I once saw a funny birthday card. On the front it read Happy birthday to my daughter, the princess. On the inside, it continued, From your mother, the queen.
What is a princess, and what is a queen? Why is princess often a pejorative description of a certain type of woman, and the word queen hardly ever applied to women at all? A princess is a girl who knows that she will get there, who is on her way perhaps but is not yet there. She has power but she does not yet wield it responsibly. She is indulgent and frivolous. She cries but not yet noble tears. She stomps her feet and does not know how to contain her pain or use it creatively.
A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed on her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become its vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power.
Our kingdom is our life, and our life is our kingdom. We are all meant to rule from a glorious place. When God is on the throne, then so are we. When God is in exile, our lands are at war and our kingdoms are in chaos.
To be a princess is to play at life. To be a queen is to be a serious player. Audrey Hepburn was a queen, Barbara Jordan is a queen, Gloria Steinem is a queen. Most of us are a little of both. The purpose of life as a woman is to ascend to the throne and rule with heart.
The growth of a girl into a woman, a princess into a queen, is not a liberal transition. Like any true creative flow, it is radical. That is not to say it is angry or harsh. But it is radical, the way truth is radical—and birth and art and real love and death. It changes things. It represents a shift in core beliefs, a belly-up of dominant paradigms. Without this shift, a woman seesaws between the brink of disaster and the brink of salvation. She goes from moments of bliss to moments of terror. And then the children, and the world, begin to seesaw with her.
When a woman has owned her passionate nature, allowing love to flood her heart, her thoughts grow wild and fierce and beautiful. Her juices flow. Her heart expands. She has thrown off crutch and compromise. She has glimpsed the enchanted kingdom, the vast and magical realms of the Goddess within her. Here, all things are transformed. And there is a purpose to this: that the world might be mothered back to a great and glorious state. When a woman conceives her true self, a miracle occurs and life around her begins again.
Mary's was a virgin birth, and the word virgin means "a woman unto herself." The actualized woman is powerful unto herself and gives birth to things divine. Today we have the chance to give birth to a healed and transformed world. This cannot be done without a major uprising of the glorious in women, because nothing can be healed without the female powers that nurture and protect, intuit and endure. What does this mean for the individual woman living day to day in a world that resists her expansion and makes her wrong for her passions? It means finding others who have seen the same light. They are everywhere, and like us they await instruction. They are men and women, young and old, who have heard the joke but take it too seriously to laugh. It is funny but also tragic, this cutting off at the pass of the life-force of half of humanity. Something new is brewing, and let's be grateful that it is. The Queen is coming to reclaim her girls.
When the Queen emerges, she is magical and enchanting. She is calm and happy. She creates order where there was none. She has grown new eyes.
When a woman rises up in glory, her energy is magnetic and her sense of possibility contagious. We have all seen glorious women, full of integrity and joy, aware of it, proud of it, overflowing with love. They shine. I have known this state in other women and, at moments, in myself. But it could be a stronger statement, a more collective beat. We don't have to do anything to be glorious; to be so is our nature. If we have read, studied, and loved; if we have thought as deeply as we could and felt as deeply as we could; if our bodies are instruments of love given and received—then we are the greatest blessing in the world. Nothing needs to be added to that to establish our worth.
Just stand there. Sit there. Smile. Bless. What a hunger is left unfulfilled in our society for no reason other than that women have been so devalued by others and so dishonored by ourselves.
Every woman I know wants to be a glorious queen, but that option was hardly on the multiple-choice questionnaire we were handed when we were little girls. Rarely did anyone tell us we could choose to be magic.
When I was a child, there was a woman who lived across the street named Betty Lynn. She was sort of a cross between Auntie Mame and Jayne Mansfield. I thought she was the most beautiful, most fascinating, most wonderful woman in the world. Betty Lynn was wild and gorgeous and drove a Cadillac. I thought it was beige, but she called it the color of champagne. She wanted a thatched roof on her guest house. She obviously had sex with her husband. She always told me I was wonderful.
Years later, I remembered the scotch and water that was almost always in her hand, and many things began to make sense that hadn't made sense when I was young. But at the time, she was a model of sorts, a glamorous woman who made me see magic when all I found on my side of the street was a lid placed on my emotions and disapproval of my more outrageous passions.
Why, in the thirty-odd years since I knew this woman, have I never forgotten her? What did she represent that struck me as so real, so passionate, so enchanted?
Whatever it was, the alcohol helped her let it out, but then the alcohol enslaved her, and then it killed her. That's clear. But why do people who have the most ardor, the most enchantment, the most power so often feel the need for drugs and alcohol? They do not drink just to dull their pain; they drink to dull their ecstasy. Betty Lynn lived in a world that doesn't know from ecstatic women, or want to know, or even allow them to exist. In former times, she would have had her own temple, and people from all around would have gathered to sit at her feet and hear her pronounce them marvelous. She would have mixed herbs and oils. But an unenlightened world began to burn these women, and the world burns them still. Betty Lynn crucified herself before anyone else had a chance to. Many of us are a little like her, choosing to implode rather than take on society's punishment. Those of us who don't must bear society's wrath. But we live through it, bruised and battered though we might be. And more and more of us are now living to tell the tale, surviving the fire, surviving sober, and, hopefully, altered in such a way that our daughters will have an easier time.
(excerpt) A Womans Worth by Marianne Williamson