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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Prising open personal padlocks

“We are chained by our own control. Life is nothing more than finding the key that unlocks every part of our soul.” 

― Shannon L. Alder

From a young age we become accustomed to shutting doors and locking things away to protect and keep them safe. We lock houses and cars and we lock away precious possessions. But that is not all we learn to lock away. As a reflex to social pressure and negative feedback we lock away precious parts of ourselves thus limiting our enjoyment and interaction with life.

I know I have dumbed myself down and hidden away my intelligence because those around me were uncomfortable and confronted by it. Similarly, having gained a position of responsibility in my work; a position that required me to make difficult decisions, lead a large staff, a position that was emotionally fatiguing; I slowly locked away my feminine essence so I could cope in this arena and project a self that was firm and strong, not weak and emotional. Several years later I am desperately trying to reconnect with that side of myself. Where is the key? Which door did I lock that part of myself up behind?

Even when we remember where we left the key and behind which door or into which box we safely locked away our true selves when we reach for those elements of us and try them back on they don’t feel quite right, they don’t fit well. The reunion can be difficult and awkward.

Finding myself at this turning point a myriad of questions flood my mind:

• Is there a safe ground between protecting ourselves and locking our true selves away?
• Are we even aware of the sacred part of ourselves we shut away to protect, hide and keep safe?
• Can we, as a society, save our children, our young men and women from this plight?
• Did I fail my son in this?
• Have I, through my actions, encouraged other young women to project more strongly “socially acceptable” traits over their own personal strengths, talents and gifts?

Witnessing the rising number of workshops, courses and programs designed to help men and women sacredly reconnect with their masculine and feminine essences; I realise I am not alone in my concern. Others too have noticed our modern lifestyle can lead us to develop patterns that contribute to the creation of false identities; that we are whittling away our true essence to cope, manage and perform in an increasingly demanding world of work, business, economics and relationships.

My prayer and hope for our children is that we learn to encourage their inner expansion. That we learn to support them in being their true selves, that we teach them to celebrate their individuality and creativity, their intellect.

My hope and prayer for us is that we begin to unlock the doors, throw open the storage containers and welcome our true essence back into the light. I pray that we learn how to ‘wear’ these parts of ourselves again and enjoy the fullness of who we are; that we take pride in, give voice and a new depth to who we are, that we model for our children how we can be true to ourselves and participate meaningfully in the world.

What precious gems have you hidden away for safe keeping? Are you prepared to bring them back into the light, to reconnect and be more whole, more you?