There was this piece of me—a young, vulnerable, desperate piece of me—who begged for someone to finally just tell me who the hell I was supposed to be, or do, or what my life was supposed to be about. Every time life intensified, waves of hysteria would swell from deep within me, the fear that I’d get it wrong… that I couldn’t trust myself to know what was true for me. I felt terrified that, without external guidance, my life would be wasted.
But then I started to explore what one of my early teachers called “the spirituality of the self”. I studied the way I reacted to the world around me, the way I allowed certain relationships, circumstances, and experiences to affect me. I learned I was powerful, far more powerful than I’d ever imagined, and that I could change reality by changing the way I was showing up in the world. In time, I released what no longer served me and made space for my truth to become my life. The artist, the lover, the priestess, the mother, the healer, the dancer, the writer . . . one discovery at a time, I hosted a reunion of the pieces of my soul.
This transformation was possible because of the supports I cultivated for myself along the way. My blog is an extension of my journals. I use it to share the lessons I’ve learned, powerful resources, and inspiring stories of my clients’ transformations. Dig in and find the information and inspiration you need today and keep coming back when you need another dose! If you can’t find what you’re looking for, email me your question and I’ll see what I can find for you.
“What’s your problem? You on the rag?”
I was in seventh grade the first time a boy dismissed reality by saying that I was having a fit of hormone-driven hysteria. He was teasing a classmate and being hateful to everyone who crossed his path, and when I stood up to him, he tried to shame me into backing down.
Clearly, he didn’t yet understand how hormones work. Nor did he know about my near obsession with getting The Last Word, or my astrological advantage (Taurus), or that I was in the early stages of my training as a verbal assault weapon. He was ill-prepared and I came undone. It’s mostly a blur now but I can still remember yelling at him, in front of many of our peers, “I might be on the rag but when that ends, you’ll still be a jerk!”
For the record, I was not actually bleeding at the time. I have no idea why, long before I could actually call myself a feminist, I felt the need to defend my menstruating self, but I did. I had a strong need. At the time, I knew almost nothing about myself, about what it means to be a woman and still, the idea that his cruelty could be washed away in a river of my blood infuriated me. It was a profound betrayal of truth and fairness, and I wasn’t, as they say, going to take it anymore.
Recently, a woman I’m connected with on Facebook posted something very thoughtful and respectful about a political trend she finds disturbing. The conversation quickly spiraled into an exchange between her and a man who was, in my opinion, being disrespectful. She stayed engaged, again very respectfully, and stood her ground. As I watched it unfold, I felt impressed by her ability to be so firm and clear but still keep it clean, especially when he was not.
Finally, he offered a long-winded conclusion, hurling himself onto the metaphorical sword, and left the conversation. The conversation continued in his absence and as everybody started to calm back down, I was mortified to watch it take a very old, painfully predictable turn. A full 25 years after that first school yard experience, I watched as that important and empowered dialogue/debate got chalked up to the woman’s raging hormones.
So, I’ve had enough time to grow up; educate myself; discover my life purpose; make, grow, birth, and mother children into their teens; figure out my sexual-orientation and learn to live in alignment with my integrity around it; start a business helping other women do the same; and still we continue to dismiss women who are standing strong in their personal power as being too hormonal to be taken seriously. That made me feel sort of crazy inside.
When I protested–yes, more articulately than I did all those years ago–the woman explained, “I don’t like that either, because I believe that hormones fluctuating just give women a keener sense of what is in alignment and what is not – it gives us less toleration for what is not. However, if you’ve been through fertility treatment, you know that the extra hormones do make you WAY less tolerant of BS and whatnot.” I clarified that being “way less tolerant of BS” does not cultivate it. This woman and her intensity, her unwillingness to tolerate BS, did not make that man behave badly. He behaved badly and she didn’t let it go.
There is a world of difference between me not putting up with your pushy antics and me causing you to act that way. And there is a great deal of violence against women that occurs in the gap between the two. I’ve seen this with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and the metaphorical she did not actually have it coming after all. To blame the monthly shedding of the lining of a woman’s womb for the violence, aggression, or simple ignorance that she encountered during those couple of days (or any other time that you need someone to blame) is a BS move if there ever was one.
So yes, around the same time every month, my tears are more accessible, as is my anger, but I don’t believe that means I am suddenly wildly out of control. Quite the opposite, in fact, those are the times when I am at my best. I see more clearly, feel more powerfully, and more easily take action from a place of integrity. The intensity makes me more real–not mean or harsh or impatient–just real.
I believe in my heart that that is the best of me. And over the years, I’ve noticed that the more I honor myself during that tender and powerful time, the more access I have to those parts of myself when I’m not bleeding. I want access to my feminine power on all of the days, not just four or five days out of each month. I’ve found that menstruation is a very grounding time for me, and I strive to be that aware and that connected to my body all the time. I want to feel as deeply and listen as carefully as I do when my hormones surge like that. I want to have the strength to be true to myself every single day.
Plain and simple, that intensity that we experience just before and during menstruation is power. It’s not our only source of power but for many women, it is a sacred time during each month that our power rises up to meet us.
But if we want to feel empowered, we have to stop dismissing ourselves as raging lunatics when we bleed. We are all working so hard to cultivate equality and yet, we continue to perpetuate the myth that we can’t be trusted to be reasonable for a few days at a time, twelve or so times each year. And while it’s always good to bust this myth to the non-menstruating population, to cultivate the change we desire, we have to shift the way we perceive ourselves.
There are a great many resources available to help us explore this topic but for now, I just want to invite you to pause and notice the relationship you have with this tender time of the month. Now that you’ve read this, pause to take it in. Perhaps you can email it to yourself and read it again when you feel the intensity building. Just notice how you’re showing up in the world.
Maybe you can share it, invite the women in your world to talk about how they feel about this part of being a woman. If you have children, think about how what you’ve taught them. Do they know that bleeding isn’t a curse and that the emotional intensity is sacred? Pause to consider whether you’re stepping into your power or shying away from it, and if you’re pulling back, dig deeper into that impulse. The need for feminine energy is strong in all corners of the world. Now is the time to heal, to reconnect with our true strength. Once we access it, the shadow cannot outrun our healing, loving, creative light.
(This post was originally featured on Care2 on Sept 19, 2012.)
****Trigger Warning**** This post contains information about recovering from sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
“Going to the dentist cannot be part of my self-care because it triggers memories of being orally raped. I have not been to the dentist in 15 years and I’m afraid my teeth are going to fall out.”
Dear Unruly Woman,
We all have our stuff, you know? Literally, every single person I know has something they’ve resisted doing because of old wounds. You are not alone in this struggle and you don’t have to be alone on the journey back to health.
If you were my friend, I’d grab your hands, lean in real close, and tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. I would promise you that there’s a way to make dental care feel possible if that’s what you want. We would talk about the trauma, how much healing work you’ve done, and what it would take for you to feel safe in a dentist’s chair.
I would ask if you know any dentists that feel safe. If not, I’d ask if you would be willing for me to ask around to find one who is sensitive to your needs. (I have oodles of women in my community who are rocking life after trauma, so referrals like this are usually easy to find.) I’d make calls and find a list of just right providers to consider.
We’d meet again to talk about the list of options. I’d tell you how they responded to my inquiry, why I felt like they could be trusted, and what all they were willing to do to help you feel safe. If any of them resonated for you, I’d ask permission to make an appointment for us to visit them to talk about what’s possible. If it felt true for you, we would go check them out — share your concerns, ask questions about what lies ahead, and listen to their ideas about how to help you feel safe. If it went brilliantly and you felt ready, we’d make an appointment to have your teeth cleaned.
We’d make a plan for that day. I’d go with you if you wanted. Hell, I’d gather an Unruly village to go with you, if that’s what it takes to make you feel safe. I’d go back with you. I’d hold your hand. The dentist would explain their every move before they made it. If at any point you felt even remotely unsafe, the dentist would stop and wait for you to be ready to proceed. If you were unable to continue, we’d leave and come back when you are ready to begin again. We’d do this as many times as it takes for you to heal these wounds and meet your dental needs.
(There’s also something called sedation dentistry, which allows you to be asleep while your dental work is done. If the trigger is so extreme that it couldn’t be released with less intense approaches — and assuming you could feel safe under those conditions — that’s another option we could explore.)
If you were my friend and you lived here in Minneapolis, I know exactly where I’d take you. Our family dentist and her extraordinary team would give you as much time and energy as necessary to help you feel safe enough to proceed with treatment. I know this because they held my hand off and on for the last year. Before we found them, it had been nearly 10 years since my last dental visit.
If you can make these calls and have these powerful conversations with dentists, do it. If you can’t, ask someone who loves you to help. If you can’t bear that, email me and I’ll help you figure out how to find a safe place to secure dental care in your city. I have no idea how all of this will land (or if you’ll ever even read it) but I want you to remember the most important part.
You deserve this. Yes, I’m sure.
You deserve to fully recover from this pain. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to be supported. You deserve to release every single thing that keeps you from loving your body. You deserve to have your needs and desires met. You deserve to say yes to you.
I can feel that you have already healed hundreds of little pieces of the fallout from this trauma. When you’re ready to tend to this one, you will heal it too.
Love and truth to you,
Christy, The Unruly Woman
Click here to submit your Unruly Confessions & Unsigned Mail. Some Unruly Confessions and Unsigned Mail (with my responses) will be published in Incite, my (ideally) daily attempt to incite unruliness in our community via email. Go here and register to spice up your inbox or ask questions without the cloak of anonymity.
I’m sitting here, fingers poised on the keyboard, knowing there’s a message about the workshop that needs to come through. As always, when it matters this much, it scares me to be the messenger. But I’m putting on my big girl pants because it’s just so damned important. Ask for guidance, wait, and type what comes. No judgement. Just type the freaking words.
It’s been 10 years since I was last at a weight doctors say is healthy for a woman of my height. Even at my goal weight, I still had self-loathing thoughts about my body. I became thin by restricting my food, but could not bring myself even the most basic levels of self-love… things I would never hesitate to do for my children or spouse or friends.
I simply could not, not matter how much everyone told me it mattered, be loving with myself.
The control I gained over my food was not enough to turn my life into a place where I could live my truth. Everything inside of me was falling apart but others saw my shrinking body as a sign I was better than ever. I was not okay.
I was torn between the shell of the woman I’d been on the day I said yes to a new marriage, home, and family and the other woman, the real me, who was blossoming from deep inside.
Each new women’s studies class, self-help book, and therapy session fed the real me and it grew. Every time I spoke my truth, asked for what I needed, or stood up for myself, the real me got larger and stronger. My truth swelled against the the life I’d built when I didn’t know who I really was. The pressure nearly destroyed me.
Once, while driving down the highway, I had a vision of driving my minivan into the concrete barrier. “I just need a break,” I heard in my head. That would let me take a break. That’s what the squeeze did to me. In that moment, I knew my truth had outgrown my shell. I needed to leave. I needed to leave on my own terms. I didn’t want to have to burn down my own life in order to escape it.
What I’ve learned is that to love me is to hold me loosely enough to shed my self. A thousand times I will die and emerge again as a more true version of the woman I came here to be.
Through each evolution, I am returning to myself and the days of disconnection are becoming more and more rare. When it aches, I lovingly tend my heart instead of stuffing the pain back down. When I feel restless, I support my body with the movement it craves. When I feel overwhelmed, I cultivate the quiet and stillness that help me find my way back to the truth of who I am. When I feel lost, I pause and ask my higher self for direction… and then I wait for the answer.
I can’t love myself well when I am a stranger. Self-love becomes possible through self-discovery and self-acceptance. We have to figure out who we are, what we ache for, and we have to pursue it as we do for all of the other people in our lives.
I’m not promising you a workshop about crafting the perfect body. It’s not going to be about strong-arming yourself into all of the things you “should” be doing. It’s not going to be about learning my super secret, trademarked method for making your body sexy enough to love.
My qualifications include flossing my teeth almost every day, drinking nearly enough water, walking to client appointments at the coffee shop instead of driving the car, having my dream job, and doing physical therapy homework for not one but TWO injuries most of the time. Also, I breathe, deeply and repeatedly, to help myself calm down instead of throwing chairs (most of the time). I use water, movement, and laughter to wake up my body instead of sugar like I did for the first three plus decades of my life. I find my distinctly overweight body to be beautiful, sexy, lovable, and worthy of the time and energy it takes to treat it well.
I’m not trying to fix you because you’re not broken. I want to help you reconnect with yourself so that loving your body will come naturally.
Learn more and register today…
Workshop: The One About Loving Your Body
I have this belief that, plain and simple, people do what we want to do. And if we don’t do what we claim we want to do, it means that we must not actually want to do it after all. That might mean that part of us wants to [clean house, do yoga, live the dream, etc.] but a larger part does not and it’s winning the battle.
For example, I used to say that I wanted to lose weight and went on to not release the extra weight. It was reasonable to conclude–especially given all that I knew about calories coming in and being burned–that I didn’t actually want the weight off. Or at the very least, I didn’t actually want to eat less crap and move my body more which is what it was going to take to make it happen.
This mental position feels empowering. This “put your money where you mouth is or just stop talking about it” approach helps me hold myself accountable for the way my actions speak to my true intentions. And it works well. It helped me return to a regular writing practice because I was absolutely unwilling to stop saying I wanted to be a writer.
But there was something else, very possibly a deal breaker, something that I simply couldn’t fit into the “actions speak louder than words” model method of calling bullshit on myself.
I want to dance. I ache to dance. I’ve wanted to dance since I was a girl and forty years later, dance just keeps calling my name. My want to dance has a capital W. It might even be an all caps WANT to dance.
But I don’t dance. Not regularly, not anymore.
Two years ago, I danced wildly for several months. It was a very dark time and dance saved me. It helped me reconnect with myself and gave me the strength to end a difficult relationship that no longer felt true for me.
But then I stopped dancing. The light returned to my life, more light that I’d ever experienced before, and I stopped needing to dance to survive the darkness. It’s been more than a year since I strayed from my dance practice.
But the want to dance never left me. It continues to feel incredibly real. I still haven’t had a day that dance didn’t matter to me, that I didn’t feel like a woman who needs to be dancing. I just haven’t been able to make myself dance.
One day last week, I played music while I wrote in my notebook and the urge to dance bubbled up. My regular impulse to throw my pen and notebook in a bonfire (which happens basically the entire time I’m writing most days) was replaced by the impulse to stop and dance. It had been months since I felt open to dancing and it thrilled me.
Blessedly, my too-long-without-dance paralysis was strong enough to allow me to be still and keep writing and the feeling continued to grow. I studied it, searching for the difference between what was happening inside me compared to my every day “want” to dance which resulted in nothing. I wrote for several pages trying to put words to the new sensations in my body.
I realized it went far beyond want. This was a deep, vibrating drive that pushed me into action. This was a true desire to dance.
Desire bridged the gap between the flat, emotionless, mental “I want to dance” and actually dancing. The cognitive commitment of months’ worth of my most sincere want was dwarfed by the desire for my body to surrender to the music in that moment.
Instead of having to drag myself into dance, the desire was pulling me in!
And then I danced. It felt incredible. The urge was actually impossible to resist. I was awakened, like a fire in my core fueled me into motion. After all of this time, I finally had enough energy to dance! My body responded to the rhythms like it was the most natural thing in the world and the barriers that had paralyzed me for nearly a year splintered into nothingness.
I finally freaking danced.
Since that day, the more I dance, the stronger the desire becomes. I feel like I’ve been plugged back into the source of all divine energies. A whole new paradigm is being shown to me–making connections between passion and breath and movement and sex and art and health. It’s almost too much to digest. I hardly know how to begin to process it for myself, let alone how to share it, but I’m crystal clear it starts here:
Dance and write. Dance and write. Dance and write.
And so I am… more to come.
I rented this body. I don’t really know much about it.
I find it endlessly difficult to use this thing that makes me human.
I don’t know how to explain it but I’m in this place where I love my body, I accept that this is my size, but I know this isn’t my truth. I know this is not the size or shape that is true for me. I want to be stronger. I want more energy. I want to feel alive in a way that I don’t right now. Right now, I feel like I’m underwater, moving oh so slowly. Everything takes longer and requires more energy than it needs to take. And not just my body but my mind too, leaving me accomplishing a fraction of what’s possible with each day I am gifted.
Plain and simple… this isn’t efficient. I can’t possibly accomplish what I came here to do if I’m operating at fraction of my potential. This has to change. It’s needed to change for far too long. Now is the time.
Now. Is. The. Time.
This is the season of my life when my relationship with body, food, and movement are healed. (I just heard that this shift will blow open my intuitive abilities, too, and my mind.)
But what does this even mean? Where do I begin? What must change? What gets to change?
Choice is everything. I am in choice.
It’s clear to me now that I wasn’t really in choice before. At least in that I didn’t have what was necessary to be here in this space having this awakening at this exact moment. I was choosing other things to heal, that which was accessible to me at those times.
This is deeper. This body is the aspect of myself of which I have the least understanding. I’m stepping into this space at this sacred time, as I enter the second half of my life, as I awaken my inner priestess, as I have the love I’ve always dreamed of and a profession rooted deeply in my heart. The children are nearly grown and all three of these beautiful people can be my teachers during this awakening, as each one of them deeply understands the body.
Food and movement–these are the aspects I know well. But also healing touch and strength and breath and the way that energy pulses through me. My mind is swirling with the pieces I know–Katy Bowman, massage, physical therapy, my DANCE, living foods, core muscle development, stretching, and reconnection to earth. So much to learn… the overwhelm tempts me to turn away but I want to stay. It’s time to stay and play. I wanted to host a reunion of all of the pieces of my soul and I did it. Now, it’s time to come home to this body, to occupy the temple that’s been gifted to me.
Deep breath… What’s next?
Ready to Tame Your Space and Simplify Your Life? We begin soon… learn more here!