When Jon suggested we have a day of Gratitude I was all for it.
It seemed like a good way for me to come to terms with all that has happened in the last week since I decided to go to India. The support for my trip both emotionally and financially has been overwhelming (in a good way).
And I can feel the importance of it all, but am still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
Then I picked up Martha Nussbaum’s book Creating Capabilities. In it she tells the story of Visanti, a woman from Gujarati, India. How she left her abusive husband, was expected to be taken care of my her siblings but instead, got a loan from an organization called SEWA and bought a sewing machine so she could earn her own money.
And it wasn’t just them money from SEWA, but the friends she made through the organization and how it opened her up to a new way of thinking about herself.
Women are often taught to be dependent on their families; husbands, children, and siblings.
I was one of them.
I didn’t experience Visanti’s financial poverty or physical abuse, but I did share her poverty of spirit and belief in dependence, which is its own form imprisonment. I had no faith in my own capabilities, my ability to make decisions or take care of myself.
So while I had control over my own body, my mind was locked in a belief system that kept me from knowing and living, my true nature.
Like Visanti, I found a way to free myself. For me it came through my art.
And from finding people like Jon who could see who I really was and encouraged me to be that person. And from getting help and working to change my beliefs about myself and the world around me.
My potholders were an integral part of the process.
The intuitive way I make my potholders and quilts helped me understand that I can and do make good decisions. And take care of myself.
Because there are no rules to follow, no right or wrong, except what I decide.
The responsibility of whether my work is a success or failure lay completely on me.
By creating my own work, making my own decisions, fulfilling my own capabilities, I came to see what I was actually able to do. When I started selling my quilts and potholders and people bought them, my confidence continued to grow. It is still growing.
This is why I can relate to the girls and women in Kolkata. Women who come from a very different place and culture and have experienced horrors beyond my imagination. I don’t know what it’s like to be them, but I do know the humiliation and degradation that can come with being dependent.
So I’m grateful for this opportunity to share what I’ve learned with the women I’ll meet. And to learn from them what they know and I don’t. I’m grateful to Dahn Gandell for opening the door when I knocked on it, and for welcoming me into her world.
And to Jon, for his encouragement, and enthusiasm, and his writing which helped me raise the money for the trip. I thank everyone who has supported me with money and their kind words.
This is not a day to think about what needs to be done, but a day to sit and appreciate all the good that has come my way. And allow it to settle over me, sink in and expand my heart.
To forever expand my capabilities, and to do everything I can to help other women create theirs.