In the absence of a living breathing wolf dog in my life, I have been seeking to find wildness from other sources. One source is the wildness that lives within me, a wildness I grew up thinking was “unladylike” and therefore undesirable.
As a child, I was surrounded by other girls who dressed and played the part of the delicate flower, prim, dainty. So many of the young women I went to high school with were unwilling to go outside without plastering their face with makeup to create the face they wished to show the world. Their identities required constant care and attention to remain in a state of perceived perfection, and I sought to imitate them in an effort to become an ideal female myself.
Time and again, I failed miserably in my attempts at imitation. Pretty quickly, I realized that makeup was not my cup of tea. For one, it took far too much effort, and it also made my skin breakout. However, not wearing makeup somehow seemed like failure to become the epitome of what it meant to be a woman. I thought that I needed to erase and/or cover up any possible blemish on my person. However, just like those perfectly red, round apples in the grocery store are the ones with the least flavor, these young women who were my role models seemed completely devoid of character. Ones who I knew to be incredibly intelligent feigned ignorance and idiocy around members of the opposite sex.
In my young mind, I did not completely understand what was going on, but I sensed that it was false.
Even still, I wanted to be like these young women, so each of my failures to embody their feminity informed me that I was not feminine or female. I was far more wild, purple heather pelted by wind and rain on the moor, my hair unkempt, legs muscular from playing outdoors, riding my bicycle and then roller blades all day long, and exploring trails through the woods in the suburban town in Massachusetts where I grew up.
It took several decades of suffering before I began to realize and appreciate that being wild and accepting this authenticity was not only exactly what made me a woman, but also what made me an authentic version of my Self with a capital S.
In the seven years since beginning this conscious journey toward what I have referred to as self-sustainability, I find that more and more often I am drawn toward those relationships that support my own wild, authentic self. In contrast, I have learned to recognize fairly readily those beings that seek to hinder and inhibit my authentic self, and so I do my best to put distance between us, as much as possible.
I have also discovered that I am far less willing to “tame my wild beast” to please someone else and make them feel more comfortable than I was once.
The Wild Woman Archetype described by Clarissa Pincola Éstes in her book, Women Who Run With The Wolves – Myths And Storie by the Wild Woman Archetype, reminds me of the tentative, tenuous voice nearly extinguished that I began to hear while studying sustainability and beginning to reach for it in my own life.
“Once women have lost her and then found her again, they will contend to keep her for good. Once they have regained her, they will fight and fight hard to keep her, for with her their creative lives blossom; their relationships gain meaning and depth and health; their cycles of sexuality, creativity, work, and play are reestablished; they are no longer marks for the predations of others; they are entitled equally under the laws of nature to grow and to thrive.”
According to Éstes, it is an “unconscious culture,” which inhibits the wild woman. The idea of being unconscious is reminiscent of Tolle, who wrote about the need for people to evolve beyond creating their identity through the thinking mind. Tolle advised, “You do not need to wait for the world to become sane, or for somebody else to become conscious, before you can be enlightened. You may wait forever.” Nor should you “accuse each other of being unconscious.”
According to the STAGES Adult Development Model put forward by Terri O’Fallon, each person moves through stages of development at their own pace and can move through the stages along a developmental spectrum over and over again in the course of their life. I recognize that it is not for me to criticize other people for being “unconscious” or at a different stage of development than my own. Criticizing is completely useless and unproductive and serves to cause only further suffering. Rather, I believe I must focus on my own path and my own responses to the movements of the universe around me.
I do believe that the solution to so many of the world’s troubles lies in an awakening for all people, and I agree with Éstes that “A woman’s issues of soul cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually acceptable shape by those who claim to be the sole bearers of consciousness.” However, I am finding that my own part is to effect change in a very bottom-up approach.
I can and do attempt to effect change with those close to me (and those more distant through writing and virtual media) through the power of story and the creative process.
According to Éstes, “The instruction found in story reassures us that the path has not run out, but still leads women deeper, and more deeply still, into their own knowing. The tracks we all are following are those of the wild and innate instinctual Self.” Story, accompanied by the creation of music, played an integral role in my own bumpy path toward self-sustainability. Over several years, I worked my research partner to compose many songs from my own spoken stories. Each story revealed another contentious layer of my being. Each movement through the creative process of birthing a song from that story helped me confront my inner conflict, to make piece with the warring voices within, each telling me to embody a different version of self, and to experience catharsis and clarity. More often than not, this songwriting project was difficult and emotional. I was putting my self under the bright lights of an operating table with multiple versions of my self arguing over what they found when they pried me open.
I have written songs about my struggles with body image, my attempts to find a strong inner voice, my propensity to try to make people in my life happy at the expense of my own wellbeing.
The opening lines in the first of verse the song Free in the Moment are quite poignant, clear evidence of the war that being waged within to free my wild Self.
I have layers and layers of people from over the years
I keep losing my self in their words, it’s all that I hear
I have been inclined to let them cover my own voice
I, I gotta shed those layers and be free…
My path to self-sustainability is an ongoing process. My desire is to move from an ability to experience moments of sustainability (i.e., being “free in the moment”), a term I wrote about in my dissertation, Becoming Sustainable: An Autoethnography in Story and Song in-depth, to being able to live and breathe balance and a sense of freedom at all moments in my life, even in the midst of great challenge and suffering.
This path involves a great deal of reflection, writing, reading, meditation, yoga, long walks in the woods, and dialogue with my husband, who I refer to as my own live-in guru. It also requires a lot of self-control to avoid the behaviors that I know will serve only to increase my suffering, the practice of patience, non-attachment to outcomes and life plans, and a willingness to do my best to let go of the definitions of success, health, normalcy, etc. that western culture bombards me with on a regular basis.
Becoming conscious and awake is not easy. It is also often quite lonely. Nearly every day, I am confronted with the negative energy and suffering that is created by the actions of unconscious people. Their actions affect my own sensitive energy, as well as my bank account. Nevertheless, I breathe, fume, clean with a fury, and spend hours cooking to create something positive instead of allowing myself to get sucked into the unconscious void. I am not yet enlightened, nor am I very adept at not feeling each affront as a personal attack. There are days when I drink far too much wine or whiskey to ease the pain of consciousness. It’s all a process and a practice.
And as I am coming to realize, practice takes practice.