When I started having severe problems with fibroids way back in 2009 this was one of the hardest things to accept. I didn't want to do either. And I didn't want to be in pain. So for well over a year I tried valiantly to go the course of alternative medicine. I did acupuncture, changed my diet, meditated, starting running, and read about a million books on natural health just to name a few. On the way far out spectrum of natural healing - I started going to an energy healer for chakra alignment. (And if you live near Scottsville, Virginia I will happily tell you how to get in touch with my energy healer because she is awesome.)
Brennen energy healing involves the healer sitting in meditation before your arrival, asking for guidance and support before your session and then when you get there she shares what she learned and then you lay on a table and (like Reiki) she puts her hands lightly above you and channels energy. At one of our earliest meetings she told me she had been visited by a Native American man who said (something to the effect) that he was my life guide and that I needed to embrace/find? my/the? turtle.
The Native American part made sense to me. In completely unrelated energy sessions other people who have worked with me have sensed this presence around me as well. My great-grandparents on my mother's side were Christian missionaries on a reservation in Oklahoma and my grandmother took me to a lot of Native American festivals in Alabama so until I learn otherwise I'm assuming this is where he comes from.
But the turtle. This was new. At the time I was reading a lot of Louise Hay and Christiane Northrup who attribute physical illness with internal emotional imbalances. My problem was two-fold. The uterus is the seat of creativity. So to have problems with the uterus is to have blocked creativity. And "female problems" all come from denying the feminine or not embracing the feminine principle. At the time I had recently graduated with a degree in graphic design but wasn't using it. The third such creative degree I had gotten and not used. I had worked for an abusive man in a wine store in NYC and now was working for a gentle man at a wine store in Charlottesville. But again, no creativity. My ego was carrying a lot of wounds from the NYC job so I assumed the turtle meant that I needed to come out of my shell and try to be creative again. So that's what I did.
But still no healing like I had read about took place. I like quick fixes and this was obviously not going to be one.
Since then I've had 4 surgeries and taken birth control pills to prevent my period. After Lil' D was born (and simultaneously my last fibroid removal surgery was performed) I've still had pain but it has been manageable. The past 16 months have been a complete and surprising blessing, so I put all the natural healing stuff to the side and just concentrated on being a mom and working.
Then I found this book in my neighborhood Little Free Library.
I've read a lot of feminist theory in my days and most of it made me want to fall asleep or I stridently disagreed with it. I didn't believe women were put on this earth to live in angry opposition to man. Or that one could only be a true feminist if you understood incredibly dry pedagogy.
But this book sincerely touched my heart in ways I never knew needed to be found. Through her own journey from Baptist minister's wife to finding what she calls the Sacred Feminine, Kidd describes in a way I could understand what the feminine soul is and how we live in a world that actively negates it.
Patriarchy is subtle. And while, yes what we imagine as patriarchy implies men are at fault, Kidd does an excellent job of refuting that and showing that we are all culturally responsible for patriarchy. How women buy into it too and hold each other to patriarchal standards. She describes how we live in a world where men have formed and named everything in our society and therefore we as women live in a world that is not our own making. I recognized myself instantly in so many passages and archetypes, one in particular was, "The Good Daughter." Kidd writes, "A daughter is a woman who remains internally dependent, who does not shape her identity and direction as a woman, but tends to accept the identity and direction projected onto her." I may have all these outside things that show I am an "independent" woman, but man (pun intended), that sentence rang true.
Kidd writes, "As a girl absorbs her culture, for instance as she watches movies and television, she may also come to understand her real importance derives from her relationship with men and boys...She will notice the things traditionally assigned to women — keeping a home, cleaning, cooking, laundry, child rearing — and grow aware of how little value these things seem to have in the world compared to things men typically do."
Despite having a working mother I internalized the women are inferior message too. At the very least I internalized that female characteristics are inferior. Kidd points out that feminism, when it doesn't embrace the sacred feminine, just reinforces the idea that women need to be more like men to succeed. I remember thinking that boy qualities were much more desired (in not so many words) as a little girl and I would always try to be "brave" or to not cry. Adults, and later peers, would certainly cheer me on as I embraced typical male attitudes. I was the college girl who never let guy stuff ruffle me. I wasn't afraid to sit around a bunch of dudes while they talked about porn. I remember making fun of a girl who threw her boyfriend's collection of Playboys out the window. "Why is she so uptight?" I thought. It makes me sad to think that I was very much shoving my feminine self down down down so that I could appear cooler. I was the perfect example of the girl embracing cultural patriarchy. I remember always wanting to date a guy who had a "cool" job or desirable qualities but never once thought that I myself could have the cool job or the desirable qualities.
Kidd quotes Carolyn Heilbrun about authentic power, "The true representation of power....is (not) a woman beating up on a man or finding a place in the hierarchy and mimicking the old patriarchal ways of entitlement, control, and command. Power is the ability to take one's place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter."
What does the real me think? After 34 years of trying to emphasize my male characteristics or trying to align myself with the right men I'm not sure I know anymore.
There are so many things to quote and discuss in this book that I simply can't do it justice. But I highly recommend picking it up. One of the best parts about her story, though, was how she and her husband's relationship became stronger. They had to start over, in a sense, and redevelop their relationship on more egalitarian grounds but in the end her husband becomes feminisim's greatest champion.
But back to the Turtle.
After my energy healer told me about the Turtle I pulled out an old print that hung in my bathroom growing up. I always loved the picture even though its definitely not the coolest piece out there. So I got it and hung it up in my office to symbolize getting out of my shell. But in one of the first sections of the The Dance of the Dissident Daughter I learned that the Turtle is a powerful feminine symbol. The Turtle held up Mother Earth. And so maybe that's the other piece of the Native American/Turtle puzzle. He wants me to embrace my sacred female soul.
I think it's a long journey but after years of wondering how in the hell I wasn't embracing the feminine enough (Hey! I love dresses!) I'm happy to have the start to the answer. And it's a pretty deep well.