Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Health & Wellness: Being Female

It's another lovely Spring day.  I've been thinking lately about publishing some other things I have written.  Almost everything I've written that wasn't specifically for school is geared toward children.  So, I have to find an illustrator for those.  A friend told me that I could learn to do watercolor painting via YouTube, but I haven't started that yet.  I have some other things that I am thinking about submitting to a magazine for publication.  Today, I saw a rhyme that made me suddenly have an entire outline of a book in my mind.  I started writing right away.  I usually get pieces or general story ideas, not entire outlines.  It makes me suspicious that I have heard it somewhere before, so I have a lot of research to do to make sure I not only write well and accurately, but to make sure I am not inadvertently plagiarizing someone else's story.  I'm beginning by talking about writing because it is something that I have wanted to do since I was very little.  I think I was 10-12 years old when I wrote my first short story.  There is only one other thing that I remember ever wanting to do, and that was before I learned I was creative in written word.  I wanted to be a carpenter like my dad.  I couldn't have been older than eight years.  I remember when I told him, he was flattered, but bothered too.  His reply wasn't harsh, though at eight the disapproval seemed harsh.  He told me that I couldn't be a carpenter because I am a girl.  I think this is my first memory of definite gender roles.  I knew the difference between male and female; I had two younger brothers by that time.  But, it never occurred to me that I couldn't do something because I'm a girl.  I don't blame my dad.  I don't know why he told me what he did, maybe he was thinking about his experiences as a carpenter and didn't want his daughter to experience the same things.  Maybe he was thinking about the gender roles that had been placed on him.  He was a carpenter because he was male, and at age 14 in our hometown, that is what you did.  Girls did other things like babysit.  Although I didn't always know, since then I have been confined by what others thought being female entailed.  For me it was society and religion.  My family was confined by the same ideals as I, so I do not blame them.  Growing up I loved to be outside, I wanted the typical home and a family thing that many other girls wanted, but I wanted to be outside.  I wanted to play in the mud.  I wanted to be considered tough and hardy.  I was a "tomboy" who didn't like sports, but loved frilly dresses and nail polish.  I loved camping with my family and I never understood why I couldn't be part of the boy scouts.  I shunned girl scouts because, lets face it, who wants to sell cookies when you can tie knots and camp in a foot of snow.  I would have made it to Eagle Scout, earned the Order of the Arrow, and showed up ALL the boys, especially my brothers. But, I couldn't.  "Girls work in the house.  Boys work outside."  My brother would taunt me.  I was outside as a kid, freer and able to shun others' ideologies for me, but as a teenager and into my young adulthood, I felt as though I had to be different than I felt I was naturally.  I had to be girly and become the "proper" woman if I wanted to win a worthwhile husband.  I didn't know that as an adult those same desires would come back to life.  Today, I still love being outside.  I still wear nail polish, but my feet are almost always grubby, today they are stained green from walking in the mown grass barefoot as I collected the cut clover and grass for the compost.  I'm always eager to get out and dig and turn over the ground for the new garden and I get mad when my husband does it without me.  But, I also love to knit and crochet, cook and keep my home.  And, my favorite of all, I married a man who actually likes to include his wife in things.  He takes me camping, hiking, and fishing, and is just as likely to cook dinner and clean the house as I am.  I am finally able to be me.  Female, in the role that feel like I fit in.   I define my femaleness.  Just as each woman should have the freedom to do.

In this freedom, I have been studying women's health; mental, physical, and spiritual. I didn't realize that there are so many books on women's well being. In this post I am going to share books, thoughts, and other things female.  I'm in the first half of Women Who Run with the Wolves and Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.  I use Herbal Healing for Women as a reference guide for different things as they come up.  And finally, I have read Captivating three times.  The first book helps women to understand themselves emotionally and mentally.  So far, it has worked to reveal to me that we really do live in a world where everything has become defined by the male ideal.  It has taught me how to nurture my intuition and trust in myself.  The second and third books listed are about physical health. I haven't begun to delve into specific disorders or illnesses that women suffer from in either of these books, but I am learning about optimum physical health.  This isn't about a size or weight, it is about feeling well.  In the Herbal Healing book are herbal teas, one that I have been drinking regularly is called Female Tonic Tea.  It helps to balance a woman's chemistry.  I consider the last book I listed as a spiritual focus for women.  It is Christian in basic belief system, but it is NOT like other religious books I have read.  This one focuses on the woman as being woman.  I think it is safe to say that most Christian books for women focus on being servile, wives, mothers, or how to be perfect as a single woman to catch the right man.  This does none of those things, but focuses on women as women from a Christian perspective.

What is so important about femaleness?  I know from some of the things I have read and talking to other women that my experiences with gender roles and not measuring up to an ideal of what it means to be female is not a solitary experience.  Dr. Pinkola Estes states, "The modern woman is a blur of activity.  She is pressured to be all things to all people" (1992, p. 4).  This specific statement made so much sense to me. Stasi Eldredge (2005) states much the same about women in Christianity, they are exhausted, shells of what they could be.  Women everywhere suffer from so many things, whether it is a genuine unhappiness, severe depression, debilitating anxiety, or physical ailments that have no logical explanation, there is some type of "problem" that society says needs to be "fixed".  In reality, society needs fixed so that women can feel free to be themselves, define who they are without outside expectations or ideologies.  Dr. Pinkola Estes explains, "A woman's issues of soul cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually acceptable shape by those who claim to be the sole bearers of consciousness" (1992, p. 6).  She continues by stating that the only way for women to truly become "well" is to learn about who we are naturally, to retrieve and nurture our inner wild selves.  Her specific way of helping women is to use fairy tales, myths, and folk tales to help uncover these aspects of wild womanhood.

I like the book The Mists of Avalon because it has perfect examples of wild women versus women bound by society and religion.  In Captivating, Eldridge tells us to think about women in books and films that appeal to us.  What do their characters say to us about ourselves, who we want to be, who our inner selves are dying to be?  I love stories of strong women.  I like movies that portray heroines rather than heroes and I like when women fight against all odds to figure things out and strive to live the lives they desire, outside of others expectations.  I love how Terry Goodkind portrays strong protagonist women in his books.  I suggest starting with Magda Searus: The First Confessor to get an idea of what I'm referring to.  I also like how he portrays the character evolvement of a group of women who have been abused and tortured to become fearsome weapons.  They start out as young girls, going through a horrible process to make them into creatures who delight in torturing others and end with finding delight in beautiful things in a way that they were never allowed to.  It is an accurate symbol of how some women feel today, of what society and life experiences have done to them.  All they need is someone to come and show them love and forgiveness, acceptance and understanding, the way the Mord-Sith did in this series.  I like to see women become free from the things that bind them to become the wild and free spirits we were meant to be.

I could write about this for the rest of my blogging career.  As it is, it has taken me several days to fully put into words the things I would like to present.  It has been a difficult post for me because I feel as though the things I am writing here go against the things I was taught in church and school.  I think the gist of this is that we need to come to terms with who we are, without societal and religious ideologies pushed on us.  We need to love ourselves and love one another.  We women can be so judgment of ourselves and other women.  I am the same, if we do not learn to love ourselves and support one another, who will?  This post isn't about female being better than male, or any type of man-hating.  Being male has its own hangups and hardships because of societal and religious ideologies.  But I don't know about the male experience.  I might get one of my brothers to write something about that.  But, I do know about my female experience. I know that I'm meant to be free, that we all are.  I know that this isn't about pay wages and clothing or anything like that.  It is about the deeper sense of self that women have not been allowed to feel or explore.  Fortunately we live in a time that is becoming more open to female-openness.  It is a perfect time for us to discover ourselves, who we are within, and learn to express ourselves openly and honestly.  It is our turn to fight against all odds to figure this thing out.  It is our turn to have the courage to say, "I will only live up to one ideal, and that will be defined by me."  I wish you Light and Love.


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