The Teacher in Him

As I review the recordings of the conversations between Daniel and myself, I note that he felt compelled to be the teacher. That he came into our first session with sheets of photocopied paper to explain, according to his spiritual teacher, how a woman can only love as mother, demonstrated this. In every following session, I had a sense that he wanted to be the teacher. How well can a teacher shift into the role of being the student? How open then was Daniel to learning from me as a woman? Did this immediately set up a way of relating that wasn’t conducive to an open dialogue where both participants felt seen and heard?

Having stated the above, both of us must have felt safe in sharing. In the first session, we quickly moved from being hypothetical to discussing our childhoods and early relationships with the opposite sex. I found my ground and although he often seemed to dominate the conversation, I said what I wanted to say. And, our time together became very interactive and conversational.

My initial question, before Daniel stated his premise, was to discuss the Peter Pan Syndrome, the Puer Aeternus male and how the modern woman responds to him. When I look at our government, for instance, I can find so many examples of out-of-control egos governing the world. I have noticed that often, the women who are married to these men appear to support the immature male–often by their silence.

We did touch on this topic. Daniel admitted to not stepping into his adult male persona until he was in his sixties. Before that, he didn’t have a conscience about being verbally and psychologically abusive to women…and men. If he perceived that someone was intellectually inferior to him, he immediately judged them as less than him.

Both Daniel and I had highly abusive childhoods. We had male and female models that were stunted in their growth. Anger was the man’s go-to when he was triggered. Submission was the woman’s response to a man, especially when he exhibited anger. This was true in both of our families of origin. Daniel grew up not respecting his mother. He considered her cowardly for not standing up to his father. “A doormat,” he said.

I could match him for that as my father was highly abusive and got away with the unthinkable. My mother had no power in the relationship…it seemed to be this way right from the start of their marriage. We can say it was the times…the fifties’…when woman was to play that subservient role in relation to her husband. However, it’s been a theme throughout known history…that woman is secondary, less than. A theme that was exacerbated when man instigated religions that elevated men and virtually erased women from the pantheon of newly reigning gods.

Men could get away with all sorts of things within the constructs of family. It was structured within Christianity that a woman “be subject to him.” That is what I learned so well from my mother. I went off into the world, modeling my mother, subjugating myself to a man who didn’t see or appreciate me. A man who blamed me because all he wanted to do was be a boy. He did a man’s job, a firefighter, and then he wanted to play, play, play and drink, drink, drink. He would have occasional sentimental bouts where he’d try to do something thoughtful. These rare instances of sentiment couldn’t counteract his ongoing behaviors and violations, his disrespect towards me.

Daniel went off into the world at an early age, full of arrogance and rage and without a conscience, as he said. Although he felt shame around and anger towards his mother, he intuitively felt that women would be his teachers. He sought out women like himself–attractive, whip-smart intellectuals, able to hold that attraction or otherwise, dismissible. Whereas, I sought approval from a man. Was I pretty enough? Was I bright enough? Was I sexy enough to hold a man’s fidelity and his love? I always felt, that I had to try harder and do more to “win him.” I thought I had to earn his love and affection. It wasn’t alright to be me exactly as I was.

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What is a woman’s role in regards to the immature males in her life, grown men who refuse to grow up and take responsibility? That was one of my questions to Daniel…and now to you.

In Retrospect (2)

Knoxville Tennessee
by Nikki Giovanni
I always like summer Best
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy’s garden
And okra
And greens
And cabbage
And lots of
Barbeque
And buttermilk
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
Gospel music
Outside
At the church
Homecoming
And go to the mountains with
Your grandmother
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
And sleep
Writing Prompt:
What season did you like best while a child?
What stands out in your memory as inherent
to this season?  Notice how the author uses “listing”
to write her Memoir Poem.
Connect with your “inner child.”
Write your poem or prose.
nature10a

Naming Your Ancestors (part two)

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Story is one way that we carry forth the thread of ancestors.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of  Women Who Run with the Wolves, is big on story. Estes wrote about a childhood experience in The Dancing Grandmas. This story is about four elder women of her foster father’s family who came over from Hungary to America when Clarissa was seven years old.  She first met them as they disembarked from the train “looking like Santa Clauses” because they wore all the clothes they owned. The riches she received from them were all about story.

An excerpt:  “…They brought riches just by being.  Even though bereft now of children and husbands, stripped to the bone of their icons, their roadside chapels of worship, their village lives as they had known them; stripped of the simple solace of the ancestral forest they lived near and all its medicines, the satisfaction of the white cloth they wove, stripped of the ability to protect their daughters, their bodies, their modesty, their privacy–even so, they had managed to hold onto the essential and resilient Self…”

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So it is with each one of us.  We each have women and men who in some way modeled something saving and special for us.  We each have precious stories that we file away. Maybe we even forget them until something in the present triggers us and sends us back to a person, place, time…a positive experience that imprinted us in some way.

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WRITING PROMPT:
1) Choose one of the persons from your ancestor’s list.  Recollect and write down the basic facts of a story from your childhood that involved you and this person.

2) Stories often contain a hidden gem.  Take a moment of quiet reflection. Reread your story. What is the gem or gift to yourself within the story.  In one sentence, write down what you perceive as the gem within.

3) If there is more that you want to say about this, please do continue to write.

Note:  The thing about stories, at different stages of our lives they can take on new or deeper meaning for us.  It is, finally, our personal mythology which speaks to us on a symbolic level.