Happy Wednesday! Here’s a beautiful reminder of the glorious powerful feminine potential in all of us, by the phenomenal Maya Angelou.
Initially I was nervous about reading Women Who Run With the Wolves because I expected it to cover concepts I didn’t understand. But really what it is, is a beautiful exploration of the general awesomeness of women. I dig that. It felt super nice to be recognized and appreciated for my natural tendencies, and reminded that my instincts are gold and all I need to do is follow them. So for that I say, Thank you very much Dr. Estes!
In the end you’re supposed to walk away with a reclamation of your wild feminine soul. What I’m walking away with is more like confirmation that I don’t need to be so hard on myself, because I’m actually pretty wild as it is and I’m probably not as masculine as I’m afraid I am.
I wish I had this book in my twenties when I was going off track by trading my soul for safety because it makes more sense to me in hindsight than it does for my current situation. And of course the answers will be different for each of us. Whatever myths hold true on a broad spectrum won’t always add up to the details and path that get us to where we’re going. Each of us is on our own path. That’s the beauty of life. It comes down to this—get out there and experience it all.
I will say that I believe this book is outdated. The constant focus on powerless pixie dust encrusted maidens clawing their way towards empowerment while willfully accepting the dominance of men was difficult for me to swallow or relate to. Reclaim some buried goodies, sure! But give up everything I’ve worked my ass off for? Ain’t no fucking way. And at times it seems to be luring us back to a matriarchal way of life, but that can’t be what’s supposed to happen.
By definition the matriarchy was led by women and clearly for the long-term existence of the human race that did not work. I’m guessing the men felt . . . ummm like, under-represented or something. So now we have the patriarchy and we all know that’s not working either. The question is what’s next? What’s the new name for the middle ground of masculine/feminine equality? What does the world look like when we work together and all feel heard and seen? That’s what I want to know.
The short answer to What’s Next? for me is Wild & Wise by Amy Bammel Wilding. Released just last fall, I’m excited to study and mull over her sacred feminine meditations with my own quick daily responses. Feeling confidently empowered, I’m excited to more fully define my strengths and dominant feminine characteristics.
This should take about a month and then—big news!—I’m off to Spain to cycle the Pyrenees with a bunch of folks I met in Ireland. Should all be fantastic and I can’t wait to share it with you! Thanks as always for sticking along for the ride. And remember:
“If you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.”
–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD.
Sending love & light ❤
Hi everyone! I’m so excited to share my first guest blog over at Raised Vibes. Check it out!
He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.
Chapter 8 of WWRWTW dives into the traps that cause women to fall into a famine of the soul. Suffice it to say, the famine of my soul lasted from 2001-2009 during my mid-late twenties. At that time everyone thought I was on top of the world. Not only was I in a relationship with a talented, handsome, popular man; I had an exciting job, made good money, and traveled for work. Yet I was stressed out, bitter and drinking way too much alcohol. On the outside my life looked great. On the inside my soul felt flattened and dead.
I never understood how people could lie about the status of their happiness until I let fear coax me into clinging to a relationship I was completely unfit for.
We’re all very good at projecting to the world only what we want it to see. Most people won’t cut through the façade of those projections. They take us at face value. That’s not their fault. It’s ours for not being more honest. 100% responsibility.
That’s not to suggest that being honest is easy, far from it. The result of me being vulnerable is that it tends to make people close to me uncomfortable. I was a brutally honest kid and teenager. I saw the toll that took on people so in my twenties I tried lying for a while. Suddenly everyone thought I was happy and after a while I had to keep up the lie. If I was honest all of a sudden everyone would ask why in the world I stayed in a relationship I hated. I didn’t know the answer myself so how could I give it to anyone else?
In 2009 when I left New York, dejected and depressed, it probably seemed like that was the famine. But it wasn’t. That was the rebirth. The thing is I started being openly sad when appropriate. Since then, coincidentally when I started writing, I haven’t lied about how I am—high or low; good, bad, boring or otherwise.
Some areas of re-birth can take a long time. So since 2009 I’ve been in a famine of trust and commitment. I can admit to very slowly licking the wounds from the particular experience that hurt me the most, but by no stretch of the imagination has this last decade been a famine of my entire soul.
In fact, being single throughout my thirties is what allowed the rest of my life to explode in very beautiful ways. My soul is exactly what has been expanding through adventure and experience; through life choices that have brought me to start my own business, travel, compete in races, live in Hawaii, help a friend, write a book.
Yes, I want a boyfriend. And, yes, I also freaking love my life. I love my life so much I’ve been protecting it from insurgents for years!
Life and sacrifice go together.
What wounds have you licked slowly—disappointment in your career, a let down in friendship, a missed opportunity, an adventure not taken? We all have these areas of our lives. Maybe it’s that we squandered money or trusted a devious business partner or fell off a bicycle and were too afraid to get back on.
Dr. Estés says make your way back already. “Cut through the tangle now and get on with it . . . on the other side are new feet.”
We can trust ourselves to stay safe this time around. We’ve memorized the traps and recognize them quickly. “That is the way we remain free.“
So much of this book is about women who were trapped becoming free. For me it’s often the opposite. I recovered from the majority of my trappings years ago. I’ve been completely free for so long that now I long to be deeply connected (not trapped) to my match.
“If you want to re-summon Wild Woman, refuse to be captured.” Check!
“With instincts sharpened for balance—jump anywhere you like, howl at will, take where there is, find out all about it, let your eyes show your feelings, look into everything, see what you can see.” Done!
“Dance in red shoes, but make sure they’re the ones you’ve made by hand. I can promise that you will become one vital woman.” Amen!
Today I am that vital woman howling for my match to come find me. I want to welcome him in and love him to my fullest capacity. I long to take everything I’ve learned, every experience I’ve had and put it to good use; to be the best version of me for the best version of him.
Joy is the kind of feeling a woman has when she lays the words down on the paper just so . . . Whew. Unbelievable . . . It is the kind of joy a woman feels when she has done something she feels intense about, something that took risk, something that made her stretch.
Releasing this famine of trust and commitment feels like spring. It’s a revelation to be actively looking for someone I want to spend an extended period of time with and really get to know.
Tell me, what will bring you that joy?
Today a guy in the sauna at the rec center said to me, “Putting a tattoo on a good-looking girl is like putting an Obama sticker on a Porsche. It just ain’t right!” This was after he asked if I got my tattoo in prison and if I was part of a motorcycle gang. Here’s a visual of the offending artwork.
Beautiful really, and quite well done by a talented artist named Karen Glass. I love it.
Some very nice people will insist he was comparing me to a Porsche (while wearing a bathing suit no less!). Others will say he must not like Obama or that some people are just assholes. I take it to be this: “You would be pretty if . . .”
That’s something I’ve heard a lot in my life, even from my closest girlfriends. You would pretty if . . . you wore a little make-up . . . if you put on a dress . . . if you smiled more . . . etc. etc.
Over the years I’ve changed exactly one of these things. I smile a lot more. Because I’m happy though, not because I’m interested in making you think I’m pretty. However, if I’m truly going to unearth my Wild Woman, that defensiveness and aggression need to go.
So I’m giving myself a pat on the back for approaching this sauna situation differently than I would have in the past. I didn’t bitch him out for calling me a girl (one of my biggest pet peeves). I didn’t voice my opinion about doing whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want (masculine). Instead I laughed gently at his first two questions (feminine) and let the final comment go as soon as he said it.
We all reach a point where we have to move forward on something even though it’s not panning out exactly as we’d hoped or planned. I have to continue to repress my masculine instincts even though that sometimes makes me feel needlessly abused and sad. I have to arrive on time with a smile on my face for yet another OKCupid coffee/tea date, even though most of them are duds. I have to hold back my deeply ingrained need to stick up for myself even though the feminine approach doesn’t usually feel comfortable to me.
Thankfully Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD. chimes in to prod me forward.
“There is usually no sense waiting till we feel strong enough to trust because that day will never come.”
I do trust this process but there are days when it’s really hard. I thought this was supposed to feel like “I’m going to take a leap of faith even though I’m scared,” which I’m totally fine with. That’s actually my comfort zone. But on the difficult days it feels more like “I have to settle for something mediocre even though that crushes my heart and soul.”
Estés is right there to push me further.
“To find this eminent life and love adviser, one only need to stop running, do some untangling, face the wound and one’s own yearning with compassion, give one’s entire heart to the process.”
OK then. I will go on my OKCupid dates. I will enjoy the good ones (scratch cooked dinner, salsa dancing, hiking) and I will make great conversation through the bad ones even though I’d rather be anywhere else in the world. I will constantly remind myself that my mission has changed. It’s no longer imperative that I prove to the world I can do anything I put my mind to. I’ve done that. That case is closed. My mission now is to find a relationship with an amazing man, one that will sustain me for the rest of my life.
I have two dates lined up for this weekend with two men who I expect to be lovely and . . . that’s it. That’s all I expect from them. There is no sense that either of them is going to knock my socks off in anyway but I will still show up and make the best of it, even though.
The point is not to settle, but to just get out there and make the search public. My king is searching for me (his queen) too, so what use would it be to stay hidden and make it harder on him?
Rather than ruminate on the drama, I will focus on tiny progressions and seek gratitude. So thank you to the idiot in the sauna for spurring my creative juices! I haven’t written a blog in over a week and you got me back to the page. Thank you also for the opportunity to showcase Karen Glass’ immeasurable talent.
Seriously, if you’re in the market for a tattoo do yourself a favor and check out her work. Then wait six months for an appointment and say Hello to all my friends in New York City while you’re there!
Love and light! ❤
For days, since diving into the tale of Manawee—and especially right now after returning from the Denver Women’s March—I have been feeling too angry to write.
I’m really taking issue with this folk story about a man who pursues twin sisters for marriage, but their father says he can’t have them until he can guess their names. The tale itself is relentlessly shallow, at one point saying,
“One day Manawee took his little dog with him on a guessing visit, and the dog saw that one sister was prettier than the other and the other sister was sweeter than the other. Though neither sister possessed all virtues, the little dog liked them very much.”
All virtues? All the virtues we as women have are summed up in ‘pretty’ and ‘sweet’? And our value gets weighed by a dog? To me, this feels like a betrayal. Is an internationally renowned women’s scholar confirming the bullshit idea that it is just impossible for one single solitary woman to be both pretty and smart? Oh sorry! Not smart. I totally meant sweet. Pretty and sweet.
I trust Dr. Estes and I mean her no disrespect, but I am really struggling with this. In theory, I understand the archetypal interpretation is saying that the twins represent two dualistic sides of the same woman and that it’s the man’s job to understand and love them both. Furthermore, men have a dual nature to themselves as well. So my question, to that end, is this: Why the heck can’t it be twin men representing the two sides of a man instead of one man and his dog?
How about we do this: We give the woman a dog. Or we give the woman a mountain lion. Give her a goddamn parakeet for all I care, but why—WHYYYYY?????—does she need an entire other woman in order to be worthy of one single man who, by the way, is such a dope he needs to rely on his dog to figure out their names?
This is enraging me, especially in light of today being the anniversary of our astonishingly inept Cheetoh Prez taking office. This story made me feel sick to my stomach. Regardless of the interpretation, the problem is that most people hear just the story. They don’t stick around to digest the author’s Jungian archetypal insight.
This story standing on its own reminds everyone that it is perfectly acceptable for one man to have two women so long as their dad says it’s OK, but not the other way around. Each woman on her own is only half worthy but together they get one whole man and a fucking dog, who spends most of the story distracted by bones and nutmeg of all things.
There are much more highly enlightened interpretations of this story, including this one HERE, which I genuinely appreciate. But right now I am way too tired and dismayed by the current state of the world to try harder to bring positive meaning to this one.
I believe telling stories like this is dangerous because it’s such a small fraction of the population who are going to dig for deeper meaning. Most people will stop at the polygamous nature that makes it completely normal for one idiot to marry twins and pretty much own them. That’s like the inventor of the A-bomb crossing his fingers, shrugging his shoulders and whispering, “Ooooh I hope humanity doesn’t screw this up!”
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people are braving the cold to march in pussyhats (AGAIN!) while yelling back, “You freaking idiot! OF COURSE humanity is going to screw this up!”
I’m certain Dr. Estes means no harm. I know in my heart she means no harm. And. I am also positive that I am abundantly capable of harnessing and living fully in the duality of my feminine nature all by my itty bitty tiny wittle self. One body. One woman. Even as I fight my way through the Drumpf Regime.
Chapter 3 of WWRWTW tells the tale of Vasalisa the Wise, a little girl who is given a doll by her mother just as she passes away. The mother’s dying words to her daughter are that anytime in life when she doesn’t know what to do, she is to ask the doll and the doll will guide her.
A few years pass and the little girl’s father remarries a widow with two daughters of her own. Soon after they all move in together the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, who hate Vasalisa for being sweet and pure, devise a plan to send her into the forest to a wicked witch called Baba Yaga. She is to go to the witch’s dwelling to retrieve a hot coal or burning flame, which she’ll then need to carry back to the house to restore the fire they purposefully let go out.
Dr. Estes’ interpretation begins with the death of Vasalisa’s too-good mother, equating it to a natural period of maturation when we have to learn to let go of the protective mother in our psyche once it starts to keep us from responding to challenges and deepening our development. Letting this part of us die allows us to move into our intuitive nature.
However, Dr. Estes speculates that “most of us will not let the too-good mother die . . . because . . . it is so nice to be with her, so comfortable . . . Often we hear voices within our minds which encourage us to hold back, to stay safe.”
Right off the bat I was scratching my head and scrunching up my face. This is a huge point of deviation from the norm for me. Not let the too-good mother die? I think I murdered mine before I even came out of the womb. Does that make me an outlier?
I will take a risk and say this: as a child I never needed an initiation into my intuition. This chapter lost me a bit from that perspective. My earliest memories revolve around me, at three or four or five-years-old, being absolutely confounded by the adults in any given room who could not see what was clearly going on beneath the surface of their idle chit chat.
Furthermore, there was never a voice in my head encouraging me to play it safe. Quite the opposite really. Every voice I heard cried, “Go now! Quick! This is your chance!” So perhaps I am revealing the onset of my masculine qualities. Did they develop from societal shifts and pop culture, or were they always in me? This chapter makes me think they’ve always been there.
My mother was actually saying the exact phrases Estes uses aloud. “Don’t say that,” or “You can’t do that.” I can hear her on repeat ad nauseum warning me about how dangerous it would be out there in the big bad world. But my inner voice overrode her outer cries from a very young age. I always knew that secretly she wanted me to go forth and be stronger than she ever dared to be, but externally she thought it her parental duty to be overprotective. She projected her fears onto me and I squawked back, “Ain’t no fucking way!”
No one from home was pushing me the way I needed to be pushed, so I left.
Estes goes on to say, “It is typical for women to be afraid . . .”
So why wasn’t I?
This is where I feel like I’ve always been on track. I’m rarely afraid now and when I was young? Pffft . . . fear barely registered at all. And in the rare instance that it did, it felt like drugs. Awesome, hallucinogenic, speed-filled, fun, happy drugs.
“To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves . . .”
Yes. And. I never struggled with that as a kid. What harm did a little exile do? In fact what I struggled with was judgment when I observed those fears in the young women around me. What was wrong with these girls? Why were they such scaredy cats? Why were they so lame as to want to stay home and marry idiot boys and have annoying babies? Why would they waste their one precious life that way? As a young girl I was very clear about my intuitive powers and I adored them. That’s what made me the odd one out.
I have to say I expected this book to tell me I’ve gotten everything assbackwards my whole life, but this chapter made me feel like I got something very right—especially when Estes says that, in fairy tales, the outcast is often the one most deeply connected to their intuition. Aha! Something I can smile about! I don’t have the answer for why I was able to block out the cultural noise as a child. To risk quoting Lady Gaga I might simply say: I was born that way.
As Vasalisa makes her way through the dark woods to Baba Yaga’s she relies on the doll her mother gave her to tell her which way to go. I couldn’t relate to this idea either. A doll “is the symbol of what lies buried in humans that is numinous. It is a small and glowing facsimile of the original Self.” Dolls represent our inner voices of reason, the homunculus, an always accessible yet completely invisible little helper. But there’s more. Strong ties to our intuition allow us to embody a pre-cognitive animal consciousness that heightens our ability to move with confidence. OK so what?
So I never had a human doll. I had more stuffed animals than could fit on my bed (no exaggeration) but dolls, Ick! My mother will cry foul and tell you all about how I begged for a Cabbage Patch Kid in the mid-80’s, and sure, yes I did that. But that was the little kid in me being appropriately jealous of friends. That had nothing to do with what I really wanted. My father could tell you about my real guide doll.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, he was a male grey dog. I never thought of him as a wolf, though I’d love to place that meaning on him now. To me he was a boy dog who never left my side and his name was Puppy. Here is a picture of me sleeping with him as a child.
And here’s us last night tucked in so I could read to him.
I don’t normally sleep with him. In fact he’s been locked away in storage for many, many years. (We could pause here to notice the coincidence of me unpacking him and putting him in my closet when I moved to Colorado months ago, but do we need to?)
As a young girl, I related to this animalistic intution so much more than I did to the conforming and demure feminine girls I went to school and dance class with. And I related to animals more than people.
Once Vasalisa gets to the witch’s house in the forest she is greeted by the fierce mother—the wild hag Baba Yaga—a scary and somewhat gross figure who she works hard to keep up with, respecting and learning from her the whole time.
This made me think of my first serious boyfriend.
At seventeen I attracted an older man and knew the second I saw him that he was good for me, even though EVERYone else disagreed. From him I received an education I was going to get no matter what, and I was very lucky to get it from him. Like the Baba Yaga he looked dangerous at first glance. A twenty-three year-old man involved with a seventeen year-old girl must only have vile and evil things in mind. And yes we did drugs and drank alcohol and had sex. But I was not a girl. Nor was a naïve. And to me, he was a teacher, a best friend, a kind-hearted lover. There was nothing gross or scary about him.
Most around me at the time created their own vision of who he was and what he represented. They only saw what they feared. I, on the other hand, got everything I wanted out of that relationship and even more than I bargained for. Because he actually loved me. He looked out for me, guided me, always had my best interests at heart.
Even though the Baba Yaga is rough on Vasalisa, she does her a great service in teaching her how to be self possessed and unafraid. In the end she gives the girl what she came for: a skull on a stick with fiery eyes, the flame she needs to re-light the fire back home. Vasalisa makes her way back through the woods with much more confidence than she had at the onset, yet at one point she becomes afraid of the powerful skull she is carrying and almost throws it away.
“Each woman who retrieves her intuition and Yaga-like powers reaches a point where she is tempted to throw them away, for what is the use of seeing and knowing all these things?”
For the first time in my life I considered throwing everything away. Shortly after I was accepted into a first rate private college, I strongly considered quitting to move back home and get married. His response was to break up with me. We had to break up so I could live my life, is what he told me. He wasn’t enough for what I was becoming.
There was nothing easy about the experience of letting that relationship die. I fought hard to keep it alive but he insisted. The shock came when he said he wouldn’t visit me at college anymore, that he wouldn’t even call.
Oh my goodness look what just happened . . . Do I have this backward? Was he not my Baba Yaga but instead my too-good mother? Was he the safe comfortable protector I needed to let die in order to truly move into my power? Hot diggity! It is so fun figuring all of this out 😉
To this day I consider my experience with him one of the purest and happiest times of my life. He called me out of the blue two months ago just before he got married. We hadn’t spoken in over twenty years but he wanted me to know that he always loved me, he had always wondered what if we stayed together, and most importantly that he never intended to hurt me when he left. I assured him I had never for one second thought he had.
By the light of the fiery skull we can see everything we need to know, even in the painful scary moments.
Women Who Run with the Wolves opens with the stories of La Loba and Bluebeard. La Loba is the all-knowing woman who lives deep inside our psyches. She is ancient. She is wise. She collects the bones of deceased wolves and pieces them back together in her cave.
“Today the old one inside you is collecting bones . . . What is she re-making for you?”
Once she has an entire skeleton, La Loba sings the wolf back to life promising . . . “that if we will sing the song, we can call up the psychic remains of the wild soul and sing her into vital shape again.”
In stark contrast, Bluebeard, a gruesome French folktale first published in the late 1600’s, represents the predator inside of us. At first glance, it’s a shallow tale of a silly young woman who succumbs to curiosity thereby disobeying her husband’s wishes. While he’s away, she uses a tiny key to open a small door in the castle which reveals a dark room filled with the bloody corpses of his previous wives. Her disobedience nearly gets her killed when her husband returns, but her brothers swoop in to save her right at the last minute.
Many modern interpretations keep the story shallow and off-kilter to say the least, but Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. dives much deeper.
“Women who are gullible or those with injured instincts still, like flowers, turn in the direction of whatever sun is offered,” she writes.
In this tale the maiden is naïve and she does turn towards the charming suitor at first, even though he has a bad reputation and that strange blue beard. But once they’re betrothed she’s not obedient or submissive as would likely be expected. Instead she is independent and curious. I can definitely relate to that.
This happened to me twice. First, when I was 23 years-old (read : gullible) and completely convinced I had already missed the boat on everything important in life, I got into a relationship for the sake of no longer being the dreaded “S” word: single. Second, when I was 30 years-old (read : injured), literally seconds after I ended that first experience.
Just when I thought I was set to soar, I crashed with a thud into a wretched relationship with a compulsive, alcoholic liar. So many nuggets that Estes drops ring true for me. Silencing my internal alarm bells (because I knew exactly who and what he was) and turning instead towards whatever scrap was offered. I let reasons like ‘he hugs me’ justify a relationship I knew was bad for me even though it was quickly heading towards marriage and permanency. But my previous relationship had been almost entirely devoid of hugs, so to my injured instincts this made sense.
Also this new man appeared to ‘believe in me’ whereas my previous captor had been frying my goals on the back burner in order to pursue his own. There was no room in our house for us both to be successful and happy, so he won out and I shrank into a frustrated heap of tired anger. This new man was going to pick me up and help me fly again. That was my perspective at the time and, while it may not be how I view the past now, it was very much what I was experiencing in that moment.
In both cases I willingly affixed my blinders and proceeded into the dark room with the tiny key, into a sort of spiritual death.
But there is always a light, isn’t there? Estes goes on to say:
“Though there be injury . . . there is still left adequate energy to overcome the captor, to evade it, to outrun it, and eventually to sunder and render it for their own constructive use.”
It’s true. I observed the darkness, came to my senses and got the hell out of each situation. The second time I moved much faster than the first go round (a mere nine months vs. seven years). In a way it was good that the experience was so much worse because it allowed me to wake up faster. I wasn’t the frog being slowly boiled in the pot as I had been in my twenties. Instead I was crossing hot coals in bare feet and subsequently ran like hell.
“In many cases what is required to aright the situation is that we take ourselves, our ideas, our art, far more seriously than we ever have before.”
And that is exactly what I did. I moved to Portland, OR where I promptly started writing and running my own business.
Years later, I am recognizing where I got stuck. Not at the beginning behind the wall of a predator, but in my own heart where it’s safe because I don’t let any monsters in. It’s also intensely boring and lonely in there because, well . . . I don’t trust myself to tell the difference between the monsters and the good guys. So I don’t let anyone in.
For many years I’ve lived in that no-man’s land of not trusting my instincts enough within the realm of romance. I’ve learned how to recognize the bad almost immediately, which has served me tremendously—in life, on OKCupid dates, at work. I’m safe and I can take care of myself in a crisis. But the second half of the equation, the part where I learn how to recognize the good ones and enjoy them . . . I’ve avoided that almost completely.
In this way the Bluebeards stop being actual men and manifest as the thoughts and fears in my head. That is to say, I had physical captors and once I was released from them I took on mental/emotional ones to fill that void. Can you relate? Anyone out there survive something awful just to sabotage yourself because you couldn’t handle existing in a state of happiness?
So what did I do in the romantic/intimate relationship area of my life? It seems I poured every one of my bad decisions, along with my inexperience and immaturity, into a pot and boiled it down to a thick opaque soup. Then I subconsciously put it into a jar and labeled it: All Men Are Inherently Dangerous.
Oops. My bad.
As I do my best to start taking 100% responsibility for the course of my life, La Loba is resurfacing to remind me that evil men aren’t keeping me single. I am. I’m not responsible for any horrible events that happen, but I am entirely responsible for how I react to them and what label or meaning I give them.
“Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered, Wild Woman comes back. She comes back through story.”
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Saturday at a vision-boarding-for-the-new-year Meetup I cut words and pictures out of magazines for close to an hour before coming across what I was subconsciously looking for: pictures of an ancient wolf ancestor and the phrase “Bringing them back to life.”
In that same issue of National Geographic I found another article titled “Wild Men.” With a large “W” found somewhere else in the stack and an “O” from Oprah’s magazine I morphed ‘men’ into ‘women’ and there was the basis of my vision:
WILD WOMEN. BRINGING THEM BACK TO LIFE.
The funny thing is I hadn’t read that quote from Estes’ book yet. Funny. Coincidence. Guidance. You get to call it whatever the heck you want. You already know what I consider it. I’ve picked that book up six times since my new Boulder housemate handed me her copy back in October but never made it past the introduction. Wait, no, rewind. The day I moved in, in September, I was met with this tattered poster thumb-tacked to the wall in my bathroom:
I had one of those moments where you know something matters but you have no idea why. Then a few weeks later I mentioned maybe wanting to read the book. Then my housemate handed me her copy which I picked up, read a few pages and put down six times. It’s been sitting on my desk untouched since then. Fast forward to my vision board. Here it is for your viewing pleasure. Feel free to laugh at how bad I am at art-like creations:
And now here we are, mere moments after I finally started actually reading Estes’ famous book for realz and of course, on page 24, there was the Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back quote and I got to have my fun little Hooray I’m on the right track! moment. Yay life!
I was raised during a time when the possibility of women pursuing true autonomy was becoming tangible for the masses. I wasn’t a tomboy myself, but I was brought up to believe it would be good if I was, because boys are independent and independence is key. If I could be independent then I could be anything.
In my late teens and early twenties I was a version of Wild Woman. I loved how powerful she was. She attracted men from all walks of life and settled on two (one after the other) who she thought to be strong enough to keep her fire burning. But it turned out neither of them was and that spark was slowly, unintentionally doused with jealousy and manipulation. In revolt, she continued to secure her self-reliance and freedom while flipping the bird to anyone who thought they could control her.
Bye bye love. I was my own person—I didn’t need a man—but to be that independent freebird I had to take on more and more masculine qualities and my feminine heart needed to die a little. How else could I protect myself from the clutches of yet another man who would smother my soul? This wasn’t something I noticed as it happened. It’s something I need to deal with now that I’m entrenched in it.
Don’t mistake masculine qualities for those of a tomboy. I’ve never liked bugs or baseball or playing in the dirt. I’ve never cared about how things work. When I say I espouse masculine qualities, what I mean is I support myself completely therefore I take on both male and female roles. I cradle myself to sleep at night because there is no one there to hold me. I make my own money. [Even a decade ago in the midst of a long-term relationship with a man who made twice my salary, I paid for half of everything communal (mortgage, groceries, utilities, travel) and covered anything extra I wanted for myself.] I am my own source of calm when the world gets rocky because for nine years there has been no man around to steady me. I carry the 40 lb. bags of dog food from the store to my car and into the house. I pick myself up when I fall literally, emotionally, figuratively, metaphorically, mentally, et al.
And because of this, I have little time nor energy to be pretty or wild or gentle or frazzled (read : feminine). I have to be serious and have my shit together at all times. When I cry, I also nurture myself back from the brink. When I flounder, I also bark myself back into alignment. When I need to push, I coach myself. I cook, I clean, I balance the checkbook, take out the trash, feed the dogs as well as my soul with as much nourishment and love as I can.
I remember my uncle telling me years ago that I was single because I had absolutely no need for a man. I thought, “Well duh, but how does that help me get a boyfriend?”
In short, I am a modern independent financially stable never-married childless almost forty-year-old privileged white woman living in the United States at a time when I get to do whatever I want whenever I want. I am able to pursue my own goals and dreams, able to take care of myself, able to shield myself from the near constant spew of societal pressures to be __________ (fill in the blank). Also, I’ve been hurt and shaken and in turn my preferred form of protection has been to wear sneakers and hoodies. I can run at any moment and you could never catch me. I can go unnoticed so as not to attract attention from the men. The mean awful soul crushing men.
Hear me now, this has been on purpose for many reasons both positive and negative. For close to a decade I have been comfortable, happy and fulfilled in this guise. My needs have been met and really the only thing I’ve lacked . . . is a compelling reason to change.
I have that reason now.
Here is what I know for this new year: Wild Woman is coming back to me. I’m no longer afraid of her or anything she will attract. She’s not just on her way, but I am also running towards her. I will seek her out and find her before she startles me, before I lose her. Then I will walk beside her and soak her back up into my bones. And in time, together we will run with the wolves.
“This is our meditation practice as women, calling back the dead and dismembered aspects of ourselves.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Join me for the ride, won’t you?
My plan for this morning was to wake up at 4:25 AM and drive two hours south to Colorado Springs in order to climb the Manitou Incline and watch the sunrise. I wasn’t sure I’d make it considering I really don’t like the cold and it was forecasted to be 7 degrees as I left Boulder.
Well it turned out to be 5 degrees, but I didn’t let that hold me back. IT’S FREAKING NEW YEAR’S DAY FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!! YEOW!
Oh my goodness I’m so glad I went! It was invigorating to say the least, climbing 2,000′ in less than a mile, and I made 8 new friends in the process. Here’s the view from the top:
Aaaaaand here’s some perspective for anyone who’s never heard of the incline:
I don’t have the words to fully explain how excited I am about this new year. The Last Year of Life as I Know It is officially over and I am beyond psyched to enter 2018:
MY WINTER WITH THE WOLVES
More to come on that very soon! Sending love & light for your best year yet ❤ ❤ ❤