Jan Phillips •
I look to what fuels me for the journey, what helps me through the
dark, I see that at every threshold, it is the women in my life
who hold the light. And how they help is not by saying "go
here, go there," but by sharing with me their own journeys
through the rough terrain.
years ago when I left the convent and tried to find a new way in
the world, every path I took seemed wrong. I was too much the renegade
to fit in my community, and too much the nun to feel at home in
my culture. In my early twenties, I had little self-awareness, less
self-esteem, and was enraged and devastated by this rejection from
my mid-twenties, the second wave of feminism crashed upon my shore.
When I sat in my first women’s circle, listening to the stories
of our lives, I was stunned by the similarities that surfaced. We
had assimilated all the same lessons—to look and act a certain way,
to follow men’s lead, to defer to authority, to be docile and polite
and hospitable. We all knew exactly what we were supposed
to be doing, but struggled to uncover what we wanted to be
doing, or more precisely, what we wanted to be.
We circled and talked for months and months, each of us revealing
our deepest fears, our long-held secrets, our anger and disenchantment
and visions of a life that we ourselves ordained. And what happened
in that circle was that we spoke ourselves into being. Through
the sharing of our stories, we discovered who we were, what we wanted,
what was and was not acceptable. We healed ourselves, fortified
ourselves. And when the doors opened, we emerged en masse as strong
women, brave women, women tuned in to our own desire, in touch with
and informed by our own wisdom.
the years, I have done what I could to encourage this life-giving
process of sharing our stories. In the 80s I traveled around the
world as a peace activist/photographer creating an occasion for
people to gather and share our visions of a peaceful world. With
fellow activists, I helped birth the Syracuse Cultural Workers to
create an opening and clearinghouse for life-affirming art. I marched
in countless human rights demonstrations for all of us who are marginalized
and vilified for causes beyond our control.
the 90s, my attention took a turn inward, calling me into my deeper
places, so I could ponder and write of the world I envision and
am co-creating. From this calm place came the confidence to teach,
to hold a mirror to others’ potential, encouraging my sisters and
brothers to speak their truths.
I see this book as another mirror, a compilation of stories that
may reveal us to ourselves, unravel some of our mysteries, unleash
some of our courage. This is the power, the alchemy of truth-telling—that
one’s sorrow, when spoken, can source another’s strength; one’s
fear, when shared, can move another to action.
a bookstore today, I came across a quote by Filipina activist, Dazzle
Rivera: "As activists, we must adopt a mind-set of anticipation.
We must no longer surf the wave. We must become the wind that creates
voices in these stories are the vortex of just such a wind.