I’ve used my power poorly in the past; “Does This Serve Me?” is my gift to my 46 year-old self. Now when I am about to expend my energy on someone or something, I pause and ask myself this question.
Throughout my life I’ve considered myself a witch, a bitch, a goddess – a powerful woman who can be a little scary in my intensity. I’ve always been independent, emotional and secure in the knowledge that I had my own back and would be ok. I’ve never been afraid to make hard choices; I’ve changed my life on a dime, the control was mine. I’ve always attracted people who needed my energy and let them feed on me. I was a source of strength for others, I had plenty to go around and I didn’t mind, until recently.
It was a long road to admitting I’d lost my essence. At first, I was furious. I was furious at my body, my situation. I was furious at myself for being so unattached and distracted. I was furious at those closest to me for sucking my energy and pushed them away. I stopped taking care of myself, I made poor choices. I let my life as I knew it fall around me and then the pity started. I cried that I wanted to be taken care of and protected. I wanted to be the content housewife with the burly, handy husband not the narcissistic, metro-sexual I married. I cried that I wanted a ‘normal’ kid not this mouthy whirl of creativity and blunt truths. I cried that I wanted my health back; I cried that I just wanted to hear the words, “you’re cancer-free!.” I cried for everything until this reservoir of strength I had so depended on all my life was gone. There was none left for me and certainly nothing left for my family. I needed help. I was never one to sit in self-pity for long – I usually would just start over – new job, new relationships. But this time, it was different, I had responsibilities now – a family.
My daughter’s journey kickstarted my own – I had to control my behavior in that it was affecting her’s. Did she have special needs or was I modeling shitty coping mechanisms? My husband and I (both of us with super strong energy) always needed to have the last word with each other and it was a vicious cycle; was she taking that with her to the outside world? Was I the one with anxiety and attention issues? Was it a stewy brew of all of the above? Likely so. But why should I admit to all that gray when most of the people around me are stuck on black or white? Being vulnerable is exhausting. Being wise when you still have to learn the lessons sucks.
I was diagnosed and given medication for ADHD as well as an antidepressant for my mood. The restless feeling I had been living with slowly started to give way to presence. I began to write and became a serial Gotham Writer’s Workshop participant. My anger, the edge that was keeping me isolated and lonely, slowly receded and I was able to articulate my thoughts clearly and without self-doubt. “Do Not Engage” became my mantra. It was time to do work. My husband and I began counseling and I started my own therapy. I’m not going to lie and say I’m where I want to be. I’m totally not. But I am realizing that I created my relationships and a human being fueled with a sense of self and strength – and when that strength tanked – it affected everything. All my relationships were off kilter – my husband fell in love with me for my power, I was powerful and strong and could take care of myself. He wasn’t capable of taking care of me in the “traditional” role – he had his own work to do and I knew this. I didn’t want to be taken care of. I wanted a feisty kid who spoke her truth. I was a free-range parent and wanted her to run wild but when I couldn’t handle the repercussions, I freaked out. Why was all this suddenly so difficult? How could I focus on me with all this noise?
I spent my 46th birthday with my therapist talking about getting unstuck and needing to have an identity outside of being a mother and wife. I need to shake up my family system; I need to do me and let the chips fall where they may. I need to reclaim my space as a creative being with wisdom and experience. I need to be my own midwife to mid-life
I’d like to be recognized as an Individuated Woman before I become a Crone.
The challenge of the moment—and there are many who are meeting it, accepting it, and responding to it, in the way not of men but of women—the challenge is to flower as individuals, neither as biological archetypes nor as personalities imitative of the male. And, to repeat, there are no models in our mythology for an individual woman’s quest. Nor is there any model for the male in marriage to an individuated female. We are in this thing together and have to work it out together, not with passion (which is always archetypal) but with compassion, in patient fostering of each other’s growth.- Joseph Campbell, From the book Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine. Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Campbell Foundation