Granny cried the day her clothesline broke. I imagine most women have felt what she must’ve felt when she saw her day’s labour laying soiled on the ground. She lived in a little farmhouse many miles from the nearest town, gave birth to five children, fed her family from a massive garden, clothed her children by creative work of her hands — knitting, crocheting, sewing — and gave me my first novel to read at the age of eleven, an historical romance about power, sex, and children born out of wedlock. Little did I know she had given me a template for the life I’d go on to live. Something in her understood she had to teach me how to survive the life I’d been born into, but she didn’t have the voice to say it out loud, so she let a good story guide me instead

Now I have voice. I needed to learn how to listen to hear it.

The first time a woman’s story baffled me as a counsellor, I was humbled into silence. Then I was compelled to ask her why she’d done what she’d done when she’d done it because she was in an emotional mess of her own making, and couldn’t see her way clear of it.

“What did the deepest, wisest part of you say about this?” I asked.

Without a moment’s hesitation she responded.

“Oh I knew it was the wrong thing to do but I did it anyway!”

In that split second I understood something crucial to my life and the lives of all women. For I had been this woman, too. Many a time I’d chosen to do what I knew I really didn’t want to do but couldn’t help myself and did it anyway. Then paid dearly for the consequences. But all the while intuiting that nothing had gone wrong. I had to do what I had to do and I did it, in the same way she’d done. It was as though we were wired to act against ourselves in accordance with some cosmological order. We were both flummoxed and fuming from the fire flaming within us and fiercely wanting to understand why?

I’ve since answered that question for myself and helped many women answer it for themselves, too. When feminine energy rises in a woman, it is a force to be reckoned with and we have not been taught what it is nor how to manage it.

The day Granny’s clothesline broke would’ve been a day when she’d spent hours hauling those clothes and bedsheets down the wooden stairs into the dirt basement where her wringer-washer machine stood. She would’ve washed, rinsed, and wrung every item until it was clean. Then she would’ve hauled the wet linens back upstairs and outside to affix each item with a clothespin all the while feeling a sense of accomplishment with work well done. The sheets would’ve been flapping in the breeze and she would be smelling the freshness of clean on that breeze. It was probably more than a day’s work to do all the laundry of her household and it would’ve been accomplished amidst making meals, tending family, and general housekeeping. So when it all came crashing down to the ground she would’ve seen immediately that she’d need to start all over again and she was tired now, hungry now, ready to quit now. So the tears came and washed away defeat because the Granny I knew would’ve got right back to it. She would’ve continued to do what needed to be done not because she wanted to but because she knew how to draw forth the power sustaining her life and the lives of so many others.

She was sincerely looking for a way through. She was expecting to find a way through. She was relying on life to show her a way through. Whoever cannot love this woman in her loyal tenacity to make way for herself and her family sees not the courage of the human heart. She was built of fortitude. Her life, noble. Her capacity for love enormous. And I love her still!

True power lives in dignity, authority and righteousness. It takes real courage to learn how to channel this power because it is not at all what you think it is, and it is not the least bit interested in what you feel entitled to, so it demands we learn what it means to rise high walk low.

To begin with, we either think of ourselves as products of our oppression or we understand ourselves as daughters of life gifted with experience meant to grow the human soul. These are the only two choices we have. All else is secondary.

The way I see it, there are two great works for us as women. The first demands we stop seeking the conditioned ideal of who we think we should be and behold our own shadow. That is, we confront and transcend all that possesses our spirit. We will never rise above what we don’t acknowledge. The second is chop wood, carry water, love life and it demands we claim feminine values in a world generally built to deny these values.

Even those who are most indebted to it are sometimes quite unaware of the unseen genius in mother or wife or friend which has created the atmosphere wherein their own spirits have been nourished and set free. So the creative resonance of the feminine being remains unrecognized. (Helen M. Luke in The Way of Woman).

It’s not work for the unwilling woman. It’s work for the woman who intuits there is something of truth in her wanting to be spoken, shared, and sung through the ages. For there is a lie we have all been living and it is a dangerous force lurking in the shadow of any woman who believes she is weak, forgotten, unsupported, lost, and humiliated. It also lurks in women who use people in their lives to prop themselves up because they carry so much blame, shame, and rage they daren’t not look at their own reflection honestly for fear of destroying the precious image they hold of themselves of being strong, confident and smart. Who would they be if they acknowledged how they usurp the power of others and use it as a force to get their own way in the world? This kind of abuse is rarely talked about. In fact, it is seen as female liberation, but it is the farthest distance a woman can ever be from freedom. And the mask she wears is condoned and rewarded by society.

Modern woman now must bring the deep unconscious into the light of awareness. This is the call to rise high walk low. I daresay it is true feminism. Can woman claim her worth and receive all she has been entrusted with as daughter of life?

Rise high walk low and you will know the way. For all our relational experience with men, and with each other, must culminate in the realization of our true capacity to be in love with life!

Question for Reflection:
What might I see in myself if I stopped blaming and shaming others? Where do I hemorrhage power because I’m unwilling to reckon with what is within me?

Magdalen Bowyer

Magdalen Bowyer

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