Feb 17

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Break the chains

I’ve been debating whether to write this post for a few days. Partially because I don’t want to make any of you uncomfortable…but mostly because it feels just a little more vulnerable than even I am used to being. But I was shown by some very powerful women this week what it means to Break the Chains, and I am going to be brave and follow suit.

Last week I had the remarkable experience of following a group of women through a day of dance. Some of you may be aware of the “One Billion Rising” movement begun by Eve Ensler.  Last Thursday, Valentine’s Day, tens of thousands – perhaps millions – of people took to the streets around the world to dance.  They danced to raise awareness about violence against women. They also danced for the pure joy of using their bodies as an expression of freedom, rather than hiding their bodies and sexuality out of fear that their motives would be misinterpreted.  They danced to the anthem song of One Billion Rising, “Break The Chains.”

No longer staying small so others will be comfortable.

No longer staying small so others will be comfortable.

I was thrilled to watch them dance, to interview some of the women involved, and to bring a respectful and compassionate voice to covering their journey in the newspaper.

But as I watched, I was aware of the chains that I still have not broken.

The day before the dance I got my period in the middle of the workday. My cycle has never been regular, so I’m usually prepared for anything, but this one surprised me.  It surprised me not only with its timing, but also with its ferocity.

By mid-afternoon my cramps had exploded and all I wanted to do was take a nap. I couldn’t focus on my work anymore, so I decided to head home early.

I am the only female in a newsroom full of men. As a group, they have made it extremely clear how uncomfortable they are with discussions of women’s “stuff”.  What do you say in that situation when they want to know why you’re leaving early?

The best I could come up with was, “My stomach is upset.” I already wanted to cry, and saying that out loud made my skin crawl.  It was so far from the truth. I was betraying who I am as a woman.  In order to make men comfortable.

And then the next day – still wracked with cramps and in a crazy hormonally moody state – I went out to watch 150 women dancing in celebration of their bodies and souls.  I watched them step out and say, “This is who I am, and I will no longer keep myself small in order to make someone else comfortable.”

As I watched them proclaim that they were breaking the chains, I felt my own self-betrayal even more keenly.

The song says, “This is my body, my body’s holy.”  I did not treat my body as though it were holy.

If I had the workplace conversation to do over again, I’m not sure I’d handle it any better. I don’t have the answers, but I know that what happened that day is no longer okay with me.

Dancing is a great start.  But I – we – need to experience our bodies as holy all the time, not just while we’re dancing… but while we’re pumping gas, while we’re shopping for groceries, while we’re in the boardroom, the doctor’s office, the playground, the bus, and the movie theater.  And, yes, in the bathroom, too.

Our bodies are holy not just while we’re dancing, but in the grocery store and boardroom too!
(click to tweet)

Here is my small act of breaking the chain – I wrote this post.
I didn’t put a “men be warned” disclaimer at the top.
Tonight I am telling the truth about being a woman – sometimes it’s painful and messy and hormonal, but it’s also beautiful and holy and worthy of being celebrated.

What about you? 
How are you breaking the chains? 
How do you handle it when your womanhood is at odds with what makes other people comfortable?


Here is a video of the courageous women of St. Johnsbury and the Northeast Kingdom as they rise:

(View the video directly on YouTube by clicking here.)

About the author

Leah Carey

Leah Carey is the Chief Miracle Officer of The Miracle Journal, where she writes about the large and small miracles that happen in her life every day. She is a life coach, speaker, journalist, freelance writer, and lover of life. In all of those pursuits, she works with people to identify what’s already right in your life so you can build an even more joyful and fulfilling daily experience from that foundation. You can find her on Facebook, , Twitter, and YouTube.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.leahcarey.com/themiraclejournal/2013/02/17/break-the-chains/


  1. Mitya

    When I was in my twenties I lived with three men (one was my lover). I am pretty outspoken about women’s equality and civil rights in general, but I really didn’t understand the impression I was having. One afternoon I went to the grocery store with one of my housemates. We started to discuss this aspect of my self somewhere in produce. I was a little startled when he said, “Well, I’d describe you as a ‘militant feminist politico.” He even said he was afraid to hold the door for me (me, with arms full of groceries) because it might offend me. Good grief. I considered myself a well educated woman who didn’t let myself be bullied or intimidated. That’s about it. It wasn’t like I had crazy piercings, wore an anarchist symbol on my jacket and ranted about my male suppressors!

    Years later I was engaged to be married. He found me one night sitting quietly in the dark. He became agitated. “Are you a witch?” he asked. I thought he was referring to dark arts witchcraft since it was pretty popular in NY at the time and said no. In retrospect, I think he was really asking if I was a woman of inner power and spiritual strength and I regret not answering in the affirmative. Might have saved me from a lousy marriage.

    So, yes, my life is full of moments where I tempered down who I was, held my tongue and kept my secrets. I would suggest though, that fully embracing the juicy, painful, hormonal, messy inner storm of womanhood is more than most men can handle without some training and most haven’t had it. Unleashing it in the office… well, Kali help us all! Just as men need to recognize their power but act with compassion, so should we.That is why there is Red Tent Temple. A place to belly laugh, dance, share ideas, get perspective, be nourished and loved for all that you are in the womb of the Great Mother. Thank you for having this conversation.

    1. Leah

      Dearest Mitya,
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience.
      You reminded me that while I have a lot of training in dealing with inner truth (my own and others’), many people haven’t. To force that onto someone who isn’t ready is not acting with the kind of care and compassion that I strive to achieve. Amusingly, I wrote about EXACTLY this subject for the e-newsletter that’s coming out this afternoon, but hadn’t make the connection to this particular experience. I so appreciate your insights. And I absolutely love watching you dance. 🙂
      With love,

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