the shape of things.

Yesterday I was given an exercise. I was invited to imagine my life as a house, giving each important aspect of my life a room…family, significant relationships, vocation, re-creation, etc…. then to wander through the house, noticing how I felt in each one, where I could breathe easily, where I could dance, where I felt claustrophobic, and where there was clutter. The author of this exercise reminded me that once upon a time I was the designer of my own house, and all that it contained was placed in there by me. I’m not so sure about that. I imagine others started putting things into that house and telling me what belonged and what didn’t since the time I heard my first ‘no’.  Still, when I was a young girl I could craft many more of my own experiences from my imagination… while playing under the porch or the willow, while drawing pictures  (although I began quite early to copy what others had drawn), while rescuing a family of mice , or singing in the bathtub.

I’m reminded now of a time, 15 years or so ago, when I was reunited with several friends whom I hadn’t seen since jr high school. They recalled to me this once-upon-a-time girl, whom they’d known and remembered, and their stories evoked in me someone who had been fully alive, vibrant, ‘full of herself’.  At the time, the remembrance sent me spiraling into a devastating despair and deep grief at the loss of her.

Last weekend, at our women’s retreat, we got to talking about how it is that many of us don’t discover who we are until our children (or in other cases, our spouses, our money, or our health) leave home, and we are officially ushered into crone-dom.  We wondered if the crone was not in many cases a return to the virgin, a woman unto herself, an independent, autonomous woman not responsible to man or child, but to herself, a woman who knows herself separate from the other. We lamented that indeed for many women, crone-dom is the first true virgin experience a woman has, for most of us had been shaping and twisting and abdicating ourselves to the specifications of others since at least adolescence.

Back in my ‘house’, I am invited to create a room in the center, my shape-spinning room, an ‘empty’ room that feels full (of me). What is its shape, where are its windows, etc? Then I’m invited to furnish the room. The author surmises that right there, I will go outside of myself to look for a mass-produced piece of furniture to fit in my room, to name myself by.  

As we begin to craft our own lives, which so often first occurs for many of us within the opportunities for emptiness that life provides through loss, when old images of who we are get shattered apart,  how often do we, uncomfortable with that loss, rush to fill that space with anything, even if it doesn’t belong to us? As I bring in those pieces of hurriedly and other-produced furniture to take up the space in my room, how does it feel?

Ironically… feels utterly empty.

 I’m reminded of the image that I had of closing a book last summer. It was not just a chapter of my life that was ending, it was an entire book. In my hands I held a new book with empty pages. It was a sacred thing, this book, something I wanted to keep safe, to tuck inside my heart, where the words that would be written in it would come from me, where it could not be filled up  by another’s expectations of me. I had my self back.

Carrying that feeling of having something placed into my sacred room that didn’t belong to me, the author then invited me to revisit the other rooms in my house and to notice where the feeling was the same, where I have brought in pre-manufactured pieces that aren’t mine,that fill up my spaces but feel empty of me..  Where have I adopted a model of being that isn’t my own? Could it be in the way that a mother (or grandmother) looks, acts, or feels?  The hue in the wood of a successful woman?  The way a valuable vocation is shaped?  The contours of a creative person?  I thought of all the places where I have noticed that some part of me was left behind, where I haven’t been present, those times when I couldn’t follow turtle’s caution to bring my home with me.

Furnishing one’s own house takes time, it cannot be filled in a rush, not if each piece is to be crafted from one’s own truth, made in one’s own unique shape.  It means living one’s life from the inside-out.  It means taking my cues from within, and that means learning to listen and to trust what I hear.  But most importantly, this means spending  time in that center room, beneath the noise, not filling my life with distraction.

This message for me today is the same as that of the Woman of the Lake who waits for me to dive in and swim with her. The same as the one I hear from Weary Woman who lies down to bed with me at night, after having drained myself in trying to meet  everyone’s needs but own, who whispers in my ear, ‘You know you can’t do this anymore’. The same as from Grandmother who reminds me I’m no longer a mother, nursing her young, required to be present to all demands at all hours. The same as Moon Woman’s now-familiar, recurring prompt that I am no longer the Sun around which the planets revolve, and upon whom they depend. The same voice as that of Crone Woman who  calls me to another way, a way I cannot yet imagine nor fully inhabit because it will take time to spin that new shape if I am not simply going to haul some prefab piece into this space,  and who also reminds that now there is space for me.  The same as Winter Woman’s rejoinder, that starkly states , “Wait, it’s not time to be spring yet”.  

In the sparseness of winter’s covering, I notice more clearly the shape of trees. I behold their bones, their scars, their broken limbs, their substantial resiliencies, their delicate intricacies,  and the ways they’ve grown up and around, – seasons and seasons and seasons of shape-spinning revealed. Their basic structure, from which they will blossom and leaf, provide shelter and bear fruit, is revealed. Yesterday’s ice invited me to witness that even more clearly as the frozen coating drew my attention to a remarkable silhouette of compelling beauty so frequently overlooked.

And so is my attention to be drawn in this winter time  to appreciate my own remarkable shape, the true sparseness  and simplicity of who I am. Maybe its time to get in the water, let the ice form round my bones so I can see. Yes. Be that still.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. emmaatlast
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 15:23:44

    For some reason the phrases ‘find the one thing necessary’ and ‘still, small point’ (that place of potential prior to, from which all that is manifest must flow) but mostly the admonition to ‘hush’ seem to be swirling in me like the powerful winds that stripped the ice from yesterday’s branches in great chunks, at times taking the limbs with it. This is a time for stripping away last remnants of that which does not belong. Can I let go and allow that carving of my shape to happen? Can I dance with the power of that?



  2. andie33
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 19:56:15

    I love this post and have spent a while reflecting on it. The exercise is intriguing and I’m almost afraid to do it. Who knows what is hiding in the corners of some of my rooms. This is so powerful. Thank you for sharing.



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