It’s 9:20 AM. The streets are deserted. Is not the lockdown again, we’re just running (very) late to school on Monday. Yesterday was Halloween, and we’re all tired. So tired that I lie to the school, the teachers, my ex and our children, and get my daughters and me an extra 45 minutes to sleep, blaming it on the alarm not working. Oh, well. I need the sleep, I know they do too. Something happened this year, not sure if the newly found freedom of being able to roam the streets again in costumes, the joy of giving after hoarding for 18 months, or the witches’ spirit, but their trick-or-treat bags were full and we stayed up too late, taking in the sugar spiked fun.
Now we’re running behind the clock on a Monday morning, and we slowly approach a work zone. There’s barely any cars ahead of me, and I’m really feeling this taking it easy attitude I paid for with white lies this morning, so I am slowly driving by. I see two man holding signs: “Slow” & “Metal Plates Ahead”, one man standing apparently supervising or perhaps daydreaming, another man making sure the other ones are doing their part (I imagine), and a big machine, with a huge teethed scooper, digging the guts out of the Earth. The big machine moves are precise and deliberate, it seems to me, not an expert. It’s scooping and lifting, almost delicately for such a giant machine. I drive even slower, very curious to see this driver in action. After all, as a peak performance obsessed, I delight in witnessing masterful moves, on any arena.
As I drive in slow motion, staring at the machine’s high seat and its driver, I notice a bright head of short blond hair, piercing eyes down on the road — the big hole — and a determined, almost entranced face, body-and-machine moving as one, with small and powerful moves, gutting, lifting, gutting some more. It’s a woman. A beautiful, powerful, delicate woman moving a huge machine, all focus.
I am not surprised that she is a woman, or that 4, maybe 5? men are standing by. I am surprised that not even for a second — me, Dayana, a mother of 2 daughters, a daughter myself, a female leader among my female clients and friends — expected to see a woman on that seat. Did I think that only big men can drive such big machines? Not really. I know anyone can drive. Have I not seen any female construction workers on the streets before? Not in my native Uruguay, but in the US, yes, a few. Do I not believe that women can do any job men can, and tell my daughters they can be anything their heart desires? Of course!!!
So then? What does this mean? Why did I not expect to see a woman on that high seat, ripping out the guts of the Earth with a huge scooper?
As I drove to the school, kissed my daughters goodbye, and drove back home to fire up my computer & start my work day, I contemplated the reality of so many women out there, just like me, thinking and reading about equality, believing in diversity, teaching our children, our clients and whoever wants to listen to us and read our social media posts that we can be anything. I remembered that even if it’s taken us decades to vote, to decide over our bodies, to receive equal pay, VC funding, to occupy C-suite positions, be film directors, and to become presidents… There’s still a deep river of change we need to cross.
This wide river is inside our minds and hearts. And crossing it requires more than being a strong swimmer, having the training, the right gear, and the belief that we can do it. It requires that we notice, deconstruct, unlearn, and unravel, just like my grandma used to unravel an old sweater every winter, to reuse the wool for a new one, re imagined.
This river crossing demands from us the courage to notice and unravel all the stories, the songs, the fairytales and the excuses that we heard, believed, and let our subconscious keep as truth. It asks that we expect the unexpected, the extraordinary, the unseen. It begs that we create new stories, beliefs, new programming; and that we run them daily, on repeat, just like teeth brushing, our favorite song, or the coffee machine.
It requests that we honor and accept the ancient part of our brains that protects us from the threats from animal predators and unwanted sex. The same one that instantly links losing control with danger. That old operating system that holds our breath, tightens our belly, and contracts our heart, by reflex.
To start crossing this cold river we have to notice this archaic brain, always on alert, and how easily it gets triggered. We can thank it for keeping us safe, and to assure it, at the same time, that it’s OK to breathe and surrender. As we float on the dark, unknown waters, it helps to affirm to ourselves that even though we have not personally met many female construction workers, presidents, billionaires or internet tycoons, it’s safe to trust, as we create our own reality. We already know we have what it takes. We can now embrace that enjoying the unknown journey may also require surrendering.
Only then, as we connect to that vulnerable aspect of ourselves, the feminine power that can deliberately rip out the guts of the Earth, will we find the inner peace that we seek, and stand joyous facing the challenges ahead.
As we heard many times, true change won’t come from outside. We cannot ask anyone other than ourselves to validate what we feel, think, or do. We cannot create a new reality by fighting or complaining about the one that we see and don’t agree with. We can only create the change we seek by being it, breathing it, unraveling old programming, upgrading our human operating system. We can only receive the unexpected by surrendering to the flow.
As I sip my coffee and type these words, I think about all the men out there cheering for us, supporting us, and wishing for us to stop the internal fight. The wise ones, ready to embrace our power and beauty, willing to be vulnerable with us, and share our transformation. I am grateful for the ones I know, and excited, in advance, for all the ones that I will meet. The colleagues, friends, partners that await me. I think of all the women that will read these words and feel reflected… and the ones holding on to labels or flags that may feel misunderstood, or worse, betrayed. I know I don’t need to defend my opinion, and it still feels weird to write without a filter, knowing that as I click “publish” I will let my voice be heard without worrying about who likes it the most.
Maybe that’s the start for me. Putting my feet in the water, with my favorite Wonder Woman swimsuit on. One belief, one breath at a time. Noticing, unraveling, unlearning, slowly and precisely, trusting… gutting out the dirt no longer needed that I was standing on.