A Transforming Force
Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Julie Daley. Since I first met Julie, a “transforming force” herself, on Twitter, I’ve been drawn to her and to her truly unabashed love of the feminine and the Feminine. Enjoy.
“The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.”
~ Adrienne Rich
My mother taught me many things: independence, tenacity, artistry, the joy of finding one’s passion and embracing it. She also taught me to fear: intimacy, being abandoned, being alone in the world with huge responsibilities. And, she taught me to keep going even though the fear was here. She taught me both to not trust myself and to deeply trust myself. Of course, she wasn’t the only one who taught me these things. But, as women, what we learn from our mothers is deeply meaningful because of the nature of relationship and connection between mother and daughter; it also holds deep transformational possibilities, for the same reasons.
My mother was an amazing woman, I mean truly amazing. Back when it was unheard of to be a divorced single mother, back when that carried a huge stigma and caused other women to fear her singleness, my mother walked this path with dignity. It wasn’t her choice; she was left for another.
Before she died, she remarked to me that raising her three daughters was the gift of her life.
Adrienne Rich also wrote, “The Mother I needed to have was silenced before I was born.”
This isn’t a diatribe against my mother. It is the opposite. Our relationship was problematic, yet over the years as she moved towards death, and the years since her passing, as I have become a more conscious, compassionate woman, I have come to know the huge potential for transformation our relationship held.
A few years back, I discovered something rich and deep and painful, something that ignited a love so profound that it has altered the arc of my life, like an explosion changes the course forever of the thing exploded.
I was just beginning a three-day dance workshop in the 5Rhythms, a dance practice I’ve now been engaged in for the past ten years. During this particular weekend, we began the workshop on Friday dancing solely with others of the same gender – women with women, men with men. This was the first opportunity I had ever had to dance solely with women.
As I entered the church where we were to dance, and took to the wooden sprung floor in my bare feet, I noticed something vastly different than what I had experienced before: there was no male energy anywhere. While I’ve been in all-women gatherings before, never had I been immersed in a moment when there were only women dancing deep from within their bodies, deep from the heart.
As I danced, I first felt a kind of freedom in this women-only place. It felt lighter, yet grounded, gentler, yet more sensual. I could feel a part of me emerge that I’d never encountered on the dance floor. It was this sensual, grounded, erotic playfulness, a part that needed a bit of safety to come out and explore. The woman-only space invited this out.
But as I continued to dance, I became aware of an ever-so subtle, barely palpable, fear that I was feeling. At first, I couldn’t quite feel it, yet I knew it was there in my body. I continued to dance, to dance the fear, to invite it out, to make itself known. As it did, it began to dance me. It began to speak. It had been muzzled all my life, and now, in this room full of women dancing together, without whatever layers come when men are present, it offered its gift.
This fear was a fear of women. It was a fear of being intimate with other women. It was a fear, even distrust, of the nature of women, of my own nature as a woman.
As the fear continued to dance me, tears began to fall, tears of rejection, separation and abandonment. I could feel this fear that had kept me from trusting my own mother, other women, and my own womanhood. I could also begin to sense a longing, a longing to know my own womanhood, to know these women who surrounded me with their dance, and to know my mother in her own womanliness.
This part of my mother had been hidden from me…by her. She didn’t trust this. She feared this. She didn’t know how to reach out from this place of womanhood, mother to daughter, woman to woman.
My mother taught me to fear; yet she also taught me to inquire. She taught me to distrust, yet also to hold fast to what I instinctively knew was true in my heart.
She taught me to be the kind of person that doggedly pursues the path of knowing self, the path that had taken me to this moment of dance and unfolding.
My mother had been silenced before I was born; as was her mother, as was her mother’s mother…and so on. And yet, what never had left the women I’ve come from is the deep instinctive knowing that lies at the heart and soul of being a woman.
As I danced, as the tears flowed, as I moved the fear and the fear moved me, something deeper began to emerge: an old-as-the-ages love for women and womanhood. Over the course of those hours of dance, and into the next many years of my life, what began as just an inkling in my field of body awareness, blossomed into a deep knowing and understanding of the power and nature of ‘the connections and between and among women’.
The web of women, and the love inherent in this web, is one of the most powerful, and feared, forces in life. Its nature has been repressed and silenced for thousands of years. Yet we know these connections, and the love within them, deep in our cells and in the marrow of our bones.
My mother taught me this. Now, in my wiser place, I can see how much she loved her daughters, how she would, and did, do anything, absolutely anything she could to love us, to care for us. And in this wiser place, I can see how hamstrung she was by the silencing, by the conditioning that had caused her to fear her own love, to fear intimacy, to fear her womanhood.
This understanding has brought a deep compassion for her, for women, and for the painful tension within myself between the fear of knowing my nature and the yearning to know this nature.
This tension is the creative tipping point. It is the doorway into an organically unfolding remembering of our nature as women. This nature is unlike that of men. It is not a compliment to man. It is a nature unto itself and when it stands in right relationship to the nature of man it will begin to transform our relationship to the sacredness of life.
A dancer at heart, Julie would love nothing more than to live her life and do her work from the dance floor. Ten years in the practice of 5Rhythms has opened her to the joy and wildness that is at the heart of women’s creativity. A writer, teacher, coach, and yes, dancer, Julie savors life playing with her wee grandchildren and serving the women and men who are called to work with her. Julie is happiest when she is breathing through her feet.
Looking for the rest of the Nest-Making series? It’s here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
this is so beautiful, so moving, jewels. you could have done a footstomp, could’ve gone on loud and long about the bad things embroidered on the relationship you had with your mother, but no. you stayed with it, and in that staying, you found a vein of richness and you saw your mother with compassion. too often, we are content to stomp our feet, gnash our teeth, throw rocks, and walk away from our relationships with our mothers and with other women. but oh my goodness, lookie what awaits us when we stay with it and let compassion and openness and a deep and true desire to understand guide us.
Jeanne, dear, Jeanne, When I read that quote about my mother being silenced, it all hit home. Oh what silencing has done to us all. In her comment about the post on FB, a woman wrote, “our mothers have endured so much.” Yes, they have. We have all endured so much at the hands of silencing, shaming and humiliation. Yet, we are resilient creatures; beautiful, resilient women who deep inside know we are so much more and want to offer this depth to the world.
What a beautiful thing it is when we see the power trapped in this problematic relationship with other women, which is really simply our relationship with our own womanhood.
Love you and thank you for all the ways you continue to help me see in myself what I haven’t been able to see by myself.
As always, Julie’s writing takes me to a place that I, long ago, learned to avoid – and this post addresses this ‘place’ and the subtle terror (if terror could ever really be subtle) I feel when I approach it. It’s a wildness that lives in every cell of my body; and which, I learned to silence, when I was too young to understand that it was happening. Once silenced, once habitual, it became virtually impossible to re-open; because, though I sensed it’s shadow shape in the emptiness it left behind, there was no one who could name it for me. So many women hold this shadow shape inside. With Julie’s work, I touch it again… and, more important, I FEEL it. I sense and almost know it. I continue to return – grateful. Grateful. (In a few minutes, I will take a walk in nature – my first in months, inspired by this wildness within, inspired by this beautiful writing.)
Thank you for your kind words. I am so happy to know you are, right now, out there in the wild of the world and in your own being.
Wow. This shadow shape. Yes, there has been no one to name it, and this is part of our return to wholeness…this naming.
My heart smiles as I read that you continue to return – grateful.
Love to you,
What an exquisite piece, Julie. Thank you for taking us all on the dance. It opened my heart.
Thank you, Jamie.
Beautiful. Thank you.
It’s letting a part of me I don’t yet have words for, lift up her bowed head in recognition of something that I also don’t yet have words for, but feels very resonant.
I’m grateful for the recognition and feeling of resonance and companionship that comes with that.
Many thank you’s.
Pauline, This part of you that has lifted her bowed head, who is she? What does she have to say? What does she feel? I’m so curious about her. You don’t have words for her, but perhaps she does…
I am honored that you’ve shared these words here. It is achingly beautiful to see oneself come back into the light, to raise her head once again.
Julie, this is powerful (and heart-openingly beautiful)!
So much of what you said resonated to the core of me.
That fear you spoke of, the fear of women – oh, I had it strong! I was loved into becoming aware of it (in an experience that shook with the same kind of power as your dance-awakening) –
and the fierce love of my first real * woman friend was the only way I was able to get past it (I not only feared women, and my own womanhood – my fear had elements of anger & loathing in it).
*(I say “real” because I’d had other friends who were women, but we related only intellectually – bypassing emotional depth and/or awareness of our connection as women).
Also – I was just talking with my daughter yesterday, while we took a walk, about the silencing of my own mother – and the (somewhat contradictory) strengths & weaknesses that passed from my mother to me (mostly wordlessly).
Your post is re-animating something like waves in me: I can feel love for my mother, myself, my women friends, and women I don’t even know welling up within me. Thank you!!!
Karen, Thank you for sharing these words here with all of us. These ‘something like waves’…I love how the feminine moves in such gorgeous ways. This welling up…such an invitation to ‘go there’…