Ravenstar recently wrote in her blog of her ambiguity of being a woman. Like so many of us, she had found restriction within the patriarchal model set by her ancestors. She recently explored what that means to her, which inspired my own inner reflection.
Like Ravenstar, I wanted to be the mother, daughter, woman that my society and family expected. However, I never seemed to quite manage it. For many years I considered that to be an inadequacy on my part. Now I claim my strengths as I became a non-custodial mother, a highly educated woman, and now a lesbian.
I remember the moment I could not stay with the father of my children. My grandparents, like their parents had done, were about to celebrate their 50th anniversary. I cross-stitched a beautiful picture commemorating the occasion. Working the thread was a meditative experience and forced me to confront my fears. I kept thinking that if I did not want to remain married to him for 50 years, then did I really want to remain married for 25 to see my children grown. Could I? It was a short jump to asking myself what the hell was I doing there if I was not willing to commit my life.
Like Ravenstar, I felt deeply ashamed. Unlike my partner, who feels ambiguity with her gender, I have always been a frilly fem who loves satin and lace. I may have traded high heels for earth shoes, but I still enjoy a little glitter and lipstick. Yet those feelings of shame, of defectiveness as Ravenstar describes, remained with me a great many years.
Only as I left behind my oppressive background, a patriarchal God, and the expectations of men did I discover the truth of myself. Fifteen years ago I lived in pain, 24-7. Those who could read auras flinched from the jagged shards of red surrounding me. I was acutely aware of the pain with every breath. I used and abused my sexuality for attention, for comfort, or in place of love.
When I could not match the societal expectations, I lived in defiance. I have never followed the traditional path for women very well. Following the most abusive relationship of my life, I found Wicca. As I entered the goddess tradition, over time I began seeing my own divinity within. I began recognizing my sacredness, which led to a path of healing and eventually a calling.
As I moved into middle age and came out as lesbian, I also moved into early menopause. Without the wild hormonal extremes that dominated so much of my life, I was freed move into a place of self examination and healing. One of the most powerful rituals that I have ever requested was an Episcalian rite of absolution. Much like the Catholic confessional, I spent several afternoons sequestered with my priest, Mother Linda, telling her my story. I left the last of the shame, the last of the separation from Divinity, the last of my own inner voice of self castigation at that altar rail.
I find it appropriate, as I am duel pathed, that I would tell those stories and ask forgiveness in a Christian church to female Priest. I could not have entered my third degree circle without the reconciliation of my paths and my gods/goddesses. Certainly those feelings of shame occasionally return, but they no longer dominate my life. Certainly I am haunted by regrets. My eldest son is wounded by the past in ways he does not understand and cannot hear.
Two weeks after the rite of absolution, I completed the ritual for my third degree. In the place of those painful places flourishes the faith in a goddess who exists with a god as Divinity and within myself. As I hear the journeys of other women, I am mindful that I may have reached this point of my life a little quicker than some because of those divorces, those losses, and that pain.
I began confronting those patriarchal demons in my twenties when I gave my ex-husband custody of our children. I had to learn to live in defiance, and later with, around and through, patriarchy to survive. Funny how we can see the strengthens and gifts only in hind sight. Yet the power to reframe our stories, to seek the inner wisdom and divine spaces, results in possibility of becoming powerful women.