“I know you like gardening” Jon said, “but this is different, you’re working so hard and you’re not happy, you’re not yourself.”
It was the morning after Memorial Day and Jon and I were lying in bed talking. It took me while to admit it, even to myself, but he was right, something was wrong. I did enjoy the gardening I did everyday that weekend, but it also felt like I was hiding in the physical work, keeping myself busy, trying to avoid something.
Lately Jon and I have been each going through our own version of feeling worthy. I feel like I don’t make enough money and he feels like he can’t do as much around the farm. It’s something we’d been talking about.
When I was growing up, hard physical work was valued over everything else.
The idea that women didn’t and could never work as hard as men was seen as a truth. So, for a good part of my life, I tried to prove my worth by doing hard physical labor. Nothing made me feel better about myself than when someone, especially if it was a man, or best of, all my father, said “She works like a man”.
I went into my studio thinking about my self-worth that morning.
But instead of getting to work on my art, I kept the lights off, lit a candle and sat on the floor in front of it. Then I emptied my mind and concentrated on the idea of me proving my value through hard physical work.
This is something I’ve learned to do, to ask for help and surrender to the process.
My mind already knew what was going on, but the problem I having wasn’t something I could think through. So I asked myself where my sense of self denigration lay in my body.
It was like a bolt of energy shot from my brain down the front of my body directly to my vagina. Of course I thought, it’s in my sex. Literally in my being a woman.
But what to do about it. Intellectually, I knew this belief that women weren’t as good a men came from my upbringing as well as society. I knew it wasn’t true, yet, still it lived inside of me.
Still with my eyes closed and the intention of understanding why I was feeling this sense of being unworthy, I allowed whatever would happen next to unfold.
It was a story that came up.
One I knew well from my childhood. I don’t know how old I was, under ten years, for sure. The whole family was helping to mow the lawn. I was raking but the rake was so big and I couldn’t really use it. My father got mad, because I was so slow and yelled at me taking the rake and showing me how it was supposed to be done. I went, crying, to my room.
But as the story unfolded in from of me, in my mind, this time, I came into the scene as an adult, as the person I am now. I stood in front of myself as a child, protecting her/me from our father and told him that it wasn’t Maria’s fault, that she was too small, too young to do what he wanted. I got angry and yelled at him. I took the little Maria’s hand and told her to come with me.
The next moment, we were both naked and unashamed, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and flying above the house.
We flew thought the branches of the giant oak tree in my back yard, the one I use to lie under and look up into, wishing I could float in the spaces between the branches. Then we flew over the ocean, where we used to go sometimes in the summer, and dove into it like dolphins coming up for air again and again.
But then I saw that there was another “Maria” still back at the house, in her bedroom.
She was sitting on the bed crying. So we went to get her landing in the bedroom telling her to come with us. Be she was too scared to leave. So I cupped my hands and she jumped into them, turning into a small ball of fabric.
Still naked, the other “Little Maria” and I, flew to Plaza Blanca in New Mexico, the magical place that Jon and I visited on our trip there a few years ago. We made a fire and dropped the ball of fabric in.
But it only got denser and darker, condensing in on itself. So I pulled it from the fire and flying again, peeled the layers of burnt fabric apart and dropped them on to the desert floor where they turned to sparkles and dust.
I’ve used visualizations before to understand and expel old beliefs about myself. I go back to a familiar and often scary memory and change it by interacting in it, as the person I am now.
It’s always healing even if it doesn’t completely change me.
I still have to be aware that I might fall back into those old behaviors and beliefs. But the visualization is powerful and stays with me, continuing to work on me. Going back to that place and time and changing it becomes a part of me. Living inside my body and mind, it becomes the new story.
When I opened my eyes I had the distinct feeling that I no longer was the same person I had been. Not that I had changed that much because of the one experience, but because I was seeing myself, who I really am, clearly.
And the person I am believes in me and my self-worth, without having to try to prove it in any way to anyone else. That person, loves her life and understands that to be in a relationship where each person can provide what the other can’t, is something to be grateful for.
So now it’s about being who I really am and acting on what I believe at the person I am now.
This is who I am now, I keep saying to myself. And I see myself standing tall and alone, yellow light glowing around me. And in those moments, all the old stuff falls away.