Week 10 - The Future is Female - Our Female Future
Who are we kidding, the future cannot be simply female. The future can be kind, inclusive, accepting, thoughtful, and non-violent. Humans could all recognize that we are playing on one team with one sacred planet to support us. Does this sort of harmonious prophecy conjure attributes that our culture sees as being female?
It is clear to me that just saying that the Future is Female excludes half the global population, half the awesome out there. I am an inclusionist, an entrepreneur, an activist and a feminist. I envision a future where women and men are actually equal in every aspect of culture, where humans are aware of our power, where we respect and live in balance with nature.
Being a female accidental environmental entrepreneur beginning at the age of 21, without any planning or formal business education I just did it. I followed the bouncing ball leading me down the path of growing a business at a whirlwind pace. Two years in I had 40 employees and no business plan. During that time of huge growth all sorts of exciting things happened. In 1991 I was named the small business person of the year by the SBA in the state of NY. In 1995 was invited to attend the Social Venture Network’s annual conference and speak about my zero-waste business, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ben and Jerry, Eileen Fisher, Tom and Kate Chappell, Ram Dass, and Jennifer Barclay. My business was featured on national television, in countless glossy magazines and in internationally recognized news papers. No one had seen anything like what I was doing. Environmentalism was in its infancy and I was leading the way with textile waste recycling.
A month after attending the SVN conference the shit hit the proverbial fan in May 1995.
My two and a half year old son (who had had failure to thrive since 6 months, who had been hospitalized twice with pneumonia, who had already had 6 sets of chest x-rays and was in the doctor’s office so often that it was nuts) was diagnosed with Cardio-Myopathy and Pulmonary Hypertension and given 18 months to live. (It was actually a huge relief as all along the way, my parenting was questioned. How often do you offer him food? etc.) At the beginning of that week we met the a new doctor (who was actually a Nurse Practitioner) in our new town for what I thought would be a well child visit. That morning I thought he had a bad cold, maybe another bout of pneumonia. We were prescribed ANOTHER antibiotic and asked to return two days later with his dad. That terrible day we were met with a gurney at the door of the ER of three hospitals and before the end of the second day we checked into the ICU ward at Childrens Hospital in Boston. Later that same day, the bank I worked with called all my business loans and line of credit. It was Mother’s Day.
I was reeling.
My son’s father and I were not together after a tumultuous 4 year relationship. He banked at the same institution for his business but had no ramifications based on our son’s uninsured health issues. It was a really hard time. One night as I sat on my front porch drinking my 2 daily beers and smoking my 2 daily cigarettes a clear message came to me. I wiped my tears and decided with unwavering clarity that I was not going over the edge of the abyss to plunge to the depths of depression and desperation. I was not going to become a crazy person who could not hold it together. I was going to walk from the edge of that cliff with clarity. I was determined to be the best parent I could be. I was going to be strong, clear and powerful. I knew that my intention carried great power.
The storm lifted.
My footing was found with the help of contacts made at The Social Venture Network who helped reinstate my loans with the same banking institution that had nearly crippled me in a time of strife. The slope where I landed was slippery but I was able to keep from sliding down, yet not able to climb back to where my business had been. I lost several weeks of production time and several key employees. My focus was on my son, being sure every healer who might be helpful was seen, being sure he had the prescribed 10 doses of meds everyday and living a good life with him - for today.
Looking back, it was clearly unfair. Why had MY parenting been questioned and not his absent father? Why had the bank called my loans and not those of his father? We were both in good financial standing. Was it because I am a woman? A mother? I never pursued the bank to find the answer to that question. At the time, my focus was on my son which was so much more important to me than dickering with a bank who nearly squelched my livelihood. I could not take in the negativity associated with the level of anger I would feel with my focus on this gender disparity.
The manufacturing company I had founded producing recycled clothing, home furnishings and accessories limped along for several years, and worked hard to regain the momentum lost following the diagnosis and consequent 60 day halt of production.
In 1998 Crispina (the company) had relocated to The Berkshires from Dutchess County NY and was in full swing supplying 350 customers among them Crate and Barrel, The J.Peterman Company, Espirit and Fiorucci. In early 1999 J. Peterman, our biggest customer filed bankruptcy owing nearly $30,000. This blow presented another unforeseen difficult period with ramifications deeper and longer lasting than imagined.
Crispina the company was limping along again. During this time other, better planned, more professionally run companies had come into the marketplace making similar items confusing customers. Products with my aesthetic that had once been completely unique were popping up all over the place. Increased demand was making materials more expensive, and harder to find in volume. Suppliers were going out of business and consolidating adding yet another complexity to production.
In 2003 a crazy lady attended a studio sale in our, rented production facility. She claimed to have twisted her ankle while descending the stairs. Although she walked to her car without help, she later sued, and cost me ownership of my 16 year old company.
The company was taken over by a business mentor who ran it in partnership with me for 5 years before retiring and gifting the company she had created from my business back to me.
I am not sure how this tangent got started. This week our theme is our Female Future and what has come to mind is the really difficult female past I have lived. It is apparent now that many of the places I stumbled would have been different had I been male. Motherhood kept my focus away from driving my business to the level of success I am working toward. All that experience, all those bumps along my path have taught me many lessons that inform who I am today.
Channeling my power and intention to allow my son’s special heart to support him has helped guide him along the path of the living. The fact that he lives everyday with a diagnosis that’s most common ‘symptom’ is ‘sudden death’ makes all who know and love him live in the moment of today. Today is beautiful as he is among us, sharing his magic, turning 26 in November. Tomorrow, the future, it is all unknown. I can hope that it leans in to harmony, equality among all people, kindness, and environmental respect. Is that female? Not really. Just different than where the world is today with the predominance of backward thinking power-mongering male heads of state and all that that sort of leadership manifests. I know that my future is full of financial freedom. It is full of methodically organized well thought through creative empowerment, environmental stewardship, healthy food, and acknowledging that human power is wholly underestimated by most. Let’s Rock This Beautiful Life We Share - today is the day. The time is now.
Thanks for following along. Oh and be an organ donor. The ‘cure’ for the super rare and formally undocumented diagnosis of my son is a heart/lung transplant. He'll be 26 in November.