The Pull of the Moon

a space between the lines

I have been working for the past few months at a very small women’s residential treatment facility that specializes in severe mood and thought disorders.  The population there changes constantly but at the moment the residents are all under 30 and on hiatus from various American and International colleges and universities. These are poised, well-mannered, highly educated, beautiful young women.  It is clear that throughout their lives someone has taken the time to teach them how to act, how to look, and how to think. Working with these women has made me aware that in our culture, and clearly in cultures throughout the world, we are taught and in return teach our daughters how to think, behave, and look, but seldom how to feel or manage feelings. We are taught how to think a problem through and solve it but we are not taught how to release negative feelings and let them go. We know to say please and thank you but not how to ask for and receive help and support. We are instructed never to wear brown shoes with black pants or wear white after labor day, but have no idea how to stop crippling self critical thoughts that propel us into eating disorders, self mutilations and drug addiction in increasingly alarming numbers.

At 15, my daughter knows 5 girls her age who are cutters. I know as many daughters of friends who are struggling with heroin addictions.  I know that some of these struggling women and girls were born with a chemical imbalance or a family history of addiction that is at the root of their problems.  I know that there are no simple answers, but I believe that there is something terribly wrong with the way that we are raising our daughters. We are teaching them to push through and basically ignore their inner experiences. We are focused on preparing them for their external life rather than on helping them to have a relationship with their inner life. Women are intuitive feelingful beings and yet we are raising our daughters without an awareness of their intuition or their feelings. Girls all over our world are becoming women who are cut off from their inner feminine nature as well as any awareness of their inherent strength, their inner beauty, their intuition, their sexual power, their mystery, and their abundant energy. As feminists in the 70’s we were so eager to throw off the yoke of patriarchal oppression and be recognized as the equals of men, that we overlooked the value in our unique feminine nature. We rejected and abandoned these qualities so completely that it is difficult for me to even use the word feminine here. It carries negative associations of the color pink, frills, lace, and weakness. In rejecting our “femininity” we neglected to hold onto our mysterious relationship with the earth, the ocean and the pull the moon; our connection to the goddesses; and our inherent attunement to the natural world.

I was recently told of a story in which all of the women on one world were forced to wear a yolk around their neck so that they could never look up and see the sun.  I searched for the title and author of this story on-line but only turned up an odd mix of references to Burkhas, the yoke of Christ, and the oppression of women. Much to my surprise,  the search also listed the Wikipedia entry for A Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  I loved stumbling on an unexpected reminder about that book. It feels like it fits into this discussion perfectly.

There is quite a lot of ground between Margaret Atwood’s 1985 feminist dystopian novel and the recently popular memoir of self-discovery, by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love. The two works viewed together represent an evolution in thought about, and in our lives as women. I feel hopeful to see the interest in Elizabeth Gilbert’s tale of traveling in search of her self.  Still her search, as is mine, is undertaken as the result of waking up after a lifetime of following the proper rules and paths only to find that we have lost ourselves along the way. The young women that I work with and the daughters of my friends are a daily reminder that we are raising our daughters with a missing piece of information. We are all familiar with stories about the failures of the school system. We know that students are advanced to the next grade and sent out into the world without knowing basic math or how to read. We point our fingers at that problem and know that it needs to be solved.  The missing lessons in our daughter’s education that I am talking about here are not on math or english.  They are on self-awareness, knowing and embracing feelings, the embodiment of the divine feminine and their alignment as women with both the goddess and the moon. We are leaving holes in our daughter’s education and in their hearts that no quick tutoring sessions can fix.  It is not enough for me, or Elizabeth Gilbert, or any woman to take a journey of self-discovery if we continue to leave our daughters behind.

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