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Empowerment 

byline: Carol Drinkwater

The Oxford Dictionary definition of empower is : give (someone) the authority or power to do something.  Make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.  The noun is Empowerment

What fascinates me about empowerment, particularly as a writer, is how we can create our own power, how through the experiences of loss or grief, learning or challenge we find the inner strength to grow and move forward with a broader and richer understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live and function.   

I believe that no experience is worth having if it does not takes us further. What have I learnt? What can this teach me about myself and the my relationship with the world about me?
In the OLIVE trilogy I am writing, stories about buying a delapidated villa in ten acres of land in the south of France and transforming that ruin and its Mediterranean terraces into a glorious olive farm that produces first class olive oil, there are numerous examples of challenge and loss, some painful, some very funny. Each of the books recounts some of these challenges and how they can be transformed into rich and uplifting and often humorous experiences.

In THE OLIVE SEASON, the second book in the trilogy, I find myself pregnant. The news is joyous to myself and my husband, Michel, because I had a history of miscarriages. Unfortunately, I lose the little girl at seventeen weeks into the pregnancy. The devastation is compounded when I learn from my gynecologist that I will never be able to carry a child full-term. For almost any woman this is a profound tragedy and one that takes a great deal of courage to face and move through. For me, personally, there were two issues that took my grief way down. Firstly, my husband has beautiful twin daughters from his first marriage and though I love them to bits and they love me I will never be their mother and, secondly, I am an actress and and as such my life is sometimes lived in the public domain. On television I have been described as 'womanly', 'attractive', 'feminine' etc and now here I am childless. Being denied the quintessential female experience. How was I to go forward ? How was I going to come to terms with such a deprivation? 

Running alongside tales of the rich and colourful world of life in southern Provence, this loss, these questions and their answers, is one of the themes of THE OLIVE SEASON.  I believe that I allowed myself to go through the grieving and, slowly, as the seasons changed on the olive farm, as winter turned to spring, as a new harvest of olives was gathered and pressed, as sapling olive trees are planted, I began to find strength in nature. I began looking for what was good in my life.

What makes my cup half FULL and not half EMPTY?

The olive tree is considered to be the Tree of Eternity. It lives sometimes to a thousand years. It does not begin fully fruiting until is about twenty-five years and its finest fruits can be harvested when it has reached a century or more.

We have recently planted another two hundred small trees. Sometimes, these days, I stand on our farmland and I look about me and I thank Life for all that is wonderful. I will never have children in the physical, the conventional sense. But we have young trees that will be fruiting long after Michel and I have passed through this life, I have my books to write, roles as an actress to take on and we are creating a farm that will be there for many future generations to come.

Of course, I remain sad that I don't see that little girl at my side on the farm, that I don't hold her hand, but she is there in spirit and I am stronger and richer as a woman now because I have learnt to celebrate what I have. 

I have been empowered - been made stronger and more confident - by the facing of my loss and I have discovered joy in the everyday world around me. 

© CAROL DRINKWATER, France 2003


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