Over the area where I sit to mediate I have a whiteboard with pictures of women –and one man--who inspire me. It’s kind of a personal pantheon. I started doing this when I read the book “Your North Star” by Martha Beck and realized that she like me, like many of us, can be tormented by the “everybodys”. This idea that “Everybody knows…” or “Everybody does…” Beck was trying to become a writer and didn’t know many writers so she gave herself writer friends made of well-known writers and read their bios and stories to get a new “everybody” in her life. She surrounded herself with other writers—living and dead—to create her own reference group. "Create your own everybody” was her advice.
On my wall are pictures of these women: Coco Chanel, Dorothy Day, Georgia O’Keefe, May Sarton, Wislawa Szymborska, Erma Bombeck, Helen Gurley Brown, Pema Chodron, Amelia Earhart and Audrey Tatou and the one man: Alain deBotton.
The pictures have been up for a while and some days I don’t pay attention but sometimes when I am praying or meditating I’ll look up and realize that there is a bit of guidance available from my “friends”. Some days I am aware of their successes. Other days I’m reminded of their failures in the midst of their successes. I might note their outspokenness, their creativity or their courage. Or how they aged. Sometimes when I take a poll of their experience I see that all of them had heartbreaks and challenges in intimate relationships. And then too I notice that they struggled often to have their work understood or accepted. All of them had equally strong friends and enemies.
Today I am aware that they were—isn’t this a surprise—women with a distinctive sense of style—yes even poet May Sarton and poverty advocate Dorothy Day.
I’m keeping an eye out for new members of my “everybody”. Should William James be allowed to join? Frida Kahlo? We’ll see.
But tell me please, who are the members of your “everybody”?