I AM EVERY WOMAN
15 women across the world share how resilience, stoicism, and courage shaped their lives
The Scars of Life
By Louisa Pantameli
“It took me 33 years to leave an abusive relationship. We survive. We resurrect.”
Prologue: A golden journey
When the Japanese mend broken objects, they accentuate the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.
The more I talk with people, the more I realise we are all broken, but often we mend in the most miraculous ways: we survive, we resurrect, we reinvent ourselves. Best of all, given time, we learn to love ourselves just the way we are and thus let ourselves be loved, just the way we are. We are all beautiful.
My children and I carry the scars of abuse and survival. Like the cracks in the Japanese objects filled with gold, our scars are our history and they make us who we are.
Whatever you need to do, you’ll do when you are ready
It took me 33 years and bringing up two children to leave an abusive relationship. Thirty-three years!
My daughter and I left on Friday, November 25, 2016: The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The timing wasn’t intentional. I didn’t even know that such a day existed, but looking back it seems appropriate that we took our first step towards freedom then.
By Julia Record
‘It was serendipity that an ear infection led to the discovery of my brain tumour. I was destined to live.’
‘Any out-of-body experiences?’
‘Oh yes, I’ve had plenty of them.’
‘Are you hearing voices, Julia? Any sudden religious conversions? What about personality changes?’
‘No to all of those.’
‘Well, I enjoy drinking Earl Grey tea in bed in the morning while reading House & Garden. But is that so unusual?’
‘What’s this?’ He held up a pen.
‘Well, I don’t know what brand it is. It’s not Mont Blanc.’
‘What about this then?’ He pointed to the nib.
It occurred to me then that the answers were quite simply a pen and its nib, and that I had over thought the earlier question. Typical of someone who works in the luxury industry.
By now, I was wondering if I had walked into the right room. Here I was at 78 Harley Street, meeting Mr Bassi for the first time; a man who, though I didn’t know it at the time, was going to play an integral part of my life; a man who every year, apart from during the Covid-19 pandemic, I was going to hug, whether it was appropriate or not, such was my bond with him; a man who I would come to hold in the very highest esteem.
Evolving Beyond Perceptions of Gender
By Uma Prajapati
“I came across my own feminine wisdom, and it slowly unfolded as a sacred space for me.”
Long hair, gold jewellery, tinkling anklets and bangles, silk saris, gentle laughter, a coy look toward the floor while talking to others – these were qualities I was brought up to cultivate as a well-behaved and admired woman in Indian society. I am standing today at the balcony of my house in Auroville, looking back at a life I left behind eons ago.
I joined Auroville at the age of 26 and it has become the grand love of my life. Auroville is an international spiritual township in South India dedicated to human unity. I came here in 1996 for a design project and fell in love with its vision. Back then there were 35 different nationalities living together as a community with no personal ownership. This fascinated me and I felt completely at home here. A dream called out to me and I could not go back to Delhi. My two weeks still have not ended.
By Elodie Baran
“I successfully freed myself from the real brace and also from the brace I had created in my mind.”
My story started when I decided that it was time for me to be born. After four years of marriage, the parents I chose had accepted the fact that they wouldn’t have children. Then my mother started to feel sick and had stomach pains. The doctors had all told her that she could not be pregnant and she was far along when it became undeniable. She was afraid; she had been taking pills that were not recommended during pregnancy and it was too late to get an abortion. There was a life force in me that told me to hold on. I did just that, and this attitude of “holding on” has helped me to bounce back from difficulties I have faced in my life.
So, here I am, 50 years later, ready to give birth to these pages and share with you the story of a girl, raised by loving parents in a bourgeois environment, looking for herself. I hope it can inspire you in finding your own tools to enjoy the life you desire.
Little Ballet Girl
By Christine Hale
“My inspiration is to enable even those with a life-limiting condition to live their best life.”
I am standing in the middle of a large church hall in my freshly washed pale blue leotard, flesh-coloured ballet tights and ballet shoes with neatly tied ribbons. Everything is in place; even my hair is in a regulation headband and net. I look ready for my primary-grade ballet exam at age six. Except I don’t feel ready. I’m the only dancer on the floor. The examiner behind the table and the pianist in a corner are both strangers to me. I hold myself strong, even though inside I am quaking. I do the barre exercises, point my toes, do my character dance for all I am worth, and clap the rhythms of crotchets, minims, and quavers successfully, despite my fears and sense of loneliness. My parents didn’t come, they never do – they are always busy with my sisters and brother – but I pass the exam with “Commended” and they are as happy at the news as I am.
I learned a lot through my ballet classes: resilience, how to be a pretend extrovert in order to divert attention, and that I could protect myself with a self-created barrier. I carried on until I was 16, doing another six grade exams, my resilience growing even stronger each year. I still love ballet to this day. I watch the Royal Ballet when I can and I admire the strength, control, dedication, resilience and passion of the dancers. I have lived my life with this inspiration.
My Luxury Life Was My Prison
By Claudia Roth
“Only after a thorough dismantling could I stand back up with new awareness and reassemble the pieces to connect to a new part of myself.”
The first time I knew for sure that something was not quite right was when I woke up in a luxury suite at the Ritz in Paris. Early morning sunshine illuminated the white marble bathroom and I gazed into a mirror as wide as two oversized sinks, only to see a giant Blackberry imprint checkerboarded on my cheek. My work was literally disfiguring me.
As I look back on the transition from being a high-flying corporate executive to a simple “no one” riding her scooter in Auroville, a spiritual community in the south of India, I conclude that my search was always for freedom. Only, I was looking for it in all the wrong places.
Choosing the road less travelled is not easy. The path takes sharp turns into the undergrowth, only to disappear suddenly: it doesn’t present itself clearly, nor does it seem promising, and that is precisely the point. Every step will always be a leap into the void, but that is where freedom hides in plain view, ready to surprise.
By Astrid Salas
“Am I still struggling with uncertainty? You bet. Childhood experiences do not vanish so simply, but I learned that our bodies reflect our unspoken emotions.”
Have you ever wondered, “Why am I here? What is my mission?” When I ask myself these questions, I intuitively focus on the idea of “transformation”. My story is related to the process of transition we all experience during our lives; that willingness to do a deep dive into yourself and discover your true calling. This process of transformation is not something you can determine by setting a date or a deadline; it may take years. I sometimes even wonder if there is ever an end to it. Are we not meant to continue developing ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually throughout our lives? Are we not continuously challenged to keep the balance of harmony between our body and our soul? Looking back to how I started and where I am today, my answer to these questions is “yes.”
I AM EVERY WOMAN is the tangible result of women coming together, to whom the pandemic gave the time and space to reflect, share and inspire. For anyone just starting to break free, longing to find inner peace, or trying to accept the circle of life – birth, death, and rebirth – reading this book will be of support. It can help you hold space for yourself and look at your own life, however difficult, knowing that you are never alone.” For the story behind this book click here