On the Common Path

A letter to Amy – posted with her permission and at her encouragement. Maybe there are other young women, unhappily married, itchy and in need of scratching, miserable and wondering the same things?

Dear Amy,

I really enjoyed our conversation last night and I’m so glad that you’re sharing with me more and more of your story, your struggle and your questions. As I’ve said before in our conversations, and I’m pretty sure I’ve said at least one of my letters to you so far, I have an a picture of the two of us in my head; meeting on a common path that is just one of many that everyone travels as we journey through this experience we call “life.” There are many reasons I feel so strongly about this and each time we chat, I become more certain that the image I have is very close to a truth that I can’t fully comprehend.

I feel like I’m talking in riddles, so please allow me to back up and share a little background with you – if nothing else, to keep my own thoughts straight. As I’ve shared with you before, when you first reached out to me and we connected not so long ago, I was very deeply involved in taking an inventory of my life and considering the girl and the woman I have been at different points. I was 27 years old when I made the decision to walk away from my first marriage with a good man and a good father to my daughter who, I am 100% certain, would have remained loyal, faithful, supportive and all the other adjectives that are used to described a good husband. But I left anyway; setting out to scratch all the places within me that had become restless in wanting something else, something more…something that didn’t make me feel so confined into the box of conformity to social norms in which I felt so imprisoned and suffocated. And last night, as you shared your thoughts and the questions you have about your own life now, the similarity between your story today and my story of yesterday are so strikingly evident.

I love it when the Universe lines things up nice and tidy like – letting me make a friend on my way out of my life whose path and experiences are so much like my own and giving me a chance to see so clearly the redemption in that full circle, to have the chance to see my past in a more forgiving light before I take my leave and, best of all, to make a new friend with whom I already share so much in common. I may have found my faith late in life but I’m convinced it shines a little brighter for us late bloomer because every day I’m just in awe, seeing the strings connecting everything to everything else and feeling so much a part of it all.

While you were sharing your so very, very similar circumstances with me last night, it really reinforced the image of us meeting on a shared path. I don’t see us walking together down this path, but having met each other coming from opposite directions and maybe sitting under a tree off to the side, each of us taking a little rest from our journeys to consider from where each of us have come, the things we carry with us and the view we have before us. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that we have been connected as we have or that you reached out to me when you did. Because I am familiar with the the experience of being a woman at your age, feeling the feelings your are feeling and facing the decisions that you are facing. You are traveling into the part of the journey of life from which I am traveling out and, while I don’t consider myself some wise old sage or some life guru, I do have knowledge to share simply because I fucked up a LOT on my journey and, through a process of try and try again, I’ve been up and down just about every path a woman can choose in trying to find my way in figuring out who I was and where I was supposed to be. It is ironic, isn’t it, that I finally found my way on my way out, and that having found it, I meet you here on this path, just as I’m approaching my jumping off place?

I know that your fundamental Christian upbringing has left you bruised and angry, and understandably so. Having no experience with that kind of paradigm nor a father figure, I cannot imagine having a patriarchal family system enforcing a religious doctrine that teaches women that their bodies are not their own! I can definitely see how this would impact your desire to have a child and I think it shows you have a tremendous amount of strength to have not given in and created a child out of obligation or duty. From what I’ve read about the process of fundamental deconstruction and heard from different podcasts on the subject, it is clear that a fundamental upbringing can leave a woman without her sense of self, with a guilt and “sin” based sexuality and significantly underdeveloped embodiment of her feminine as something more than a workhorse for churning out babies for a bigger “Christian” voter base. Unbelievable.

I appreciate your trust and vulnerability in sharing with me how your upbringing has impacted you in these areas. This also resonated with me and closely resembled my own disconnect from my self as I was growing up, finding love, entering marriage and considering motherhood but I arrived at that place from a different way than you. I was a promiscuous teenager and young adult until I married my first husband (the man I left when I was 27). My sense of self, sexuality and embodiment were not stripped from me through a fundamental upbringing like you have experienced but were taken all the same by the psychological impact of my upbringing (as I shared with you in my previous letter) and trauma of a sexual nature at an early age.

My therapist has been helping me work through some of my guilt and shame that my lifetime of very broken sexuality has accumulated (as well as many other sources). She is having me address the trauma from and one of the tools she has given me is to imagine myself at the age I was when I made a decision I regretted or was hurt in some way. And in imagining myself as I was at that in life, I am to then channel the mother within me and “speak” the maternal advice, love and reassurance I needed then but didn’t have. I have had some success in doing this for times during my childhood and it has been helpful but I haven’t been able to effectively pretend myself into mothering my adult self…it’s just too much of a leap for my mind to make (without a lot of weed and then the advice will just be “smoke some weed” and that really doesn’t solve anything).

There are so many things I want to tell the 27 year old me from this vantage point of my journey in life; before I walked away from that marriage in pursuit of the scratch for my itches. As I’ve said before, I have realized now that everything precious in my life has been harvested from some of my seemingly worst decisions and darkest times, so I could not ever wish to change a single thing or to have done anything different; as now having been given the blessing on the other side of screwing up, I . But if I had been my own mother at that time when I was 27 and struggling with the decision to stay or to leave, what advice would I have given, knowing what I know now about life and about my Creator?

I was thinking about this as I was walking on the beach this morning and, if I were the mother of the me at 27 years old, confused, considering leaving my marriage, feeling urges that were driving me in all new directions, feeling hollowed out and without a sense of self, struggling with my sexuality and looking for my identity within my feminine, this is the advice I would give to that woman:

Every choice I have made to shift my life into a new direction as a response to an urge has lead me down a path of pain upon which a part of me was left when I was forced to walk away and go another way. Either because doing what I had the urge to do didn’t bring me the pleasure or fulfillment I had anticipated or (much worse) the urge transformed into something else that was darker and much more than I ever intended or what I thought I would ever choose to do but somehow did allow myself to do simply as a matter of momentum in that direction in having started that way in pursuit of the fulfilling the urge in the first place – because having already taken one step away from my “norm” to purse something new, it never felt like a big deal in the moment to take another one and from there, maybe another one still. I guess that’s what it meant by “slippery slope.”

As a woman who lost the count of the number of my sexual partners decades ago because there were just too many to remember, participated in a wide variety of edgy sexual acts and pushed my sexuality to the very edge looking for a way to scratch the itch resulting from a sexuality disrupted by shame and guilt in childhood, I am intimately familiar with what sex can and cannot provide. In my experience, there is no sexual act that will make things better for a woman if she is in a bad place. If a woman is in a bad head space and is not feeling good about herself, sexual acts will only make her feel worse or, at best, leave her numb and in need of a shower.

While I usually have zero interest in children and I am that woman that other women don’t understand because I don’t like to hold babies, becoming a mother was the fullest expression of my femininity in my lifetime. This is not to say that only mothers are feminine or that every mother feels the same as I do in how it expresses their femininity. But there is something transformative in carrying a child, bringing it into the world and nourishing it from our breasts; as it is so uniquely a feminine experience. At least in my experience, having a child redefined all of the parts of my body that were previously “sinful” and redeems them into pieces and parts of creation and it was a beautiful thing. But having said all of this, a woman should only have a child if she wants to be a mother and should always feel empowered to be ready to become a mother at her own time of choosing (or never at all, if that is her choice).

Whatever paths we take and wherever they take us, everything comes full circle, there is a purpose for everything and for every dark there is a light. The decisions in my life that I can look back now and realize were very poor decisions for many reason are the ones I would never want to change because the most precious parts of my life have been harvested from the worst of them. And I think life is designed to be redemptive that way to help us make timely decisions for ourselves. Spending too little time in consideration of the path to take as we navigate through life will end up causing unnecessary hurt and spending too much time in consideration will lock us into a place of indecision where not choosing a path ends up being the path chosen by default. The key to a good journey through this life is letting go of the expectation there is some point on the path to which we must arrive get or some perfect journey that must be competed a certain way in order to have done life right. The journey itself is the whole purpose for the journey. And sometimes it’s best if you take the paths with less black/white and more uncertainty. It’s good thing to surprise yourself once in a while and take a chance to see what might come of it.

And finally, no matter where you are on the path or what kind of decision you’re trying to make or what you might be going through, if ever it all becomes too much, eat ice cream and take a nap.