Doris Bersing, PhD

Older’s American Month: Age Out Loud

Each May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads our nation’s celebration of Older Americans Month (OAM). ACL designed the 2017 OAM theme, Age Out Loud, to give aging a new voice—one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.

This theme shines a light on many important trends. More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.

Marianne Gontarz York, portraits one of our older Americans who live and age out loud. She says on the Newsletter of the Marin County Commission on Aging “…There is no one I can think of who exemplifies this more than Barbara Borden… a 71 year old drummer [who] has lived her life out loud” Read More

Forbes published that according to the Administration on Aging (AoA), to Age Out Loud means “having the freedom to live with dignity, choice, and opportunities.” … and they comment on 10 Ways All Ages Can celebrate Older Americans.

    1. Talk to older people everywhere. Find out what they have to say. Learn about their experiences. Interview people in your community who exemplify what it means to Age Out Loud. Gather a mix of individuals, such as older public servants, elder rights advocates, back-to-schoolers, moms and grandmas, athletes, authors, retired professional people who broke barriers or people trying new careers. Everyone has a story. Share your interviews through written pieces or videos.
    2. Arrange for older adults to share or read stories in a workshop or for a “Senior Day” at a local school. Find out about older adults reading books to children at a local library.
    3. Teachers and others, help local school students set up interviews with residents of a retirement community, assisted living community or nursing home, and write short biographies for a school assignment. Plan a program for wherein the students would read aloud their stories. Invite families of students and seniors and even the media to attend.
    4. Ask your older followers and friends on social media to share their wisdom, tips and stories online. You can use a unique hashtag or post to a page or forum you create or manage.
    5. Arrange a celebratory event with a community leader or keynote speaker from your community. Invite community members to a special event celebrating older Americans. It could be a sit-down meal, a networking gathering or a special program like a storytelling or talent show. Plan activities that will result in proceeds like those from a raffle, and donate the funds to a local charity or program or agency that supports older adults.
    6. Plan a volunteer event for older adults who want to give back. The purpose could be anything from picking up litter or gardening in public areas to collecting clothing and food donations for those in need. If you need ideas visit  If resources are available, create matching volunteer t-shirts that say “Age Out Loud!” This creates a sense of unity and raises awareness among those who see your group volunteering.
    7. Coordinate an education event like a resource fair, class, workshop or lecture a topic covered by this year’s theme. The gathering could hone in on self-expression with activities like painting, acting and singing or focus on maintaining health and independence with a yoga or strength training class. Nutrition tips can be added to any wellness event. Consider teaching a group about self-advocacy, technology or starting a new career.
    8. Help an older person gather family photos and make an album or scrapbook about their life and the legacy they will leave.
    9. Consider participating in a life review project such as The UMSL Life Review Project at the University of Missouri – at St. Louis, where Dr. Tom Meuser, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, applied gerontologist, and director of the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Gerontology Graduate Program is recruiting older adults and their adult children in pairs to either be interviewed or complete questionnaires in support of his research. He will be recruiting through July 2017 and welcomes participants to contact him by email at to volunteer or learn more. The project flyer can be found at here.
    10. And finally, simply spend time with an older person, no matter what age you are. Chances are you can learn a lot from them and vice versa. Read the article

Ways for Seniors to Improve Mental and Physical Health

Easy Ways for Seniors to Stay Healthy

In a time where daily stress is almost a given, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

Seniors, especially, need to find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety as well as ways to actively improve physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to do that, and most of them are more simple than you might think. Here are a few of the best.

Engage in daily exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but for individuals over the age of 50, it’s imperative. Getting in at least thirty minutes of workout time every day will help improve your mood and overall health, and it might be a good way to socialize, as well. Start a walking group with friends or neighbors, or invite your spouse or coworker to a swim aerobics class. Having someone to talk to will make you look forward to working out rather than dreading it.

Consider a pet

If you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a dog or cat. Animals can help reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure, and they are wonderful companions. Dogs are also great motivators on days when you don’t feel like exercising, because they’ll always be up for a walk!

Stay in touch

When life gets hectic, we sometimes forget to stay in touch with loved ones. Make it a point to sit down and write a letter to someone you care about, or give them a call. Set aside time on a specific day every week to do it so you’ll have no trouble remembering.

Eat well

Your diet can have a very specific impact on your health and how you feel, so make sure you’re not overloading on refined sugars and carbs, which can make you feel sluggish. Lots of leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fresh fruit will go a long way toward helping you feel better in every way.

Get some rest

You might think you’re getting enough sleep, but if you feel tired all day it’s possible you need to take another look at your habits. Are you lying awake for a long time at night? Taking long naps during the day? Try staying away from the television, computer, or smartphone for an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, read a book or take a long hot shower. Get yourself relaxed before bed to ensure you’ll sleep and feel rested when you get up.

Get creative

For retirees, especially, the days can seem long and uninspired. If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, try a new hobby. Get creative and take up a painting class, or try gardening or woodworking. Allowing yourself to create things and try something new will open up a whole new world, and you may just find happiness there.

Staying active and keeping your mind healthy and alert will ensure you’ll be feeling good and ready to tackle anything, no matter what your age is.

Aging Women: From Crone to Mentor

Copyright: Aaron Amat

After fighting for equal rights and against negative stereotypes, baby-boomer women find themselves in a society that obsessively worships youth and relegates its seniors to second-class status. Baby boomer women grew up around the fighting of the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies; many were feisty revolutionaries.

In the eighties, the message to them was to embrace the inner Goddess within. Now in their golden years, they imagine a new role as sage, which will help them obtain the freedom they have been chasing since their youth. But what is this new role?  What if wisdom is lacking? Where then do they find meaning in their lives?

We question how the women’s movement has affected women of age. The women who took what they learned as activists in the civil rights movement and applied it to the rampant sexism of the civil-rights and black-power movements – who participated in the first sweeping consciousness-raising process that Bettina Aptheker called “learning to name our oppression” – these women are still too young to have been included in Coming of Age.

But that phase of the women’s movement spawned two generations of equal rights, abortion rights, lesbian and gay rights, anti-ageism, and AIDS activists; a devoted, beleaguered army of caretakers of abused women and children in the shelter movement; and labor groups such as the CLUW and Women in the Trades, to name only a few “special interest” groups. Many old women, someplace along the line, have been affected by those struggles, as I was, and by the huge body of songs, poems, essays, and visual art that celebrates them, as I was.

Elderly women today face personal challenges, triggering some profound questions–among them: What is their role as they age? Reproduction is no longer a goal; nor is raising children. If they had a career, it is in the past, or nearly so. Traditional roles for midlife or older women, such as caring for grandchildren or caregiving for a husband or other family member–are still common for women. These limited identities may be difficult to bear for those who spent a lifetime trying to make a difference.

To those old ones who still do battle with dragons [1]

The “aging” woman, with her dry skin and wrinkled body, does not represent the pretty, sexy, vital, or accomplished; she is considered to be in her dimmed time. Jungian psychotherapist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen have said, “In a youth-oriented patriarchy, especially, to become an older woman is to become invisible: a nonentity.” Or, as historian Bettina Aptheker[2] recently said of older people, especially women, “We’re either invisible, or we’re in the way.” What’s the future for this woman? What role should aging women play in our society?

Food for thought!


[1] Studs Terkel. In Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. St. Martin’s Press; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (September 1996)

[2] May 8, 2008: Bettina Aptheker on Feminism and Ageism. A public lecture at Pacific Institute. San Francisco.

Time to Continue the Fight

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 2.03.02 PMWe know last night didn’t go as many of us planned. We’re upset.We’re disappointed. And we’re heartbroken. But we aren’t giving up. We’re going to keep fighting. President Obama reminded us this morning that the most important thing we can do is move forward. He told us that “we brush ourselves off, we get back in the arena, we go at it.”Kate Kendall from the National Commission For Lesbian Rights said: “… By a slim margin, this nation has elected a demagogue who trafficked in bigotry, stoked racist hatred and normalized misogyny. The election of Donald Trump as President threatens basic principles of human dignity and justice… Many of our most cherished values—inclusion, honoring difference, embracing equality, dismantling oppressive systems—are in jeopardy, but we will not be deterred.

Kendell continues stressing that “…This is the moment we are called to resist. We are about to be tested as never before, and speaking for myself, and NCLR, we will not stand down, sit idle or be silent in the face of oppression, bullying or threat…”  Read More

Marcel Proust on Memory and Coming Out

Who is afraid Of Marcel proustMarcel Proust, a  XX century famous writer, author of a masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, brings to my attention the phenomenon of forgetfulness sometimes attached to the epidemic of dementia.  In Search of Lost Time, is one of Proust’s renowned creations (À la recherche du temps perdu published in seven volumes, previously translated as Remembrance of Things Past) (1913–1927).

In this work, Proust recounts his experiences  while growing up, participating in society, falling in love, and learning about art. He also discusses  memory, separation anxiety, the role of art in life, and homosexuality at length. He described many of the instances of Déjà vudéjà vécu effects and other phenomena related to memory. Proust shows the similarity between the structures and mechanisms of the human mind related to unfinished business and psycho-dynamic  principles he talks about, even without knowing or reading Freud.In this creation, Proust also speaks extensively in this book about the challenges of homosexuality, internalized homophobia, and the challenges of coming out as a homosexual.  Although Proust was gay, he had ambivalent feelings around coming out.

Proust stresses those challenges of being and living as homosexual in a society that des not understand or accept it. Identifying oneself as part of the LGBT group is not always easy or welcoming the way we would wish it to be. Although many people find that coming out is a positive experience, coming out has its challenges and it could have both a positive and a negative impact on the person’s life. It could affect the individual’s family relationships, social relationships, school, or work. Some LGBT people fear negative reactions, rejection and upsetting people they are close to. In many parts of the world strong cultural attitudes and discriminatory laws make coming out even harder. In USA things have changed legally, lately but at a personal level, there are still fears and internalized feelings of homophobia.

In a review by Edmund White for the New York Times, he states that among writers, the twentieth-century novelist they most admired–and who they thought would have the most enduring influence on the next century–was Marcel Proust.

An interesting take on Proust’s stance on memory is performed by  James Keller  a San Francisco Bay Area artist, who guides the audience through the seven volumes of  this Marcel Proust’s great 20th century novel, IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME, about the importance of memory and forgetting, using 180 slides and music as part of the narrative in a virtuoso performance which John Lahr (senior drama critic of The New Yorker magazine) called, “A tour de force” and also, has said that “James Keller is the most well-read person I know.”  Learn more and come to see more at Who is afraid of Marcel Proust. “Who’s Afraid of Marcel Proust?” will be performed in Berkeley on Thursday, 9/24/15  at 7:30pm at the Sacred Stream. For tickets and more information: and in San Francisco on Sunday 10/4/15 at 2pm and at 8:00 pm.  Fort Mason.  For tickets and more information:

One of the big accomplishments of In Search of the lost time, is Proust’s position about the impossibility to recover the time we lose, the forfeiture of innocence through experience, the emptiness of love and friendship, the vanity of human endeavors, and the triumph of sin and despair; but Proust’s conclusion is that the life of every day is supremely important, full of moral joy and beauty, which, though they may be lost through faults inherent in human nature, are indestructible and recoverable.

In a personal level, one of Proust’s marvels as a writer was projecting  his own homosexuality upon his characters, treating them, as well as snob, vane, and cruel, but able to love even if considered it as a sin.

Just food for thought in some of Proust’s  famous and inspiring quotes are:

  • The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
  • Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
  • If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.

Thinking of Dementia and Identity

DB smTime goes by and I realized, I am getting old-er …although it is not a discovery, it is for sure, a daily fact. One that shows on the mirror more often than before. Always when thinking about getting older, given my line of work (gerontology, among others), I think: what if…what if I get dementia?

Most of us spend a big part of our life searching for meaning, trying to find our identity, and although Thomas Szasz said in The Second Sin (1973) said “…the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates…” we set ourselves for the pursuit of that elusive identity and our meaning as human beings. What is life all about and overall what is our role in life? What do we really live for? Who are we?

We pass many of our prime years looking for our identity, fighting for one, trying to assert one if we are ever given a glimpse of it, wrestling to have our needs met and to have our dreams come true. That search for identity comes sometimes in a puzzle of circumstances, challenges and exploits, and like the overprotected Nemo, we need to swim the oceans of uncertainty and grow until finding ourselves

Through the journey in search of our identity, we attempt to unfold our potential, our desires, and to adjust at the best of our abilities to the challenges of daily life. We build our life upon joys, shadows, and sorrows and fill that life with the mementos and the facts we carve in our memory, those we gathered throughout our journey but one-day, zas! You are diagnosed with dementia. There you are, all of the sudden lost, confused and soon to be stripped, if not of your identity, at least, officially, of your mind.

I know, hopefully, we all have been lost in our minds out of excitement, passion, or love and yet, after the diagnoses you will not be lost in your mind, anymore, since now, your are losing yours. Of course, we could discuss what really mind is, there is so much more to the mind than the cognitive aspect of it and yet for any purpose is THAT mind the one holding your memories, mementos, treasures, pains, and joys that is ready to go with the wind. Well in reality, with the plaques and tangles created in your brain, in a certain time you will not even remember the time of diagnosis. Just as Clark Gable stated while playing Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, stated, you may well say: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn….” But he clock is ticking.

Professionals will offer all what they have. They talk and teach how to calm you down, how to deal with your mood swings and your challenging behaviors but do they really know what we are going through, what you are going through? Do they know that you are going through the tunnel, in and out of the darkness, the uncertainty with the challenge of living an existential tale of the here and now, for which, you did not sign up and for which, effectively you have never practiced. Then come the drugs, the optimism, the clinical trials, the walking to fund more research, hopefully before it is too late for you. Looking now for a different meaning. There is so much that is done, said, so much still to do and yet nobody really knows what you are going through.

We try and theorize about the phenomenon, the neurological, psychological, emotional, and practical side of it, even the spiritual side of it. Needless to say, we appreciate all the nice legitimate attempts people make writing new books about breakthrough treatments and findings; they present lectures, write articles about you but what if you could really explain how it is to know that your life is slipping away, fading away? What if you had a voice? What if they found a cure?

I wish I could be more helpful, but I really do not know how it is, all is in my best efforts to explain a phenomenon, I can only observe and witness with powerlessness, compassion and horror. I do not have dementia and I wonder if I had it how I would feel? What would it be like? Again, I do not know but if I could, if I were you, I would not like to go there. That said, I hope I would react calmly and with patience for myself, although I doubt it but let the journey continue and keep on swimming.

For now, I find some solace and motivation to keep ‘on swimming in Thoreau’s wisdom:

“…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau, 1854

LGBT Youth and Conversion Therapy

Born PerfectConversion therapy or restorative therapies are, ethically and intrinsically, wrong when trying to change an individual’s sexual preference based on homophobia and extreme religious beliefs. These types of treatment have been a source of controversy in the United States and other countries. The American Psychiatric Association has condemned “psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per-se is a mental disorder thus the need to revert the “disease” by changing your sexual preference.The issue is more serious when it comes to youth since they do no have the legal right to oppose their parents’ decisions. Well, for now a victory!

Samantha Ames, Esq. Staff Attorney & Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator for NCLR  just announced, moments ago, the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved a bill that will protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy.  When signed into law, Washington, D.C. will become the third jurisdiction—behind California and New Jersey—to pass legislation protecting LGBT youth from ineffective and harmful practices designed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Counsel Ames, explains “… today, the Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved. It has used its power to protect the most vulnerable from a dangerous pseudoscience that tells them that who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization in the country that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Earlier this year, NCLR launched the Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy across the country over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms to ensure the safety of LGBT youth, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous and discredited practices Their site explains that in the past” …In the past, some mental health professionals resorted to extreme measures such as institutionalization, castration, and electro-convulsive shock therapy to try to stop people from being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Today, while some counselors still use physical treatments like aversive conditioning, the techniques most commonly used include a variety of behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic, and other practices that try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity…” Learn More about the Born Perfect Campaign.

Depression: You Can Break Free From it

Sadness and depression

Copyright: kmiragaya

More than just a bout of the blues, depression is not a permanent personality trait or a character issue or a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of.

Clinicians at the Mayo Clinic state that “…Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living…depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both…”

Struggling with depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. Even f you know you could do something to feel better, the fact of just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, requires a level of energy, often, you do not have. It’s the paradoxical side of fighting depression: The things that help us the most are the things that are the most difficult to do and overcoming depression is not something you do in the blink of an eye, it is difficult stuff but there’s a difference between something that’s difficult and something that’s impossible.

A recent article on WebMD states that “…many people think of depression as an intolerable sadness or a deep gloom that just won’t go away. Yet depression can also be sneaky, disguised in symptoms that can be hard to identify. If you’ve had unexplained aches or pains, often feel irritable or angry for no reason, or cry at the drop of a hat — you could be depressed.

Fortunately, you can be proactive with depression. Learn how these less obvious symptoms can reveal themselves and when you should seek out depression treatment…” Read More

Autoestima Para Mujeres en el Siglo XXI

En el último cuarto del siglo XX mucho se escribió en el campo de la autoayuda y pareciese que todo es tan fácil como seguir los bien intencionados consejos de amigas, psicólogos, y autores que han esparcido sugestiones a diestra y siniestra de como ser la mujer de la nueva era. Y por supuesto, yo soy una de ellos!

Todos tenemos una historia y muchas de nosotras tenemos una historia de mujeres que marca  nuestra trayectoria, nuestros sucesos, nuestros fracasos, sueños y realidades. Sea cual sea tu hisotria, esta atada a mujeres, del pasado, de otras vidas, y las mujeres del siglo XX que enfrentan separaciones, cambios, retos y oportunidades. También representa una lucha por la autosuperación y la liberación. Liberación de viejos patrones, liberación de miedos y mapas que nos confunden y nos catapultan en direcciones equivocadas o en los mejores de los casos en direcciones que no son las que deseamos y las cuales no conducen al logro de nuestras metas. La lucha ha sido –y es- contra los paradigmas de una cultura patriarcal que ha disminuido el poder de la mujer como miembro activo y decisivo de la sociedad.

Aunque muchas civilizaciones antiguas exaltaron mujeres y las adoraron como seres divinos que poseian poderes de sanación, de decisión, y de gobierno y las convirtieron en Diosas, mucho ha sucedido a ese poder femenino que poco a poco en la travesia de los tiempos ha perdido fuerza, validez, poder e identidad. En los años noventa muchas mujeres acariciabamos la idea de poder entrar en la madurez y la plenitud de ser mujer. Una mujer con multiples alternatives y posibilidad de elección. La clave estaba en encontrar el origen todopoderoso y único, la divina esencia que se encuentra dentro de nosotras –la Diosa-   que nos convierte en criaturas únicas, maravillosas y poderosas. Esa jornada al centro de nosotras mismas empezaba con crecimiento personal, independecia, autosuficiciencia y desde ahi iriamos esculpiendo nuesrtro lugar en la historia de la humanidad, o por lo menos a nuestro alrededor; esto no era solo una posibilidad pero un mandato! Todo era possible si conectabamos conesa –nuestra- Diosa interior. Anque despues de una dozena de años y otro libro explorando la identidad femenina,  la verdad de esa Diosa a veces vapuleada, agobiada por la lucha, y cansada de la duplicidad de roles, de vivir el poder y la caida, me doy cuenta de que se necesita algo mas que el crecimiento personal y la spiritualidad para alcanzar la liberación.

Simone de Beauvoir – en los años 50’s, en su libro El Segundo Sexo –quien quizas sin proponerselo escribio el más certero y brillante alegato de cuantos se han producido a lo largo del siglo XX a favor de las mujeres y al no determinismo biologico del ser mujer expreso que ademas de la capacidad de crecimiento personal, la sociedad tiene un gran rol en lo que las mujeres pueden aspirar y lograr en la cultura: “…una no nace, una se convierte en mujer… es la civilizacion en su totalidad la que produce esta criatura”. Para Beauvoir –militante politica y comunista de la mitad del siglo XX- la revolución debía resolver también los problemas de las mujeres: “Yo creía que la condición femenina evolucionaría al mismo tiempo que la sociedad”. Aunque el libro El Segundo Sexo marca un hito en la historia del feminismo en el Siglo XX y constituye una obra maestra en cuanto a la descripcion de la condicion de la mujer y el determinismo social que la amenaza, tambien evidencial el impacto que la cultura y la sociedad que rodea a la mujer tiene en el rol que esta desempena y el lugar que alcanza. Asi dos fuerzas yuxtapuestas entran en juego para definir lo que seremos como mujer. Una -como Beauvoir y muchos otros culturalistas han propuesto- es la influencia de la cultura y los roles socialkes que son adjudicados, permitidosd o negados a la mujer. La otra, esa determinacion interior que esta ligada al potencial personal. Asi que aunque cambiemos el entorno y luchemos contra la opresion del determinismo patriarcal, nada lograremos si no damos ese primer paso de reconocer lo sagrado en nuestra esencia y aduenarnos de nuestro poder interior mientras decretamos la independencia de la mujer de nuestros dias. Lo social es una suma de individualidades…aunque esta realidad social sea mayor que la suma de las partes, las partes- lo individual- juega un papel crucial.

En los albores del siglo XXI encontramos a una mujer crecida que se ha forjado a traves de una nueva generacion, una mujer nunca vista, la llamada mujer de la generacion “baby-boomer” Una mujer con agallas, con ganas de crecer, con ganas de vivir, y un gran deseo de mimarse; una mujer que representa la liberación femenina, el acceso masivo de la mujer al empleo, aunque tambien representa la era del consumo y los medios masivos de comunicación. Esa mujer tambien representa la transicion de valores mas conservadores a valores mas liberales y ajustados a luchas por igualdad social y participacion democratica. Ahora, adivina… esa mujer que produjo la gran revolución juvenil, la generación de la televisión y la publicidad, aquella que provocó que el mercadeo y la publicidad apunten casi exclusivamente a los jóvenes… entró en la mediana edad en forma masiva. Si, muchas de las Diosas han crecido, se han repotenciado, han luchado, y todavia… luchan! Y yo me pregunto, cuales son las nuevas circunstancias, cuales las nuevas luchas, cuales los logros y cuales lor obstaculos a los suenos del movimiento feminista, el renacer de la Diosa, y la accion afirmativa? Es que hemos alcanzado lo que nos prometimos a nosotras mismas e incluso aquello que otros nos prometieron que podriamos alcanzar?

Contemplando la historia del último siglo, vemos hechos alentadores donde mujeres luchadoras han alcanzado el pinaculo de la fama y han conquistado lugares sin precedente en la historia. Ya en 1900, mujeres en Inglaterra y la costa este de Estados Unidos de America peleaban para sindicalizar a las trabajadoras textiles de estoss paises ya en la era industrial. Tambien en Estados Unidos de America y en los comienzos del siglo XX, feministas –sin saberlo- como Margaret Sanger peleaban por el derecho de las mujeres al control de la natalidad. Mientras tanto en Latino America Gabriela Mistral estudiaba para profesora y era llamada la Poeta nacional de Chile. En Venezuela, Carmen Clemente Travieso era la primera mujer a la que la Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) le daba el título de reportera. Al mismo tiempo, Eumelia Hernandez quien –en el año 1936- comenzaba a luchar por las mujeres en la Asociación Cultural Femenina; y por los trabajadores en general, unia las filas de el Partido Republicano Progresista del cual saldría el Partido Comunista de Venezuela. En Mejico Frida Kahlo -quien desarrollo su excelente talento artistico al luchar contra el dolor fisico, las penas morales, y el aburrimiento- escandalizaba un Mejico colonial con su arte, su amor por la vida, por los hombres y mujeres.. A traves de los años hemos sido testigos –a veces mudos a veces a viva voz- de muchas luchas, luchas personales, luchas socials, siempre luchas donde mujeres han logrado vencer las barreras tanto personales como socials que las disminuian.

Otras mujeres destacadas que vienen a mi memoria son –y aca no trato por ningun medio de hacer una lista exhaustiva de las mujeres que han hecho historia en el mundo (2) en el último siglo, ya que eso seria material para un libro totalmente diferente, sino materializar en estas paginas esas que por decadas han sido –para mi como para muchas otras mujeres de mi generacion- modelos de inspiracion en lo personal y en lo social- Argelia Laya de Venezuela quien desde los años cincuenta representa la voluntad férrea en el compromiso, el arrojo y sacrificio por las ideas de igualdad y justicia, el trabajo incansable por los derechos humanos y sociales, la solidaridad incondicional en la lucha por los derechos de las mujeres. En el quimerico Norte, en 1989, Antonia Novello –medico- era nombrada Jefe de Sanidad de Estados Unidos siendo la primera mujer y persona de color elegida para ese cargo.

Todas las luchas del movimiento feminista de los años sesenta y setenta se concentraron en reivindicar el lugar de la mujer en la sociedad; un lugar que aun necesita ser reinvidicado ya que incluso en los llamados paises desarrollados se ignoran los derechos igualitarios que tienen las mujeres. Por ejemplo tenemos la decisión de la Corte Suprema Norte Americana donde finalmente -y apenas en 1996- se obligó a todas las academias militares –publicas y privadas- a aceptar mujeres en sus salones – a pesar de otra orden de la corte suprema -en 1975- que dictaminaba que era illegal la discriminación contra mujeres aspirantes a la academia militar, algunas escuelas todavia seguian ignorando esa decisión.

Otras luchas por los derechos civiles –y que aun no se han extendido a todos los paises ha sido la lucha por el derecho de las mujeres a escoger abortar o continuar con un embarazo; la lucha para denunciar y castigar el acoso sexual en lugares de trabajo –basicamente en paises industrializados- tambien han marcado un hito en la historia del feminismo de estos ultimos cincuenta años. Luchas tambien llevadas a cabo por mujeres de paises del tercer mundo quienes han batallado por reivindicar su estatus y el de los de su clase. Dolores Huerta –Mejicana immigrante en los Estados Unidos de Norteamerica- en 1960 quien al lado de Cesar Chavez organizó la Asociación de Agricultores y además, ayudó a los hispanos de ese pais a obtener el derecho a votar en español y a tomar el examen para la licencia de conducir en su lenguaje nativo. Incluso la presencia de Rigoberta Menchu, una india Maya Quiché de Guatemala, en el panorama Internacional como ganadora del premio nobel de la Paz –aunque en entredicho y llamada “una farsante” por el neoliberalismo – expuso la necesidad de la liberacion femenina en su pais, y en sus tribus.

Heroinas como Gloria Steinem –principal figura del movimiento feminista en los Estados Unidos de Norteamerica que aun hoy a los setenta anos de edad continua luchando por minorias y por darle un lugar a las mujeres, incluso las que envejecemos y ya no estamos en el respalndor de nuestra juventud– debatieron publicamente y todavia consolidan un lugar central para la mujer en la sociedad norteamericana , aspirando que el ejemplo sea seguido por mujeres y sociedades de todo el mundo –lo que no podemos decir sea todavia una realidad para muchas naciones del tercer mundo que todavia luchan por basicos derechos de sobrevivencia y no-violencia.

Mujeres en muchos paises luchan por ocupar altas posiciones en la politica y el gobierno de sus paises pero solo un pequeño porcentaje de mujeres alcanzan alguna posicion en los gabinetes ejecutivos y a veces solo para hacerse cargo de los ministerios llamados de “segunda categoria”. Incluso la posicion capital de Jefe de Estado en los Estados Unidos de Norteamerica ocupada por una mujer –Condolezza Rice- no satisface plenamente al publico americano quien considera que la nominacion de Rice fue una artimaña politica para hacer creer que el gobierno del Señor George W. Bush es uno de pluralidad. Aunque es innegable que en los ultimos años, las mujeres han alcanzado lugares en la politica y en el mundo social que eran solo posible en nuestra memoria al recordar las mujeres que reinaban y gobernaban el mundo medieval y del Renacimiento, muchas no tienen alcance a las altas esferas del poder politico de sus paises y a muchas se les calla la voz. Algunos de los indiscutibles logros en el mudo de la politica alcanzados por la mujer fuera del hogar estan representados por un alentador aunque no suficiente total de 46 mujeres que han servido como cabezas de estado –presidentas o primeras ministras–en pequenos y no tan pequenos paises y estados.  Muchas de estas 46 mujeres – solo desde 1945 hasta el presente-–fueron electas popularmente o nombradas por los gabinetes ejecutivos de sus paises o continuaron la labor de sus padres o madres al morir pero muchas no terminaron sus madatos o no fueron reconocidas por la oposición o fueron vetadas por la oposicion –lo cual no es totalmente ajeno al mudo de la politica—Quizas lo que me llama la atencion es que a pesar de la discriminacion social, a pesar de que hay mucho por hacer, mujeres que descubren su poder personal pueden –y lo hacen- lograr las metas que se proponen. Entonces, si se puede! Sin embargo, hoy contemplamos lo que a veces parecen otras realidades, otras individualidades, otros valores y con nostalgia pensamos que los sesenta, setenta, ochenta -o para los efectos cualquier tiempo pasado- fue mejor; que eramos mas y mejores, mas creativas, mejores activistas, que conseguimos mas reivindicaciones sociales y que las nuevas generaciones estan adormecidas por el consumismo –y acaso no es ese el mismo consumismo que invadio a la generacion “boom”? – Tenemos una nueva generacion –la generacion Y- a quien ayudar a leer nuestra historia, esa de mujeres que luchan, abrazan a la Diosa que son pior dentro y que siguen luchando para hacer el camino –como decia el poeta Antonio Machado “…solo se hace camino al andar”

La nueva generacion “Y” – compuesta por las hijas de las mujeres de la generacion “boom’- que nacieron entre 1980 y 2001 y que parecieran mas interesadas en lo material y lo individual que en lo sagrado. Pero como en todas las generalizaciones – y gracias a Dios y a todas las Diosas- tambien existen disidentes dentro de esta cultura “Y” y   asi encontramos muchas mujeres jovenes respaldando los cambios propuestos por el partido verde a favor de una sociedad mas ecologica; las seguidoras del descontruccionismo de Derrida; el sarcasmo de la juventud gótica; las postmodernistas, las muchas que todavian siguen luchando por salvar al Amazonas, a la Antartica, las ballenas, los niños de las favelas Brasileñas, a detener la miseria de los ninos pobres del tercer mundo y mas… esperanzadoramente tambien vemos que existe una condicion humana que lucha por la verdad e igualdad. Una cualidad intrinseca a nuestro ser mujer –de poder, de querer, de cuidar, y de hacernos oir– de necesitar afirmar nuestra identidad, encontrar nuestra voz para clamar a los cuatro vientos el derecho de existir, de ser diferente, de ser, y de ser Mujer –asi con mayúscula!

Estamos presente en el transcurrir de este nuevo siglo, en el que hemos conseguido grandes triunfos y eso es muy alentador pero no nos ceguemos por que a pesar de las multiples luchas emprendidas por la mujer en este último siglo –y en el ultimo lustro- seguimos en este pugilato contra el poder de una sociedad patriarcal, imbuida de la arrogancia masculina –que con pocas exepciones–discrimina a la mujer y la despoja de su innato poder y la condena al estatus de ciudadanas de segunda clase –y en muchos casos y paises- ciudadadanas de tercera. En Europa, Fadela Amara –entre muchas otras– relata la lucha de mujeres inmigrantes que van de los paises del tercer mundo a paises “industrializados” –valdria decir a vces deshumanizados que dan cabida a fenomenos de violencia y discriminacion contra mujeres en particular del tercer mundo o de bajos recursos- en su libro Ni putas, ni Sumisas  expone la realidad de acoso, violaciones, y hasta muerte que sufren a manos de grupos de hombres pandilleros viviendo en las barriadas pobres de Francia.

A la mujer se le exige –todavia- que conforme ciertos roles y aunque se le concede cierta independencia–como ir a la universidad y trabajar por su cuenta y hasta dirigir su pais- el rol de esposa, ama de casa, y criadora de las futuras generaciones sigue siendo el prevalente. Mujeres con vidas alternativas como lesbianas, madres solteras, o profesionales que deciden no tener familia siguen siendo condenadas al ostracismo y vitupereadas publicamente y en algunos casos acosadas, discriminadas y excluidas de posiciones capitales en la sociedad. Muchas lesbianas en paises industrializados son discriminadas pero en paises del tercer mundo son a veces asesinadas, golpeadas y destituidas del derecho de criar a sus hijos o recibir servicios medicos. En el marco del Día Internacional por la No Violencia contra las Mujeres, el 25 de noviembre de 2005, lesbianas de latino America pusieron el dedo en la llaga al manifestar que: “En Nicaragua aún es delito ser lesbiana; en Cuba son obligadas a vivir en el “closet”; en Ecuador son recluidas en centros de rehabilitación para “normalizarlas” y en las favelas brasileñas se agreden sexualmente a las lesbianas negras…”. Las restricciones al poder socio-economico de la mujer y el fundamentalismo religioso tambien son factores que ademas de la homofobia cultural encarcelan a la mujer lesbiana y la obliga a llevar vidas paralelas donde la relacion homosexual es la importante y emocionalmente gratificante y la heterosexual es la relacion “conveniente.” Ante todos estos hechos indivduales y sociales de discriminación y debilitamiento del rol femenino es necesario que nos mantengamos vigilante y que incorporemos a todas nuestras hermans a la agenda feminista. Es necesario que sigamos reclamando nuestro lugar en la historia, en nuestros circulos y que la femeneidad sagrada se haga visible desde lo discursivo, lo simbolico, lo corporal.

Estos dias -que en muchos aspectos no son muy diferentes de los dias alla y entonces cuando escribi una utopia llamada autoestima para mujeres- me permiten corroborar que se ha transitado y se sigue transitando el camino hacia la liberación: Si se puede, pero siempre y cuando recordemos que toda transformacion externa comienza primero con una revolucion interna. Comienza con el descubrimiento y el aduenarse de ese poder que todas tenemos y que es inherente a nuestra divina esencia –la Diosa- y que refiere tambien al arquetipo de lideres que ha quedado enterrado en la cultura patriarcal y en el olvido del inconsciente colectivo –recordemos las reinas y gobernadoras de la edad media, las reinas del Renacimiento , las Diosas de la antigüedad Celta, Griega, Egipcia, China y Japon. Recordemos que no siempre las mujeres han estado condenadas “al fregadero” o a la marginalidad debilitante.

Necesitamos despertar y recordar nuestro linaje, nuestra herencia de Amazonas, soñadoras, poderosas, lideres, madres, cazadoras y guerreras. Es una lucha interna para despertar a los arquetipos enterrados en nuestro inconsciente y en el de la cultura, para reactivarlos mientras desplegamos nuestras alas, y alcanzamos nuestro completo potencial. Respeto y balance entre lo que queremos como individuos, lo que necesitamos como entes gregarios, la aceptacion de algunos patrones enquistados en nuestra cultura y la liberacion de cadenas ajenas a nuestra divinidad son terminos comunes al ver lo que el feminismo ha alcanzado. Respetemos lo que queremos y lo que otras quieren pues es cierto que nuevos valores y estilos de vida han sido puestos a la disposicion de las mujeres y tambien es cierto que muchos viejos valores, viejas tradiciones, y eternos deseos son todavia –y quizas siempre lo seran—importante para otro grupo entre nosotras. Pareja, matrimonio, igualdad, independencia, familia, autorealización no debieran ser imposiciones o terminos contradictorios sino posibilidades, elecciones;.

Aqui las dejo amigas, listas a recorrer este camino de luz, de pasion, de vida y crecimiento. Un camino que puede que este lleno de dolor, opresion, desencuentros, miedos, y limitaciones, pero tambien de reencuentros y luz. Recuerda que no estas sola. Te tienes a ti misma, a tu Diosa interior y a otras mujeres que antes que tu han recorrido el camino y que antes que tu han logrado redefinirse, encontrarse, and ser ellas mismas. La continuidad del tema, del constante esfuerzo por hacerse y recrearse me deja una maravillosa sensación de familiaridad mezclada con algo de dolor por el deja-vu de los lugares constantemente revisitados, la interminable lucha que solo se actualiza y cobra vigor en cada nueva mujer que nace…o que trata de ser en vez de dejarse hacer…Una historia magica, una historia sin fin…una historia, …de mujeres!

Estamos solas

Y nos pertenecemos.

En nosotras está el poder

Somos un pueblo de almas

en rebeldía


Lo que escribo aquí

se traza en el aire

el dolor es la senda

el dolor es el medio

por el dolor la fuerza

que combate el dolor

y lo transforma

por el dolor deshago

mi dolor en lo ajeno

y el ajeno en el mío


~Chantal Maillard 

Depression Hurts and Robs You of Your Life

Copyright by  Piotr Marcinski

Copyright by Piotr Marcinski

We have written about people dying of depression, which can be an ultimate fact for those who shut down and decided to go on a suicidal path, for those, that is the end. However for others, who go with untreated depression, death perhaps is not an option but a less than pleasant and meaningful life is. Having the blues or being sad after an important loss in your life, it is not depression but a normal and healthy response to events in life but when the blues become more purple than blue (so-to-speak), we are perhaps looking at a different situation.

Many myths regarding depression revolve around being stronger, like getting a grip on the particular situation one faces, or working harder to “get it out of your head…”or believing the prolonged sadness is just normal and not perhaps an illness; even thinking it is only one’s self-pity instead of a treatable condition add insult to an already deep and painful injury.

Sometimes, we are worry that treating the depression will mean being labeled as a mental patient, being on drugs forever, and seeing a therapist several times per week. Despite what the best seller “Prozac Nation” depicts (although some passages are right) about medication is only one of the tools used to lift depression. And looking for help does not mean you will be on psychotropic drugs forever. In fact, studies suggest that psychotherapy in any of its modalities (talking therapy, drama therapy, expressive arts, cognitive behavioral, deep brief oriented or others) work as well as prescription drugs to treat depression. Moreover, even if you are prescribed some drugs, chances are that it will not be a lifetime solution.

Feeling sad, hopeless, and helpless, is true, does not help to lift the by now purple instead of blues but do not fool yourself, the hopelessness is part of the illness, not a part of daily life and for sure not an unchangeable reality. When treated, positive thinking gradually replaces negative thoughts. In fact, most people (up-to 70% as by the National Institute of Mental Health) who seek for help to deal with their depression become symptom-free by combining medication and psychotherapy.

The bottom line is that if you have been feeling down and/or sad for what it seems to be too long, you should seek for help. Trying to diagnose yourself or going through the list of symptoms after a goggle search can confirm your suspicion but can mislead you as well. A reliable source on how to seek for help can be found on the WebMD or Psychology Today.

Whatever you do, remember you do not need to lose your mojo, being purple all the time, or miss out on all the fun and meaning of your life.