How Six Greek Goddesses Got Me In The Groove
(1) The Goddess as a Symbol
Thirty years ago I was sitting in a classroom at my local Community College, in high
heels, pantyhose, and a three-carat diamond ring, wondering why I felt life was empty and unfulfilling. I was a corporate trophy wife, although it took me years after our divorce to see it. Outside I'd parked my 500 SEL Mercedes Benz in the VIP lot,
thinking I was doing my second-very-successful-husband a big favor. He was on the board of the college, urging me along his path to serve the community, so I figured it would please him if I attended a class.
Weeks before I'd spied a writing course in the college catalogue, titled “ Women
in Literature over the last 100 years.” Had I not always written, but done little to seriously discipline myself in the art? It was the hook I needed to retire the high heels and to start polishing my thinking cap.
After much nagging, I convinced hubby I needed a computer. I'd joined Toastmasters, an international
public speaking course, and I wanted a faster way to write. He was very involved in honoring his father's image in business and community service, and because he saw some advantages for his public speaking, it was a shoe-in. Oh what we do for our men.
The first day of class was awkward to say the least. I stuck out as exactly who I was,
and the contrast was uncomfortable. But I really liked the teacher, a woman in her 50's dressed in a long madras skirt, and big jewelry. Plus she had long flowing hair and wore really interesting oversized black-framed glasses. She instantly mirrored to me
that although I was present, I was in disguise. What had I faded into, and where had that vibrant N.C. artist gone, the one who only wanted to write and draw and raise babies and make a nice home? I saw my younger creative self that day, and it must have been
obvious, because when it came time to pass out topics for term papers, the instructor gave me “The Goddess as a Symbol.”
I remember thinking, “What the hell?” I had no education or insight into symbolism, much less greek mythology, and the thought of researching and writing a paper about it sent me into tremors.
I left the class quickly, with a brief description of the paper I was to write tucked in my Louis Vuitton bag, desperate for a cigarette.
The weeks that followed, without any knowledge of its importance, would be the early development of a life's work beyond wife and mother. At forty-something, the only future I saw or hoped for was to get
our blended family out of the house into colleges so I could take a much needed breath. Life had handed me affluence and privilege, and I had no clue if I wanted it, but I did everything required to keep it. Or so I thought.
A huge unknown percentage of American women in their mid to late forties are right where I was that day thirty
years ago. Their children are leaving the nest, and if they are like me, they put their life's energy into marriage and family. What they didn't calculate was that the space left by their children would be a sink hole they couldn't imagine climbing out of.
Until they did.
Fast forward to present day where I write from a big brown
leather chair in a one-bedroom apartment, where I gladly live alone with a computer, the internet, my books, art, and music, and most of all, that I know all the searching years prepared me to have this dream come true life.
You're in the Groove when : You recognize a time to reinvent,
and you do it.
(2) Finding the right book
It's impossible to know you've outgrown your life without some kind of encouragement, whether it's a good friend that tells you the truth, or a spiraling into an abyss that brings you painfully
to a bottom. For me, it's been a good book.
There's no better growth punch
than seeing yourself clearly through the offered experience of others. In contrast to a face-to-face encounter, a book provides a gentle and private space between your truth and theirs, where you can diagnose yourself without immediate exposure. At any time
of confusion, I always found truth hiding in a book, or the movies, which answers all the riddles of life in a similar way. In the dark you can assess the projection of who you are and who you're not, and most especially who you want to be.
Author Neale Donald Walsch says the purpose of life is to “recreate yourself in the next greatest version
of the grandest vision you've ever held of yourself.” That was a pivotal life changing statement for me at a time when I needed permission to dive out of the box of wife and mother into the wide open possibilities of artist.
My spiritual journey began in the 1980's when I was drowning in affluenza, a term I used then to describe the virus
of the affluent. Any woman in her right mind would have wanted my life, and I travelled a million miles defending my right to have it. But inside I knew there was something wounded that needed healing, something undone that needed accomplishing, and someone
yearning to be known. Me.
Today we applaud Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat,
Pray, Love” as our sister of permission, to go inside and find the lost parts of ourselves. For me, it was Shirley MacLaine's book, “Out on a Limb” in 1983. She gave me the courage to go outside the
comfort of designer labels, housekeepers, and community service, and grope around for the gifts hidden in my emotional DNA. She set a course for me to examine god and what religion meant, and to ask hard questions without expecting immediate answers. I didn't
seek out trance channelers or go to Peru, but an insane field of possibility opened itself to me an inch at a time, and it's been an awesome and humbling journey.
That's the gift of the quest. Once the soul recognizes a scar that won't go away because you've ignored it, you find the courage to pick at it until it bleeds. And in that bleeding you
heal. It might begin with a book, which has appeared to meet you at the level of your need. That book will always lead you to another answer, somewhere. Either in someone or some event, there are messengers everywhere.
After reading Maclaine's book, my well satisfied and comfortable hideaway of affluence felt like a fraud, a dress-up
life of Barbi and Ken. The teacher assigned me a term paper about the goddess, as a symbol, and the information I gathered sent me into a deep depression. One re-creation had ended, and the vision was changing.
Five years later, divorced and living alone in Key West, I walked into a book store inwardly on my knees begging for an answer. Where
now God? And there it was, sitting on a shelf in plain view. A book. Titled, “The Goddess Within”, by Jennifer and Roger Woolger.
When something miraculous appears once, you notice. But when it appears twice, you follow.
You're in the Groove when: When the pain of change becomes
the ooze of hope.
(3) Looking for music that works
The creative outlet of music as therapy hit hard as I found myself
miserably divorced and alone at 47; miserably, because over thirty years I moved from my parents to a husband to another husband without so much as a blink. Life without a man was inconceivable.
So the silence of self was more than I could bear when I finally opened the door to inspect my past. Clues to my future were buried there,
under piles of sentiment I'd unknowingly saved for just this sort of crisis. But the emptiness within and without had me in a vice. It was the beginning of a new decade, the 1990's, and one that I believed would shape me into the artist and writer I hoped
I could become. But I realized I had to stop listening to the voices of regret, and understand instead what had brought me to an island of lost souls.
One minute I'd had a secure life with three Mercedes in suburban Maryland and the next I was carousing from bar to bar in Key West with drag queens and felons. Misery was beating on my
shins with a hammer. So I tried chanting and African dancing and rolfing and support groups, one of which coughed up so much truth that it sent me screaming into a 1000 sq. ft. studio I rented and named “Goddesses.” Locking myself in, I began to
examine the monumental inventory of things and sentiment I'd hauled down I-95.
to various forms of meditation and new age therapies to ease the suffering of my empty nest, I was lonely for something people couldn't fill, and the quiet was both stifling and delicious. Both my children married the year I divorced, and since I'd made an
inner promise to substitute romance for self knowledge, it was my hope I could reclaim an unrevealed spiritual identity of the goddess - whoever or whatever she was. With a burning curiosity, I turned to every book I
could find on the subject.
But I didn't have music. I had no idea of the therapeutic
effects of music on the soul, or that music and dance were essential in treating emotional trauma. After all, music therapy went back to biblical times when David played his harp to rid king Saul's demons. Hippocrates, Greek father of medicine played music
for his mental patients, and Aristotle believed music purified the emotions. The Key West solution was to navigate pain with alcohol, marijuana, and Jimmy Buffet. And with thirty years of smoking and drinking behind me, I knew I had to conquer my addictions.
Through the slow and persistent influence of goddess psychology, and the music I was buying
weekly, I felt uplifted. I'd begun ERT (Estrogen Replacement Therapy) and beginning with the CD “Diva” by Annie Lennox, the dam of emotion opened up. Dancing in my own living room, I wept a thousand tears.
It was a divine gift, a replication of my wounded heart, flung into the universe to land on me at just the right time.
Though her lyrics I saw our hearts were aligned in loss and depression, but our minds were hungry for spiritual authority and power. She was a great and constant comfort because for the first time I realized someone else knew my story.
Every woman takes this jump into the abyss of change from infancy to childhood to adolescent to adult. We travel
the ancient path of the Goddess. But what about crone? Who is she? And how does she evolve from the ooze of men and children when menopause and a second life is the last thing she wants?
She begins, one song at a time.
You're in the Groove when: You dance like nobody's watching....
(4) The Time to go within
How does a woman retreat from marriage and family to unwind
her life so she can see where she's going? I tried doing it in the midst of my 40's, a trip at a time, an hour on a beach here and there, a journal in tow. I created an office for myself, with a shiny desk and computer, and I even started a little newsletter
to jumpstart writing. Two children were in college, and two were struggling with direction. It seemed like a good time to self examine. But with the panic of it all, and worry mounting its own campaign of denial and frustration, progress was slow.
What immediately preceeds a shift, or a crisis, or a turning point, is always filled with
clues. All of my restlessness in mothering, trying to find time for pursuits beyond my children's needs and the demands of keeping a marriage afloat, was no more than an anchor I'd thrown down too soon. By marrying young, I lost myself in roles and duties
and responsibilities, and by the time I was 30 my heart was hungry for more.
what happens when you marry at 19 and have two children before you're 24. One day you're dreaming about art school or acting, or painting, or writing, and the next you're wiping butts and burning fish sticks. This sounds like sour grapes. Believe me, it's
not. It was an imperfect path that brought me joy, growth, and transformation.
this is instead is retrospect, discernment, clarity. A lot of women today are doing exactly what I did 50 years ago. Pre-puberty all women are filled with energy and imagination and hopes for excitement and adventure, just like men. Then we bleed and if our
focus on education and achievement is not greater than the flash of his smile, the first big love will steal every single passion we had for ourselves, and demand we turn them over. And the need to be loved will spread our legs instead of our wings, and before we know it we'll be shopping at Walmart looking for cheaper diapers.
The advancement we've made as feminists and progressives is a social and cultural phenomenon. But unfortunately there exists the illusion that we're not going to have enough life to do it all. Granted, some
of us don't. Some die in childbirth from poor nutrition, have crack babies, stay pregnant to avoid working, and the rest of us also do horrible things to ourselves in the name of progress. Like running a multi-million dollar corporation while your children
are home screaming. Which leaves the question, who are we modeling? And why?
is where we start blaming our mothers. Which is an even sadder state of affairs for women – especially when the mother has all the answers for us. Depending upon what mother you're looking to of course. Don't look to your own, or hers, or hers, or hers.
Keep looking so far back you can't see a story anymore. Look beyond religion and myth until you feel her inside you. Which brings us back to finding time to go within.
I am a woman of 70, with a hindsight that burns into wee hours of the night, alerting me to beliefs, conditioning, and a patriarchal religious manipulation that caused
me great pain and suffering. That is the joy, the lessons I've learned - to be on the outside of it all, still alive with a few teeth left to chew on the lies and excavate a bigger truth. I'm a lucky woman.
You're in the Groove when: When you know
the truth, and know you're living it.
(5) Identifying the lost parts
I was 47 when a crazy circumstance stripped me down to the barest of
souls. And then liberated me. Do-or-die desire had set the stage for a future unpinning, when what I'd previously sewn together as my “self” reappeared as a perfectly blond ten year younger version who my beloved needed and had to have. After our
introduction I felt a jarring uneasy omen. Confused? You should have been there.
experienced this revelation in a laundromat in Key West years after I left and she moved in. I was as tan and lovely as any post-menopausal 51 year old barefooted and betrayed divorcee could be, considering. I was far enough into my sabbatical from beauty
parlors, business attire, shoulder pads and pantyhose, that organized in my huge one-woman studio I named “Goddesses,” were the unexamined remnants of my past. Identifying the books, clothes, jewelry, furniture, art, music, and piles of sentiment
as symbols of my past helped me crawl out of the old and fold into the new.
over a washing machine (no doubt used by a sorted collection of transients like myself,) I gazed at my fingernails, natural and clean from salt water, contrasted by gleaming silver rings. No more acrylic french manicures, my wrists were also moist and encircled
by bracelets carved and smooth. Folding my linen shirts and pants, white by choice, in my straw hat and bare feet, with sand inbetween my toes, I smiled. I was free.
I bicycled my neatly folded laundry to my new abode, which was becoming a virtual orgasm of goddess energy. An intense
study of greek mythology had been rearranging my things into familiar pieces of a fractured and misunderstood femininity. To help connect the materials, as one would in a painting, I'd tear fabric into strips, stapling a visual narrative of my life across
the walls of my temple.
I draped and stapled a hundred yards of black and white
polka dot fabric into the cathedral ceiling, imitating the night sky. In the center I hung an 8' round blood red paper umbrella, which I worshipped as the moon. All my “things” were giving me a visual reflection of the goddesses I'd known, and
the ones I was yet to meet.
Aphrodite (Goddess of Love,) and Demeter (Goddess
of Motherhood,) were represented everywhere. Hera (Goddess of Marriage) reigned supreme. I knew them well. I'd custom designed six black and white, solid and patterned, stuffed life-size dolls and placed them in respective places that I could dress up as sisters
I'd never had.
And then the real live women were shockingly manifested. Demeter
(Goddess of Motherhood) showed up as a single mother with three children by different men who chose me in a support group to be her lamaze coach. Then there was the bartender at Louie's Backyard restaurant, who was a Hera (Goddess of Marriage) in the making,
but an Artemis (Goddess of the Wilderness) at heart. Then another Artemis, an Amazonian girl my daughter's age, took me fishing on her boat and taught me how to cook over an open fire under a full moon on an island named “Woman's Key.”
I asked them if they would help me introduce the goddesses in six special celebrations
I would conduct for Key West. They studied their parts, and together we beat the drums for every lost woman looking for themselves. And they came.
You're in the Groove when: Your laundry has never looked so clean
(6) Seeing the Goddess in your world
Aphrodite (The Goddess of Love) was the Greek's
way of exalting a piece of the Great Mother's power into a sexuality that would tame, but not compete, with man's inner beast. Creating the female equivalent of their sexual needs, they defined and worshipped her, but they really wanted her at their feet.
And the poor thing has been trying to get up ever since.
When tracing her origin
and stories, I saw that Aphrodite was at the seat of my soul when I was fifteen. I was turning so many heads that Doris Day or Marilyn Monroe paled in my reflection. Not only was I blond and tall and leggy, I had a shyness (the popularized brow drop) that
melted men in their shoes. And I loved men, and their smell, and the way they owned their bodies, and especially in the way they wanted me.
I was also a budding artist, captivated by the body and enamoured by the beauty of all things lovely and sweet. But most of all I loved intimacy, that swelling of relatedness that chopped formalities into
pieces of head-tossing laughter and surprise. And I loved to be touched.
many Aprodite wannabees in our culture today, her energy has been exploited by men and misunderstood as sexual instead of sensual, turning her acolytes into barroom huzzies, prostitutes, porn stars and nymphomaniacs. She has become so misidentified that women
today can hardly recognize when she's present, and when she does see her, it's through the eyes of men's desire, not her sacred power of connectedness.
It didn't take much to see where I'd confused sex with love when I started studying Aphrodite. As a way of examining my past, I started dividing my northern ensembles (no longer needed
in Key West) into each of the goddess archetypes. Shaken, I saw an ill-proportioned inventory of lingerie, designed to seduce with lace and ruffles, in silks and satin, and panties slit in the right places. It became obvious that all my high heels weren't
a fashion statement at all, but an historical manipulation in creating a device that would wrench my spine and raise my buttocks for easy access.
The perfumes, nail polish, hair accessories, creams, potions, toys, lubricants, and yes, vibrators became their own twisted version of “Toy Story” when it clicked that these
things were master negotiators, and for what? And for who? Thirty years of sex came into such a clear focus that I wasn't sure I ever wanted to have it again. Other than the two children I'd had and would give my life for, it seemed an escape hatch for misdirected
The altar I erected in my gallery “Goddesses” (no pun
intended) for Aphrodite caused a resplendent social awakening, leaving me weak in the throes of trying to understand love, as the goddess channelled truth into my doubt, and patience into my rebellion. I was newly energized by ERT (estrogen replacement therapy).
I had a female gynecologist that might have well as said, “ Go ye into this dark night and screw until truth abides!” And I did. Only in Key West they call it “Catch and Release.”
Along with two marriages and divorces, and twenty years single, I thank the dockmaster, mystery writer, artist, boat captain, a few
nameless wonders, a sculptor and massage therapist, and a few others here and there who've taught me that love is not sex. Sex is a biological impulse for survival of our species. And until we women understand that, we are doomed; puppets to the motions of
the hands above us that orchestrates a dance to the tune of their music. Not ours.
menopause I figured out what I really wanted and didn't want, and it no longer included bending into impossible positions that used to hurt me for days afterwards, or having my head banged into headboards, or being bound by cuffs or ties, silk or otherwise,
or being a service center for a man's sperm. I inventoried all those shades of gray, and realized that the hours, days, and weeks of planning to catch him and keep him, was the real manipulation, and I was guilty as well. Aphrodite, Goddess of Love,
set me straight. And Hera, the Goddess of Marriage showed me the truth.
up is painful.
You're in the Groove when: You know your motives.
It all started with the moon. The glorious, full, swelling, pulsating Key West moons I would sit beneath while on a beach or a pier, or catch sight of while walking my Jack Russell, Elvis.
My body had started shutting down its requirements to breed, and menstruating had become sporatic and inconsequential, disappearing as eventfully as it had begun. I had no handbook for reinvention, or transformation,
or awakening – all those terms that excited me but left me weak with hope. When? I would ask. When? When will this pain lift? When will I be able to forgive, to let go of what I couldn't change? The end of marriages.
Motherhood. My youth. Finished. Done. Was this depression or reality?
There is no warning when the moon goes dark. And it does, it always does. Between every transition
from waxing to waning, there is a darkness, a period, a pause, a time to feel the magnetic pull of the Great Mother directing you to the next right thing. For She's always pushing and pulling us. She cycles with us and regulates the oceans and
their tides, and knows when we're to begin and end and start again. If we look to her for wisdom, we will know too.
Artemis, the Goddess of Wisdom, knew the natural order of things. As she
spent her time alone, isolated in the wilderness, she could hear the whisper of life and death happening in a synchronicity that easily explains the laws of the universe. With her bow and arrow, she was hunter, and destroyer, life giver and protector.
A virgin Goddess, Artemis is that part in us that is independent and succinct, deliberate and at ease with the body and its instincts and intuition.
I saw this up close, intimately, with a woman I met
in Key West. She was my daughter's age, in her late thirties, and she was an Amazonian wonder. Six foot two, lean but strong, athletic but supple, she was the living, breathing essence of Artemis. We struck an immediate accord, as if Artemis
had listened to my plea to reconnect with nature, and sent her to me as my guide. She owned two huge boats, lived on the water, and was self sufficient, single, and had a natural power that spoke of an energy I'd barely known when I was twelve and swimming
daily and playing softball.
She took me spear fishing one day, and under a hot blazing sun dove overboard; and after she didn't come up for what seemed like hours, she emerged in an abundant sea spray
of happiness, with arms flailing, a smile wide as my heart. With eyes glistening, she lifted herself into the boat, unzipped her diver's vest and three lobsters fell out onto the floor scrambling for my toes. Screaming with delight, I was suddenly
that girl who climbed trees in N.C. on my grandmother's farm and who played hide and seek into the wee hours of dusk and found wonder in her midst on a daily basis.
This woman was so grounded in Artemis'
energy that anything outside her realm of solitude and independence was a fearful and challenging foray into the unfamiliar. She was socially awkward, smoked copious amounts of marijuana, giggled like an adolescent, and loved women. Which I found
no fault with. I was delighted to have fallen into her realm, but she taught me the danger of being overindulged in any one goddess'es archetype.
She helped me to understand that the Goddess is
whole, complete. That were it not for the Greeks, who couldn't bear her unlimited power, beauty, and independence, there would not be six of them. Oh the folly of the Gods.
in the Groove when: You realize the only limitations are the ones you put on yourself.
There's a witch in every woman. I first knew this at seven years old, whenever I'd walk into my grandmother's farm house. She was a simple, quiet, mysterious woman, whose deportment was awe inspiring.
A large, aproned, but orderly woman in her late sixties, she moved about as if on skates, never causing a floorboard to squeak, never missing her mark in the narrow paths carved through the rooms of the house she'd kept for forty years.
She seemed to take delight in the quiet of simplicity, relishing in the sizzling sound of country ham frying, or soft plastic hitting tables or walls as she swatted flies.
I'd sit in a small red naugahyde booth nearby in her kitchen waiting for her to say something, anything. Then she'd turn and whisper, "Thunder's a comin'", or "Boo's cornered a possum." Sounds were instruments that orchestrated her knowingness,
whether it was laundry flapping on the line, or gravel spitting down the lane.
I called her Mother Lucas, and although I didn't see her often after my father moved us to Washington, D.C., my heart
would leap when my mother would announce an upcoming trip. There was no preparing to be with her. You just arrived and she'd open herself to you, and you'd fall into her heart, all mixed up like molasses and butter.
I would set the table for sunday supper in the small but formal dining room with its long oval table covered in a lace tablecloth. She taught me how to place the utensils and how to position the water glass, and after grace, she would watch me
listening. Never speaking, I could read her mind, and I knew she was instructing me in some kind of art I didn't understand. Telepathically I'd hear her tell me to pick up the small fork, and I would, and she would wink.
One day outside, on a glorious breezy August day, I was complaining about warts on my fingers. She bent down, picked up a small pebble and rubbed it on them. "Be gone tomorrow......" And damn if they weren't.
I knew then she had some gift, some special connection to ultimate wisdom.
Forty years later I'm in Key West, trying to invent a freer version of myself. My performance art gallery was forming effortlessly,
with women appearing to affirm my spiritual path. I'm studying the greek Goddess Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld, daughter of Demeter who was abducted by Zeus' brother Hades, realizing that I too had been abducted, taken away from my own meadow,
that happened to be the tobacco fields of North Carolina.
Then one day Persephone walked into the gallery, when I was upstairs in my loft, testing a wireless mic I was going to use in upcoming performances.
I heard the entrance bell ring and peering through the ribboned opening from the loft above the temple below, I saw her standing in awe, listening to the music blaring forth, with tears welling. She was maybe twenty three, but stunning and wide-eyed
in a natural way that instantly told me she lived in depths she wouldn't explain. She had a beautiful tatoo than ran across her collar bones to the back of her neck and down her spine, ending in a cross. Except where there was Jesus, there was
a girl, who looked just like herself.
She came and cooperated and listened and did everything I asked. She knew Persephone, her pain, her alienation, her disconnection from her mother, and the angst
that this kind of loneliness delivers. In each of the six openings I performed for Key West, she would dress in a long, satin, peacock embossed skirt, and peasant blouse, with flowers in her hair, spread out around her flushed and virginal face.
Laying on the carpeted floor of the gallery, she would lie motionlessly and stare without blinking into, but beyond, the staring eyes of Key West locals. She was elsewhere, and she knew I knew it.
then she left; disappeared as quickly as she'd arrived. Except for the piece of my grandmother I'll always know as intuition, the wisdom of a woman that needs no teaching, no direction, or instruction. When we listen.
You're in the groove when: The answers come without asking
(9) Mother May I
A daughter can never fully be herself as long as she needs her mother's approval.
I realized this as I was adjusting a white,
soft, wig upon my dead mother's southern head. Not knowing whether I had the courage to do such a thing, when the funeral director asked me who we'd like to apply the makeup and hair for my mother, I shuddered. "I'll do it, of course." She
was a vain woman and I couldn't imagine anyone else knowing what she'd expect.
I did a beautiful job, as I floated through it, relaxed in knowing she wasn't there to object or critique. She was a shell
of the woman I'd grown up with, and her stitched lips and glued- together eyes and bald head rather more resembled a dead bird than the creature I'd known as mother. Her cancer was ravenous, starting in the lung, metastizing to the brain. She was
gone in four short months after a brutal regimen of chemo. This was the 1970's kind of cancer, the days when they were barely able to keep you alive long enough to say goodbye.
The cold hard floor of
the basement morgue where they tried to soften the horror of death with makeup and nice clothes vibrated through me as I bent over her body, smoothing, adjusting, smudging, and applying her lipstick with Q-tips. I sang to her, talked and whispered and
wept, with the hollow space echoing my regret, sorrow, relief. For embarrassed as I was, I was relieved.
She'd been a strong, disciplined, hovering, suffocating mother. The cape of her protection
was stiflying, as if she were guarding the most precious of all stones from its inevitable excavation. As a child I saw her as wounded and despondent, dependent upon pills and naps and domestic isolation to soothe the weight of her unrevealed remorse.
Projected onto me, I wanted nothing more than to escape her. And now she was dead. Gone. And I was relieved.
Then four years later my father passed, leaving me orphaned in a dead marriage.
I divorced, remarried and divorced again when at almost fifty and recovering from my first cancer, my grown up and married daughter came to Key West to attend a surprise birthday party for me that a friend was hosting. Three years earlier, holing
myself up in a large room alone to heal from the greatest rejection of my life, I discovered that wounds demand attention or they will kill you. And because they are peculiar invitations for expression, when we don't confront them, they will appear physically
to show us we must. Mine was in the throat.
But had it not been for studying the Goddess of Motherhood, Demeter, I'd never have consciously let my daughter go, and would have remained doomed to
repeat my mother's unresolved trauma of self-neglect. Her myths were critical in helping me understand the roots of dependency and loss of a daughter; that when a mother refuses to let go, there can be great harm.
I was barely 100 pounds, speechless from radiation and barely able to swallow that night when a few friends and admirers gathered to applaud my perserverance and courage. My performance art gallery "Goddesses" had become the new enigma, and word
got out fast that the goddess had taken a fall. It was all ending before it seemed to begin, and when I saw my daughter watching the festivities and listening to the toasts, I inwardly knew that as rough as it outwardly appeared, the loss of my
voice would be the very beginning that would set us upon a course of authenticity.
Unlike my mother, I will be cremated, requesting that my children spread my
ashes over a small island called "Woman's Key". The least I can do is ensure they will have a vacation in my name. For life and love and family is the reason we are here, and it's a party no one should miss.
You're in the groove when: You realize that you never ever fully own anything or anyone.
(10) I Do
How many times does a human being lie in a day? As hard as I've looked for this statistic, I haven't a clue. I know Mark Twain thought a lot about lying, saying there were three kinds; lies,
damned lies, and statistics. But with numbers aside, what's really more significant about lying is the effort required to understand why you do it.
This wasn't an easy part of my spiritual path studying
the Goddesses. They were demanding honesty at every turn, with each of them exposing their frailties as a way to jar my memory. How could I not confront my own failed marriages while listening to the Goddess of Marriage Hera's lament and jealousy
over Aphrodite? Had I not been there too? Had I not walked in both their shoes?
The first real lie I told was to a minister in a small country church on the hottest day of July in 1963. I
must have known then that those two little words weren't the truth, as each phase of our committment had been grounded in spurious reasons. Romance. Chemistry. Fear of being alone. Fear of being sexually suspect. Fear of not getting
away from my mother. On and on the justifiable reasons mounted a campaign to use the poor boy for my escape. And he was a handsome boy.
Daughters know who their mothers want them to marry.
The recipe isn't a psychological paradox. Just look at your father and imagine the same, or the opposite. That's who she wants for you. After all, mother's have been trying to correct their mistakes, or pass on their wisdom through and to
their daughters for centuries. But on every level a woman searches. For a man, for a job, for a way to be loved, to feel safe, to be important. Driven by these inherent instincts, we are doomed from the start, unless we're lucky or have perfect
models as a road map to our happiness. But it 's our mistakes that make for better stories, especially when the stumbling over ourselves via our children reveal the patterns that define us.
As much as we see
the inherited traits of our parents, we musn't discount the powerful influences of environment and what society is telling us we must do or have. And who influences society but the cultures before us? Which always brings me back to the Greeks.
Our collective unconscious can just go so far back into history before the record skips. And Hera, the Goddess of Marriage, is as alive today in our minds as she was in 479BC when the Greeks turned her into the jealous monster she was.
We marry to procreate, for safety, and we marry for prestige. We marry to advance ourselves, and we marry because it's still somewhat suspect for a woman to be living alone.
Creating my gallery, I realized I owned every representational piece of Hera's attempt to find power through her husband, instead of herself. I'd positioned them for any and all to inspect. With six mannequins dressed as their respective
Goddesses, Hera was the reminder of what I'd created and escaped.
I had the tailored hand made Chinese suits and alligator shoes. I had the pearls and diamonds and a Mercedes Benz with my name on it.
I had leather bound diaries and calendars, passport cases, expensive wallets and embossed stationary. I'd thrown the best corporate dinner parties any woman had even been praised for, and entertained any and all visiting clients that could further our
future. I travelled when required, I shopped because he wouldn't for himself. I arranged all his clothes in coordinated rows for easy selection, should I be missing in action. I cut his fingernails, cut his hair, beautified his home, chauffeured
his children, tolerated his ex-wife, and never refused him sexually. I was Hera, triumphant, determined, until I took some of his power. Then he cheated. Aphrodite had won again.
When a woman
lies, she settles, and when she settles she learns. Settling once will aggravate a woman's natural power, and will diminish her until she has to settle further. Taking the reins of your own life, using your power, not someone else's, to advance
your life, is not settling. I know this, because I finally stopped lying.
You're in the groove when: You stop looking for power outside of yourself
(11) Athena Rising
The mid-life years of putting my face to those of the six Greek Goddesses produced a breakthrough. But it didn't come easy.
Entertaining a myopic assortment of therapy by the time I turned 50, nothing satisfied for long. Born in N.C. in the 1940's, I'd sprung forth from tobacco farmers and politicians. One great grandfather coined the slogan "I'd walk a mile
for a Camel" while the other lobbied for the industry. Smoking was my norm by the 1960's and I was hooked by the time the Surgeon General put out evidence of cigarettes causing cancer. Drinking followed, as it did for all teenagers, and it wasn't
until the mid '70's that they both had escalated to a point of addiction. Medicating the side effects of weekend drinking, I'd use marijuana to ease over- consumption, which worked for a time until I became addicted to that as well.
I tried every available method to modify or quit, but couldn't. Meditation, hypnosis, self-help books, you name it, I was a walking statistic. Then a divorce and
remarriage and the stress of reinvention and too much recreation, as well as the death of both parents to cancer, forced my hand. Trying to expand my spirituality, doors opened, awareness increased, another marriage failed, and then I found goddess psychology.
I didn't go looking for it. It was handed to me in ways I could never have created. Over two years of constant and inspired study, my dedication and visceral understanding of the goddess served as a template for understanding my own fractured femininity.
I learned about "dyads" and how the goddesses were segregated into three groups representing the values of power, independence, and love.
Identifying strongly with
Aphrodite and Demeter, the love goddesses, and newly exploring Artemis, the Goddess of Independence, I was able to reconcile my pain through Persephone and Hera in a new search for power. In the deepening of my understanding of them, I came to
understand myself, and then gently, daily, put the hammer down.
But the smoking and drinking had escalated with the stress of isolation and just as I thought I was headed down a solid path of self-acceptance,
I was diagnosed with throat cancer. After a punishing year of treatment and surgeries, in 1995 I had a total laryngectomy at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, Md.
It was then that I felt Athena, Goddess of War and Wisdom, take up residence. But in contrast to my broken state, with staples literally holding my head on, with a hole the size of a half dollar in my neck through which I breathe, Athena
was an abstract and seemingly unachievable phenomenon. This goddess, the ultimate companion to heroes, a spear-weilding warrior and a rescuer of the most noble kind, came to me in the wee dark hours of my hopelessness - first appearing as a cursor on
my laptop, blinking blinking blinking on a blank screen, as if to demand, "Talk!" Which of course I thought I'd never do again.
So I wrote. In the weepingly furious and manaical minutes that followed
I reconstructed the last few weeks before horror banged my door down. Under the dim green light of my laptop's screen, I had my silent scream. On morphine, I typed ceaselessly and speedily, as if searching for a way out of a prison I'd couldn't
Athena rises when injustice threatens survival. She doesn't waste her energy on self-pity, but gives it graciously to the humbled. And I was asking. For her strength, her wisdom,
her courage, her guidance. I knew she was my final curtain, and with the other five of her sisters, that maybe I had a chance.
You're in the groove when: You know where
you're going because you know where you've been.
In this age of resurrected feminism I know better than to suggest God is a woman. The Goddess however, who Carl Jung and many others have helped to identify as an archetype, has a history older than any other
religion, and been a resoundingly practical spirituality for many. When I was in dire need, She arrived and connected me to the unexplainable, undefinable, origin of existence. Mother, Father, take your pick. I capitalize out of respect.
I'd had no academic education, no basis for seeking such a path. I just fell into it, as you would a cool river, not expecting an undertow. The current was immediately strong, as if all answers unseen and
hidden knew my presence and was delighted. I took to it as one would a lost love, and I have yet needed to swim. What has kept me afloat in the journey is the energy, intelligence, story, and heart of woman, as modernly mirrored by the six Greek
My library of goddess psychology and history is emblematic of any student. Scientific and mystical, religious and spiritual, academic, artistic, and poetic, the Goddess continues to inform,
inspire, and guide. For twenty five years I've focused on her mythology and my binoculars never fail to accurately bring her into view, whether she's sequestered or muddled. Everywhere I look I see them all. Lovers, leaders, teachers, politicians,
mystics, psychics, artists. The Goddess is in us all.
Childhood is such a ripe playground for imagery. The only symbol of anything divine hung from a cross on our walls or around my mother's neck.
As much as I loved Jesus, I never found a fit in religion. Neither of my parents attended church, but sent me. And when they did go, it was for Easter or Christmas, as if God demanded at least that much public worship.
Ask any child what they think of God, and they will draw upon what they've been told, not what they inwardly know, or remember prior to their deliverance. But fear trumpeted in the name of a patrilineal God follows quickly, and
it was no longer Daddy I worried about if I'd been bad. It was God.
I didn't do well in Sunday school. Although raised a Presbyterian, the teachers
were nonetheless fierce in avoiding my questions. Why do men have nipples? I would ask. If Eve was the only woman, didn't she have to sleep with her sons in order to start the family business? Was God's self-esteem so injured that he
required constant adoration? And how about that virgin birth thing? Curiosity was better kept in tow, I was told, when it came to matters of authority.
And so I continued seeking, beyond the limitations
of intellect and faith, for evidence of providence, grace, and ultimate authority. Had I attended art school in the '60's instead of raising babies, I'd have no doubt become a pagan, worshipping the only home that mattered – earth - because that
I could understand. The soil beneath my feet. For surely man wasn't responsible for that. I needed a religion that didn't insult human intelligence with demons and angels, and a vengeful blood thirsty god. I needed one to include the
wisdom offered through earth sciences, astrology, paleontology, biology and a divine spirituality that put women equal to men.
I'd grown so weary of defiance and exclusivity that I finally surrendered on my
gurney towards damnation, which I call my roadtrip to a laryngectomy. After telling God I wanted to die and if I didn't promising I'd spend the rest of my life trying to figure out why, I woke in the ICU of Johns Hopkins to the absolute certainty that
I would never be able to explain the unexplainable. Then I prayed to the Great Mother to get me the hell out of there and into a room where I could weep.
You're in the groove when:
You rejoice in answered prayers
Anyone who examines the trends of the new norm would have to admit that the modern family resembles little of the 1950's when roles seemed secure, smiles were discovered as false, and murderous jealousies were reconstructing
the institution of marriage.
I am 70 years old, and have two marriages, divorces, and twenty years of living alone as my credentials. This collective experience has riddled my best hopes for idealized love in the
human realm of desire; in one breath opting for belief that two people can sustain love throughout a lifetime without resentment or resignation, and in the other intuitively knowing that such an ideal is impossible, especially when I measure my own attempts
against this range of possibility. And because I failed to achieve this perfectionistic longevity ( even though two runs of more than 12 years each is commendable these days,) I eventually traded practice in for analysis. It's in no
way been ideal, but it has helped to end the battering of a scarred and weary heart.
I was not so gracefully recovering from my biggest heartbreak (infedility) when I drew the conclusion I was "done."
Meaning I'd had enough criticism from myself and others to think my way through the different kinds of futures that lay before me. I'd gone to the end of my rope trying to find validation and love from another person, whether it was mother, father, brother,
lover, children, husbands or friends. All the energy I'd put into getting their acceptace and approval finally disappeared, leaving me an emotional heap by a curb called codependency.
Of course I had
no idea what codependency was. I'd been too busy playing the part, instead of examining it. Had it not been for a wise psychiatrist in Key West, who gave me the book "For Women Who Love Too Much", by Robin Norwood, I'd probably still be chasing
the same illusion; that I couldn't love myself until others told me I was worthy.
Finding our essential worth has to be the human journey. What point is there in falling from bliss into this world, but
to affirm it? To actually experience it? Relationship to relationship, we all seek ourselves, and we can't see ourselves except through the eyes of others. They are the mirror into which we stare, and ask, "Who am I?" "Why am I here?"
Shortly after my divorce was final I read an article in a women's magazine written by Michael Crighton, the author of "Jurassic Park", an obsessive spellbounding read that I engaged in while driving, eating, feeding
my kids, pooping, brushing my teeth, or whatever else got in the way until I finished it. So when I saw this article, titled, "Love", by the same author, I read and re-read it, and still re-read it for its wisdom. Then studying Aphrodite and seeing
her particular incapacity to say no to sex and the reasons why, I found that part of myself I'd denied and wanted to set free. That codependent restraint that made giving in the name of love a requirement, an expectation, a demand, a bargaining tool,
and most painfully, a manipulation.
"Love is a restless thing. It ponders and wanders and seeks its own release." I wrote that line when I was 19, in a women's college, feeling the pangs of love
for a Spanish teacher 20 years older. I exercised restraint and I missed something that could have been spectacular, and opted instead for something that appeared safe. Aphrodite shook her curls and wept with me at this confession.
"Regret nothing", Aphrodite reminded, as all choices in the name of love bear their own particular beauty. After my two children were born, Demeter, Goddess of Motherhood,
applauded. And the two of them tortured and blessed me for 25 years.
You're in the groove when: You see that a part of you is not the whole of you.
(14) Moving On
I was 47 and twice divorced when I started experimenting with the concept of free love; meaning that taking a chance on the theory that love, sex, affection, and the blind-eyed seduction of all
things beautiful might have been the natural and easier path. Like any risk, it was scary as hell. Pagan, whore, witch, nymphomaniac, and another hundred names appeared as combatants as I let my hair grow long, tanned my lean and eager body, and
opened my weary arms to hope. Wanting to know love, not from another, but from the deepest part of myself as a woman, was the goal. My oh my I did it badly. So did Aphrodite I learned, with dozens of lovers and sired children as a result.
There was my first attempt with the 225 lb. former football player turned alcoholic, living as a felon with weapons, under a ficticious name. That didn't go so well. Then there was the carpenter and poet
with a foreign accent that took my heart and flung it over the moon. Things looked up after him. But inbetween there were needy men, controlling men, angry men, and people who just like me, wanted love. A taste, a touch, a moment, a
month, a year – however long love would stretch. And inbetween the coming and going, fear would step in and try to capture it, define it, and carve it into something it could never be.
The several years I spent reconciling my Aphrodite nature ( for she surely was my heart more than any of her sisters), through unbridled sexual adventurism, love without restraint or bargaining or plotting for gain other than
the sheer vitality of the act itself, taught me the root and essence of creativity. Because I bloomed in this kind of loving. Finally I was independent and didn't need another to protect, guide, or decide anything for me. Finally I was able
to choose and I finally, with the help of the other goddesses, was gaining the tools to say when enough was enough.
I'd taken up with an older Swedish massage therapist/sculptor/starving artist, and after
a few months of dating and wild sex, I went into a jewelry store to pick up some things I was having redesigned and when I started to tell the clerk my name, he said, "Oh, I know who you are. You're (so-in-so's) girlfriend. I ended the relationship
that day. Not a tear was shed as I'd come to realize that a woman living alone with her own money is a blaring target for scam artists. And I was on the right island to attract them.
With my former
married years of admiring Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City", I was seeing firsthand into her naivete with a new vision I could only have acquired through Aphrodite. For that's where we take myths and turn them into illusions, making them into fantasies
we think are actually possible to make real. To love freely in this world is a dangerous illusion for a woman. We have to self-protect.
I watch a lot of televison and I'm a fervent reader.
I know women well, and the love they want and climb mountains to find in another. Partnership, yes. Sex, yes. But love? That's a different animal. The Greeks took a piece from The Great Mother and made it into sex, the blood-soup
of the universe (for their selfish need to overpower what they couldn't do themselves.) Because we can bear life from the fruit of the womb, we have inherited a misguided notion of love defined as sex. And as Tina Turner so aptly sang, "What does
love have to do with it?" We can probably agree, not much.
Love had little to do with the athlete, the poet, the sculptor, and all the others who caught my searching eye. It was sex, it was the
power of creating with free abandon, with not so much as a question other than "Will you love me well?" And they did, until they didn't. And then I moved on.
You're in the groove
when: You know when to move on
(15) Sex, without Love
For those who've forgotten their Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love. Although I don't write to educate you in myths, I do use the parts of them that served my awakening and have fostered
my passion to share my experiences. But it was pity that I first felt when I reread Aphrodite's tales of adventure and woe.
When we look to today's ideal woman, we see her still. What's particularly
sad is that a woman manufactured her and gave her a name. Barbi. And we've been enslaved by her for decades. Slender, white, long flowing curly hair, it was a wonder they didn't include the scallop shell and pomegranites. I never liked
Barbi dolls. But my daughter collected them and like most girls her age at the time, her generation fashioned themselves after her perfect good looks. Long legs, perky breasts, a tiny waist, and that bright-eyed smile. Oh that Aphrodite smile,
that beckoning expansion of teeth that's inwardly screaming "I'm here to serve you!". And then we gave birth to Ken.
But we shouldn't judge Aphrodite too harshly for her reputation of harlot, slut,
whore, and fallen Eve. Especially when you look at her parenting, and how far back it goes. It's no stretch to see how women, generation to generation, since the Bible rendered them servants to men, have been trying to climb out of a very dark
hole. A hole they didn't excavate, a hole they didn't bury themselves in.
The collective suffering of women over the last 2000 years is visibly apparent in
the eyes of unfortunate women today; women date-raped and unable to defend themselves in a system that affords them little mercy; women traded and sold as sex slaves, financially disenfranchised and subject to control and torture if they don't comply; women
drowning in substance abuse, who were molested when young and whose innocence was not just tarnished, but eradicated for the rest of their lives; women who in third world countries are mutilated, hung, tortured and murdered if they voice objection to their
inherited cultural misogny. On and on it goes as women continually strive to improve their lives.
To end this war against our freedom, we have to do it together. It has to begin with women's collective
agreement that love matters more than sex, and that if we don't honor our bodies as sacred, as vessels for creating life, as well as instruments of love that can bring us and another great joy and pleasure when we choose wisely, then we will continue
to backslide into deeper and more punishing realms of spiritual decay.
It wasn't until I went off estrogen replacement therapy that I experienced true, unbridled, creativity. In our later years, after
hormones stop ruling our urges, we are given unparalleled opportunities. Not only was I able to better focus and discipline my time, but I began to polish the few things I knew I had going for me other than my looks and attraction to the opposite
sex. Calling upon Artemis and Athena energy, I realized I had real power for the first time in my life, discovering a singular pulsing purpose in my identity. My soul had been unleashed and I found that I could orchestrate dreams and
ways of turning my knowledge and experience into something vital and sustaining. Released from Aphrodite, Athena stepped forward and claimed her rightful place in my story and it has been the unequivocable triumph of this woman's life, and continues
to be so.
You know you're in the Groove when: ....your mind awakens as master over your body.
Coming home to oneself, to the inner acknowledgment and the soulful claim of wholeness, is the journey we call life. I know “home” as a brilliant and sustaining love, that guides our soul
along its journey with the utmost intelligence, for it knows the totality of our past and our purpose while here. The mysterious details that orchestrate and animate our fragile and very temporary life experience is a fascination that drives my every
thought, and choice of every word I write.
That I would one day, secure in expensive shoes and impeccible clothing, be catapulted into a system of study that would years later become the salvation required
for the depth of my searching, is the stuff of miracles. How can one soul navigate their life experience without the invisible yet apparent source of origin as guide? How can we not reside in a perpetual state of gratitude for that guidance once
we see it at work?
The irony that I, a North Carolina girl child, who unmothered, and barely noticed by her father, and who was brutalized by her older brother, could or would move through her youth broken
and lost to find in the days of a waxing maturity the brilliance, intelligence, and love of the six greek goddesses! The wonder of it all. That my longing for a sister, for the connection to women and their wisdom remained unrelenting, brought
me into the arms of not just one source of wisdom, but six. Six amazing historically accurate examples of the divine feminine that exist within each of us, that I had only felt or known through the urges between my legs, or the bliss of sitting in a
tree, or the smile that reading a good book gave me.
These instincts, that fueled my curiosity about the complexity and capacity of a woman's power, love, and independence,
actually were rooted thousands of years before me, and had sprung forth in their totality during what I believed was the weakest and most shameful period of my life. How can this not be God, or Goddess, or Spirit, or the Great Love none of us can name
or ever fully understand. How could it not?
I fully awoke to this awareness in 1995, in the ICI of Johns Hopkins Hospital, as I sat slumped in a wheelchair. They had moved me off my post-laryngectomy
surgical gurney, and draped in white, watching drool drip into my folded hands, as I could not lift my head, I could however lift my eyes to the nurses station, where movement and whispers and functionality mocked my crushed and lifeless form. Yet I
suddenly knew it was just that, form. The body, as instrument, as form, had a crisis, and the voice that rose within me, to me, as witness to divine intelligence, scanned the environment for help. Please, I begged, to any and all that could hear,
and as I peered into the face of a nurse, busy taking notes, she rose her head and saw me. Without pause she spoke to a nurse next to her, telling her to get me to my room.
Everything profoundly changed
in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Awareness is like that. Once you shift from the physical and the material world and experience the divine origin of your existence, your awareness becomes gratitude, and relief deepens as you
watch, as you learn, as you affirm your true home and understand that your searching has ended. The destination has been delivered to you, and you never have to go looking elsewhere for anything anymore, ever.
Not in any way to diminish the effort and faith of my healing, I now understand that the crisis and all that led up to it held the big truths - as if my fate had been sealed in an envelope prior to my birth, titled “Silence”, which
would be the fundamental link of my own personal divine discovery and journey toward completion.
I remember realizing in the dark hours of medical madness, surrounded by a surgical world of sterile supplies
and attitudes, that my path had always left clues to this current condition of isolation and silencing. Had I not struggled with words and tried to be understood my whole life? Had I not taken every imaginable opportunity to learn how to transform
the fear that burned inside me when I attempted to be heard? Had I not turned to writing and poetry and storytelling as a child, when there was no one around to listen? Had I not used acting in community theaters as a way to expose the demon feelings
of anger and shame that I could not otherwise expose? Did I not take public speaking courses as a way to claim a semblance of identity, although imagined and superficial?
In every hour of surrender there is
an uprising, an emergence of soul-stricken reacquaintence, as if without it, a piece of you would be everlastingly missing. Crisis, however ugly or cruel, opens us wide to the clapping of the goddesses. “Yes!” they exclaim in
gladness. “She is home again.”
You're in the groove when: …..the clapping never stops
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