Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reluctant Student: An anti-feminist finds salvation in a coven of women from all walks of life.

I was sitting here thinking about how I feel about myself now versus five years ago, versus ten years ago, versus... well, you get the point.

I asked my friend Weems a few months ago if I'd ever be done. If I'd ever be good enough, finished learning, if I'd get a break in between growths. I asked this facetiously, somewhat, but my egoic self was tired of all of this becoming.

He smiled at me and granted me a break with a hug and a kiss on my head, I knew that it was my choice to stop or to keep growing. I hid for a few days, and then tackled that tough thing. I am curious about what life might be like if I could be open enough to learn the lessons in front of me. I'm not sure I'm tough enough to strip off the ego that I think protects me and stand in what sometimes feels like gale force winds of scrutiny and judgment.

But there is something so powerful about letting yourself let go of needing to be right, or of having the answers, and being willing to be naked and take the force of that wind as a teacher, embracing it.

I didn't come by the will to do this on my own. I had teachers over the years. My first teacher was Kris, the first boy I ever loved, my first true love, a man who never wanted to take, but at the tender age of 17 was already a patient teacher about compassion.

Over the years there were many, teachers who held space for me when I felt like a very broken version of who I was meant to be. I never understood why they were willing to be hurt and disappointed by me over and over and over again and I struggled to become a reliable, dependable, integritous person. I had no idea the size of the mountain I was trying to climb. I had no idea how much help I already had, I had no idea how many teachers littered the path to the beginning of my understanding. So many of these teachers, as I grew older, were women of all walks of life. Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Jewish, straight, gay, all of these are my teachers.

Sister Beth, always willing to dance.
I'm grateful for my sister, Beth, who has always been a safe place to hide and lick my wounds. While our lives together were often tempestuous, she opened her home and her heart to me when she was still in college, and took me in, at 16, a drug using, violent teenager. The sacrifice she made to house my very confused, very angry person was enormous.

My teacher, Bodhi, six months old
One of my most profound teachers was my child, Bodhi, and his brother, Ethan. When I was pregnant with Bodhi, the force of his stubborn, beautiful will inside me inspired me to look carefully at Ethan, 20 months old at the time.

Ethan has always felt like a fresh new soul to me, blinkinly confoundedly trusting, in this world without any concept of danger or damage. Everything is beautiful to his immense computing power brain, and everything is new.


My teacher, Ethan, 3 weeks old and taking it all in
Pregnant with a powerful old soul full of love and war and opinion, I was fortunate enough to deepen my relationship with Nkem, my midwife. She and her partner Margot were brave enough to lead me to the questions of abuse in my past, things I had buried because there was no way to make logical sense out of why they happened. I believed I must have deserved this treatment.

Nkem held space for me while challenging me to look right in the mirror and own it. The only way  to keep Ethan safe, as it felt was insisted by his unborn brother, was to break this cycle. To bring to light all that had been hidden, was blanketed in shame and secrecy.

Nkem opened the door and helped me walk through it.

My therapist, Diane made a beautiful nest armored with steel for me to work in, and together with Tom, I found the courage and strength to set off a nuclear bomb in the falseness that was our happy family.

My beautiful, loving, incredible friend Jen was there to catch me in the fall out. We spent hours together holding strong to our beliefs about mothering, she challenged me to wear my child proudly on my breast, to give myself to the body that had made the baby, to embrace the deeper miracle of creating and birthing a person.
Just some of Jen's beautiful family

Virginia came bursting into my life like a pistol. Her wild, creative, open loving heart was incredible to see. She pulled our kids into her heart and held them like a precious package while we stumbled through years of confusion and growth.  I called her my wife, and it seems we're married in our spirits somehow!

Virginia and Jesse
All the while, these women held my feet to the fire, holding me accountable for my own growth. None would let me rest, none would be satisfied with partial effort. While they would tell me they saw potential in me, they wouldn't let me rest on that. They demanded growth. They wanted me to develop respect, integrity, they wanted me to become.

Angela.
Years later, I met Angela. This incredibly beautiful, powerful spirit was my first glimpse of my evolution. Could I become a woman so sure of herself? Strong mountain woman, in charge of her own destiny, open, willing, alone, able to stand on her feet and be enough for her. Her deep spiritual practice echoed my own desire, and I was challenged again to be a better me. Could I ever have my shit together like this woman did? How in the world had she come so far and learned so much? Why was she so willing to have me along?

Megan Harvey. Its hard to get her to stand still long enough to take her picture.
Then I met Megan. Who, for some unknown reason, believed in me. "You can! You can totally do that!" she said to me. For some reason, she's never changed that stand, and I feel continuously in my life like she sees me, now, as the person that I will one day become. Its an incredible amount of trust, and it inspires me to live up. She does this in a beautiful way, I don't feel like I have to live up to a standard, or fail her, I feel like she sees the possibility for who I can become, and therefore sees me already fulfilling my potential. Its like a Harry Potter story... I knew I could produce a Patronus because I'd seen myself do it in the future.

Weems explains football to Ethan at the Skier's game
Then I met Weems, (you are an honorary witch, Weems.) and Mermer, who shined their headlights on me and held my feet to the fire even more, with love, with compassion, with belief in the journey that we are all on. Weems has been this person for so many, and I feel so fortunate to be his friend, I feel so grateful to have his gentle spirit pushing me forward, lots of times I feel like I am walking on a slack line down the river, and he's the guy-line overhead that I can catch onto when I feel like I'm about to fall.

Aubrey. Ms. Frizzle of the spiritual world.
I went to massage school where I met Ruth, and Aubrey, and Tamara. I went through profound challenges during the year I spent in massage school, and the energy of Aubrey and Tamara was so deep, so forceful, so true, I was reminded of Nkem, of my first big challenge. I said I wanted to become. Was I really willing to do the work?

Tamara. Whose hands stuffed me back into my body daily.
Every day for hours a day, I was challenged. I was challenged to enter my body, which I'd abandoned as a painful place that was way to real to live in years before. I was challenged to ferret out beliefs about myself and look at their origin, let go and evolve. In the fierce hands and hearts of these women I forcefully shed my skin over and over again.

I left massage school feeling like I'd had a good scrubbing, and the world looked different. Then I moved to Aspen, where I felt like I had found my people. My friends here opened their arms and loved me for who I was. They continued to insist that I grow, become, and even today, they hold me accountable.

Liat. Who knew it could be this easy to be a grown up!
I still struggle with timeliness, I'm not great at predicting the seasonal life of a ski instructor, I'm not great at knowing what life with two kids will bring. But now, I live in a world with my sister as my partner, my little sister, for whom I was a teacher for years, has now become a teacher of mine. She's helping me learn the practical nature of life that just can't be ignored any more. At 39, I'm learning to file paperwork and balance my checkbook and plan for the future.

Partners on the path of growth. Like a see saw railroad cart, you push, I push, you push, I push.
And then there is Kurt. Constant for me, he expects excellence. From how I store my gear to how much sugar I eat to how I tune my skis to how fast I hike to how much I challenge myself to how open my mind is to information. He calls me on lip-service, on dogma, on being a sheep, on believing information without checking its accuracy. He challenges me every single day to have integrity on the highest order while letting me share the strengths that I have with him.

And now, I sit here feeling like I'm at another huge hump, its time for a new shedding, a new becoming, but this one, I think, comes from inside. So many women, so many people, have helped squeeze me through the wormhole in the past. I think they must have been preparing me to do it on my own, to wriggle my own self, my own spirit and energy into a new becoming, a new understanding.

There are so many people along the way who have come and gone, been students, or teachers, or both, for me or for my children. Thank you. Krista, Naomi, Cindy, Georgie...

This summer is stretching out in front of me in a big, blank canvas of the unknown. No one is going to prescribe whats best or possible for me. I'm on my own, now. But for the first time ever, I'm not afraid to be, thanks to the army of teachers who have given so selflessly to me and to everyone else in their lives.

2 comments:

Beth said...

You will never be "on your own," Kate. You will always have different and interesting people in and out of your life... and sometimes it feels like it all has to come from you, but you face the unknown with the constancy and support of Loved Ones. We are overjoyed and proud of the strong, independent woman you have become. But you are not "on your own." We will always be there for you. Much love from your dancing sister, Beth. xxoo

Kate Howe said...

Thanks, Beth! Although I know what you mean about never being truly alone, I don't think its a bad thing to be on my own. In fact, I think its kind of the point. I'm so grateful to have grown to a place where i look forward to that rather than dread it. :-)!!