My Winter with the Wolves

“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:


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?

One thought on “My Winter with the Wolves

  1. Awe sister- I hear you! So many sentiments throughout this post resonate with me. Masculine, feminine, need to be independent, ability to let others in, hold strength and yet be vulnerable too. I am fascinated by our society’s assignments of attributes to the masculine and feminine, and the embodiment of both for all of us. ALSO, if ever you want to connect with Dr Estes, I have a DEAR friend in Boulder who works very, very closely with her. May be a cool connection. Feel free to connect with me if so. Sending love for your wild journey. Love this post!


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