RECONNECTING WITH THE FEMININE
PROTECTING IT WITH THE MASCULINE
Shannon lived in an ordinary world. She was born in the spring of 1975 on a naval base in the Northwestern United States. Her surroundings were lush, green and thriving. Her early developmental years were in Idaho where she would spend her days eating straight from her parents’ victory garden and making daisy chains in the summer heat. Fall welcomed tailgate picnics with the neighboring families, while wood was being chopped for winter. Her remaining formative years would be spent on the Central Coast of California. Normal for her was hot, sandy beaches, tide pools teaming with life, and waking from a nap in a canyon with a fawn only inches away from her face.
As Shannon grew closer to being a teenager she would discover her communing with nature, fascination with science, love of literature and constant curiosity would cause her to feel awkward and out of place in structured settings. When trying to fit in socially she was often teased, excluded, dismissed and isolated from groups. It was easier for her to be accepted by older children and often adults. However, even this dynamic would cause her to feel out of place. This led to a deep desire to learn why she didn’t “fit in” with her peer group. In her mind, there was a secret to life she clearly didn’t understand.
Halfway through junior high she intentionally cut herself off from her “weirdness,” the root of which was her intuition. She was certain that by disconnecting from her intuitive and natural world, by “assimilating into society,” she would be able to determine why she never seemed to belong. This would mark the beginning of her “call to adventure.”
It was not an easy beginning for Shannon. The next four years were less than graceful while she tried to maintain her “identity” and conform to social norms that didn’t always make sense to her. She often felt like a stranger living in a peculiar land. She puzzled over why her particular customs and direct observations were often perceived as rude, inconsiderate, careless, impolite and selfish. She feared letting go of her personal sense of justice, values, beliefs, morals and ethics, which were not always in line with what was socially acceptable. Living in this duality developed into a mishmash of choices. The inconsistencies resulted in having her first child at 18, marrying into an ultraconservative family at 19 and having her second child by the age of 20.
Feeling completely lost, Shannon felt unable to trust her instincts to know what was right for her. With her marriage on the brink of failure she turned to organized religion as a strict guideline to save it. She hoped if she immersed herself in their teachings she would be happier and more successful. She blamed her perceived failure on being a poor follower of the gospel. This choice would ultimately mark the end of her first marriage, as she and her husband came from strongly divergent beliefs.
Shortly after her divorce, in search of the ideal family life and trying to pull all of the components together to create the “American Dream,” she embarked on her second long-term relationship. Not wanting to stray from the principles of her religion, she married after a brief courtship. The marriage seemed to be going well, and her blended family was thriving. Shannon felt she had finally figured out that it was bucking the “system” that caused discord in her life. By submitting to the expectations of social, cultural, religious and political norms and trusting their leaders to know what was best for her, she was finally in a place where her life was running smoothly.
Shannon was a stay-at-home mom, as her family had grown from six to eight with the addition of two daughters. The family lived in a beautiful, new five-bedroom house in the second stage of a housing development across from an elementary school. The children participated in extra-curricular activities and enjoyed family vacations. She was finally being accepted by her peer group and was successfully living the suburban lifestyle to which she had been aspiring. Her family seemed genuinely happy. Perfect.
Now that Shannon had met the external goals of her youth, it was time to check in with herself. It was time to evaluate herself internally and see how she felt about her success. To her dismay, she discovered she couldn’t feel much of anything except a loss of identity. The “happiness” she was experiencing had more of a foundation in the academics of her pursuit rather than personal fulfillment. She had spent so much time trying to be the “perfect” mom, the “perfect wife,” respectable churchgoer and upstanding citizen that she overlooked personal development. Consequently, she felt her life had become shallow and superficial supported by a trivial, affected and material lifestyle. The infrastructure was carefully crafted around appearances, acceptance and going through the motions of cultural respectability. Her design lacked meaningful engagement and substance. She had been living her life by a blueprint that had been taught to her.
After months of careful consideration, she concluded she had built herself an aesthetically pleasing and socially appropriate prison in which to live. Within the boundaries of her world she realized she could not deeply connect with anyone, including herself. With each attempt at doing so, she could feel the “weirdness” – the source her of exclusion as a child – trying to return. A deep-seated pilot light of authenticity was growing within her. The intensity magnified as she questioned why she felt so disconnected. She had followed all of the established rules for a happy and Utopian life by definition. Why did she feel such contradiction in the outcome? Why did doing everything right feel undeniably wrong for her? Why did she still feel like a stranger?
At the cusp of 30, Shannon was at a crossroads of a moral and ethical dilemma. Would she accept her life as it was, a consequence of allowing others to dictate what was right and “best” for her? Or, would she make the course corrections necessary to live a self-fulfilling life where she could live a deeply connected life to herself and others? To continue her “Stepford” life would mean a slow spiritual death. To compound the problem she would have the awareness she was making a conscious choice in favor of spiritual suicide. On the other hand, if she chose a path of connection it would not only end her second marriage, but tear apart the lives of her children. Did she have the right to destroy the happiness and comfort of her children and spouse just because she wasn’t happy with what she had built? Did she have the right to end a marriage because she no longer shared the common goals on which the marriage was based? Her spouse had not changed; she had. For the next couple of years Shannon would try to live in both worlds. However, trying to live an authentic life was often in conflict with the life that had been created. Her inability to balance the two exhausted her to the point of ultimately choosing freedom.
Unfortunately, she did not fully appreciate how vulnerable she was and did not take time to learn or heal before embarking on a new partnership. She had no real skill set on how to evaluate the intentions and motivations of others or how to protect her own values and beliefs from being exploited. As a repercussion, she unwittingly surrendered her power and freedom over to someone who promised to protect, love and respect her for who she was. Uneducated on how to recognize the signs of manipulative and controlling behavior in a romantic context, the next few years would introduce her to domestic abuse and violence. The level of violence motivated her to choose to sacrifice raising her oldest two children by sending them to live with their father, submit to having another child, and lose all ability to support herself and her remaining three children.
By the time Shannon was able to gather the courage to leave her relationship, her life was all but destroyed. She called law enforcement for safe transport and went into a battered women’s shelter for formal rehabilitation. This is where she learned that letting go of everything she thought she knew and embracing the death of a life that no longer served her would allow her the opportunity bring a new life into existence. This was her first awareness of the Life/Death/Life Cycle as it relates to personal evolution.
Prior to leaving her violent relationship, Shannon enrolled in a private art school majoring in Interior Architecture and Design. During the time of rehabilitation her liberal arts classes focused on aesthetics, myths and symbols, sacred geometry and fictional writing. This allowed the doors to open for deep spiritual growth. This period was further supported by an expert therapist who provided spectacular tools that Shannon would be able to use throughout her life. They created a stable pathway to stay connected with her inner voice. This allowed her to develop a trusting relationship with her intuition. Instead of consistently looking toward outside sources for direction she looks toward herself. These tools also taught her learn how to pay attention to her internal warning systems. She learned these are inherently natural systems in place to trigger closer analysis before decisions are made. She also learned how to self soothe, cope with stress and experience deep, meaningful contentment.
For the last five years Shannon and her children have been rebuilding. In this new life she has wiped the table clean. The only things that remain are the values, beliefs, morals and ethics that support a self-fulfilling and spiritually enriching life. By example she teaches her children her hard-earned lessons: With practice, learn to discern if choices are coming from a place of fear or self-love. Forgive yourself often and forgive your past choices. Learn from them. Do not strive for perfection but rather a life of balance. Living an empowered and balanced life will inevitably have a positive influence on the lives of others. You have one life. Live it.
This is her evolution.