A Thank You Letter To An Adult Bully

The further we get from high school, the more surprising it is to see that bullying never goes away.  They may not ever change, but every time you experience this you have the choice to change your response. You have the choice to look at their stagnation and find in it the motivation to bloom.

Recently a bully lashed out at myself and my community. After the initial shock, I found myself feeling gratitude for the things she showed me.

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Dear Bully,

Thank you for a surprisingly beautiful day, and forcing me to grow in ways I couldn't do on my own. We can do a lot of the work for growth by ourselves. We can journal, meditate, dive into our shadows when they pop up, sit in the muck instead of running from it, and examine our wounds with compassion. But after all of that intellectual and spiritual processing we still need real world application. It is one thing to say "this is who I like to think I am," and another thing entirely to say "I did it. I have rewritten my story." Thank you for ripping those wounds open and holding up the mirror to my shadows. 

I will be the first to admit that I live in a rather beautiful little bubble most of the time. My soul-sister and I have worked tirelessly for the past few years to build a loving community where women and their families come together to support and care for one another. I am blessed with safe spaces where I can share my trials, successes, and silly stories safely. I have an absolutely incredible partner who has brought me more love and healing than I ever believed possible, and friends who know and accept every inch of my soul. This bubble is incredible, but it cannot protect any of us from the ugliness of the world. 

 In the past two years I have also lost loved ones - including a grandmother who helped raise me, and a daughter I was only able to carry for a few weeks. I also went through a divorce, and several intense betrayals. Life spares no one, no matter how sparkly their highlight reel may appear.

You didn't see that, though. You disliked me from the get-go. You saw me leaving my marriage and felt the sting of your own loss somehow reflected in me. I felt for you. I welcomed you back into the sacred space I had created, even after your harsh words, hoping you would find what you needed. We allowed you to stay, not concerned that you did not contribute or share - simply allowing you the options of a safe community whenever you may decide to join it.

Months later, seemingly out of the blue, you lashed out at me in a very abrupt and confusing way. I repeatedly tried to respond with love and kindness, and then blocked you. You found my business email and continued to insult me, name call, and even slut shame me for my divorce. 

I won't lie, I sobbed after. You see, one of my easiest triggers is feeling misunderstood. You gave me the gift of finally realizing that the way you see me might be through such a distorted lense that it truly does not say anything about me. Your responses to me (one of which was an email that simply said "freak") clearly showed emotion driven reactiveness, and I wanted to avoid that. It is something I have also struggled with, and I hate the guilt that often follows it. You gave me the chance to practice taking a deep breath and a step back, while choosing love. My boyfriend has been reminding me for months that someone choosing to spit on a gift I give them does not devalue or reflect negatively on the gift itself. A gift is no less beautiful just because the recipient can't see or acknowledge it. I responded to you with as much kindness as I could muster, and you returned with hate. For the first time I was able to hold back from explaining myself, or begging you to see me, and I accepted you for where you are. I can see your hurt, but I am not going to carry it. Thank you for showing my growth in these areas, and testing my mettle. 

The quote below came to mind

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This always struck me as an incomplete sentiment. It is our own responsibility to handle ourselves and our actions, of course. We also need to realize that none of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes we may be unaware of. Just because someone is delivering a message in a crude way does not mean there is no validity to it. You gave me the gift of reassurance. I got to see myself through the eyes of my sisters. What you said struck me deeply. I try very hard to respond to as many people as I can when they share, and to be mindful of how often I share, and the tone of my contributions. I have a great fear of taking more than I give. You wanted me to feel shame for reaching out for help in my times of need, or sharing my struggle. This is something I have always done with a very clear intention of being open and honest so others would not feel so alone in their own difficulties.

I did not want to cry to my community about how someone was cruel to me. I did not want loving reassurances that what you said wasn't true. I knew that I would doubt these messages, and wonder if they were just trying to make me feel better. Instead I owned that perhaps I was not showing up in the world the way I intended. I apologized to anyone who may have shared your feelings, and invited anyone to reach out to me and let me know if there were ways they needed me to lead in a different way. The loving lionesses I call my tribe roared in response. There was a cascade of comments and private messages that has continued for the past two days. Many of these brought tears to my eyes and deeply humbled me. If I had asked for comfort, these kind words would not have healed me so deeply. Instead, now, I feel fortified against the next attack. Whether it is the voice in my head that leads me to self doubt, or another bruised heart lashing out at the world to avoid themselves, I feel more prepared. I can hear you. I can examine myself with open eyes and reassess when necessary. I do not have to believe every insult hurled at me. 

You gave me the gift of seeing my community through new eyes. When you attacked our group I took a moment to pause and check the tone. I couldn't help but smile seeing so much positivity, laughter, and honesty. Of course there were posts asking for positive energy, love, support, or strength. How rare is it, in this world, to have those things on tap, at any given moment? There were vents that brought me joy, because I knew how much lighter you can feel after getting words out of your heart and onto a page (or screen). There were sweet responses, fiery advice, and even a cheeky joke or two. 

You gave the gift of perspective. It would be easy to worry that maybe sharing didn't do what I had hoped. Maybe I actually didn't help anyone to feel less alone. But then the responses came in. Some of the strongest women I've ever met let me know that I helped them in some way by getting up the courage to put my words out into the world. They shared their own struggles with me, and suddenly I was less alone. They let me know, with kind honesty, how they had perceived me at first, and how being raw and honest (and, lets face it, a hot mess at times) helped to bring us closer and reminded them how we all struggle, and that's okay.

You gave me a gift as a mother, as well. It broke my heart to look at my sweet babies and realize that some day someone like you would touch their lives as well. I will admit my compassion begun to turn to disgust as I thought on this. Instead of feeding that monster I chose to direct that energy towards a loving goal. I begun talking to my daughter as we prepared breakfast together. I spoke in very vague terms, that she could relate to without carrying any of my discomfort, and asked her for her thoughts. I wanted to know what she would do. It turns out she is decades ahead of where I was at her age. She saw that there is no point engaging, and said she would respond with kindness or not at all. I asked how she would feel in a situation like this, and she smiled over her oatmeal "What's that thing you said about the peaches?" My heart burst with pride. My girl? She gets it. She is going to be just fine. 

You have also shown me where I still have work to do. I have always struggled hitting the post button on blogs, facebook groups, and often in private messages when I need support. Your voice will likely rear up for me on occasion. I will choose to listen to my tribe instead. 

As much as I would love to say I feel nothing but compassion for you, I still have plenty of room for growth there as well. I do not believe we are here to transcend the human experience. We are here to be human, in all of its mucky, messy, perfectly flawed ways. But we are not here to carry the negativity and pain someone else tries to pawn off on us. I remember being in elementary school, and misusing the word pity in place of empathy. My mother explained to me how this could be insulting, because to give pity means you believe the person is pitiful. Empathy is a true understanding of where they are. I do not feel anger towards you, but I do not feel empathy either. Right now pity is the best I can honestly muster. I am struggling to fully understand how anyone can so willingly try to place hurt into the world. I cannot wrap my head around feeling justified in causing another pain. I struggle to understand how your wires could be so badly crossed that kindness enrages you. And so I thank you for this mirror, as well. I hope in time I can move from confused pity to genuine empathy. 

Love, light, and still a little what the ****,
Amber

They Didn't Break You, Darling. They Never Had That Kind of Power.

They will try to convince you that these wounds are your fault. They will try to tell you that,  "You made them this way. You brought it on yourself. You were the reason for their actions." Not that you owe anyone anything, but I want you to do something for me. In your kindest  voice, dripping with all the honey of your sweet soul, I want you tell them to fuck right off with that abusive nonsense.

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Empathetic Empress

I see you boo. You magnificent emotional beast. A mix of a complicated beautiful disaster and the light the world needs. My healers. My wild women-intricately unique, creating cosmic explosions of goodness around every bend of darkness. My truth seekers. I see you longing, ACHING for the irresistible... and for us, unattainable need for simplicity.

To just be LESS sometimes. To posses normalcy... a fantasy unreachable on days like this.

How erotic it would be to go through life without being dragged away in every interaction of pain and absence of healing. With every itch for less, the pursue of fixing and empowering triumphs without measure.

Why do we need to feel EVERYTHING though.

This sought after gift can so quickly become a prison of healing, spreading ourselves so thin we lose ourselves.

We lose our light.

But still we sit in the dark with these gifts that will not leave. They ache to be unleashed, begging to heal the next soul it encounters even when there is nothing left.

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I see the magic oozing from your fingertips. Its messy as fuck isn't it? No matter how hard you try to wipe it from your soul to fit into this sanitized world, that magical shit gets everywhere. In an over sanitized world that magical mess scares them. The ones who wear normalcy like a badge of honor. We want what they have.. so we sit on our hands until the magic lessons.

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I feel you. I feel you fall from exhaustion. Collapsing from your unsung cries- needing to siphon your straining light into these souls with no refuel. Before you jump back up, beautiful warrior, I ask you one thing: Embrace the fall. Feel the silence of the dark. You are safe here. Breathe in this space of needed broken despair- you've earned a beautiful temporary rest. We must bend and break again and again to rise to our fullest glory.

I hear you. I hear your screams muffled from the ocean of judgement trying to drown you. A world who asks you to be less. Don't you dare fight those waves. Bathe in their oceans of judgment, sweet thing... because once you see the truth- the realness of the water they once tried to suffocate your spirit in.. you'd see what that ocean really is. The world is fearful of someone like you- their fears and self hatred have manifested itself into a wild sea, desperately hoping these crashing waves of shade and snide remarks lessen their chances of having you stand fully in your power. Because you see gorgeous... their self judgment becomes so suffocating it must be released at the very being that threatens who they've disillusioned themselves to be.

You my dear are real. You are whole on your own, and how dare you stand so boldly in your truth! You make it so hard to hold the mask they so tightly clutch.. because if your glimmering authenticity breaks their illusion of perfection and complacency.. they'd have to face their reflection, and dive into that water with you. And although they can create colossal waves- they know they can't swim like you.

Do you see it? Do you see the waves of lies crashing before you? This truth is your armor- your oil slick. Your mermaid tail. Use this truth to to swim fiercely through the turbulent self doubt they toss your way, because now baby, you see its not yours to carry.

Everything they want to irradicate from you is the wholesome remedy they need to bring them back to life.

So don't you dare compare your powerful self to the normalcy that surrounds you. Stand firmly in your essence. Find your flow unapologetically. Spread that oozing magic as far as you want to. The world needs balance- all those who add to the normalcy and YOU.

The impact you make is an atomic explosion of healing. A pristine chaotic rarity.

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So why do we feel everything so much?
Can you see it now?

We feel it so we can see it.
Heal it. Make it beautiful again.
The wave makers, the lovers, the ones just like us.

I know you're scared. But beautiful goddess...
Do you know the secret to making out of the dark?


Find your fellow atomic explosions.

Those cosmic healing mess makers. Hold out your hand and let down your ivy tangled encasement so they can see you in all that you are. Because you know what.. we are waiting for you too. To guide you when you feel lost. To hold you when you cannot do it anymore.

We'll remind you of your worth, help heal those wave makers, and if we can't, well kindly pull you from the water and help you use your voice to tell them to go fuck themselves with so much light and love they wont know if they're wounded or healed. We will pull you up, and make you reach higher than you ever have before.

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We are the ones who have paved the way before you, waiting in other realms ready for you cues. We are the ones around you, hiding behind our own wounded walls waiting to be your comrade. You see, beautiful one, you are not alone in this, That was never the intention on this journey. Though we see your brilliant strength, we are here with you.

When you have a day, where the temptation of normalcy peaks in, asking for your desire..

You remember who the fuck you are.

 


This piece was contributed by Katie Happyheart, of New Hampshire. Go check her out to learn more about her incredible intuitive services! 

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Please note that we joyfully open our little corner of the internet as a safe space for all women to share their voices. We do not necessarily agree, or disagree, with all opinions shared, but seek to offer community to a widest possible array of women. If you read something that concerns you, you are always welcome to contact us to let us know. If you wish to be published on Wild Woman Journal send your work in today!

 

 

 

We Need To Talk About Sexual Abuse In Relationships

When we think of sexual abuse we think of rape and other physically violent acts. Often, though, the abuse in a relationship is insidious. Society normalizes several of the ways it manifests, clichés about gender reinforce harmful stereotypes, the victim's kind heart and loving intentions are weaponized against them, and it can often take years to even begin to acknowledge that something isn't right. 

I recognize that sexual abuse is wide spread and highly variable from one situation to another. All I can speak to here is my own experience. I am sharing my story now in the hopes that it will bring awareness to those who are being fed stale and damaging banalities so they can hopefully find their voice. I also ask all those who do not identify with my story to take to heart that there is a difference between playful flirting and coercion, and that a friend who 'can't keep up' with their partners sex drive may be reaching out for more than jokes and platitudes. The moment they feel uncomfortable with the intimacy in their relationship their is a problem. Please, validate this for them. 

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It started gradually. I had always had a decently high drive, yet my then-boyfriend wanted sex more often than I did. When I would tell him I was tired, stressed, or just not in the mood he would often push, ever so gently (at first). Maybe he would offer me a back rub that he had no intention of sticking to, or try to kiss me and see if it could turn into more. If I continued to tell him no he would then begin asking for other things. If I didn't want sex maybe I could still give him head or a hand job. It didn't matter that I needed rest or support, he needed to get off. In very little time this need of his quickly turned into something I was aware of every single day. If I pulled away from a kiss that was escalating, said I was too tired, or worried about burning dinner when he randomly tried to pull me away from the stove there were loud sighs, angry movements around the house, and sulking. I knew that if we had just had sex the day before, he was slightly more likely to let it go that day. Once we got to two nights in a row without anything I knew he would push. After that he would begin getting cranky, grabbing his crotch and looked pained whenever he looked at me or touched me at all. And so I began counting days. 

"I'm tired tonight, but I'm closing at work tomorrow. If I skip tonight I'm going to have to stay up even later tomorrow when I'll surely be exhausted. I might as well just do it now, so I can hopefully get some sleep later." I tried to hold on to pleasure and desire, but they do not flourish in those conditions.

To hear him describe things you would think I should take this all as a compliment, or even a sign of love. I was his ultimate fantasy. Everything about me turned him on. I was just so beautiful he couldn't help himself. He wanted to feel connected to me. That was his love language, and I wasn't speaking it enough. Even sweet compliments were often punctuated with a lip bite and 'mmm' or grabbing himself to show me what I did to him.

I was able to brush all of this off as 'boys will be boys' nonsense until we began having children. Even when I was so sick I lost 20 pounds in a month and needed to be hospitalized I would be asked to 'at least' give him something if we couldn't have sex. I found myself looking forward to the 6 weeks postpartum when I was told I couldn't safely have sex. I was grateful for a poorly repaired tear that needed to be fixed, giving me another month without having to make excuses. By my third pregnancy I was saying I was sick on days when I felt fine, just to see if he would let me off the hook.

I blamed motherhood, or aging further into my twenties, for my now non-existent libido. I thought there must be something wrong with me. I drank special teas, read as many articles as I could, and reached out to friends. I was constantly reassured that our sex life was far more active than anyone else I knew, and that it was normal not to want sex every single day. I was met with stereotypes about the ever-lustful husband and the frigid wife. There was even a news story about a woman who forced herself to have sex every day, for a year, to bring her sex drive back. I honestly considered giving that a shot. Instead of worrying that I was forcing myself to have sex when I didn't want to my husband was behind the idea. 

Over the years I spoke to him several times about the pressure I was feeling, and how it was pushing me further and further away. I even went so far as to put a complete moratorium on sex, stating that I did not want to hear a single word about it until I decided to make the first move. This brought me about a week of semi-peace, before his moods began to shift, and I knew I couldn't keep the environment in the house pleasant if I pushed it much further. 

Sex was often painful, and again I questioned what was wrong with me. The burning from lack of lubrication would often become too much to take, and I would have to run to the bathroom for a break. It didn't matter that I was clearly hurting and not in the mood, he would sigh and make me feel guilty until he finished. As sex became more and more painful I figured out that three times a week would typically suffice, so long as I did other things to keep him happy most other nights. 

He thought this constant attention should boost my confidence, but it accomplished exactly the opposite. I felt no autonomy over my body. I struggled through my teenage years to love my body for its appearance. I now struggled in adulthood to heal from that space because my body was not my own. I did not feel desirable and powerful, I felt objectified, weak, and ashamed. 

I changed into the sweatpants he hated before he came home from work, stopped dancing as I made dinner, asked him to go into another room when I would exercise, and became adept at side-stepping hugs and dodging kisses. He would get angry, of course, but that was more tolerable than the alternatives.

This constant struggle for autonomy threw my body into fight or flight, and often made physical contact nearly impossible. Just like a child who giggles uncontrollably at the threat of being tickled, my hypothalamus was being stimulated and flight or fight was being triggered, causing me to become extremely and painfully ticklish nearly all over my body. I learned to ask for a massage before trying to be intimate, in an attempt to trick my body into relaxing and allowing any other form of touch. This gradually decreased in effectiveness, as I clearly knew what was coming, and would tense uncontrollably the moment things changed.

I finally began seeing how selfish he was during my third pregnancy. When I was too sick to do absolutely anything he would ask me to talk dirty to him while he jerked off. He would beg for stories of past lovers, reinforcing his manipulative compliment that I was his 'ultimate fantasy.' I hated this. I hated talking dirty, making up stories, and having to speak in this way. I told him this nearly every time1 he asked, but he persisted. The fast rocking of his arm combined with the smell of his sweat as he pressed me against him would leave me running to be sick as soon as he finished. He was now not only stealing my voice in the present, but reaching through time to claim my past power and pleasure for his own. It made my skin crawl, and I became utterly repulsed by him. With the intensified senses and nausea of pregnancy I would struggle to kiss him, or even hug him, without tasting bile.

As the sexual abuse grew, so did the verbal, emotional, and eventually physical. He never threatened me. He would even say that it was always okay for me to say no. But when I did the consequences were always there, despite me asking him not to behave this way - Sulking, brooding, sighing, being grumpy, and the guilt of not performing the way my partner needed. In the end orgasms were currency in our relationship, and they were my only chance at buying peace. 

The normalcy of this was is so ingrained in our collective consciousness that despite my attempts at seeking help, I was often made to feel like this was just the way things were meant to be. On occasion I would even have women tell me they wished their husband had the same appetite. Women commiserated and offered solidarity while laughing about faked headaches, but no one ever questioned whether this was acceptable. One day, finally, I reached out to a group on Facebook that is dedicated to body and sex positivity for women. A few of the comments were similar to what I had heard before, but one person called things out in a way I desperately needed to hear,

"He is taking your consent. That is not how consent works. Anything that is not an enthusiastic yes is a no." That is what finally opened my eyes to the fact that what he was doing was more than just obliviously making mistakes. We had spoken. I had begged him to stop. He was choosing to ignore my rights to my own body, and manipulate me, to fulfill his own vile and selfish needs. After over a decade of enduring him I finally saw his reprehensible actions for what they were: Abuse. 
 

-Anonymous


It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.
— Madeleine Albright

Happily Ever After...And After That?

Have we established this yet? There is no such thing as a simple as happily ever after. The most amazing romance (which I can genuinely say T and I have had) always becomes a marriage that naturally, in the course of things, requires work. The move to an exotic (cough... Scottish) island means that one has to live with the people there... and their issues.  And even the loveliest child a parent could ask for has wobbles, which sometimes makes said parent glance in on their situation and say to themselves: this looks and feels absolutely bonkers. And all of this requires an enormous growth in character, a funny new unforeseen cynicism and sense of humour. And self-reliance.

I guess we were after all this. Theoretically. Time once again to stomp up and take responsibility for the reality of these things we asked for.

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So, I ended my first blog, which I intend to make a book out of this year, by hook or by self-publishing crook. But it seems there is more to say. I have other intellectual, personal and writing projects on, but it seems there is more to be said about life on an island. Like everything in life, I am not entirely sure where this will end up.  This is not the muse’s business, nor the motivation of the creative process. Or so I am learning. I am finding that the old adage ‘write for an audience’ is completely counter-intuitive for me personally. Counter-creativity. And it turns out great writers out there seem to also agree. JRR Tolkien apparently wrote advice to a sixteen-year-old girl: “Don’t write at first for anyone but yourself.”(Brain Pickings) In her creativity podcast Elizabeth Gilbert discusses with Rob Bell how following your creative flow is like riding on a freeway, but considering the audience too much, particularly a what-would-they-say critical audience is like getting off in a “bad neighbourhood”.

Right now, I am watching the five to twenty five birds vie for the seed and water I put out on our improvised bird table. (A metal table that came with the house, which I hope to be able to clean the bird shit off next spring, with a metallic bird food holder and an old iron skillet that catch rain water.) 

It’s funny because I love feeding the birds. One of my weekly staples is bird food and I buy it in bulk. But when you watch the birds closely, it makes one doubt even the benevolent side of nature. The rock doves are big bullies, to each other, to the other birds. They’ve now scared off all the house sparrows and the robbins only creep in when no one else is around. The big, clowny sea gulls I scare off since they can eat anything and no one has ever heard of a sea gull starving in the winter. And then you glance up again and the house sparrows have flown back en masse and are holding their own with the doves which seem suddenly much more tolerant. Can’t we all just get along? I can hear Rodney King’s plea on the 80s television in my head, broadcasting the Detroit news.

I am home because I am sick. It doesn’t look like anyone’s else’s sickness. I choose to go when I feel a lurgy coming on. I rest the hell out of it, hydrate the hell out of it, gentle yoga and stay in bed and read the hell out of it. I might watch a gentle chick flick from the oughties the hell out of it later today. There are many people around me who stay sick, come to work incessantly and generally just infect the rest of us.  We all preach rest, but I thought once upon a time that I would try practicing what I preach. And to be honest, I don’t feel the mess I seem to observe around me be pretty regularly. I think the Scottish have a righteousness in relation to work issue more than the Puritanical Americans (who were a lot of them Scottish) have. What have I moved into?  The irony? I work for the National Health Service.

Could I work today? Yes, my job is such that you could prop me up at my desk, click, click, click just like I am doing now. I’m not dead, for goodness sake. But the long term effects of working, not resting, going out in this bone-shaking cold and spreading my germs and partaking in others’ infections... Well, there has got to be some take in the give. I’ve never regretted taking a day off. I don’t ‘take the mick’, but I also will not kill myself for any job.

So, here I am, day three, fully on the island. And I can see how just being here all the time could send someone a bit loopty. I have been advocating for T to get off the island more often, volunteer, find other work ‘out there’. Whatever. I think when your whole world is a small island with its sixty-something inhabitants and all their lovely issues, it could be a bit tough. We have heard the same from new, wise friends who have come and gone from here several times.

And in the second, arguably tougher, definitely colder and more depressing half of winter, one must make an effort to look after themselves. Not just sorta or in a half-assed fashion. Practice what we preach. Not take it out on those around themselves, like some are apt to do.

Resist going back to work despite the fact I woke up with guilt and an acidy belly which I am sure is directly related. I will remind myself like a mantra today: “It is ok to take a few days off when necessary to look after yourself. This is part of the deal.”

And maybe, today, perhaps I will venture out. I am on the mend and the sun is threatening bright light from behind the clouds from above the islands nearby.

T just informed me he is going mad. “It’s official,” he says. Glad we’ve all cottoned on. We’ll just be here holding the tension between going mad and being gloriously mad. Opposite things can be true and the juju of a situation can change, vitally and imperceptibly.

Last night, we spoke to a dear, old friend (T has known her since her was about five; she is family) for about an hour-and-a-half, work-shopped some of the interpersonal stumbling blocks which have jumped up unexpectedly in our path. We made plans to see her soon. These are some handy tips on ways to live, to survive and thrive on an island. 

Get off the island. Come back and appreciate it.

 

About The Author

Britt Doughty-Godchaux is a writer, parent, partner, traveller, yogi, health nut, award-winning hugger, consummate explorer and dilettante who lives and works from a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland. Originally from Savannah, she has resisted becoming a writer since she became literate, because it is not an easy thing to be, but she cannot stop writing as it turns out, so here are. Reach her at brittdgx@gmail.com


Please note that we joyfully open our little corner of the internet as a safe space for all women to share their voices. We do not necessarily agree, or disagree, with all opinions shared, but seek to offer community to a widest possible array of women. If you read something that concerns you, you are always welcome to contact us to let us know. If you wish to be published on Wild Woman Journal send your work in today!

Good Moms Don't Happen Over Night

"Two aisles later I heard a barrage of screaming from a different woman who was berating the toddler’s mom.  Telling her how awful she was; that she had video taped the whole episode in the meat aisle; that she was going to call the cops if she laid a hand on her child again; that her boyfriend had no balls because he didn’t stop her from abusing their child; that she was going to broadcast the whole scene on Facebook...."

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Nothing Wrong With Being Empowered

When was the last time you felt empowered?

I have never been someone who enjoyed exercise. In school I hated gym class with a passion. After puberty I was never in any sports and let dance fade away until I was an adult. I have tried different techniques over the years to be in better shape.

And as someone who had a rocky relationship with exercise, it was hard for me to understand people who got addicted to it and really, truly enjoyed it. But then I found Zumba fitness, and I got a tiny glimpse into that world. I went to classes regularly, and then I started downloading the music and dancing to it in my kitchen. I understood a little better. It was hard for me to stand still when a Zumba song came on.

And then, one day, it happened. I was attending a Zumba fitness class, and we were doing a toning song to “Confident” by Demi Lovato. I liked the song all right. But I tend to grow to love a song more when I learn a dance to it. Everything about the song and the moves was uplifting. We used small free weights as we danced, building muscle. And at the climactic ending of the song, we did jumping jacks for about sixteen bars. The first few times I tried it I simply wanted to die. I didn’t think I would make it, but I kept pushing through. I kept hearing those words in my head, “What’s wrong with being...what’s wrong with being confident?” And then, this one day, not only did I push through the slog of my resistance. I sailed right through it into euphoria.

I felt invincible, untouchable. Confident. Empowered. I felt like I could have kept going. It was incredible. I have never had exercise make me feel that way in my entire life. It was always just something to be endured and survived. I never knew it could be fun, uplifting, or exhilarating. But I did know that I wanted to feel that way again.

The music in Zumba classes is my fuel. I may not love every song. But the fact that every beat has a move at once anchors and frees me. Every second has potential meaning. It’s all there for you, waiting to be unlocked. And what it can unleash in you is incredible. You will feel uplifted so that you don’t notice the slog, the sweat, the breathlessness. You can be carried along in a river of music until you reach the destination you are striving for. That can be weight loss. That can be mental clarity. That can be a simple break from your kids. It can be camaraderie. It can be improved fitness.

It can be empowerment. You can shove all of those doubts away and be encouraged to leave it all on the floor. It doesn’t matter if you can dance like a master. You are doing this for you, and you alone. All that matters is that you keep moving, and you will find yourself far away from where you started.

zumba-NH

Written by Rachel Mowbray.

*You can join Rachel, and experience the incredible fun and joy of a Zumba class, Wednesday evenings at Wild Woman Wellness Center. Head over to our classes page for more info. And, just in case you're feeling nervous, the first class is FREE!
 

Shadow Self

She's the side of you only a select few have seen. You keep her locked away until there is no other choice but to reluctantly crack the door from which she's trapped.. only to give her an Ounce of breathing room. Only an ounce...

 

...Each time you do this she uses all of her strength to break down the barricade you've built for her. Since you were a small child you have been taught she is not welcome. She has been given many labels: Dramatic. Intense. A bitch. CRAZY. Year after year, comment after comment, you build this wall around her and learn to be less. You've learned she is too much. Time after time, moment after stressful upheaval moment, she begs to be seen. She rattles the barricades you've put in place. Sometimes - when the moon is just right, when the light version of yourself becomes weak from holding all of the self abuse you've endured - she breaks free. She is but a rabid animal full of rage and betrayal. Fierceness and hunger for release takes over. She's Starving for realness.

When she is seen and out of her barricade the light version of yourself feels such a loss of control, and the same feelings take over. SHAME. How could this happen? How could I be so weak? Society carefully comes to assist you, locking her away once more. "You're okay" "Look on the bright side " "let's get you back to being happy" because she is foreign to them too. And her very existence validates what they've been hiding themselves. 

Then one day someone hears the rattling. They see the fear in your eyes as they look towards the locks and 2 x 4's you've placed. And they asked to see her. They begin moving each structure of false labeling you put on her. Each barricade you've nailed so tightly on slowly begins to dissipate. Fear becomes you. This goes against everything you've been taught.

 

You hear words foreign to you. "You are safe." " You are worthy of being seen." As you turn, eased by this nurturing language, you see the barricades are off. You turn in horror! This beautiful person will see her. Surely they will run, knowing what destruction she caused. How long will it take to put her back? But that shadow self steps forward. She steps from the wreckage of what you've built around her. That person guiding you through this process sees her as well. Staring in awe of her. Of you. The shadow self reaches out her hands. Slowly the barricades transmute into armor. The label of Dramatic transmutes into a gorgeous vulnerability. Intense - into fierce. Bitch-into focused power. Crazy - into a Queen in touch with her divine femininity, and ready to rule her own world.

You take her hand; seeing both sides of yourself you feel her power -the boundaries she sets in place, the shit she refuses to take, the doubt you once hid behind that she eradicates.

With time, and practice living hand-in-hand with your shadow self, you realize she is not so scary. The less restrictions you have on her the last destructive she becomes. She is your protector, your realness, your strength. You are her groundedness, her love, her light. Walking together as shadow and light you honor all of yourself. With no crippling façades you see the beauty in all of yourself. You are worthy, connected, authentic.

You are whole.

These two parts of yourself who were once very separate now dance and harmonious flow together, allowing a beautiful higher self to emerge. The Wild Goddess within you. And with the sacred union of both parts of self you create the highest levels of humbled worthiness.

And with that show the world how to love you. All of you.

 

Written by,
katie jolicoeur

Finding The Divine in the Earthly

When you're a doula, mentioning what you do for work is rarely simple. Of course, there are plenty of people who know just what a doula is, and those lovely folks are usually eager to tell you their birth stories, their spouses birth stories, or just any ol' birth story they can think of. I know I should be tired of the stories by now, but I love them.

   For a large number of people the initial response is, “You're a what?” Followed by explaining that you are not a midwife.  

  • No, I don't actually deliver the baby. I'm there for emotional support.
     
  • No, I don't coach like you see in the movies; I hate counting at births.  
     

   This is usually followed by the more fun part of the conversation, where they begin looking at you like you are completely insane, or as if you might hold the understanding of one of the great mysteries of the universe.

  • Isn't it gross? Isn't it scary? Isn't it stressful? How do you do it? Why do you do it?!

    I smile, usually delivering some cliché explanation of how beautiful it is, and that it is, typically, nothing like the movies. All of that is true, but like telling a woman who is 4 weeks pregnant for the first time that her life is about to change, it is only the very surface of the truth. The truth is, that birth is a lot of waiting, a lot of unknowns, and that I am a person who likes control working in a field where there is no such thing as control. The truth is that life on-call leaves much to be desired, and has trained me to live with a question-mark hanging over my head – eternally tethered to my phone. So why, oh why, do I do this work?

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   Birth is where I stopped grappling with the bigger questions of the universe, and learned to trust. I do not need to know exactly how things are unfolding to know my place. I do not need to know how dilated you are, mama. I just need to know how you are feeling, and what is helping you. Baby will come. I do not need to know how long it will be until baby arrives. I know my client can sleep if I keep pressure here, and place lavender over there. So, let her rest as long as she needs.  

   Birth is where I first understood that we are not meant to know everything, because that may be too much, but that we should always keep a keen curiosity and unabated desire to learn. It is where I may not know why this placenta is causing my client so much pain and refusing to come out, but I can see the longing in her eyes to feel peace and hold her baby, so I hold her hand instead. It is not knowing why another mother is holding such strict posture and staying quiet, but still being able to find the words to help her let go. It is where I do not understand why things are taking so long, where we try every trick in the book to get baby to descend, and he refuses. It is where my intution tells me his mother, so very committed to natural birth, is right when says 'not this time,' and requests intervention, only to find that the cord never would have reached

  The truth is that I do like control. I like to schedule. I like to plan. I like to know how A leads to B and that it always will. And all of that is exactly why I love birth. Because in birth A sometimes leads to B unless, this time, it doesn't. Because there is no control in birth, and I can let go. I know my clients wishes, I know how to help them get there, and I know that I trust the process. That is all I can, really, know. If I say “she's 8 centimeters and vocalizing well. I should be home before sunrise!” I will be home in two days. If I say “I just got home from her prenatal, but I think I'll head back to check on her.” The baby will arrive before I pull in the driveway. My truth, is that birth is where I find my faith; Whatever that may be.  

   It is incredibly hard to describe, but for someone who thrives on managing things, birth is where I trust. Where I feel strength born of calm. It is where I trust in the knowledge I have obsessively cultivated for the last six years, and do not need to be in control. It is the one aspect of my life where I go in with no preconceived notions, other than the paramount task of a good experience for my client and her family. For all of the vast myriad of possibilities I could encounter at any birth, the one thing I need to focus on is the experience of the ones who chose me to be there. For all that each experience is full of the unknown, it is a space in which I feel at home. It is my quiet.

 
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with love,
Amber

What Does Finding Your Tribe Look Like?

I find myself coming back to this photo and this deeply heartbreaking, uplifting, INTENSE night quite often. It looks so simple. Dim lighting and a slightly blurry shot mask loving faces streaked with residual tears of joy, laughter, and sorrow. I look at this photo and I see love, and hearts fearlessly breaking open.

What do you see? A tribe of women? A group of friends? A fiercely loving sisterhood? Another Facebook group? These things are all true in equal measure; yet none of them even begin to cover the truth.

I see warriors. I see survivors who still possess the fortitude to lift others up long after their own cups have run dry. I see young women, just emerging from girlhood, quietly scurrying into a room full of goddesses who adopt them as their own with no need for pretense or proving. They are loved, lifted, and cherished on the simple and profound merit of being there, and being themselves. I see friendships that may seem unlikely at first glance - until you see the way their souls mirror one another, and their laughter rings the same. I see mothers, grandmothers, and maidens who tend to others until they are bone weary and spent, yet they still mange to carry themselves with grace and tend to their sisters. I see a generation of babies who crawl happily from lap to lap, absentmindedly absorbing a lesson in loving with ferocious tenderness. I see a vast tapestry of religions, doctrines, upbringings, paths, and lifestyles, all choosing to believe in each other. 

If you are ready to find your tribe, join us.

With love,

Amber

Patience is a Virtue - Just Not Mine.

To bring about some positivity during this bleak time of year we (Carolyn and I) gave out journals at our last Red Tent. We have been posting gratitude journal prompts on our Facebook page every morning since. I created the prompts, and yet I shied away from Day 7...

 
 

My eyes. Easy enough. They're my generic answer to any question about favorite, or gratitude inducing, parts. Sometimes if I'm feeling extra plucky I might throw in a line about my uterus for its fairly kickass baby growing abilities.

When the day came to tackle this particular prompt I found my pen hovering uselessly over the page. I knew my answer was a copout. I knew that, despite my work helping other women to love their bodies, gratitude is often the last thing I feel for my own. I also knew that even with a recent burst of positive reinforcement that did help my confidence surge, the voice in the background was still the same. 

Patience is not my virtue. It never has been. This is caused entirely by a fear of future discomfort or disappointment. I have been known to irritate partners with my inability to let things cool, because I need to get past the painful part of a fight. Waiting on any sort of answer leaves me unable to eat or sleep. I would rather dive headlong into a new situation than risk sitting in uncertainty; It's better to fall on my face than wade around in the unknown for any amount of time. Because of this lovely trait anything health related - attempting to lose weight, build muscle, or just feel better - is torture. There is no quick fix. There is no way to know without weeks of effort if I will make any progress. 

Last night, after watching me exercise and hearing me run up and down the stairs for 20 minutes, my husband caught me standing in front of our mirror poking my belly with irritation and (surprise, surprise) impatience. 

He asked, "What in the hell are you doing?" I glared, then sighed.
"I don't know what else I can change. Nothing seems to be helping. Am I not exercising correctly? What could I possibly change in my diet?"
"You just had your third baby, and you weigh less than before you got pregnant. What are you talking about?"
"I don't look any different."
"You lost 5 pounds this month."
"I don't see it."
"The workout you just did was incredible. I can't even do that. You're getting so much stronger."
"I don't see it."
"You can run up and down at least 100 flights of stairs a day without even being sore any more. Your clothes are fitting differently. Look at your endurance!"
"But...I can't see it."
"Honey, please don't take this the wrong way, but I don't know if you ever will. That's my biggest fear."

 "Clearly anything I like here is the result of that errant ray of sunlight."

"Clearly anything I like here is the result of that errant ray of sunlight."

We then went on to discuss that even at 20 pounds lighter, I was never quite satisfied. Even when I reached my goals for running and lifting, I have never quite felt like it was enough. When I occasionally take photos in the mirror, to attempt to see past the dysmorphia, I will attribute one I like to a good angle, or lighting. I am endlessly unforgiving with myself. He also pointed out (which incited more glaring on my part) that I would never speak to anyone in my tribe the way I speak to myself. Much to my annoyance, he was right. In the face of my own impatience I may be striving for a goal that I will never be able to enjoy. I must set aside my desire to rush things, and accept that there is actually no end in sight. Ever.

The first thing that has to change needs to be what I am aiming for. My goal of liking what I see may never happen. Even if it does, it is temporary. Nothing will ever stay the same forever, and if I base my contentment on a temporary result I will face this frustration again, and eventually forever. 

So, where to go from there?

In a previous post I mentioned changing my inner voice before walking into an event or class, and it has worked. Changing the one I deal with day in and day out is going to be harder, but needs to happen. The scale went into the trash, and will not be replaced. My goals now are going to be tangible, measurable, and gentle. If I find myself obsessing about them I am going to go against my very nature and let them go until their grasp on my thoughts has loosened. Inspirational body-lovin' quotes are going on the mirrors. I will begin recognizing and releasing the thoughts that say certain foods require punishment or sacrifice, and instead begin changing those thoughts to ask how they will make me feel. The most important, and almost definitely the most challenging, change will be to recognize the thoughts as they are creeping in and welcoming them with love. Yes, love. I will meditate nightly on what thoughts I may have witnessed, and show myself the same I would treat a friend. I will remember where those thoughts came from, how they were introduced before I was old enough to properly vet them, and show compassion to them - and ultimately myself. I will begin being more cognizant of the comfort I give others, and actually listening to it. 

 I felt I was in a pretty positive place when this journaling challenge began. I thought I was creating this activity for others. I am amazed to see how my tribe is my mirror, and I must learn to trust that reflection.

With love,
Amber

Growing with the Sun

The most powerful obstacle in my life has long been fear/self doubt/body image issues/imposter-syndrome and that nagging little voice in the back of my head that is so utterly convinced of my not-enoughness. All of my life I wanted to do things, but only did them safely from the background. I wanted to act, but always took small roles. I wanted to dance, but stayed in the small performances. The friendships and business partnerships I chose often landed me in the role of the waning moon next to their brilliant sunlight. No matter how much I was doing in the background, it was their personality that shown. I was never the one others were drawn to; Never the one anyone remembered. Even with Red Tents, I had begun intending to be a leader. I had wanted to lend my energy to this important circle in a greater capacity. I instead allowed myself to slip into a quieter role. It was no one's fault by my own. I liked this sheltered safety.  My partner now is a brilliant blazing ball of Sunlight, but she is also immensely supportive and has helped me to find my own light. I also now have a husband who believes in me without reservation, and is thrilled - not frightened by - my wild. They have made all the difference.

Yesterday I intended to further my releasing of these habits with the Solstice. I would gently open myself up to these changes by hosting a small ritual. I honestly thought it would be myself and one or two others. Okay. Small. I can do that. As unfamiliar faces begun streaming in the door I felt complete panic. I honestly considered saying "I'm sorry, I can't do this," and bailing. I didn't.

A dear friend, Emilia, just by being there and being herself, calmed me enough that I was able to muster the nerve to walk out and invite people in. I'm fairly certain my voice shook. I forgot half of what I meant to put into the meditation, and stumbled more than a few times. My lovely partner, Carolyn, saved me by keeping things going when my mind froze and went blank. But I got through. I felt ecstatic and relieved after. I was surprisingly willing to try again, and begun planning how I would do things differently, next time. This sounds like such a small task to many. It was monumental in my life. Stepping into a leadership role in a public way - leading others in something sacred - that impacted me instantly, and to my core.

Red Tent Gatherings, our incredible community, the center...it all feels SO magical. I'm working assiduously to change that inner-voice. It is slowly being replaced by one that sounds an awful lot like a pastor and starts most sentences with "girlfriend."

Wild Woman Wellness Center has blossomed into so much more than a business. it is my second home. It is my shelter. It is a place I can safely explore the versions of myself that I have always imagined, but been too afraid to give life to. It is a place where women I have never met in person bring gifts and offerings as thanks for the way it has changed their lives, even from afar. It is a place where others have experienced change and growth that I can take absolutely no credit for, but am deeply humbled to host.

If you are reading this, thank you for being a part of this community. I would love to read comments below of what you are releasing this year. 

With Love,
Amber