Finding True North, reconnecting with the Wild Woman: what would it be like to know your true identity?

Several things have come up lately that have me pondering what it would be like to know my true identity. What would it look like to strip back the rules and routines, the stories and habits, the over civilisation and learnt behaviours, the false fronts and the polite masks? What would it be like to know and be the ‘wild woman’ within?

The spark:

If you’ve read Women who run with the wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes you’ve probably already guessed the book has sparked this curiosity. Every sentence spoke to me. The ideas expressed were truths I’d always known. It was like coming home to my grandmother’s kitchen, a safe place of love and nurturing. Women who run with the wolves explores the idea that in every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is Wild Woman. Dr Estes uses myths and stories to illustrate how women’s vitality can be restored through reconnecting with the Wild Woman archetype.

The kindling:

I remember a time when it was taboo to talk about female sexuality and sexual desires. It struck me last week that if it was taboo, in polite circles, to talk of female sexuality and sexual desire it was most unspeakable to discuss the sexuality and desire of older women. The lid is being lifted on these topics and women are beginning to share their inner most desires, laugh at failed escapades, lament lost lovers and discuss things polite ladies ought not.

I sat in a circle of women and listened to a 70-year-old woman talk about an emerging sensuality in her mid-sixties. She spoke unashamedly about being dry, going to the doctor for assistance and with the help of estrogen cream became juicy again and engaged in very sensuous sexual relationships.

As I looked around the table, many women were smiling. Those of us close to or enjoying middle age were encouraged that menopause did not mark the end of gorgeous physical connections. One young woman in her early twenties, however, was aghast. She was polite but clearly uncomfortable, a slight revolution and mocking were evident on her gorgeous face.  “Baby girl, I thought, you are so vibrant and fresh you don’t yet know how things change.”  Other young women were like acolytes, sitting at the feet of a master. They drank in her words and were reverent.

More kindling:

There is a tendency in women, as we get older, to contain ourselves more and more. Part of the over civilisation I mentioned earlier, I guess. A friend showed me a video of her toddler niece joyfully dancing in church. I asked, “when do we become so self-conscious that we lose that freedom?”  We agreed it may be around two, possibly three. We forget so easily that wonderful liberating freedom to move our bodies, to express ourselves so openly. We close up when we are told to behave. When we are told not to shine too brightly. When we begin to sense we make others uncomfortable. Be a good girl, we are told.

Years ago, my friend and coach Adam, told me I had to stop being the good girl. I didn’t understand because I didn’t see it. I didn’t think I was being the good girl. My body knew it. Eventually, it got sick. It rebelled. My mind got lost, my emotions unravelled, and sleep became elusive. For years.

The fuel:

I’m at a turning point. Alone after 22 years I’m discovering many false faces. There are so many routines, so many beliefs about myself, so many behaviours that I constructed to survive a reality I co-created, to align with the expectations of others over a lifetime.  The thing is, these habits, beliefs and patterns are no longer necessary, and they no longer serve me. Oh, I could keep the stories going, for sure. But I’ve seen the opportunity to let them go and see them for what they are. Just stories. But when you take away the stories, the habitual behaviours, the conditioning you start to wonder, “hang on, who was I before all this shit clung to me?”

I have shared this realisation with a friend over several months and she  has added the fuel to the kindling of my current contemplations. My friend has very lovingly encouraged me to take time out and to ‘go feral’ (sounds dreadful, doesn’t it?) and to reconnect with the wild woman inside me. She sees it. She knows it’s been leashed, restricted and stifled.

I now have the chance to awaken the wild woman and to discover who and what she is, how she thinks feels and interacts with others. It’s time to go beyond fear. I have felt her calling, in the distance, for ever so long. Perhaps that’s why I wake so suddenly from sleep and lay helplessly alert, sure my name has been called, in an empty room. I have been denying and ignoring a part of myself that needs to emerge. I have no idea what I will find. I’m a little apprehensive and I’m not entirely sure how to go about it but I’m also freaking excited.  And maybe, in the end, I won’t look a whole lot different to the way I look now, but maybe, just maybe, a little bit of the unruly and wild will keep the fire going, make my cells dance, allow my light to shine and with it create a freedom to live unrestrained, untethered and joyfully.

 

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Ditch the resolutions and get back to yourself instead.

Who are you? Do you even know anymore?

Sure, you’re a mother or father, a sister or brother. You are either an employee or an employer. Then you might add husband or wife, friend, aunt or uncle.  But who are you, without all the attachments and the relationships?

Can you remember when you were young and those things that made you happy, the things you loved to spend time doing? These activities can help us get back to ourselves. They can be our guides back to joy, peace and harmony.

Think back, what was it you loved doing? How did you spend most of your time? What made you happy?

For me it was dressing up and putting on performances for my grandmother.  I loved selecting pretty things to wear, that felt nice next to my skin, that made me feel good about myself. I loved entertaining, dancing and movement.

I loved the ritual of morning and afternoon tea with my Grandparents. It was always a simple affair but tea time was special. I got to choose my own cup and select a cookie from the barrel. They were usually only Arnott’s assorted biscuits but the cream ones were purely decadent in my young opinion.

From my maternal grandfather I learnt the joy of completing crossword puzzles. He drank tea too. Made in a pot with a cosy. I loved to watch comedy television shows with him like I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy and Laverne and Shirley. We would laugh and laugh.

I remember too, the thrill of rolling down a grassy hill. The pure excitement and the great shrieks of laughter that rang out prompting me to run up and do it again.

So, next year, I intend to spend time doing these things again. I am going to find a friend who can teach me the joys of shopping for nice clothes (rather than racing in and buying the first thing I see on the rack), I’m going to move more by getting back into yoga. I might even dare to dance around the house when no one is looking.

I still love tea and I’m going to extend this ritual by inviting friends to enjoy afternoon tea with me. These little events will include nice cups and saucers, teapots and a selection of yummy homemade delicacies.

I’m going to keep a crossword book handy all year round and not save the fun for holidays only. I’m even going to allow myself to sit and watch something totally silly, trivial and funny on TV or DVD once in a while, to bring back the laughter.

I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to go out on my own, without a young child in tow as an excuse, and roll down a hill. I hope so.

If I can tap back into these activities that I enjoyed as young girl, by including them in my adult life, I know I will have a deeper sense of satisfaction. I know life will be more joyful. I know I will continue to peel back the layers to reveal my essence.

What about you? Will you pull out your Lego and build something? Will you dig out your old Barbie and dress her up? Will you find a slippery slide and ride down it for the pure fun of it? Maybe you’ll venture outside and splash in a puddle (if it ever rains again in Australia) or ride a bike around the neighbourhood.

What will bring you joy in 2014? What will help you tap back into your essence? I’d love to hear what you’ll do.

Wishing you a new year of fun, laughter and a deeper sense of self,

Shannyn

Our ageless spirit

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You are not merely the physical body that you identify with out of habit. Your essential state is a field of infinite possibilities. Deepak Chopra

Do you ever look in the mirror and have that split second where you don’t recognise the face you see because it’s an older version of the self you feel you are?

I have, on a few occasions,  been momentarily surprised by the mature face reflected back at me.  You see, in essence, I don’t feel any different to how I did when I was younger. Oh, I’ve experienced a lot, learnt many lessons and grown as a result but the core of me, my true essence, my spirit if you will feels ageless.

I recently had a birthday and was reflecting with a friend that I felt no older but the image in the mirror tells a different story. My friend shared a conversation he had with his grandmother before she passed away at the wonderful age of 97. He asked her if she felt her life had gone quickly and she said it had “been a flash”.  She went on to say that she felt no different then, in the last stages of her life, to how she had felt as a young woman. She did, however, lament that her body could not keep up with her spirit.

I too remember visiting with my beloved grandmother, also in her late nineties when she left this world, and having the distinct sense of her spirit; her young and vibrant spirit. My Nana, despite her beautiful, soft, lived in skin and frail frame reminded me of a young girl. It was obvious over the years her body was deteriorating and she was losing mobility but she was always in essence a young woman in my mind. Her eyes twinkled with a youthfulness that belied her earth years.

Grandmothers are simply antique little girls.

Grandmothers are simply antique little girls.

My friend reminded me that while our bodies age our spirits do not. I find that at once sad and yet incredibly miraculous. Sad, because the husk that is our body changes so very rapildly and often before we are ready. Miraculous, because I believe we have a soul, a part of us that lives long after our body.  I’ve seen the soul of another shine through the eyes of a 95 year old woman, my friend has also. I’ve seen a body without the life force within it and it truly was just a shell. I’ve felt my soul, within this body of mine.

As my body ages and skews out of shape; as my hair turns silver and my face looks more like a hiking trail than a smooth untrampled plain; I am buoyed knowing my spirit, my soul, doesn’t  age. Each day I become more aware of my spirit. Each day I sense my own essence more deeply. Each day I understand better that there is a part of me that will continue long after my body retires. Each day I learn to trust and to embrace this knowledge and each day it brings me a greater sense of peace.

Within each of us lives a fascinating, vibrant essence that shines brightly.