A dear friend recently proposed the following question to me: What will it take for you to embrace the greatness inherent in being a woman?Â The inquiry exploded within me.Â The arid land that is my intuitive, feminine nature became exposed to the glaring light of day, and I sat there frozen and speechless.
Itâ€™s not that I havenâ€™t always known that I am a female, but I’ve accepted it as a piece of information, like having two breasts and a vagina. It was data. Â What I haven’t done is really moved that knowledge from the realm of my head and held it as a gift in my heart.Â Just thinking about it brings me to tears.Â Â My friendâ€™s question had thrown open the doors of possibility, but not until I pulled back to recover.
When I am in my ‘achiever selfâ€ťâ€”what Iâ€™m calling the masculine side–my usual behavior is to run from uncomfortable feelingsâ€”to busy myself with activities. This time my body would have nothing to do with my tried and true avoidance tactics. Upon arriving at Intercontinental Airport to wait for the arrival of two of my nieces from New England, instead of filling my waiting time by opening a book, or my I-pad, I had to recline my seat and close my eyes.Â I was shell-shocked and exhausted; not from exertion, but from the rupture of my internal psyche.
I sat back, my body and my eyes so heavy that I just couldn’t keep them open, and emptied my mind.Â This was not time to delve deeper, but to attempt to gather the fragments back into a whole that would be functional enough to graciously welcome the two goddesses-in-training who were about to arrive.Â How could I help them know the merit of being a female if I had not ever truly honored that gift for myself?
Like these two wonderful creatures, we were allâ€”male and femaleâ€”born into a patriarchal society that values action and attainment and does not value the receptive and creative side of all of us.Â We grew up four decades apart, but the changes that have happened regarding the role of the masculine and feminine have been minuscule.Â Yes, my nieces played women’s soccer and ran track, but did they understand their own personal (feminine) contribution to the functioning of the world?Â I doubted they did. I certainly didnâ€™t at their age. Â Even now I still donâ€™t stand with arms open to embrace that side of myself. Some unknown thing keeps me from it.
I have spent sixty years perfecting my achieving side.Â Oh, I’ve filled my time with work, exercise, and family.Â Over the years, I’ve danced as fast as I could to keep everyone happy and to make sure that I looked good and kept the demon failure at bay. I’ve taught high school, run a secretarial school, worked for General Electric and United Technologies and built a non-profit. During the past thirteen years I’ve supported myself as an entrepreneur. Â By societyâ€™s criteria, Iâ€™ve been successful. By my personal standards, I have a good life; and I’m grateful for it. Yet there has been a nagging sensation that things are not as they should be. There has been an internal discord that keeps me seeking. Â Could it really be that the thing that I have been seeking is already a part of me?Â That what Iâ€™ve longed to fully embrace is my own true feminine nature? My body has spoken: Go ahead and do it.
If only it were that easy.
During the past five years, however, I have been trying to learn to slow down, to take time to smell the roses and on beautiful days to tend them. Unaware of the why, I’ve spent time learning to gather my thoughts like beautiful bouquets of flowers and spent increasing amounts of my energies on spiritual exploration. Even with all of that, learning to slow down has been like learning to write with my left hand; itâ€™s an awkward endeavor at best. Â And now I understand why.
More times than not, I’ve spent hours and days turning what could have been reflective time into work and achievement.Â Iâ€™ve concerned myself creating stories about how my husband might react as I began to work less.Â And the reality is that is that he continues to be 100% supportive of my journey. The truth is that there is no external pressure on me to do anything but enjoy life. The pressure I’ve felt, in the end, has been self-imposed.
It is really me that has had a hard time understanding that I have the right, even the responsibility, to learn to cultivate my receptive feminine nature.Â Even in the area of home and relationships, both feminine in nature, where I’ve brought great beauty and depth to our home and our relationship, I’ve acted like one of the three blind mice, scurrying ahead, instead of taking a moment to value the benefit I bring into our lives.
Truth is that I am brilliant in creating and sustaining relationships that I value.Â I do not open myself to everyone, but once I allow another’s soul into my heart, he/she is cherished and honored.Â Until death do us part, is not only a conscious pledge that I’ve made in marriage, but an unconscious pledge that I make to those whom I love. When there are relational challenges, and there are always challenges because we are all different individuals, I open my heart and remind myself that everyone is always doing the best they can give considering where they are on their journey. That little space allows people around me to show up more authentically. And my role is to be genuinely true to myself as a woman. From this day forward, I will take time each day to connect compassionately with my heart while I appreciate the gifts my feminine nature has allowed me to bring into the day.
Another truth is that I’m brilliant at the art of possibilities.Â Where others see walls and barriers, I see doorways and portals. With my masculine natureâ€™s focus on the goal line, I see the obstacles and am better at building a team of people to advance the ball. Â When others see what they can’t do, I see the brilliance of who they are.Â I need only look back into my own history to see the genesis of my love affair with possibility. When I was seventeen, my father saw marriage and babies for me; I saw college and freedom.
I see that over the years, Iâ€™ve forgotten my deep ability to know what is right for me and slipped back into looking to men for approval and validation. Not because they had a corner on the truth, but because I forgot that only I could know what is right for me. How deep-seated was my breeding to look to the masculine for direction and devalue my own feminine knowing.Â No longer. Â From this day on, I will cherish my ability to cultivate possibility for myself and for those around me while valuing what I do know.
When reflecting back over my life, I can see the trail of bread crumbs that is the many ways that I was visually and emotionally struck by the diminished role of the feminine in our society. In the Turkish Museum of Antiquity in Ankara I noticed that the goddess statues diminished in size as time moved from antiquity to the current century. The goddesses changed from standing five feet to only two inches in height.Â There in front of my eyes I experienced what I’ve known only in concept. Yes, I understood that there was a time when the female had a dominant place in the world and, over time, her relevance was replaced by the masculine, but then I didn’t understand the significance in my life.
Around twenty years ago, walking through an up-scale resale shop in River Oaks, I came across a four-foot-high gilt framed depiction of who I would later understand was Sybil, the Oracle at Delphi.Â I was so captivated by it that I bought it.Â That day I hung the picture over a mantel in my living room and for years the Sybil silently graced my life.Â When I remarried and we melded households, she was relegated to storage where she has been for the past thirteen years. I see now that it was another representation of my relegating my feminine nature to the dark recesses of my closet.
Today I took her out of the closet and put her, once again, over the mantel in our living room.Â I can now gaze into her eyes and reconnect physically with the honored status of the feminine, if not in society, then in my life. Every time I gaze upon her, I will physically re-connect with her elevated status as a â€śseerâ€ť and value my own ability to see and communicate fully about the world. Mine may not be an unfolding of the wise Sybilâ€™s scroll, but the writing of a blog of reflections. The connection between her role in antiquity and my role are not lost on me.Â Whenever I think about her, I will remind myself that as a female, I have natural access to her ability to â€śseeâ€ť what is true.
To make the journey from head to heart is the hardest of all sojourns. To value myself and my feminine nature is not achieved by thinking about it or doing things to achieve it.Â It is only found in the warm receptive recesses of my heart.Â My journey now is not to jettison my masculine skills of warrior and achiever, but to engage my heart, by learning to love my own powerful feminine nature. It is not in choosing one nature over the other, but celebrating and embracing both that fulfillment will be found.
So what does it mean to be able to reconnect with and value myself as a woman?Â It means compassionately holding a space to let the unfolding of the totality of who I am unfold.Â It means living with the messiness of being in process while celebrating the internal creative process that is mysteriously at work. It means reining in my masculine, achievement-oriented nature until it is in service of the whole of who I am, while celebrating its potency and potential.Â And, yes, it means that as a female, I matter in this world.Â And with that, my heart bursts open with grace as I glimpse the possibility of what it might look like when I emerge fully formed in the world.