I still vividly remember the week I took on Amy Winehouse as a personal research project. A few days before I was driving a colleague to Seattle and staying with her overnight before she flew out to LA and I headed back to Vancouver. On the car ride we talked about a million things and eventually arrived on the topic of girls, self-esteem and the consequences of low self-worth. She used Amy Winehouse as an example of someone who clearly could not see the true worth of her exceptional talent and instead had taken a liking to anorexia, alcohol and drugs. The story sounded sad and I could relate in so many ways, having myself struggled off and on with self-esteem challenges. I had often wondered what the opposite would have been to the path I had chosen. In response to feeling terrible about myself, beating myself up and loathing my body, I had chosen counselling, personal development, mentors, mastermind groups, shamanic healing and many, many other modalities and outlets to reestablish the powerful relationship with myself. I needed to wonder no more as I dug deep in to the life of this troubled young girl.
It just so happened that I caught some kind of horrendous flu bug over-night in Seattle and after what felt like the longest drive home (puking in McDonald’s washrooms all the way up the I-5- gross!) I crawled in to my bed for days. After the main symptoms had started to subside, again my mind drifted to this Amy Winehouse girl. Since I now had the strength to open my computer – but not yet enough to leave my bed – so began what became close to obsession by the end of the week.
First there was the voice – incredible. I swallow up music when I fall in love with it and this was certainly no exception. I listened to each and every song, the lyrcis, the melody, the story and of course the obvious pain and sadness behind them. I was impressed with how clearly she articulated emotion, her emotion.
Then there was the life – fascinating. For an example, after reading carefully in to the lyrics of one of her early songs ‘What is it About Men’
Understand once he was a family man
So surely I would never, ever go through it first hand
Emulate all the shit my mother hated
I can’t help but demostrate my Freudian fate
My alibi for taking your guy
History repeats itself, it fails to die
I had to know more. So I did some more digging. From what I could gather it seemed as though her father had had an affair at some point in her early years. In fact, according to some sources this was known and talked about within the family and they even referred to his mistress as “Daddy’s Work Wife”. It also appeared that Amy had a special relationship with her father and had gained much of her musical background and appreciation from his love of the art form. Drawing inferences between her childhood experience and her adult behaviour, as it related to the men in her life, didn’t seem to be much of a stretch.
I know only so well how devastating it is, as a little girl to have your parents split up. I also had had a special bond with my dad only to move thousands of kilometres away at the young age of 3 and see him only once a year at best. I can speak to the responsibility you take on, thinking and feeling like it was something that you did wrong to cause your parents to be so angry towards one another. The fact that your family didn’t look like everyone else’s was a tough pill to swallow and of course there was the constant wishing and praying that things could some how be different. I personally had attempted many plots to reunite my parents, not understanding anything other than my desire for my parents to be together, loving each other and loving me.
There is simply no question that the experiences of our early years, shape our beliefs and our paradigms and set up the curriculum of study, if you’re brave enough, to turn inward as an adult and walk through the sludge of your life back to the essence of yourself, your heart, your love and your light. It’s not easy work, but it certainly is worth it.
The alternative is Amy Winehouse. The human Amy. The manifestation of pain and suffering on such a grand scale that it simply couldn’t go un-noticed.
The soul of Amy, however, was clearly a beautiful lightbeam who came to the planet to offer a gift. Yes there was the gift of her music, but I think Amy played an even more important role for those of us who are left behind. An even braver and more courageous role for any soul to agree to play. A role that illustrated so articulately, so perfectly what human pain can look like. Instead of tucking it away, hiding it in ways that were more socially acceptable she hung it out there for us all to see – whether we wanted to or not. I’m not suggesting that this was done on a conscious level, but instead subconsciously for the benefit of all of us, the observers. Her soul bravely acted out her pain for us all to see. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a gift. It was a staunch reminder of what really goes on between our ears, under the layers of skin, behind the stories we tell and the images we project. The truth. And no, not everyone is experiencing pain to the scale in which Amy was, but to a certain degree we all have some. And it’s not about hiding it, pretending it isn’t there, running from it by using drugs and alcohol to escape. It’s about admitting it is there. Finding healthy ways to move through it. Asking for the help you need and reaching out for the support that will guide you back to who you really are.
It’s also about doing things differently and making change. In my case I recently partnered with a company called West Coast Empowerment Training. Sherry Bezanson, Founder and Principal, is the Mastermind behind their flagship program, Girl Power. Girl Power is an educational, skill-building and creative group designed to introduce girls ages 9-12 to concepts and skills that promote a positive self-image. Girl Power assists girls to challenge social rules and media messages that diminish a girl’s sense of self as they move toward adolescence. The group activities raise self-esteem, self-worth and increase abilities to cope with the upcoming teen challenges. Through a connection to inner resources girls will explore ways to claim a healthy connection to themselves, peers, and the community. (We’re hosting a facilitator training in October & if you’re interested, pop me a note – or click this link to learn more.)
We need to look no further than the story of Amy Winehouse to see what can happen to humans when they don’t have access to education, skills and a community of healthy support to establish or reestablish a deep connection within themselves.
Thank you Amy for your courage, for your bravery and for the gift of your life. I personally accept the challenge to use your story as inspiration and motivation – to attempt to make sure that other little girls regardless of their early years, have the tools and support needed to grow in to the full potential of who they really are.