diving deep and surfacing

I have read that fasting reveals the things that control us, that we tend to cover up what is inside us with food (and other things) and that  fasting brings these things closer to the surface.  At first we will rationalize that our feelings, such as anger for instance, are due to our hunger, but soon discover that we are angry, not because of hunger but because of the anger hidden within us.

If this is true, there must be deep sadness hidden inside of me.

I broke my fast last evening, after 48 hours. It was time. Physically, the pressure and severe pounding on the top of my head and behind eyes, the heat in my face,  was wearing me thin and practically demanding all of my attention to be turned inward.  My desire to be present to my family was stronger than that demand, and so I ate, just a simple meal with my son and his girlfriend.  Very soon, my brain said ‘thank you for feeding me’ and I was able really to join them.

But not before the fast offered its essential gift to me and I received, I believe, what I was to receive.  My body is indeed a vessel of prayer and a messenger of grace.

I had not planned this fast far in advance. It came up suddenly for me, just a few days before I began it, with that instinctive ‘yes’.  I had not planned for the fast to coincide with Friday evening’s film that arrived in the red-enveloped parcel; it was simply the next title in the queue that I had created 9 months ago.  I had not planned for the fast to coincide with Saturday’s live theater performance, which I had agreed to attend with my friend several weeks ago.

Friday morning, as I journaled about the birthing that’s currently happening in my life, I wondered on paper if there was something I needed to understand about the way I give birth, the fears I have around it perhaps. I recalled the rage that rose unbidden in me around my granddaughters’ births, as I witnessed the medicalization and dewomanization of what should have been an empowering time in their mother’s lives.  I knew at the time that the power of that reaction was some piece of my own rage surfacing. Though I spent weeks reentering my what has become a periodic search into attaining certification for midwifery, I suspected that particular response wasn’t addressing the truth of my pain at all.

It was around the time of one of their births, last summer, that I had the ‘big dream’.  I was great with child and my water broke, so I took myself to the dr’s office where I was given 3 pills, which I took without question, by the doctor at the check-in counter. The pills were tranquilers that put me to sleep and stopped my labor instantly. I recall feeling enraged at having been tricked. I’m wondering today if that was the beginning of the recent feeling I’ve had of walking along the surface of my life.

LateR in the day on Friday, coveting some focus I went to my Motherpeace cards and pulled one. Its message?- “going down to touch deep emotions, and gathering yourself together”And so I prayed to the Wise Woman of the Lake …you know, the one I’d asked to come to me in a dream about a month ago…. to come and take me by the hand, draw me to Her depths where parts of me lay scattered from that ancient wreckage. Let me see.

And so, Friday’s night’s film opens and we meet a 50 year old woman still caught in the trauma of having given birth at age 14 and being forced by her mother to give the baby up for adoption. Her life is stunted and stuck, her relationship with her own mother broken and embittered. Each evening she relives the pain of her loss, in her journal and her nightmares.

And so, Saturday’s musical opens and we meet a 14 year old girl giving birth to her 2nd child, conceived by her stepfather, who snatches the child from her arms immediately after birth and gives it away (or kills it, she doesn’t know for sure).  We hear her lament to God, ‘I’ve tried to be a good girl…’ as her life spirals into accepting one abuse after the other.

And so, here I am, emotions unmasked by food, fresh again in my own lament.

Here I am 13 years old, coming alive in spirit and voice for the first time in my life, assaulted after school by my favorite teacher . No one will lend me their voice. I am left with my own shame to swallow.


Here I am, 14 years old, at my mother’s white-haired gynecologist, after my periods have halted in the face of that fear. He has some trouble and has to go in the wrong way. Oh, yes there’s something wrong with me.


Here I am 15 years old, with a boy who thinks I’m a fool for not knowing what to do with his thing, who proceeds to tell me (along with his mother) that there must be something wrong with me when it won’t fit into my fear?


Here I am 15 years old, part of me lying spread out on the table, where he’s taken me for the vacuum aspiration…  some other part of me up on the wall.


Here I am 16 years old, hips propped on a bedpan, doctor swearing beneath his breath because the 5 month old placenta that had been pulsing life into my kicking and hiccupping infant won’t let go its hold even as the precious life it fed and i loved lies dying in the next room.


Here I am 17 years old, compassionately drugged by the doctor, as another 5 month old child exits my womb. But I can’t understand why they can’t hear me screaming ‘NO! NO! NO!’ until one of them wakes me to show me the perfect and dead little girl.


Here I am 20 years old, the child down the hall given a 1 in 500,000 chance of survival, born too early, lungs unprepared, infected by me….

When I saw the movie, Color Purple, 10 years ago I’d only felt the pain of it, the trauma, the powerlessness, the brutality, the domination and abuse.  I don’t recall feeling at all the empowerment, reclamation, and victory that I experienced watching the musical version yesterday. Nor did I feel before the strong women who showed Celie the way to empowerment, I felt only her oppression.  I suspect I didn’t feel these things because I didn’t know these things in myself.

As I partook of both of these dramas this weekend, I was able to be a compassionate witness to the terrible youth of those two tender characters in all of their innocence and vulnerability. It was also easy to observe the ways in which their evolution as women had been stunted, as if some giant hand hit the pause button at the time of their traumas. I hadn’t been kind enough to behold myself through these eyes before now.

During the viewing of the film the first night, I had noticed those old voices of self-doubt rising in me, the ones who try to keep me small, saying ‘just be content with your life as it is’ , and ‘who do you think you are anyway?’, and ‘why do you have to be ‘special’’?  I do think there’s some truth in that self-punishing shadow-voice, some grain to be gleaned from its condemning chaff. For instance, it doesn’t really matter what I DO with my life perse, but is important ‘how’ I live it (with joy, peace, love, with presence, spirit and soul, and awareness of beauty). But I need not let that truth undermine my desire to share myself in some specific and meaningful way. I need not let it hold me back from reaching for something that will make my life bigger, not smaller.  There is room enough for both/and, both the all-is-well, cherish each moment and the something-more to which I am drawn.  For both spirit AND soul. They need not play tug-a-war with my life.

My soul ought to feel free to rise up and reveal her full beauty.

Now I see that there is something in keeping myself small that feels safe to the one in me who once tried to be big and was violated because of it. That teacher hit my life square in its growth spurt, just when I was coming into my power and my voice. I stopped singing that day.  My god, no wonder I just about broke when I attended that class reunion years ago, met up with those persons who knew me when I was 13, then again when my marriage broke up and the grief of that opened the vault to those losses long hidden.

All of those young me’s still live in me. Wise Woman of the Water took me down to visit them. I saw them clearly… it took only 48 hours of prayer in my body, of consuming only fluid with Her. Now, she can help me to gather them together, midwife them to life, and teach them to trust in their power, in their voice, in their courage.  In their Song. Remind them that they CAN carry something to term, can labor with confidence and grace, do have the strength to push this child to life.

There will always be broken places in me, scars and debris from that wreckage, but I need not label that wreckage as ugly.   Yet, another gift from the fast for me is this- I needn’t give to a feeling or an experience in me any label of badness that makes me experience suffering.  My hunger was hunger, something I could notice, something I could choose, or not, to tend to, to inform me – or not.  Likewise, I can choose to nurture. I need not give my herstory a word that makes of it suffering. I can take all of those me’s into my arms and love them with tenderness and wisdom and hope. I can see my life as beautiful.

Last week there was an earthquake in New Zealand that ravaged the city of Christchurch, while out on the water that same earthquake sheared “30 million tons of ice off Tasman glacier, forming  massive icebergs, including this beauty”.

May we all find these places in ourselves in the after-years of our own tragedies.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Traildancer
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:37:37

    Sing Vicki because your life resonates with grace and compassion…You have created such beauty from your brokenness. Thank you for the gift of sharing. You offer hope to those that are still learning to mother and nurture themselves with the arms of their own compassion.



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