I am a grown-up. My sense of humor and irreverence hides a hard-won compassion. I know I can write, have done it as easily as I breathe for most of my life, yet never felt the impetus to be noticed for it. I have started books, sometimes writing 50 or 60 pages, before I lost interest and went on to something else.
What changed is the moment I write about in the intro to The Tao of Gender: I saw something amazing and wonderful and huge: a way to translate an ancient paradigm for modern use and excite men and women by explaining their respective behaviors in a way that would be utterly true, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and completely exciting. I love doing crosswords, and this is the crossword puzzle of a lifetime.
Once I started writing this book, it all came flooding in. I have had the eerie feeling I have been chosen to receive this knowledge. This flies against all of my beliefs, yet it manages to humble me. It is unthinkable that I not do it justice. It has elevated my writing several notches. At the risk of causing a strong gagging reflex in the reader: It sanctifies me.
I love to take a situation – any situation – and explain the interplay of yin and yang in the situation and how it not only applies to real life, but how understanding it can change people’s understanding and appreciation of each other. It’s kind of like a nature-based couples’ therapy.
We live in the greatest, most amazing place in the history of the world. We have a diversity of cultures and knowledge that is unprecedented. I believe it is incumbent upon us to integrate anything useful we learn from other cultures. But since we are living in this culture, we can also use language that is our own, as long as it is true to the principles of what we have learned.
As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I can say to a patient: you have excess liver yang. I can then explain that I will sedate the liver and balance the chi and tonify the spleen, in order to encourage the liver chi to move downward.
I can use language that is technically correct, but obstructs understanding. I can be the expert and seem slightly mysterious, the glamor of using another language elevating me as a practitioner of ancient healing arts. Some people like this. The distance gives them confidence in my knowledge. One patient even suggested I wear a white coat to further legitimatize my advice and increase the appearance of authority.
There is another approach, one that I am more comfortable with because it is direct and speaks the language of my patients.
I can say: You have excess liver yang. What that means is that your lifestyle is too intense for your health, your digestion is suffering, you aren’t sleeping enough, and because of these things, you are out of balance and this manic energy is running your life, giving you headaches and making you really irritable. I love a good cup of coffee like a lot of people, but having 5 cups a day just to stay juiced is over the top. To a greater or lesser degree, you are like one of the 70 - 80% of people living in the greater NY metropolitan area. Big cities breed this intensity, which is fun and feels good – until it affects your health. Then you wanna slow down and smell the roses – before it makes you really sick.
I reframe the principles of yin and yang in new modern frames which fit in with contemporary 21st century culture. Taoism can be applied anywhere, and understanding the balance of yin and yang especially as they relate to gender roles and behavior can have you saying Oh! Of Course! about stuff you found hard to fathom in the opposite gender.
I'm really loving all that's involved in writing the book, even the [oh God] editing, which is painful, but ultimately exciting; cutting away the excess stone reveals a cleaner sculpture underneath. But I gotta wear goggles and I sweat a lot.