As I’m listening to Chani Nicholas’ solar eclipse course she asks, “What is leadership?” She goes on to ask: "how do you want to lead?" I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I just finished reading Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth, in which she writes about being your own guru. Yes.
Then the other day I read three successive things talking about Johnny Depp, Joss Whedon and Louis C.K. treating women questionably at best. The guy I wanted, the guy I thought I could be, and the guy I aspired to learn from. Heroes, we call them. But could the universe tell me more strongly that we need to be our own hero? And as women, each others’ heroes as well (and that’s not just for cis-women). Because day after day gnarly ropes of bullshit shit keep getting exposed and it’s becoming clearer that we’re the ones to bring ourselves and each other clarity and strength.
“Are you leading with heart? Are you leading with anger?” Chani Nicholas says. “And talking about being collective. The old ways don’t work. The dinosaurs are having their last hurrah and we need a new way of doing leadership. And we are all leaders, right?…We are starting a new chapter or being course corrected or some things are beginning and some things are ending…this is a chance to reset ourselves.”
I’ve also been thinking about the Marie Kondo-ing of it all (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing). How when you get rid of a lot of what no longer sparks joy (be it old furniture or defunct "heroes"), it allows you to see how much the things you actually love shine. And then you get to honor those things. And to me it’s not just about material things. It’s about relationships and where you put your time and energy. I got rid of a lot of furniture, for example, that was passed down to me from my sister and parents. It was great of them to help me furnish my house so we could recycle and reuse and I didn’t have to spend a bunch of money. But as I am getting older and stepping more fully into who this person is, I realized I not only get to make choices for myself, but it is imperative that I do. What do I want? Gotta make a lot of choices on the hero's journey. Some as silly as "do I want this chair?"
I spoke to a close friend the other day and she was talking about transforming the old mishegas into something useful. To dig into one’s old junk and trigger points and whatnot and, like an alchemical process you might use to smelt metal, create useful gold. Create something beautiful from which others will benefit. I love this. Big beautiful heroes and heroines wielding the golden scepters of our own old wounds. How does that sound? Pretty good to me.
So what do you think about leadership and being your own hero? I’m wishing you the best best best at bypassing the bullshit constructs of our society and feeling the power and clarity of your heart — because that, my friend, is what is real.
[This week my final column came out. It is bittersweet, but feels good, too. Without further ado, here she blows (I don't think it blows, actually. Ha! I'm proud of my Mercury writing. Was just trying to do a nautical thang)]:
When I started writing this column 12 years ago (when the Mercury began as a free weekly tab) I would send a copy to my dad every week. He would write me notes or we would talk about it on the phone and he would suggest I be less sharp-tongued sometimes or tell me he enjoyed an insight or two. It’s a weird end-of-era time for me, as this will be the last Full Frontal column since I’ve basically moved across the country and it makes it hard to write about things going on locally. But a piece of my seawater-steeped heart is always in Newport.
So much has changed. I don’t send these to my dad anymore (his dementia prevented him from reading much) and the last time I spoke to him on the phone he was asking his nurse if he was at her apartment. She assured him he was home.
“I built this house?” he asked her. “She’s saying I built this house.”
“Yeah, dad, I think you’re at your house in Saddle River,” I told him.
Things move exponentially quickly it seems, once you’re there. There is an album by Seam called “The Pace is Glacial.” I think about this fairly often. How you don’t realize how much things have changed until something big happens. Or you go away for a while. I’ve been thinking a lot as well about Thomas Wolfe’s book title “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It sure feels that way and in ever-broadening circles.
Anyway, maybe all of that is abstract and me simply spinning off into the ethers. Which I guess is pretty typical. A concrete thing is I’ve loved writing this column. Nico Ecenarro has done a beautiful job illustrating my ramblings and my editor, Janine Weisman, has indulged the living sh*t out of me week after week. Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like Janine willing to publish you and to let you learn and grow. To say, “this is worthwhile,” by putting their hard-won energy and sharp eye on it and making it better. Especially when you write about poop and boobs as much as I do.
Ah, then there is all of the music and getting to write about the folk and jazz festivals! And the now-defunct Newport International Film Festival gave me a place to ache in the dark and be moved and inspired by other people’s art and work. Experiences I will lovingly hold and take with me as I explore the next chapter of my own creative expression.
I wish you all the feeling of freedom I’ve felt writing here. I wish the ability to express yourselves and the space to feel what you need to feel through whatever avenue of creativity you so choose. My prayer is that with the dissolution of this column some of what I’ve felt — the joy and getting to be whomever you are whenever you need to be — might dissipate into the air and you might get to breathe in some of those magic particles. Because here I’ve been able to be me, visible and vulnerable, and I wish you the same.
Jenn Sutkowski may still occasionally find herself on the pages of the Mercury. She thanks you for your time and energy and she thanks this very space, page 4, and all it has meant to her. Find her doing other stuff (and wishing you health and more than wealth: love) at jennsutkowski.com. (This Full Frontal column originally appeared in the Newport Mercury.)
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.