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March 07, 2019
It’s no coincidence to me that the anniversary of my sojourn into the “wilderness” aligns with the week of International Women’s Day. In fact, my journey is in many ways a reflection of my coming to embody and cherish my womanhood when for so many years I tried desperately to escape it.
You know that saying by Marianne Williamson,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Well, I think this is true for most people, and especially for most women. I find that many women, especially young women, struggle to express their personal power, passions, drives, and desires in real time. They would rather trade their “too muchness” - their aliveness, their creative urges and sensitivity, their powerful emotions and intuitive capacity - for emptiness; to be hollowed out, “normalized,” and stuffed into society’s box.
Or maybe it’s not that they would rather do this, but they feel pressured to do this. Pressured by a patriarchal society to dull down their intensity, dim their inner light, quell their passions, resist their urges, and become mediocre in every sense of the word.
At least for myself, this was definitely the case. As a sensitive, intuitive, emotional, big-hearted 15-year-old girl, I felt embarrassed to embody the fullness of who I was. My intensity was shameful. My emotions were “crazy.” My sensitivity was a curse. My intelligence was a disservice to the objectification I craved.
So embarrassed was I of myself that I tried to completely shut her down. Numb her out. Disassociate from her needs. Escape from her depth and rise to the surface, to safety, to achieve the level of physical, mental and emotional emptiness necessary to accept the herd mentality.
There were so many coping mechanisms and so many escape routes, from myself. Promiscuous relationships. Excessive alcohol consumption. Blacked out nights. Internal aggression directed as outward violence. Temper tantrums. Days where I was so emotionally incapacitated I simply could not finish a full day of school.
Yet on the outside, I was functional; an AP course, 3.5 GPA, extra-curricular, varsity sport student. And, I breezed through life with the heir of invincibility only an innocent teen could mistakenly adopt. So when my parents decided to make that drastic decision one cold March morning in 2007, I was completely blindsided.
It was the middle of my junior year of high school on March 9th, 2007 when I was awoken by my mother at the foot of my bed and two extra-large strangers hovering in the doorway. Get out of bed. Put on your clothes. You won’t need a charger where you’re going. This was all they said.
Little did I know I would not be coming back home, at least not for another year to visit, and then two years to finally live again. Had I been aware of this fact, I might have put up more of a fight. But with little to no information (this was their tactic), I complied, left the house, got on a plane to Atlanta, Georgia, and was dropped off in the middle of the wilderness in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Imagine if Outward Bound was laced with intensive individual and group therapy and you were navigating the program with a group of troubled teens from all corners of the country – that was my experience in the wilderness. At the mere age of 16, the rug had been pulled out from under me, the distractions had been removed, and I was faced with nothing other than myself, and the elements of nature, to contend with. Hiking and journaling filled our days and were sprinkled with one-on-one therapy, group therapy, letter writing, sharing our life story, and so much more.
While the 10-week program was just the beginning of my 21-month therapeutic journey, the impact was monumental. It was the first time in my life where I was forced to take off the masks, unpeel the layers, remove the distractions, and, left with no other place to turn than within, come to face myself.
Ultimately, what I realized through my process of recovery and discovery was that my feelings were the gateway to my healing and the most beautiful things about me were way more than skin deep. They were those inner qualities that I had tried to squander. I recognized that the sensitivity I had felt burdened by was actually a gift. My passion was my most magnetic and captivating quality. My intensity was endearing and courageous. My drive was inspirational and the mark of a true leader. My emotionality was what makes me loving and lovable, an indicator of my maternal instinct. I realized that these feminine, beautiful qualities all conspire to make me uniquely ME. The best version of myself, in fact. And, they make you YOU.
So if I leave you with nothing else on this International Women’s Day and the anniversary of my inner home-coming, it’s this: don’t you ever, even for a second, feel ashamed of your feelings, question your worth, repress your drive, dismiss your dreams, feel burdened by your sensitivity, and forget who you are. In the words of Tory Burch, EMBRACE YOUR AMBITION. Let your desires and intensity light you up, they are a reflection of your life’s purpose. Respect your intuition, one of your most valuable gifts. Answer the call of your heart, even if it feels scary. Let the truth of who you are course through your veins because when you do, you will be unstoppable and truly beautiful and radiant from the inside out.
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