growing out of the darkness

growing out of the darkness

 
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Here is a truth I have come to know for myself:

Awakening is a pretty word for a messy experience. Because awakening, in its earliest days, is really a descent. It is plummeting into your deepest, darkest, softest places, the places where you are most vulnerable, and realizing you do not feel safe. It is recognizing that things are no longer okay being how they've always been. It is sliding into the places where you ache and ache and ache because all is not, as you once believed, well.

But awakening is also the stirring. The fortifying. The deep, sacred, sincere acknowledging. The recognition and reclamation. The reaching out, the growing, the rising from the darkness into new light/life.

Here is another truth I have witnessed:

There are too many women who are breaking down, down, down and never giving themselves permission to begin to break through. Instead? They entrench. They wallow. They resign themselves to the darkness.

For these women, the darkness becomes their comfort zone. They think that by suffering longer, by enduring more, somehow they are ... well, I don't really know. Earning a more glorious reward? But the question I find myself asking then is: What reward is there in — willfully, needlessly, stubbornly — choosing to feel bad?

Shadow work has its place. But it is not THE place. Shadow work is where we till the soil, get our hands on our own landscape, ground into our own realness, and plant the seeds for new growth.

Are you planting seeds? Are you asking questions? Are you taking yourself seriously? Are you giving yourself room to discover new things about yourself, to know yourself?

Or are you using your darkness as an excuse, as self-fulfilling prophecy, as evidence of the story you are telling yourself that you are broken, damaged, that there is something wrong with you, that no one understands you? Is that what you want to believe? Is that how you want to feel?

You know what it feels like to experience the dark. Now let yourself have an experience of reaching out of the darkness. You know how. I'll give you a hint:

Ask deeper. Ask truer.

it's my way

it's my way

 
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Before I began to wake up, I thought I knew what my way was. I thought I knew myself. I thought I was this independent person, this hidden rebel, this free spirit. I thought I was sooo above the societal expectations and the herd mentality and the pop culture influences.

Waking up, for me, meant having to face some harsh realities about myself, number one being I genuinely had no idea what I was 'allowed' to like and not like as a modern woman. Translation: I had no idea how I actually felt about anything important.

I had bought into the biggest lie of all: I thought I was being myself because of the few little socially-acceptable quirks I gave myself permission to express, and all the while … not only was I following the script to the letter, I was totally emotionally invested in it.

So when I got married to my fella, my catalyst blind-sided me. I had thought marriage would save me. Not literally, of course — emotionally.

I thought marriage would validate our relationship somehow, would make me feel secure for the first time in my life, would finally make me feel like an adult, a woman, a queen in her own castle. But I was just a little girl in psychological rags trying to write herself into an inherited idea of happily-ever-after.

(What I have since learned: only patriarchy sees marriage as this kind of 'ultimate fulfillment' for a woman.)

I was finally facing the fact that I had never learned to be okay with myself, to trust myself, to actually really seriously know myself, much less how to be myself. And that meant I had to start breaking down all the things I thought I'd thought ... and believed and known and valued and felt ... and begin look to myself as a woman whose own feelings provide knowing, whose knowing provides experience, and whose experience is v a l i d.

Do you trust yourself? Do you know yourself? Do you see and acknowledge and embody and experience yourself? You can, you know. You don't need anyone's permission or validation.

Trust. Yourself.

That is our way.

the heroine and the damsel

the heroine + the damsel

 
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Who is making the choices right now, my inner heroine or my inner damsel?

A question I've been asking myself a lot over the last six months.

There are many different archetypes, or universal psychological patterns, that we will not only come across as we begin to dive into feminist spirituality but also that we have to choose to be inspired by as women.

We have the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. We have the innumerable panthea of goddesses; the fairy tale princesses, their godmothers, and wicked step-relations; the priestess, the shieldmaiden, the witch, the queen, the wild woman, and on and on.

I have read several books over the last two years devoted to various groupings of these archetypes and how women's experiences are shaped by them. The general premise of each of these books is that we carry these archetypes (whatever particular group of archetypes that book happens to focus on) within us as potential energies, but that some of them are more dominant than others, either consciously or unconsciously.

But, of course, while archetypes are universal, the way we understand our seemingly different attitudes and behaviors largely depends on which group, or paradigm or 'flavor', of archetypes we are paying attention to.

But the one archetype of womanhood I have come to be most intrigued by is the heroine.

Because what makes a heroine, really?

When I say the words goddess, priestess, queen, witch … I think we each have a vivid image in our minds and feeling in our hearts of what those energies represent.

But the heroine has felt, to me, very much like a blank slate. She is unformed clay, she is the pristine canvas. Coming and going, here and there, she is nebulous, mysterious, not easily definable.

To be a heroine on her own heroic journey, a woman must begin with the attitude (or even at first act ‘as if’) that her choices do matter. In the process of living from this premise, something happens: a woman becomes a choicemaker, a heroine who shapes who she will become.

Jean Shinoda Bolen
Goddesses in Everywoman

 

This is my conclusion, then:
The heroine is not an archetype; she is a consciousness.

The heroine consciousness that is present, if not active, in each of us at all times is the choicemaker, the will, the enthousiasmos. The heroine is the consciousness within us that embraces our own agency, our personhood, our humanity. She is the seed of growth, the self-generated force of empowerment.

The counterpart of heroine consciousness is damsel consciousness. The damsel is the consciousness within us that denies personal responsibility, that blames or gives credit to outside forces, that looks outside of the self for meaning. She is the wait, and she is the resignation to it.

In each moment of our lives, we are living from either of these consciousnesses. The question for us, then, is:

 

Will we awaken the heroine within us and choose to choose to choose to choose to choose to choose to choose … ?

 

healing is wholing

Healing is Wholing

 
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Shadow work. Processing. (Unprocessing.) Healing.

The work of awakening doesn't have to be so ... heavy.

Healing is really a process of whole-ing ourselves. It's about wholeness. It's about becoming ourselves.

In the idea of shadow work is the assumption that we have to really learn to be comfortable with the 'negatives' of our experience: past, present, or future. I think many of us, when we first undertake 'shadow work', feel that it is a process of entrenching ourselves in the darkness, of staying and staying and staying with it.

But healing, and shadow work is a process of healing, comes down to this ...

In healing, don't get me wrong, we must lean into the strongly uncomfortable places — the beliefs, patterns, or even circumstances that we feel such strong emotion about — but not to necessarily stay with any stories about why those things were/are bad or negative or 'wrong', but to stay instead with the questions: 

What does my strong emotion about this thing have to tell me about ...
... what I value and believe?
... what I want to believe?
... who I am?
... who I want to give myself permission to be?
... my most natural self?

We dig down deep and instead of focusing on how dark it is down here, how dirty and messy and cramped, we choose to find the seed, the seed that is, not despite but because of the dark and dirt that surrounds it, emanating such energy that it is growing and growing and growing out of its own internal force.

The apple seed will become an apple tree. There is no doubt about it. The sunflower seed will become a sunflower. There is no doubt. The Jessica seed will become a Jessica. The Andrea seed will become an Andrea. The Sharon seed will become a Sharon. No doubt.

I often call the journey I'm on a journey of un-processing. Like the story of Michelangelo who, when asked how he had created such a masterpiece as the statue of David, said that he had seen David within the marble and then simply removed anything that was not David, this is our same task: to remove, bit by bit, everything from our expression of self (assumptions, priorities, values, beliefs, etc) that is not ourselves.

This is healing. This is unprocessing. This is the purpose of shadow work.

Healing is about turning toward our own nature.
Healing is about becoming ourselves.
Healing is about wholing ourselves.
Healing is wholing.

on peace and becoming ourselves

On Peace + Becoming Ourselves

 
 No-makeup, natural-hair, no-filters selfie in honor of learning to become myself. I'm even still in my pj's, 'cause (duh) Saturday.

No-makeup, natural-hair, no-filters selfie in honor of learning to become myself. I'm even still in my pj's, 'cause (duh) Saturday.

 

So. Here we are, nearly two weeks into 2018, and I have not set any resolutions for the new year. But, really, that's not a revelation. I haven't set resolutions the last several years. What is new is that I have also not set any intentions, written any goals, or decided on a word for the year.

Around the end of December, I almost always get to thinking about my Core Desired Feelings. And I did this year too ... sort of. I didn't do any notecarding (gasp) or journaling (double gasp) or anything. I ruminated, in a sort of vague way, on the one feeling that always seems to be my proverbial Holy Grail of feelings: peace.

Peace.

I have a vision of a self, not too far in the future, who is calm, collected. She never overreacts. In my mind, that not-too-distant self always has a half-smile on her face no matter the circumstances, and she speaks in a sort of breathy voice. She moves as if she's dancing or like she's in a slow-motion montage of a film. She's graceful and zenned right the f— out.

And you know? I think I'm finally at a stage where I'm recognizing that that person is just not me. I will never be breathy or graceful or feel my emotions quietly. My "zen" rarely looks like that. My zen looks ... big.

I talk loud. I don't just talk with my hands — I flail pretty much all my appendages animatedly when I speak. And I get riled up. I'm a passionate being. I have my 'vices'. What's more, I enjoy having them. I also like provoking other people and playing devil's advocate; I'm contrary for the fun of it. I curse. I say dude a whole lot. I'm lazy ... and obsessive. I'm predictable ... and whimsical. I am passionate and stubborn and change my mind ... over and over and over again.

Because I am human. And more than that, I am me. I am me! I! am! me!

I have the privilege of being myself, and that privilege bestows upon me the responsibility to be as myself as I possibly can. To take advantage of every last divinely given quirk and foible. Not to waste myself on striving to be something I think is 'more' or 'better' than who I am.

I think I am finally realizing that this vision I have of what it would feel like to be a peaceful Jessica is a lie. Because I have felt peace in my life. I know what it feels like.

I feel peace when I'm myself: when I'm singing along with '90s tunes that remind me of my childhood; when I'm knee-deep in a good philosophical conversation and arguing a point that I don't necessarily believe; when I wear all black, even in the summer; when I'm curled up at home on the couch with a book instead of at some social event; when I'm complaining about society-at-large's bad taste in movies; when I'm doing nothing all day but playing video games with my husband; when I'm staying up way too late just because I feel creative (like now, heyyy!); when I'm not wearing any makeup and my hair's air-dried and natural-wavy; when I'm listening to records by candlelight.

After every single one of these things, I want to put a caveat, like "even though it could come across as affected" or "even though I shouldn't want to do it" or "even though it offends some people". Every one of these things is something I have, at some point or another, thought was bad or wrong, that doing them means I'm immature or unwomanly or unattractive. But the fear is always about how I think others might perceive me; it's never about how I actually feel.

When I'm myself, when I give myself permission to be myself, that's my peace. I'm learning to reconcile all the parts of myself to myself, and that's my path towards peace. I am learning to become myself.

I am learning that my healing doesn't look like the self-help gurus and the blogs and the books say. My healing looks like learning to be radically, honestly, rawfully (what, I just made that word up, it works) me, as I am, as I like being.

Random aside: This reminds me of a line from that show True Detective. You ever seen it? Marty (Woody Harrelson) asks Rust (Matthew McConaughey) to "stop saying odd shit." And Rust just squints at him and says, "Given how long it's taken me to reconcile my nature, I can't figure I'd forego it on your account."

May we never forego our natures on anyone else's account.

another excerpt from our December read-along of "A Woman's Worth"

Another Excerpt from Our December
Read-Along of A Woman's Worth

This month, I'm hosting a read-along of A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson. This is an excerpt from today's email for my fellow readers!


A creative spilling of her guts

"In writing this book, I have no purpose other than a creative spill of my own guts." (from the Preface)

I'm having to remind myself that Williamson did not set out to write your typical 'self-help' or women's studies book — she's not giving us how-to steps, nor is she trying to 'prove' anything with data or research. The evidence she shares is anecdotal, and to her credit, she was clear about that from the start.

Her purpose in writing this book was to simply share her own experiences and her own perspective of womanhood, and hopefully here and there we might find some bits and pieces we could relate to and/or sympathize with.

This book is not prescriptive, it is descriptive. It is an act of solidarity. When I try to keep that in mind, that it's almost like a published personal journal, then I'm more open to what she has to say and how she goes about saying it.

So, if I can offer a couple key, and very generalized, exercises at this point, they're simply these:

- Pay attention to what you don't agree with as much as what you do.
- Pay attention to the issues you wish there were solutions or guidance for.

Any time you find yourself shaking your head or nodding it, notice that. Ask yourself why. What does this clarify in your own beliefs about womanhood? Get out your journal and argue with Williamson! Make your point. Tell it how you see it. Being able to state what your own philosophy of womanhood isn't or what it doesn't stand for can be just as helpful as being able to define what it is. Some of Williamson's beliefs or assertions may put your own ideas into relief.

And any time you find yourself asking, "Yeah, but what can I do about this?" Write. It. Down. These are things that are clearly important to you, things that resonate with you, and by writing them down, you'll make it easier for yourself to come back and spend some time with them. If you record the issues now, you can experiment later with your own creative solutions.


It's not too late to join us for the read-along! When you sign up, you'll automagically receive all the emails you've missed! The book is only 141 pages -- definitely doable, even in two holiday-packed weeks!

 
 

NOTE: Signing up for December's read-along emails will also subscribe you to other regular letters from me as well.
 

Tagged: Read-Along

See Also: book: "A Woman's Worth"

instinct-injured women

Instinct-Injured Women

 
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Too much domestication breeds out strong and basic impulses to play, relate, cope, rove, commune, and so forth. When a woman agrees to become too “well-bred” her instincts for these impulses drop down into her darkest unconscious … She is said then to be instinct-injured.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Women Who Run With the Wolves

 

many women are instinct-injured.
they literally cannot see that things can be any different.

it’s easy to feel angry at them.
and it’s easy to want to expect ‘better’ of them.

but we will never reach them with anger, blame, or shame.
some, we will simply never reach. ever.
(that‘s a bitter pill to swallow.)

i feel such grief for women.
in so many ways, we are in such an unwinnable situation.
we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

i feel such compassion for these women.
for many, it’s a matter of emotional survival.
a matter of love, approval, security.
this f—ed up system has stockholm sydromed them.

and then there’s the issue of ...
no woman is obligated to think how i think
or believe what i believe.
if i want this freedom, i have to allow it in others, too.

most of all ...
women have to stop blaming women.
we, most of us, so many of us ...
are doing the best we can.

i see you doing the best you can.
keep doing your own work.
that’s all any of us can do.

♥︎
 

See Also: book: "Women Who Run With the Wolves"
writer: Clarissa Pinkola Estes