carefree life together in the future. It took me two years from a moment I had that one single thought to get a divorce to a moment I moved out with our daughters. It took me a year to find strength and resources to file for the divorce and one more year to get it.

In the meantime I went though moments of doubt and moments of extreme clarity. Whenever I let my mind take over I was losing my inner peace and would start to question my sanity. In fact, the fear of losing my daughters was paralyzing. The only panacea for my fear was meditation and walks in nature. Each time I connected with the source I had an instant download and I knew I could do it, I could carry on my plan and succeed. This was not a voice of reason that urged me to carry on against all odds but my intuition. Over the years, I started to nurture that quiet and soft whisper of my soul so it became louder and louder. Eventually, I moved from a fear-based reality and learned to trust the universe was supporting me as long as I was following my heart.

Yesterday, I got divorced. I got full physical custody of my daughters even though I haven’t paid a penny to the lawyers. People whom I hardly knew and friends of my friends helped me. I only had to stick to my plan. The universe was on my side.

Now, every now and then I wake up in the middle of the night, it is still dark and cold in the bedroom and I am able to feel the softness of my daughter’s arm next to my body and a random toe pressed against my ribs. Our huge bed is cozy and my thoughts are too. I feel so grateful for the fact that my wish to be with my girls came true, that the connection and affection we have for each other is supported in the most safe and natural way. I am thankful upon waking up that they trust me and still like to sleep next to me. I feel blessed that we have this option and are together.

With this in mind, I know that I am capable of anything. If I could dream that out of the darkest and most desperate moment, if I could envision our life the way it is now, it only means I am perfectly able to push harder and achieve even more. And more is coming my way as I am now aware of my strength.

The Bell Jar

I haven’t felt like that in a long time. Worthless and meaningless. There is that shroud of sadness and incapability that I can’t seem to shrug off.
Waking up numb and not understanding why I am awake and alive. Getting up to get my daughters ready for school, yes, there is still enough in me to do that. Yet when they are gone I come back and crawl back to my bed trying to reach the fleeting shadows of the divine I was once able to embrace. My whole being is subdued and I feel like blood is literally draining out of my veins and with it all life force I have had. My ambitions are nil, my motivation is gone. I feel trapped and lost. I can still use logic and get up from my bed but do I want to? I am not lazy, I am demotivated, perplexed and disillusioned about the purpose of my life. The thoughts of hopelessness are keeping me shut up and isolated from other people. It’s like being in a glass jar or a bell jar as Sylvia Plath described so well. I know there is life beyond that but I am totally incapable to leave my trap.

7dd475bb3c5d1bff173af8991fcc6335I remember I used to laugh and smile and live my life to the fullest. Today this seems more like an illusion, or a life that belonged to someone else. That happy and confident person I once were is absent now. The bubbling with energy and perky woman who used to get high on listening to the loud music and dancing all alone in the middle of the night. The woman who used to stay up late to blog and make art. Woman who enjoyed getting dressed up and get the looks from men. Who would go rollerblading and then walk on the wall where no one else dared to walk and get a kick out of it.

Now I still get up in the morning and get myself ready for the day and my room still looks pretty spotless (I know, I am miss perfectionist) but that’s just a facade. Behind it is an empty, withdrawn look, and I keep looking down to avoid the eye contact with other people. So how did I get myself so low?

The feeling of lowliness comes as a result of failing to find my purpose. I have been on the spiritual path for many years and followed the call of the divine. I have prophetic dreams and meditate regularly. I can get in tune with the whispers of the universe and yet I feel as detached from it all when I look at my life. The worst is comparing myself to other people. The feelings of incompleteness and financial ineptness overwhelm me. Even though I know better not to look at myself through the lens of what other people achieved I still do it, and I feel so inadequate that it terrifies me. But lack of money or social position isn’t the worst. It’s the path I am on, the path where I risk everything that society values and go against the tide.

Occasionally I feel like an outcast and that weighs on me. Following my intuition I have left behind some of the safer and socially acceptable roads to financial and emotional security. While mostly I feel guided, today I feel like a loser. My fears surface and I feel let down, lost and trapped. The thoughts that prevail are those of being powerless, foolish and naive to trust in the powers other than my own intellect.
As I write these words I realize that there are many like me who are suffering, too. People on spiritual path who are authentic and listen to the whispers of god but somehow got overwhelmed and scared. I know some of them. We are functioning in the society to a certain degree but we are hardly getting by. We manage to appear normal but we are not.

The reason I am writing these words is to perhaps make it more known that these feelings are common and normal. That being a human means facing the fears and doubting your own self. Falling and losing. I am 44 and still looking for my purpose…

Am I a modern witch?

MoonRecently I went to a party where among other guests was my ex-husband. As I was striking a conversation with one of the visitors he noticed my accent and asked me where I was from. After I satisfied his curiosity he admitted that another person he had just talked to got very offended by that very same question. I glanced at the room and I smiled as I knew who that other person was. My ex would always get irritated if someone asked him where he was from. Looking at my conversationalist I casually mentioned that I knew who the man was and that he was my ex. At this point he started staring at me with an obvious curiosity and admitted that he never had a pleasure of talking to a witch. I thought I was about to burst into laughter and asked him where that came from. His response was that he just talked to my ex and he had mentioned that his ex-wife was a witch and cast spells. I was completely taken aback and didn’t know whether I should laugh or be offended. The man’s tone was partly serious and partly lighthearted but he wouldn’t elaborate any more.

I was baffled. I knew my ex wasn’t exactly enjoying the fact I left him. But to talk to strangers describing me as a witch? That was new and really puzzling. I sat alone thinking about it and realized that perhaps his definition of a witch was different from mine. Maybe he simply thought that women who are in charge of their lives are witches. Perhaps he despised the fact that I had enough power to live a happy and successful life without him and was a happy free spirit. If this is what defines a witch then I am one.

I am a tree hugger and I gaze at the moon frequently. I stand in a tree pose at the sunsets on the beach and watch the waves crushing down on the shore. I walk barefoot and watch the sky. You can find me often lost in my thoughts staring into the horizon. I let the rain drench me. My walls are covered with my own paintings and writing is my passion. I certainly use my own judgment and am discerning. I know I have strong opinions and I enjoy my independence and freedom. I feel sexy and love the body I am in. If these traits make me a witch then, heck, I am one. Many men fear independent, free-thinking women because they aren’t easy to manipulate and control. It’s amazing how many men prefer women to be submissive and not only in the bedroom. Women who think outside the box, who live their lives to the fullest and are in charge can attract only certain kind of men. Confident, brilliant, sexually active and emancipated women are often a threat to majority of them. It feels safe to label these nonconforming women as witches as this takes away responsibility from men to tame them, they are the evil forces of nature and can’t be curbed after all.

I learned to be free. I said no to being dominated, shunned and put down. It didn’t happen overnight but I believe my spark was always there. I only needed to unearth it, to bring it back from the deepest and most utmost corner of my heart. But once I reclaimed it nothing could stop me from being happy, loving, passionate and confident. I guess following my bliss and listening to my heart make me a witch. And if that is what defines one I am ready to fully embrace it and make the best out of it.

It’s OK to divorce

It’s OK to divorce.

I know that to bring up this topic in a conversation is an excellent way to polarize the group into two opposite and competing sides.

First will argue that everything that goes wrong in marriage can be fixed given the fact that both partners are ready and willing to work it through. The supporters of this opinion often view the divorced single people as failures who hadn’t tried hard enough, gave up and chose an easier solution. These people were most likely blessed with a partner who is open to negotiation, will do his or her share of self-improvement and is committed to them.

Now, I belong to the other group that believes it OK to divorce. Naturally, when we say our love vows we believe it is forever and for good or worse. But sometimes life is unpredictable…

sunset-476465_1280Not always your partner will be open to work on his challenges and not always things between two grown-ups can be repaired.
When I chose my husband I didn’t know he was controlling… He used a variety of controlling techniques that I didn’t know at a time were just his tools to get what he wanted. I felt often belittled, small and guilty. It started really early on in our relationship but I haven’t put two and two together. One of his favorite ones was, “I will divorce you if you don’t…”

He was verbally abusive. Nothing can be done if the other person thinks he is fine but you are the one who is always wrong. He won’t believe you when you are trying to negotiate or work things out. He will tell you it is your problem and not his. That you need to change or perhaps visit a psychiatrist. In my marriage I was guilty for everything, no excuses. I didn’t even know often what my spouse would view as wrong and when. It felt like walking on the eggshells all the time. My husband could explode any moment, he was like a bomb with a detonator, you never knew what would trigger him. And things certainly triggered him…

He was insane. At some point one of my neighbors pointed out to me to research bi-polar disorder. Interestingly, so many things suddenly started making sense to me. When I confronted him and offered to look for some medical help he turned the tables and accused me of being crazy. Talking to him didn’t seem to help as he would often not recall what we already agreed on and it was always like starting from zero.

There was no way I could ever raise two happy and socially adjusted beings and remain sane at the time with the man who was clearly destroying himself and us. The abuse was getting worse. After almost 15 years I felt like a shadow of a person I used to be. I vaguely remembered the vibrant and confident me from before the marriage. I became a meek, submissive and listless woman with a forlorn look in my eyes, looking much older and unhappy. Though I believe there had to be a spark of my former self buried deep inside my soul as I slowly started realizing that I could change my life.

Sometimes the only solution to saving yourself is to leave the other person. There was no way I could work things out while I was being systematically destroyed. In my case it was a verbal and emotional abuse and it left me degraded, bereft of my self-confidence, humiliated. I can only imagine what physical abuse can do to other women…

This leads me to say that if you haven’t been in my shoes you won’t know what toll it takes to live with an abusive partner. You won’t ever understand how it destroys you, demeans you and puts you down. Clearly, if you are able to fix your marriage it means you haven’t been in my predicament. Be happy and pat yourself on your shoulder for doing the right thing but don’t go around condemning others for not trying hard enough.

Love Letter

I love you. You know this if you can read my eyes.

My love to you is like an ocean. It’s deep; it’s immense and has its ebb and flow. It’s ever-changing, multidimensional and many layered. Sometimes I want to just hold your hand and gaze into your eyes which are like millions of galaxies holding the creator’s secret to life. When I look in your eyes I am intoxicated and full to the brim ~ they are the mystery of complexity and simplicity, all in one – the art of what makes us human. I look into the windows to your soul and I am in awe as I can see the stars that you and I were created from eons of years ago. When you smile I tremble because in your smile I see the love you hold for me, the passion and the childlike innocence you have buried behind the layers of your hurt. I love that boy full of mischief that is still there. When I gaze at your naked soul I can see clearly the glorious and wounded you. And I know you are as perfect as I am with your flaws and imperfections. You are every inch as human and god-like as I am.


When I run my finger through your hair I feel an electric spark running from my palms through the rest of my body. It’s magical. It’s as if our bodies and souls are connected at the core of existence and we recognize each other so well. It’s enough for you to touch me, play with my hair and I am sent to the stratosphere. I die each time you take me in your arms. When we make love I lose the sense of who I am and I cease to exist. The cosmic dance of our bodies, the blend of our breaths, the passion and tenderness all come together. So deep and so potent our love is that we become one for that short moment in time. The moment when we forget anything and everything and the time stops. We breathe in the eternity and exhale the now.

Because of you and for the sake of both of us I am ready to discard what the world has taught me… The dogmas and the rules. Now the only truth that matters is the light of our love. The light that can lead us to discover new worlds. This luminescence is freeing and suddenly I feel I can fly and I dance and create new realities, more brilliant and dazzling than ever. Holding your hand I dive into the ocean of physical and nonphysical realms where I stand liberated and tall. That’s where I meet my goddess self, all-knowing, radiant and compassionate. I am united with the universe, I remember the moment of the Creation and the moment of the Destruction and you are there too. This moment last both forever and hasn’t happened yet. Yet, the fleeting feeling of it is etched in my memory now. I still hold your hand and am back to Maya, the world of illusion that we humans call the reality. Yet this time I remember who we truly are. I look at you again and smile…


There is a basket with yarn in the corner of my room. It’s filled with crochet hooks, knitting needles and of course skeins of yarn of different colors and texture. For quite some time I have been intentionally avoiding looking in this corner simply because what once used to be a promise of possible knitting projects was now a tangle of yarn. Somehow bit by bit once carefully placed skeins became a mess. As I was looking at it I was aware they were a pretty good representation of what was currently going on in my life, too. A tangled mess of unfinished projects, a sad reflection on my life.

A postponed meeting here, an unfinished piece of writing I was preparing to publish but never got around to doing it, a divorce in the works with plenty of paperwork to be completed. As I was looking at the basket I was more and more aware that certain things always take priority. That was the case with my own life. As long as I was struggling with finding a sense of financial and emotional security some other projects were put on a back burner. I was truly in a transformative stage for over two years and I was getting exhausted by it and looking forward to finding some balance.

Life has its sense of humor and has offered me some surprising lessons. One of them them, in particular, was to never expect I was done with my share of spiritual learning. Over the period of last couple years I have learned more than in my entire life. Which meant many nights I was wide awake tossing and turning with pressing thoughts rambling in my head. “Have I made the right decision?” or “Will I be able to pay the rent?” “Can I love and accept another person with all the bad and good stuff?” and “How to love a person I am?” were some of them. For over two years I was feeling as if my life was upside down and felt like living on the edge. This is when I found out about the dark night of the soul. As I searched to answer some of my questions related to the intensity of the experience I was going through I finally understood that I was just waiting to emerge from my chrysalis.

butterfly-332355_1280This reminded me of a caterpillar held captive inside its cocoon and its painful transformation that takes time. The caterpillar doesn’t know how long it will take and neither what is happening during the metamorphosis. It always takes time, I kept reminding myself. The universe works its magic while I am in the state of suspension, miraculously unaware of what new person I was going to emerge. I truly felt it was a never-ending process of keeping the faith.

Sometimes all it takes is the right time and life shifts to make certain opportunities available. Yet, even armed in that knowledge I was sometimes miserable and on the verge of losing my trust. The only thing I really needed was trust and not the logic. The cold-hearted logic was my enemy. If I relied on my mind I would be scared to death. My choices during this two year process of shedding the old were purely based on the whispers of my heart. How else would I ever dare to move away from my husband with my two young daughters even though he threatened to destroy me. Then again, I followed my path fiercely when I found love again even though my head was telling me it was not the right time. During that time I often found myself questioning my choices immensely simply because they were flying in the face of my upbringing and the values I acquired throughout my life.

Then, one day I woke up and looked again at the dreaded basket with the yarn. This time, however, I picked up the skeins and carefully separated one from another. Then I sat down and slowly and patiently untangled all the knots. I was surprised, it wasn’t that difficult as I have imagined. All it took was the right state of mind and a will. Coincidentally, that very same day I got news that changed my life. I finally was moving forward and in the direction I was happy with.