Cissy Brady-Rogers
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When it comes to embodied life, there are no guarantees.

Hip replacement surgery came with warnings but no guarantees. Sadly, and to my dismay, I am one of the unfortunate ones who had complications.

My new hip feels great. It works great. I’m grateful not to wake multiple times during the night because of discomfort. I’m grateful to be walking without pain.

But, I’m hugely disappointed to have suffered nerve damage during surgery. I’ve run the gamut of emotions, from anger and “who’s fault is this” to despair when I let worry take me too far into the future living with a foot that won’t flex properly.

I woke from surgery with a mostly numb left foot and lateral calf, no flexion in my foot or movement in my toes and minimal capacity to extend/point my foot. By the time I left the hospital, some toe movement and extension had returned. The doctors said it would take time.

For a few weeks I had no flexion at all. Slowly, the numbing has eased with some flexion in my toes and ankle returning. And almost full extension has returned. For that, I am grateful and hopeful.

Nerves are slow healers. They regenerate at only 1 to 5 millimeters per day. And, apparently, they are also mysterious! None of the doctors, including the neurologist I consulted with last week, could provide a very clear or direct path forward. Multiple MRI’s and a nerve study test will supposedly get to the root of the problem so a treatment plan can be recommended.

This is not how I envisioned life 30 days after surgery. I knew I’d still be recovering mobility and strength, possibly still using ambulatory assistance. But I didn’t think it would be due to an issue with my foot.

No guarantees!

Last Saturday I led a group of 15 women in what we call “Self-Care from the Inside Out.” One participant, Yolanda, is also a breast cancer survivor with four years of life post-treatment. She laughs easily and sparkles with brightness and positive energy. We swapped stores about the limitations and complications of medical treatment. As cancer patients know all too well, at times you wonder if the consequences of treatments are really worth the hoped for outcome for survival–which, by the way, doesn’t come with a guarantee!

My friend Kerry went to Germany for naturopahtic treatment of bladder cancer a few years ago. She opted to forgo conventional “slash, burn, poison” methods (which would have included the complete removal of her bladder) and chose to pay out-of-pocket for a less drastic alternative. The treatment killed the cancer, she still has her bladder and she’s made significant lifestyle changes to enhance her body’s capacity to remain cancer free! As her husband Jeff writes in his blog about their journey, “Kerry continues to use food as medicine by aggressively pursuing a diet rich with fruits and vegetables, grains and a handful of animal or fish protein a day. Sugar is out save a glass of wine now and then. She will have to cut back on stress by trying to say no to anything pushing her beyond her limits. We know we are not out of the woods; cancer likes to come back.”

An orthopedic surgeon told another friend a few weeks ago that she needed hip replacement. She’s investigating stem cell therapy as an alternative. Of course, it won’t be covered by insurance. But a growing number of patients in the United States are wondering: Since there are no guarantees, perhaps a softer, gentler approach that works with the body rather than against it, might be a better path to explore before more extreme options are engaged!

No guarantees!

As I prepare to lead “A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being” with Alive and Well Women this coming weekend, I’m drinking my own medicine. I’m working with the Alive and Well philosophy, principles and practices as I discern how to go forward with my foot that will not fully flex. Rather than just following conventional doctor’s recommendations based on facts about how bodies in general operate, I’m seeking clarity in what Eugene Peterson calls “the largeness” of God.

While I desperately want full flexion back and am trusting that will come, the real miracle isn’t physical healing. The real miracle is how I’m finding God in the midst of it. I’m seeing the bigger picture. Everyone suffers. No one gets out without scars, suffering and sadness.

One problem of the “miracle of medicine” is that it gives us the false hope that everything can be cured…and that we can live forever. I know no doctor ever says that. But isn’t that the burden they bear when things don’t go in the hoped for direction? Their job is to support healing. But they don’t get much training in how to cope when things go poorly or how to help people die.

Ultimately, it all comes down to Love. Love is what holds us, sustains us, guides us and helps us face suffering, disease and death with grace. Everything that comes to me is an opportunity to expand my capacity for Love–to give love, receive love and live in loving presence with myself and others. During this season here’s what that looks like:

– Letting Dave care for me, feed me, help me dress and shower, lovingly massage my foot and calf, do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning.

– Asking friends to come by to “Cissy-sit” in the first few weeks when I didn’t want to be home alone while Dave was at work.

– Letting my friends care for me, feed me, lovingly massage my foot and calf, run errands, drive me to appointments and spend afternoons watching movies with me.

– Going slowly and living a more contemplative life than I normally do when I can move more quickly.

– Being more gentle with myself and patient with Dave than I usually am.

– Not finding someone to “blame” or bring a lawsuit against because things didn’t go as planned!

And that is just the beginning.

If you’re curious about this path that I’ve spent the last 25 years learning to live and the past 11 teaching others, please visit the Alive and Well Women website for more information. We still have a few spots open for the Immersion that begins on Friday, March 31st. Perhaps one of those spots has your name on it??

 

A recent blog post from the Breast Cancer Action (BCA is a nonprofit advocacy group for health justice for women at risk of or living with breast cancer) reminded me why I don’t buy pink.  All the hype about “Think Pink” during October’s breast cancer awareness push is as much to benefit companies using the slogan as it is to increase awareness. Some companies claim to care about breast breast cancer yet produce, manufacture or sell products with chemicals linked to the disease. And some department stores, clothing and accessory manufactures and other companies that sell pink products donate only a small percentage of the profits to the effort. That’s why I don’t buy pink anymore. Although I once did.

This Thanksgiving I’ll be 23 years out from that horrific holiday season I spent being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. The first few years I walked or ran in “Pink” fundraisers, only to find out later that the companies organizing  the events were pulling in huge profits. I wore pink ribbons or related products, only to discover that in some cases only a minor percentage of the profits went to anything breast cancer related.

I’m grateful for awareness that allowed me and other early diagnosis patients (AKA “Bosom Buddies”) to live full and long lives post-cancer, but I’m not buying any pink products. If I want to give money to raise awareness or research I’ll give it directly to the providers.

Katy’s story reveals the subtle way companies use breast cancer to promote the very products that contain chemicals linked to to cancer. They don’t do it maliciously…at least I hope not. But, as my wise spouse often points out, corporations don’t have a soul. They have no moral compass to guide their decisions. The bottom-line is…the bottom-line. Morals and ethics are a side-note at best and most often not even a part of the conversations about how to do business.

While companies that use the “Think Pink” slogan to sell pink hats, shoes, shirts and other products may give some or all of the profits to breast cancer research and advocacy, the companies do it for their own sake as much as for those of us impacted by the disease. Certainly the decision to give breast cancer patients products full of toxic chemicals linked to the disease wasn’t done with morality or justice as the bottom-line.

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

I’ll be celebrating life with my bosom buddies at our annual ThanksLiving party next month. And we’ll be serving as much organic, close to nature food and drink as available. After 23 years I am still careful to eat organic and use personal care products with as few human created chemicals as possible. I’m convinced that all the pesticides in the foods I ate during puberty played a role in activating cancer. That’s why I support Breast Cancer Action’s work in the world. They focus much of their effort toward awareness of the role environmental toxins play in the onset of breast cancer – something the tradition medical industry refuses to address.

As Katy’s story exemplifies, if companies really had her welfare in mind, they’d do something other than provide free products that contain chemicals that interrupt the effectiveness of the medication she’s taking to prevent reoccurrance. And, if they really had the interests of women at risk or living with breast cancer, they’d invest all the time, money and energy spent on developing pink promotional products toward direct services for those in need rather than pocket a portion for themselves.

To join me and Breast Cancer Action in telling the Personal Care Products Council and the American Cancer Society to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in personal care products please sign send a letter.

Thanks for joining me in this effort to stop the abuse of all the good being doing through breast cancer awareness! Let’s “Think Pink” but do so in a conscious and ethical way!

 

 

The extra fat living on my belly these days reminds me that in my sphere of reality over consumption is a way of life. While a large percentage of people on planet earth struggle for access to enough, I have too much.

I want to give thanks for the abundance.

I want to be grateful that my refrigerator and pantry are full, that I can drive my car a few miles and purchase mass amounts of consumables or dine on gourmet food at a restaurant where the portions are so large I take some home for the dog.

But this Thanksgiving morning I’m aware that the abundance of my Thanksgiving table, along with the month of consumption ahead, has come to reflect the too muchness of life in the USA. We have so much available that unless we are highly conscious about our choices we will end up consuming too much and storing that excess in our bodies’ remarkably efficient energy storage systems.

I want to be grateful for my body’s amazing capacity to survive potential famine by storing energy as fat.

I want to be grateful that I am so aware of my body that I notice even subtle shifts in my body mass composition.

I want to be grateful that I can take a rigorous walk this morning, get a little sweat going and seek to come into alignment with my body.

I want to be grateful that I no longer regulate my energy intake and output based on external guidelines or fears of weight gain.

I want to be grateful that when I eat our Thanksgiving feast this evening I will savor the love of family and friends around the table as I take in the delicious meal set before us.

But my mind is on those who don’t have enough. On the hungry and the homeless. And, on how ironic it is that many of the homeless and needy I’ve met when volunteering in local soup kitchens are also carrying extra fat on their bellies!

Current research on nutrition and fat storage indicate that the number of calories we eat as well as the quality and types of food we consume contribute to how our bodies metabolize and store energy. Much of the food served to those showing up at soup kitchens are high glycemic carbohydrates (breads, pastas, rice, potatoes, sugar) that increase the likelihood of weight gain in many of us.

I’m not sure what I can do about that today. But expanding my view of reality to consider those who don’t have a home to gather in, a table of their own around which to dine, or loved ones to share it with, gives me perspective that helps me love and enjoy living in my body, just as I am. Because ultimately my life is not measured by my level of fitness or my body mass composition, but by the degree to which I live in loving relationship with myself, my family and friends, my colleagues and acquaintances, my neighbors, as well as the “strangers” around the world who are my brothers and sisters here on planet earth.

For me it comes back to gratitude and living in the tension of celebrating the goodness of life that has come to me as I remember that while all is well in my world, much of the rest of the world suffers.

Today I will seek to savor rather than consume

Today I will seek to listen to my body not just for me, but as a reminder that over consumption of resources doesn’t just impact me and my health, but contributes in a small way to the unequal distribution of resources that leaves many homeless and hungry on this day of Thanksgiving.

It isn’t about guilt for having more than enough. Rather it’s about loving myself and my neighbor enough to pay attention to my consumption so that I don’t carry around more than I really need either in fat stores on my body or otherwise.

This holiday season I am going to work on compassionate consumption. Compassion recognizes suffering with kindness and non-judgement and comes alongside with intention to alleviate that suffering to the degree that I can.

Eating just enough is one way to do that today. And if I choose to eat more than enough, not judging myself for breaking my intention but kindly stopping when I recognize I’ve passed the point of satiation.

As we head into the holiday consumption madness begins tomorrow, may we consider what compassionate consumption might look like in our lives. What presents, decorations and other stuff do we really need? What is enough? What is too much? And how can we take our excess and use it to alleviate suffering in ourselves and others?

How can we choose to let go of our possibility of having it all so that all may have?

Two commentaries on the challenges of being female in the church and in the broader culture came to my attention this week.

Andrea Heinrichs’ blog “What I Would Tell my 12-Year Old Self About Gender Roles” reminded me that in spite of great strides toward egalitarian relationships between women and men through groups like Christians for Biblical Equality, most of the church is still stuck in a binary model that assigns roles, capabilities and value according to gender. Similarly, in the culture-at-large women continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles in government, media and business. On top of all of that, media stereotypes about masculinity (“real men” are tough, stoic and violent) and femininity (“real women” are sex-objects) limit our options for moving beyond the binary model.

I first came across Laci Green when searching for videos for my human sexuality and sex therapy class. She began her public work on gender and sexuality as a sex educator while studying at U.C. Berkley. In her signature irreverently humorous style, her video “Why is Zero a Size Tho?” confronts multiple issues related to women’s embodiment As she points out, “zero means nothing…It suggests that a woman should take up so little space that she actually disappears.” A culture filled with both covert and overt messages that make staying small and taking up as little space as possible severely limit the possibilities for female empowerment.

Finally, I love the way Richard Rohr’s daily mediation this morning reminds me what my faith in Christ says about who I am and what it means to be a real woman or man:

The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world. Here “there is no distinction…between male and female” (Galatians 3:28). Mature Christian spirituality leads us toward such universals and essentials. Yet people invariably divide and argue about non-essentials!”

Amen!

Clinical psychologist William Sheldon wrote that “Deeper and more fundamental then sexuality, deeper than the craving for social power, deeper even that the desire for possessions, there is a more generalized and more universal craving in our human make-up. It is a craving for right direction – for orientation. ” For youth and young adults, that orientation is about developing a solid sense of who they are, forming an identity that enables them to use their lives to create a better world for everyone.

Showing now - check website for locations and times

As I viewed Darryl Robert’s latest documentary America The Beautiful 3: The sexualization of our youth on Sunday night identity development was on my mind. The first two America the Beautiful films explored America’s obsession with beauty and body size. All three documentaries draw attention to the exploitation of basic human insecurities by commercial industries. Sex, slim bodies and beauty sell products from hamburgers to pharmaceuticals. Picture vibrant, slim, well dressed,  youthful looking middle aged couples in commercials for Viagra!

We want to be beautiful or handsome. It’s a basic human longing. We want to “look good.” Even before mirrors and photography people engaged in beauty enhancing techniques based on cultural norms. While across cultures the definitions of what is attractive vary, it seems that throughout history how one looks factors into identity development.

As a “chubby” child and early adolescent, I escaped the beauty, weight and sex traps by opting out of the game. I knew the rules: fat is not attractive. So rather than even trying to play the game, I mostly sat on the sidelines and played support crew for my more beautiful friends who were on the field. That isn’t to say I wasn’t deeply ashamed of my appearance – at least my body size. But I learned that my identity needed to develop from something other than how I looked.

Fast forward 40 years and I am grateful for the psychological insulation my fat provided. I learned that looking good (whatever that means) isn’t as important as being a good, kind, genuine person. I learned that being sexy was actually quite risky as I watched my “more attractive” friends suffer the slings and arrows of adolescent love games. Not to mention a few that ended up choosing to abort unwanted babies when they’d “forgotten” to use protection or the one who ended up marrying the father, moving to Oregon and becoming a teenage wife and mother.

Before I get on too much of a downer here, let me come back to what initiated this blog. My friend Chris Kresbach, who works in the film industry and knows all too well how messed up our cultural norms about beauty, weight and sexuality are, posted this video on Facebook today. It’s a wonderful tongue-in-cheek take on women, beauty and body image. All of which, along with sexuality, are central to the essential human need to know who we are. But they aren’t everything. We must find ways to love and enjoy our physicality and work with the inevitable challenges and changes, but not allow appearance to define us.

Let’s be at the forefront of reminding ourselves and each other about what is most important in life. Perhaps sharing this video with your friends would be a fun and simple way to do that!

Offered with my prayer that you will find ways to love and enjoy your body,  just as you are today!

Our guest blogger today is Vivian Mabuni. She is the author of Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts. October also marks five years since she finished active treatment for breast cancer. Thanks be to God! I’m delighted to be part of the ever growing fellowship of women (and a few men) living vibrant and purposeful lives post-breast cancer. Though not a club any of us would have signed up for, I must say we are a very remarkable group and I’m delighted to share a bit of her story today.

Warrior In Pink

From Warrior in Pink by Vivian Mubani

When I finally made it home, I headed straight to our bedroom. I lay on the bed, pulled the covers over me, and closed my eyes. I tried to rest, but my mind couldn’t settle. My prayer in the food court about letting people in came to mind. I found myself at the same crossroads of deciding whether to muster up self-sufficient strength and go all Christian Rambo—just me and Jesus—or take the braver route to open my heart and let people into my fear. My Asian heritage and cultural value of “don’t rock the boat” or “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” amplified my struggle of not wanting to bother people with my problems. I saw this dynamic played out over and over with my family and my Asian friends. One friend tweaked her back so badly she could barely walk. We had planned to have people over for a luncheon. I suggested we order out for pizza so she could rest.

“Oh no, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

“No, seriously, we can cancel the whole thing or have someone bring the food. You can barely move!”

But instead of letting others help, I watched her push through the pain, and she hosted a small army in her house with a smile on her face. It was dishonorable and shameful to put people out or bring attention to themselves. I imagined the Asian Martha Stewart had similar thoughts. She ended up deciding against burdening others with her emotional struggles. I did not want my story to end like hers.

Transparency is the willingness to share about difficulties one has undergone after the fact. Vulnerability is sharing difficulties raw, in real-time, without the lesson-learned end of the story. I was comfort- able with transparency. Mostly.

Vulnerability? Not so much.

–Excerpt from chapter 1: we, us (x5) Warrior In Pink

The excerpt I (Vivian) share here reveals a common struggle among people—the idea of not wanting to inconvenience others, our tendency to isolate when faced with difficulties, the myth that “Just me and Jesus is enough.” For Christian women, and Asian American women leaders in particular, the tendency to be the strong one is underscored because of learned faith and cultural values.

My strong encouragement for all of us is YES, lean into God, but also let others in.

After my cancer battle I read the Bible with new lenses. Verses I thought were familiar became more meaningful after experiencing true community.

“Therefore, since WE have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding US, let US also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles US, and let US run with endurance the race that is set before US.” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB)

God designed you and me to live in close intimate connection with Him and with others. Learning to trust Him and to trust others is a worthwhile lifelong endeavor.

How are you doing in the area of vulnerability?

Vivian Mabuni

Thank you Vivian for sharing your life and words of encouragement with us today. May God continue to use you to empower and support others in deepening intimacy with God and each other.

Vivian and her husband Darrin work with Epic Movement, the Asian American ministry of Cru. Vivian is a mom of three kids and a cancer survivor. She is part of a group of women writers called the Redbud Writers Guild. She blogs regularly. Warrior in Pink was published in April and is her first book. If you like what you read here, please pick up a Kindle or paper copy of your own. I just downloaded mine!

Subscribe to Vivian’s blog for regular words of wisdom and encouragement.

How to Hold it Together When Your World Feels Like it is Falling Apart – Thursday, October 23rd 4 p.m.

Join me at the Cancer Support Community of Pasadena next week to explore the powerful opportunities unleashed amidst the crisis state evoked by cancer.

My breast cancer diagnosis and treatment 22 years ago lead me on a journey I didn’t choose or want, but has shaped my personal and professional life ever since. What began to emerge in my recovery process was the new way of being in my body and life that I now pass on to others. Cancer is just one of the many challenges we will all face if we are blessed to live long enough to face a major life crisis.

We will look at how cancer diagnosis and treatment can send many areas of life spiraling out of control, including family, friendships, work & professional life, overall  health and well-being, lifestyle choices, physical intimacy, as well as religion and spirituality.  Discuss how challenges to core belief systems and values can rock your world during and after a cancer journey. Learn mindful awareness tools to help you recover your stability amidst the crisis of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

To register contact the Cancer Support Community of Pasadena: 626-796-1083.

We brought Miss Liberty Belle home on Saturday. Only 7 weeks old, she’s already reminding me of the ancient wisdom inherent in all living things.

Miss Liberty Belle - 7 weeks

People, animal, plants all need much of the same  basic things: food, water, sunshine, rest, companionship, space to spread out our wings and fly, but also time to withdraw and recover.

Most of all, we need love. John O’Donohue writes “Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self.” I suspect he’d say it’s true about other life as well. When we are loved, we feel at home within ourselves and secure when we venture out into the world.

So love will be an essential nutrient we feed our little lass over the days, weeks, months and years ahead. And our number one dog, her uncle Legend, will also be getting more focused time and attention. We’ve committed ourselves to daily morning and evening walks since he thrives on exercise, discipline and affection – in that order (Cesar Milan’s three basics for well behaved dogs).  With a new puppy competing for attention, he needs to know more than ever how much we love him.

Any of you who read my blog regularly know I place a premium on love. Without it, all our efforts to be well, stay fit, eat right and look our best will fail to give us what we really long for. I can’t count the number of women who’ve sat in my office and told me that their efforts to lose weight were mostly driven by their longing for love. They hope that by perfecting their external appearance (an impossible task since perfection is an impossible goal), they’ll finally attract the love they long for.

Bottom line: love begins with me. I must all open myself to what Henri Nouwen refers to as “the first love.” Nouwen says that the love we receive from other living beings (human and otherwise) awakens our dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved. But our great task is to realize that the love of others is not the ultimate source. The love we receive in them is part of the greater love of a Creator who created us in love, from love, to love and be loved. Love is the beginning and the end.

Legend and Liberty soaking in the love

And, love is what frees us to live with liberty. More on that topic in the days, weeks and months ahead. Until then, may you have eyes to see and willingness to receive that great love that is the source of all love. It’s all around you. You must be willing to look for it and accept it in the forms and packages it comes in – human and otherwise.

I loved this book by Helen LaKelly Hunt when I first read it 10 years ago. I appreciated it even more the second time round after meeting the author and picking it up again a few weeks ago.

Book Review

As a psychotherapist specializing in treatment of eating and body related disturbances among women, I’m regularly reminded of the need for women of faith to reclaim the beauty and goodness of our bodies — something the feminist movement attempted to do in advocating for reproductive rights for women. But, our need for embodiment and for honoring our female bodies goes much deeper than freedom to choose how we control our bodies capacity to reproduce. Issues of body and soul must be addressed in unison. The church has historically neglected (and sometimes denigrated and demonized) the spiritual aspects of embodiment. And the feminist movement, while gaining great ground on other fronts, follow suit by neglecting the spiritual aspects of a woman’s right to control reproduction.

My work with eating disorder patients has taught me that control unmitigated by compassion and other spiritually resourced qualities typically leads to chaos and destruction. Freedom to choose how to respond to our reproductive capacities and  all other physical needs and capacities must be grounded in a solid center of knowing who we are, knowing our own values, listening deeply to our own lives, and taking full responsibility for the choices we make — qualities that reflect the life of the psyche (soul) and spirit. Sadly, I don’t see the culture, the feminist movement or the church doing enough to effectively equip women (or men) with the necessary skills for making wise choices with the reproductive rights we fought so hard to earn.

As LaKelly Hunt points out, the most recent wave of feminism left out issues of soul and spirit, especially those related to Christian faith. She does a beautiful service telling the stories of five early feminists whose faith fueled their advocacy for the rights of women and other disenfranchised members of our human family. Their stories reveal the journey every woman must take as we find our own place in the great story of freedom and justice for all.

Thoughtful questions for reflection on each chapter offer a wonderful resource for individual or group processing. I’m looking forward to gathering a few soul sisters to explore them together. If you’re interested, let me know.

As long as any boy or girl’s development of a solid sense of identity is limited by gender stereotypes, then we’ve still got a long way to go as a culture.

Last week was the 42nd anniversary of the passing of Title IX – the 1972 law that prevents sexual discrimination in higher education. In 1972 only 300,00 girls were involved in high school sports. Today that number is over 3 million.

In 1972 I was 10 years old and didn’t yet know how unjust the world was for females. I grew up with an attorney mother, a pretty forward thinking father, and a world where women were doctors and lawyers.  My great aunt Eileen Chambers, whom my mom and I visited each week at her nursing care residence, had been a doctor in her younger years. In addition, several of my mom’s best female friends were attorneys and my pediatrician was also a woman. In my idealized world a woman could be anything but a priest!

As a little girl I didn’t know that it wasn’t culturally acceptable for girls to play sports or dress in “boys” clothes. Unaware of gender stereotypes, I played “boy games” with my brothers and dressed how I wanted unless we were going to church or somewhere special. With two older brothers whom I adored and wanted to emulate, I loved being included in their rough and tumble games and wearing their hand-me-downs!

Then came school years when the gender rules became more clear
. But, I still played kickball with the boys while most of my female classmates played other games…although for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what. I was too busy enjoying myself to even notice what they were doing.

Thankfully, due to Title IX, throughout my school years I had equal access to after-school sports and organized team play. I wasn’t the greatest athlete, but I loved to play basketball, kickball and softball. In 4th grade I could kick the ball farther than most of my male classmates! Later on in junior high and high school I even played volleyball–the least favorite of my team sports. But I played because I loved the activity and the camaraderie of working with others and friendly competition.

The  “Always #LikeAGirl” video reminds me to be grateful I grew up in a gender neutral, supportive home where I was allowed to be me. None of my brothers or boy friends ever accused me of running, throwing or playing like girl. I don’t remember when I first heard that derogatory comment, but I’m pretty sure it was hurled at a boy by another boy on the elementary school playground.

Our task as supportive adults is to empower kids to be themselves, whatever that looks like. Rigid gender stereotypes don’t just harm girls, boys are equally victimized by cultural message about “being a man.”

Last month I posted a blog inspired by India Arie’s song “Just Do You.” Her’s is an important message in a world where binary definitions of gender limit authenticity and emotionally damage kids just trying to figure out who they are in a complex world.