Having a lover/friend who regards you as a living, growing criatura, being, just as much as the tree from the ground, or a ficus in the house, or a rose garden out in the side yard… having a lover and friends who look at you as a true living breathing entity, one that is human but made of very fine and moist and magical things as well… a lover and friends who support the criatura in you… these are the people you are looking for. They will be the friends of your soul for life. Mindful choosing of friends and lovers, not to mention teachers, is critical to remaining conscious, remaining intuitive, remaining in charge of the fiery light that sees and knows.”
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I have spent the better part of my life looking for lovers and friends who support the criatura in me. I was listening to Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ The Woman Who Runs with The Wolves on CD last night and it occurred to me that I am struggling to be a wild woman in the midst of my over-domesticated set of neighbors, siblings and acquaintances. More like the wolf than her domesticated cousin, the dog, I am frequently seen as a troublemaker. And just as often, banished for it. It hurts.
I’ve ALWAYS been this way.
When I was a girl, it was always in me to explore things. At the time, I lived in New Mexico, in one of the finer subdivisions of Albuquerque. I recently wrote to a friend that while my sisters would lay out by the pool, I, as a 10 year old tomboy, would be walking on the cinder block wall that fenced in our yard. My next door neighbor friend, Barry, also ten, would walk along the fence with me too. This fence was 8 feet high in places (we lived on a hill so the fence level was staggered), so the risk of falling was substantial. Beyond the wall, behind our yard, there was a vast untamed field, filled with tumbleweeds and cactus, which made the risk of getting hurt on that side of the fence even higher. But we walked it anyway, the fear of falling was a sensation that made the pleasure of walking the fence even greater.
When my sisters swam, Barry and I would go out in search of blue-tailed lizards. I really wanted to catch one and make it a pet. Unfortunately, my mother was not too keen on the idea. So we had to release the ones we caught.
When my family took us out to our property in the Sandia Mountains, I was always in heaven. From the Ponderosa pine trees and prickly pear cactus that ornamented the ground, to the rock formations that begged to be climbed on, to the vast view from the crest of the mountain that takes your breath away, these things are the things I have loved. I haven’t been there in 30 years. That is still a journey I need to take.
I’ve always had been a ‘wild child’. Not in the sense of being ‘out of control’, but in the sense of being close to the earth, of being in touch with my natural instincts. Nature, love and passion. This is what I have lived for. I never wore the right clothes, said the appropriate things, or chose the right things to do.
I could never pay attention to the rules…
In the picture above, taken in a reservoir in Colorado by my dad, when my sisters and a step-cousin of mine were looking towards the camera, there I knelt in the foreground, and in typical ‘wild’ child fashion, I was distracted by something off camera, probably a bird in the trees. I could never pose properly for anything as a child.
Instead of doing my chores, I’d be daydreaming and exploring the outdoors. Instead of fitting in, I quietly stood out. Instead of drawing female friendship to me, I scared them away.
I’ve grown up among women that have tried their hardest to squelch the natural instinct, to extinguish the fire of passion that blazes within.
As I blossomed into womanhood, and in particular, when I started having children, I have had to actively defend my choices to other women. From simple, natural, instinctual things such as carrying my children close to me and breastfeeding anywhere (I was the first one in 3 generations to breastfeed) to more complicated things like how much room will I give them to explore their own worlds. You might be surprised at how my own sister, thought nursing my youngest until she was 3 years old was something dirty and shameful and told me so often. Every chance I could, I breastfed in front of her…just to flaunt my capability to do so. Despite the tongue-lashing I’d get, I couldn’t resist it. It was every right my choice how to feed my infant, and I would not be banished to the bathroom to do it.
I would frequently think, and sometimes have the courage to say:
For goodness sakes, woman, live and let live. You have your ways, and I have mine, but I don’t criticize you for your choices, so please don’t criticize me for mine.
Giving up my career for my daughters was challenging in ways I was not prepared for. I had to defend myself to my grandfather, my mother and my female boss (who was also a mother) that I felt I was making the right choice when I quit my job as a supervisor in a medical genetics laboratory. They all sat me down and tried to talk me out of it. My boss was gentle about it, and worried I might be unhappy and also was pretty certain I might regret it. My mother was cruel about it and said I was stupid to give up a well-paying, secure job. My grandfather was somewhat less cruel, but still tried to talk me out of quitting. Shortly after I quit, I’d have nightmares that I doomed my family to destitution. I went into my mothering career with the support of no one except my husband.
It’s instinctual for women to live passionate, juicy lives with the men that they love (yes, really). It’s instinctual for women to live creative lives, creating fine things (be it clothing, or food, or things around the home or art) from her hands. It’s instinctual for women to nurture their young. It’s instinctual for women, like the she-wolf, to growl, snap, and bite at those who threaten her or her pack. But, civilized society has squelched this instinct. Society calls this woman who defends herself a bitch or the woman who loves passionately a whore, but perhaps worst of all, society calls the woman who tries to teach other women about their natural, instinctual gifts, pathologically crazy.
I know differently now.
I was recently compared to a bull in the china shop of my life by a well-bred woman. I chafed at the criticism. It stung. But what I realize now is that I was riding the bull in the china shop of HER life. And that disturbed her peace of mind.
In all actuality, I’m riding bareback on a horse in my life. I’m actually riding naked on that horse, and I am one with that horse and we are galloping along faster and faster and the wind is blowing through my hair and on my skin and I’m deliriously happy.
Until I’m shamed out of it.
That woman is in the china shop of her life, polishing the dust off of the delicate teacups and saucers and looking out the window at me free and she’s disgusted with my freedom.
She is shocked and alarmed that I could be so bold as to challenge her perceptions. I never accused her of anything, I simply told her how something struck me and it disturbed her.
People like me disturb others, but we don’t do it intentionally. We just live mostly by intuition and instinct and it bothers some people because we forget our manners.
From a review of The Woman Who Runs With The Wolves,
Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Jungian analyst and cantadora storyteller, shows how woman’s vitality can be restored through what she calls “psychic archeological digs” into the bins of the female unconscious. In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Estes uses multicultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories chosen from over twenty years of research that help women reconnect with the healthy, instinctual, visionary attributes of the Wild Woman archetype. Dr. Estes collects the bones of many stories, looking for the archetypal motifs that set a woman’s inner life into motion.”
I’m tired of civilized life. I’m tired of interacting with trapped people. I see them everywhere, but most especially among women. I hear them complaining of their jobs robbing them of time with their families and their vitality. I hear them complaining of their husbands, disrespecting them in the presence of other women, and from my male friends who are married (who I don’t see that often anymore), the men tell me of being deprived of touch and sex a few years into the marriage. I see the yearnings in their eyes. A few of them are drawn to my fire and passion and yes, it’s been confusing me for a long time.
Women need to learn the art of womanliness from other women. But they don’t. They are learning far more disturbing things from each other.
I have had to be a lone she-wolf for this reason most of my life.
It’s not so much that other women don’t understand ME (even though they don’t). They don’t understand their instinctual natures. They don’t understand what sex is good for (other than making babies). They might adopt the role of housewife and mother, but they don’t know what to make of these things. So I see a lot of pushing away of the instinctual natures of women. They push away their husbands, preferring to play head games with them. They push away their children preferring to keep them in containers (playpens, strollers, infant carseat carriers that can be held).
To be truthful, with my first child, that’s what I thought I was supposed to do, too. It didn’t last long. My daughters resisted being penned up. The instinct to be in-arms with mama was strong. Even as difficult as it was at times, I’m so glad they fought for their right to be held close.
My mother would often say, “put that baby down, you’ll spoil her”. But I wouldn’t. I’d feel miserable on the inside to be constantly chastised, but I kept my babies close. It felt right to me, and to them. They were always more calm in my arms.
I have been fighting all my life to preserve my instincts, when other women would tear into me about my way of doing things. This social pressure is incredible. I understand that this is fairly typical in America, and, I suspect, any country who adopts American ways. I have read that Brazilian women are now emulating American women, a trend that I worry about. I worry how soon the passion and vitality will be squelched due to industrialization. I don’t think they know what they are in for.
I read that article and I felt saddened. Don’t be too much like us…there’s a terrible sickness here due to all this consumption.
I never understood this and certainly had no language to explain this to others.
Until now. It’s taken me a long time to find lovers and friends and teachers in my adult life to help me understand and explain this. Teachers like Dr. Estes, and Paulo Coelho, friends like B from Tennessee, P from Maine, and poets like Joe, my new poet friend who supports this instinctual nature.
I just wish I could find more people like these in my real life. Because it’s important to me to have face-to-face contact and support with other wild men and women. But I keep patiently seeking. And, as Dr. Estes’ writes
It is worse to stay where one does not belong at all than to wander about lost for a while and looking for the psychic and soulful kinship one requires.
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes