Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lighten Up!

“Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs of your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations.

Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others - nearly always this will make you despondent.” -Cheiko Okazaki, Lighten Up

When women of my generation grew weary of the “you can have it all” feminist rally cry, the “lighten up” voice of Chieko Okazaki was like a breath of fresh air.

I see Chieko as a pioneer in helping LDS women feel empowered by their choices. Instead of trying to have it all, she admonished us to love what we do have and feel good about it. Chieko epitomized the “it’s all good” phrase before the saying was popularized.

Chieko Okazaki passed away last week at the age of 84. Her death will touch many women because her books and her frequent speaking engagements were inspiring to so many of us.

I’ve read most of Chieko’s books and have a copy of her bestseller Lighten Up!. I got to meet her over ten years ago when Anita invited me to join a Saratoga Ward RS retreat in Santa Cruz where someone had snagged Chieko as their guest speaker. I remember instantly likely Chieko, her beauty, warm personality and hopeful remarks make her an easy woman to admire.

I like the theme that runs through many of her talks and books, which is encouraging women not to take themselves too seriously. Chieko always admonished women to be themselves and celebrate our unique qualities. She was an inspiration to many of us, always framing the gospel as a resource to help us with challenges.

Chieko was a convert to the church and felt so blessed by her membership. And, somewhat ironically, her messages were a huge blessing that have helped so many sisters. Yes, in LDS circles, “Lighten Up!” and “Chieko Okazaki” almost feel ubiqutious.

Her son, Kenneth, said the following about his mother: “With her light touch and subtle humor, she was able to bring religion down to earth. She inspired women to have a backbone.”