I recently unearthed a poem I’d written twenty years ago and was struck by what I read. Back then, in my late twenties, I was in the throes of a rapturous courtship and consumed with soon-to-be wedded bliss.
Before that happy moment in time, I followed my heart, traveling and living overseas, and finishing my degrees there. I had a great career, fun groups of friends, and a positive way of giving back. On top of all of that, I fell in love.
What could possibly go wrong?
In that state of gratification, I pinched myself from time to time, just to make sure it was all real. And, for all intents and purposes, it was.
But then, one night, deep in the heart of the night, I was shaken awake with an urgent message from my body. I didn’t have time to still the sudden rumblings nor could I. Instead, my body led the way, throwing the covers off me and springing me to my feet. I walked hurriedly to the kitchen wrought with a feeling I didn’t understand but gave into regardless. Involuntarily, I paced back and forth in the kitchen, barefoot, boiling water for coffee. I started ranting to myself about something for which there is no language; deep, at the heart of my being. It was my being.
I could only explain it to myself by starting at the very beginning, using my dreams as illustrations. Something started to flow out like blood it poured with questions, answers, and riddles. I turned to God and I said:
“Yes, I accept this journey,
No, I don’t.
Let me have my way Lord,
Only if it’s in your will.
I’m so angry that you keep doing this to me,
Keep doing it.
I don’t want to do this again,
I can’t wait.
My dreams make me crazy,
Without them I’ll go insane.
I love my life Lord,
When can I die?
I must step back. Is this Yin Yang?
The trouble with Yin Yang is it’s a circle
And that’s the trouble with God
He’s a circle, an all-encompassing one
And you can run around the circle all you want trying to escape
But you never will
Because there is no beginning and there is no end
And you really don’t want to anyway.”
As the words spilled out, I reached for a pen and wrote them all down. My heart sunk and fear gripped the inner sanctum of my stomach. I quickly placed my hand on my lower belly to warm and protect my sacred spaces. With a dazed grin, I acknowledged what I already knew; a fate I suffered and was somehow privileged to have.
I let myself “return to normal” and then carefully buried the piece of paper in a drawer.
Now, reading this message twenty years later, I wince. My gut says, ‘Stockholm Syndrome.’ I’m taken aback by that and by the depth of intimacy I describe between myself and “God” who sounds more like a captor or an Overlord. He and I appear so inextricably woven that I declare our relationship not only “at the heart of my being” but “as my being.”
I can hear the potent tic-toc rhythm of the riddle; the swinging back and forth between owning my power and relinquishing it, His will and mine, dominance and mercy, confusion and clarity.
I wrestle with the weddedness of these ideas; that punishment feels like safety, subjugation feels like acceptance, hierarchy feels like stability and patriarchy feels like survival.
I give a warning to the reader (and to myself) about this paradox; that I (we) may be captured from something, someone. Perhaps we are held captive from a truer story, one that includes our Sacred Mother and Sacred Father; one that includes the sanctity of our sensuality, our human-divine unions, and the sanctity of Mother Earth Herself.
So, where did this narrative come from? Who spun the great spell?
For me, it was depicted in a sculpture I saw twenty years ago while wandering around Stockholm. I stood before the statue of a strong man who was like a God, holding a naked woman in a fetal position on his lap. I couldn’t tell if he was her husband, her father or God. She appeared wet from anesthesia, tired and exposed. He encircled her with his arms, shrouding her punished soul and demonized body in intimate bondage.
Now, looking at the same sculpture twenty years later, I see a man cradling a naked woman in a fetal position on his lap. She’s curled herself in close to him, burying herself in the warmth of his chest. His head bows to touch hers, enveloping her in paternal safety and unconditional love. She is free in her nakedness with him, in her vulnerability. Together with him, she lets herself be seen, loved.
I close this retrospective with a reclamation: I am free.