Several years ago, I attended a Goddess Retreat that honored the Divine Feminine aspects of ourselves. One of the activities was body casting and we could choose the ‘parts’ we wanted to keep around for posterity. I had been at two others and in the previous years, had cast ‘the girls’ with one set more ornately decorated with flowers and hearts and the second one simple gold. On this particular occasion, I chose to do something I was more nervous about; covering my face with plaster and breathing through two little holes for about 20 minutes. As an artist, the woman who wrapped me up knew what she was doing and patiently sat next to me as I began hyperventilating and then more calmly breathing through my anxiety. When the mask had hardened, she peeled it off and we set it aside to dry. A few hours later, I painted it, embellishing it with flowers, a heart over my third eye and throat chakras and finished it off with starry eyes. At home, I mounted it on my bedroom wall and on it perched a hat I had gotten many years earlier and placed angel wings behind it. Quite cosmic, if you ask me and also a wonderful metaphor for how I have lived most of my life. On the surface, things look pretty and shiny, colorful and fun, a glowing visage. Beneath it lies fear, hesitation, doubt, anger, resentment, insecurity and gulp…..neediness. I have hidden it well, or so I thought. My M.O. has been to be the go-to person when it would serve me to be the get-to person who allows herself some real-ness, some BE-ing rather than busily doing so much of the time, more being cared for rather than only being the caregiver.
In April, I took the Woman Within Training and began to chip away at the shiny armor that I thought would keep me safe from the perils and pitfalls to which others fell prey. After all, I thought, “I’m resilient and can bounce back quickly from anything.” The thing is, denial can masquerade as high functioning and no one would know what was bubbling under the surface. Last weekend, I experienced a cracking open of the shell that had encased my heart for as long as I can remember, but most recently reinforced by my mother’s death in 2o10. Tears melted the glaciated covering over the anahata (heart chakra) that had served as a sense of protection from the pain of the loss. I had erroneously believed that if I remained in the light, then the darkness of grief couldn’t touch me. The same dynamic is true in relationships. On the surface, it appears that I am close to many people. The reality is, I have a lot of people in my life; I am a magnet for loving souls who show up by overt or subtle invitation and I do treasure them AND YET, it occurred to me today when I was on the way home from an experience that widened the opening, that I rarely let people in deeply. I can name a handful that are permitted access to the inner sanctum and even they don’t get to stay very long. It’s the old belief of not wanting to take up too much time or inconvenience anyone. It also takes the form of keeping potential relationship partners at bay, since if I don’t let anyone in fully, they can’t leave. Sound reasoning, huh? So I dance for a brief time with whoever shows up and then we step away, leaving a piece of each other in (hopefully) safekeeping.
I spoke with two friends on the phone today who told me the same thing; see I’m not as opaque as I might have thought, since they long ago saw through the façade. Both were glad that I showed up, rather than the mask and that in their presence I was able to peel it back. I have to tell you that it was even more of a relief to do it metaphorically than it was to do it in actuality those few years ago. More tears and revelations occurred and one encouraged me to take baby steps in order to honor myself and my needs and the other was glad that I was really feeling, not going back into hiding as I was tempted to do. This morning, I feel all cried out with a softness that I have rarely permitted.
I have long loved this story that I want to share with you. It could have been written for me.
A young woman was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that she had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired her heart for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it.
But an old woman appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.”
The crowd and the young woman looked at the old woman’s heart. It was beating strongly but full of scars. It had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in … but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. The young woman looked at the old woman’s heart and laughed. “You must be joking,” she said. “Compare your heart with mine … mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”
” “Yes,” said the old woman, “Yours is perfect looking … but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love….. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them … and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart but because the pieces aren’t exact, I have some rough edges. “ Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away … and the other person hasn’t returned a piece of his/her heart to me. These are the empty gouges … giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too … and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?”
The young woman stood silently with tears running down her cheeks. She walked up to the old woman, reached into her perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. She offered it to the old woman. The old woman took the offering, placed it in her heart and then took a piece from her old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young woman’s heart. It fit …. but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young woman looked at her heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old woman’s heart flowed into hers.