Every Woman Deserves To Access Their Wild Woman
They sat us at a prized table on the sidewalk, in perfect view of the hustle of tourists and locals of Florence. It was not easy to get into Harry’s Bar, world-famous as an Italian go-to destination, and my friends were ecstatic.
I was just tired.
We were 19 and 20 year-olds who had been drinking a lot over the past few days, weeks, months. The freedom that came to most of my friends in Florence who couldn’t freely drink alcohol back in the States was lost a bit on me, since I had gotten my fake ID at 17 and rarely had trouble with it. Even if I hadn’t been able to drink when I wanted to back home, I wonder if those months in Italy wouldn’t have grated on me at certain moments, standing in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and STILL pondering, “Isn’t there more than this?”
That was one of my first glimpses that drinking wasn’t enough. In fact, it was often too much.
We women, born or chosen female, have a wildness that is inherent in our nature. But it has been refined out of us over a millennia, leaving many of us searching for deep connection in alcohol-fueled experiences, and grasping in those quiet moments for something we don’t fully understand.
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There are two instances in which a wolf kills excessively. In both, the wolf is not well. A wolf may kill indiscriminately when it is ill with rabies or distemper. A wolf may kill excessively after a period of famine. The idea that famine can alter the behavior of creatures in quite a significant metaphor for the soul-starved woman. Nine times out of ten a woman with a spiritual/psychological problem that causes her to fall into traps and be badly hurt is a women who is currently being starved or who has been critically soul-starved in the past. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves
As a teenager, I was ready to try out alcohol pretty much the minute we had access to it. I’ve always been drawn to adventure (though have a deep desire for safety at the same time), seeing what’s on the other side of this frantic mind. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have an addictive personality, per se, but I am also prone to social anxiety and bits of boredom (which I also now understand is the flipside of being ungrounded). Though I’ve found my way into trying plenty of ‘excesses’ in my life, I have tended to struggle more with food and alcohol than anything else.
At some point in my 20s, it clicked within me that all of our addictions, hard (drugs, alcohol, food, sex) and soft (TV, social media, exercise, gossip, etc.) are based in needs that have gone unfulfilled. That’s true for both women and men, and though the spectrum is wide and any person can have an addiction to anything, food, body issues, and gossip tend to be larger issues for women. A patriarchal system that keeps women busy hating their own bodies, spending plenty of time projecting that hate onto other women’s bodies, and talking about other women’s issues in order to not come face to face with their own does plenty to keep the status quo of disempowerment. It also makes fuzzy the sense that we have a deeper yearning for intimacy with our wild, true nature.
Though I appreciate the groups out there that are calling women to be loud, boisterous, explore deeper touch with others, dive into the abyss in large groups, I don’t think it’s about demanding that all women be extroverts and push their boundaries over the edge. It starts with planting the seed of awareness that we each have a way our soul wants to express our wildness, and looking for clues that lead us to that birthright. Explore all the avenues, for sure, but grasp and move along the rocks as gently as you need to.
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On January 24th, 2016, I decided to take a year off of drinking alcohol. A lot of people I mention this to ask me if I had been drinking too much; I answer, “Not really, I would have one or two drinks at a time.” But I would experience a horrible hangover the next day almost all of the time. And my energy would be zapped for a good chunk of the day. I’d need more coffee to make it through, which is not great for my body in the first place.
I also knew there was something deeper hidden under what now seemed like an old, outdated crutch. I had been drinking pretty consistently for 20+ years, and I knew that I used it to deal with anxiety – both social and otherwise – and procrastination in dealing with problems. I also understood there was a groove in my brain that associated fun and relaxation with an adult beverage. I am not at all unique – these are reasons that many people drink alcohol. But I decided to be unique in questioning what it was doing for me at this point in my life, and if it was actually inhibiting me in furthering my career and parts of my personal life. And maybe connecting to more extreme passions that were, in reality, dulled by this substance.
As usual, my physical body had something loud to do with it – my liver was in a lot of pain following a snow day that involved several drinks of varying sorts. It was the perfect opportunity to take the plunge.
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Janis Joplin…is a good example of a feral women who was instinct-injured by spirit-crushing forces. Her creative life, innocent curiosity, love of life, somewhat irreverent approach to the world during her growing-up years were mercilessly vilified by her teachers and many of those surrounded her in the “good-girl” white Southern Baptist community of her time.
Though she was an A student and a talented painter, she was ostracized by other girls for not wearing makeup and by neighbors for liking to climb a rock outcropping outside town and singing up there with her friends and for listening to jazz. When she finally escaped to the world of the blues, she was so starved she could no longer tell when enough was enough. She had shaky boundaries, that is, no limits around sex, liquor, and drugs. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves
The substances that make up addictions are not bad in and of themselves. Plenty of people have a wonderful relationship with food, for example, or enjoy a finely-crafted beer with friends, or are able to use social media in a limited way that benefits them. It is our relationship to a substance and our underlying wishes and needs that can create an out-of-control situation. We have generally approached addiction by only focusing on how to rid the substance from our life, which often fails. That’s because it doesn’t touch upon the underlying issue.
I’m not here to uncomplicate addiction – there are many people in the world far more qualified than me who have not been able to crack the code. From what I have seen, it takes a multi-pronged approach from a physical, emotional, dietary, stress-reduction, energetic, spiritual point-of-view, with a hell of a lot of luck thrown in. Even then, it is that thing that some of us must struggle with in this life.
But I want to throw into the ring that for women in particular, feeling into their wild women nature may help heal wounds that absolutely no other therapeutic approach will. It may also teach you some lessons about your personal boundaries that no one else can give to you, no matter how qualified they are. You might have less of a taste for that cigarette or cocktail, or choose to jump into deeper connection with someone rather than isolate and smoke that joint. Again, there is no easy answer that will work for everyone. You have to believe in the wildness of your soul, and follow your own clues.
Our zest for life becomes richer when it is not always clouded by something that is meant as an escape. Our ability to face our fears more directly comes from staying grounded as we follow an exciting, unknown path.
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What are some ways you can access your wild woman?
- Get quiet. This is the first and most important, and often, the hardest part. She speaks to us in spaces that aren’t cluttered with people, sounds, technology.
- Figure out your ‘click’. For me, passion comes through in the stomach flip. For a long time, I thought that was just about romantic notions. I’ve learned it is true for whatever feeds my life pulse. Become friends with the personal way your passion clicks for you.
- Write and/or tell your story. This can be your ‘real’ story, or the one that you want to become. Birth those ideas of self from the soul-realm to the physical one. If you feel comfortable, share it with others, as it can make it more real.
- Find a tribe of like-minded ladies and adventure together. Challenge each other to do the things that make you feel that click more and more often. Do them together to magnify the experiences.
Most important, trust that you have a wild woman in you who if you nourish her properly, she will give you in return something powerful and healing that nothing else can.
If you are in the Asheville area and are interested in connecting to your wild woman and telling your story, I’ll be holding a workshop on Oct. 15th that jumps into the fray, where we’ll share our wild selves through storytelling and photos. For more information, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.
*photo by Michelle Grasty.