Thursday, June 5, 2008

Living In The Metaphorical Forest ~ A Woman at Midlife...

"Artemis as an archetype represents the part of a woman who has a genuine and deep connection with the earth and who may act from her love and her outrage to protect forests, animals, women and children, the planet, and vulnerable parts of herself.

" ... During midlife the desire to be our real selves, which comes from our soul, contributes to the crises we unconsciously create when we do not feel vital and authentic. There is an internal impetus to become a whole person and when we spend time in the metaphorical forest and the actual forest or natural world, we are exposed to the possibility and growth of our instinctual nature, our spiritual connection with Nature, and our sense of oneness with the universe."

Crossing To Avalon ~ A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimmage
~ Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. ~

It wasn't until I came upon the above quote from one of my favorite books, Crossing To Avalon, which I first read in 1995 and many times since, that something murky became clear in my conscious mind. I spoke about the 8-Ball in the last entry. This answer has been coming up from the depths of that mysterious water for well more than a decade.

When I left my husband in the spring of 1999 people might have thought that I had fallen out of love with him. Nothing could be less true. We had longsince been dedicated partners and are still very dear to one another today, but there is something I have known about myself from my youth, and because of longterm childhood abuse it was such a clouded subject that I could never understand the implications.

I could tell you that I left my husband for a woman that I loved very much, the opening of myself to another woman had been a yearning so deep that finally, like a siren in the sea, she called me out of a kind of long sleep. I don't think anyone was that surprised, and we didn't last long, and that was as it should be. To everything there is a time, and a purpose for everything under Heaven. It was necessary, it was painful, and it catapulted me into the depths of the metaphorical forest so fast and so deep that it shook me to my core and I didn't know if I would come out of it alive.

What I didn't realize at the time, what I only begin to realize now, is that my life had been so full of secret longings and secret yearnings, dark places and lonely spaces, that the forest was both frightening and a relief. I went through spells of panic, near despair, I considered suicide, and finally I came to a place of peace. I am very much the woman "who has a genuine and deep connection with the earth and who may act from her love and her outrage to protect forests, animals, women and children, the planet, and vulnerable parts of herself." I am both otherworldly and odd, as well as common and ordinary. And I needed to discover all of those myriad parts of myself and what it meant when they came together in one woman, me, and what it would mean for me from midlife onward.

In another book that I love and cherish, and again, have read several times -- A Match To The Heart ~ One Woman's Story of Being Struck By Lightning, by Gretel Ehrlich, she writes:

" 'Now you are sentenced to live,' a neurologist at the lightning conference had told those of us who had been dead and revived. A sense of panic ensued, but panic is like fresh air. The mountains, and every draught we breathe is new. Exposed and raw, we are free to be lost, to ask questions. Otherwise we seize up and are paralyzed in self-righteousness, obsessed with our own perfection. If there is no death and regeneration, our virtues become empty shells. At best my virtues are small, but at least I could rely on panic. A carapace had been smashed by lightning and all the events that followed -- divorce, loneliness, exile, and unmasking -- had exposed new skin."

When I reread this tonight, in preparation for writing this blog entry, it was with a kind of shock. Again, I am being led, as I begin to come out of the forest, to the answers I have been seeking for a decade. Ehrlich was really hit by lightning, not once, but twice in her life, and the second time almost killed her. It's amazing that sometimes in life we have to be "struck by lightning" in the metaphorical sense to begin the process of dying and being reborn. I had long hidden under my carapace and the events that happened just prior to my leaving all the security I had ever known, and the events that followed, "divorce, loneliness, exile, and unmasking," have indeed exposed not only a new layer of skin, but have unearthed the real woman that was hiding deep inside herself to try to fit in, to try to fulfill other's expectations, to try not to seem too odd, and never quite fulfilling any of those attempts at normalcy. People's anger and alienation led me further and further into my shell until I barely left the house. I have been hiding for ten years. I will never be a person who cares much about going out into the world, but I believe I am on the verge of leaving a little more. I have been terribly afraid of "what's out there," and yet at the same time I have become a stronger and stronger woman. It has been one of the great mysteries of my life, finally being revealed, if only little streams of light coming in under the doorway and around the cracks of the windows. If the light came too fast I would run deeper into the forest, blinded by the light. I am inching my way out, but, though moving slowly, I am coming out a whole woman, comfortable in my own skin, for the first time in my life.

I am a very gentle woman, full of love, kind, with a very soft heart, deeply compassionate, a nurturer. I am also extremely sensitive, and my safe haven here at the cottage has been that carapace Ehrlich spoke of, but if you look closely you can see two bright eyes peeking out from underneath the shell. The shell that surrounds me, covers me, hides me, is the womb I have been growing in. I feel there will be a birthing soon. And as Bolen wrote, in the quote at the top of the page, I am beginning to feel vital and authentic, a whole woman for the first time in my life.

Flipping through Thomas Moore's beautiful book, Original Self ~Living With Paradox and Originality, my eyes rested on the heading for a chapter near the end of the book...

"Care of the soul often means getting out of the way rather than doing something."

I flashed on some deep truth in that moment. I have been in my own way most of my life, always trying to do something, anything, to fit in, trying to twist and bend myself into some pretzel of a person like a contortionist in order to feel that I fit in this world like everyone else. The more I untangle myself and slide into the comfort of living in my own skin, unapologetic, even celebrating this life of mine, the more I see people all around me stuck in their own contorted shapes and forms. I begin to realize that this is why midlife is so important. We are standing at a crossroads, and we have a choice to make. The chance to hide and one day die, never knowing all that we might have been, or the choice, the scary choice, to enter the forest not having a clue where we are going or where we will end up. I chose to take the leap and dive into the unknown. It has not been without it's perils.

A synapse just fired in my brain and I remembered the last lines from Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken,' written in 1915. He ended his poem with the answer I have been seeking...

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

The truth revealed. I am not odd, no crazy woman in the attic, I simply took a road less traveled, and in midlife, in realizing the truth of my existence, I am freeing myself in a way that is both unexpected and, yes, a delight. And that has made all the difference.

And now, surrounded by silence and animals sleeping soundly, I am at peace. This journey has been worth it all. I will meditate upon the changes, continue to chart my course, and keep moving forward...



Katie said...

I recently have found your blog through entrecard, and in such have discovered a rare gem.

Today's post is beautiful and draws out much that has been bubbling beneath the surface for me. You have inspired me to go to my own bookshelf and dust of another one of Jean Shinoda Bolen's Books - Close To The Bone . It's been calling to me quietly for weeks. Today that call became louder through your voice and writing. Thank you.

Sweet Tea said...

I'm with Katie. This blog is a rare gem. Today's post touches me and renders me speechless.

Thank you for sharing.

Craft Junkie said...

I go through my days, sometimes robotically but more often than not, looking for the gems that stir my soul and often finding them. Sometimes it's the sunrise, or one of my kitties basking in the spot of sunshine coming through a window, or just the sound of my grandson giggling as I tickle him.

Lately YOU and your words have been those gems to me. Today is certainly one of them. "I flashed on some deep truth in that moment. I have been in my own way most of my life, always trying to do something, anything, to fit in, trying to twist and bend myself into some pretzel of a person like a contortionist in order to feel that I fit in this world like everyone else." There is such a huge truth in your words there for many of us...I know there is for me.

I am just learning how to get out of my own way and to stop trying to "fit" into societal molds and just BE.

I so love reading your words. Please, don't stop. I will be here whenever you share. Thank you.

Megan from Imaginif said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you for finding me and leading me to it.
My thoughts and my compassion are with you.

The Success said...

Nice green blog
I like it

The Success

My Mind Clicking and Clicking said...

Hello :) I only found your blog yesterday from the 'Kind Blogs' list, and I've spent the time reading your lovely words, so much of them resonate with me. In one of your posts you say that you are just an ordinary are definitely 'extraordinary!' Extraordinarily insightful, and I love your blog,your flowers,your lovely dogs and I too wish I could write like you!! Thank you.
'One joy scatters a hundred griefs.' -Chinese proverb.

Olga, the Traveling Bra said...

Just popped in via, actually I think I was led here by a Higher Power...I needed to read this post...Oh. My. GOD. This describes so much of what has been milling around in my brain & driving me cRaZy! Beautifully said. Now I'm gonna go read some more......

tangled stitch said...

I am facing Midlife and dropping out of the world. I've been very creative though as of late and see the metamorphisis. Thank you for this lovely blog entry and for being an island in the middle of the water for me a few months back. Stay at peace, be happy. We all fit in like some wonderful piece of a jigsaw puzzle,no two pieces are the same.

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