Friday, August 8, 2014

The Old Woman Healer: A Fairy Tale

All of the exercises in Writing for Your Life aim to open up the imagination, but some lend themselves more to self-reflection.  This is one of those, at least for me.  Sometimes I wonder about being so self-revelatory in a blog, but then I think that I don't have anything to hide.  And I doubt that more than a few friends are going to read them, anyway.  I don't intend for this to be one of those let's-see-if-I-can-get-famous-and-make-money kind of blogs.  It's more of an attempt to actually work on some of my journal entries so that I don't lose them.  If anyone else is interested in reading any of it, that's icing on the cake.  One thing I started doing some time back was throwing away my old morning pages.  Yup.  I'm not keeping all my journals any more.  I realized I don't want my kids having to read and wade through all of it when I'm gone (or feeling guilty about tossing it all out unread).  So, I tag things I might want to keep and work on later.  Poems that come, and some of these exercises from the Deena Metzger book.

This one was about choosing a moment in your life that you didn't understand and writing it as a fairy tale.  Here goes.

          Once there was a woman who was quite content with her life.   She had raised her children well and had also worked for many years serving children and families in her community.  Now she was about to enter a new phase of life.  Not only had she recently become a grandmother, but she was also now able to retire and rest from all labors except those her heart prompted her to undertake.  She felt expectant and curious.
            After a few short months of settling into this new chapter of her life, the woman began to feel ill.  Fortunately, it did not appear to be a serious illness, but she was not comfortable in her body, and she was unhappy about the lack of energy she was experiencing.  Her symptoms kept changing, as well.  People recommended various healers, and she sought the council of a number of them.  Although they were all well-intentioned, none were able to truly diagnose her illness or improve her health.  And so she muddled along as best she could, trying various diets and many different cures and supplements.  All the while, she was aware of growing older, and she wondered, “Is this what aging is?” 
            One day, she decided to consult one more healer, a so-called wise woman she had heard about who lived in a cottage outside of town.  When she arrived, the woman noticed that she felt nervous.  The cottage was in a clearing in the middle of a deeply wooded area.  It did not feel like a friendly place.
            The old woman opened the door and looked at her with what felt like a piercing eye.  “Come in,” she said, and prepared a pot of herb tea.  “Tell me why you’ve come.”
            “I’ve not felt well since I retired.  I’m afraid of growing old and being ill.  I finally have all the time to do whatever I want, and no energy to do much of anything.  I’ve been to a lot of healers, and none have really helped me.  I was hoping you could.”
            The old woman did not respond for quite a long time.  Then she said, “I can give you some herbs.  They may or may not help.  It is true that your body is aging and that you will experience things you haven’t before.  But this ‘disease’ as you think of it is as much emotional and spiritual as it is physical.”
            “What can I do?” the woman asked.
            “It is the crux of your life.  Everything you ignored, resisted and pushed down is now striking back.  You slowed down, and resting opened the floodgates.”
            The woman grew teary-eyed.  “I’m scared,” she said.
            The crone nodded.  “Being scared is a fine response.  Just don’t let it cripple you.”
            They sat in silence for a short time.  Then the woman asked, “How do you survive alone out here?”
            “Ah.  You see me as alone.  You are more alone in your town than I am here.  I have the trees, the plants in my garden, the animals, and my guides and spirit presence for company.  I never feel alone.”
            “Please help me,” the woman said.
            The elder rose and put her hands on the woman’s shoulders.  “Breathe,” she said.  “Touch and be touched.  Do not isolate yourself, but use your alone time well.  Write.  Sing.  Pray.”
            “Can I heal?”
            “You can.  That doesn’t mean your body won’t feel your aging.  Accept it.  We all must.  And give it all to God, or whatever god or goddess you worship.”
            “Do I need to understand whatever I was pushing down?  Because I don’t know what it is.”
            “You cannot force that kind of understanding.  Be tender with your body, and do not fight it if it wants to deliver you that information.  It will have to come from the body, which is where it has been stored.  Your body is seeking a new balance, a new rhythm, a new pattern.  Let it restructure.  Treat it well, and it will do that.  it takes time, years.  Trust that it has its own wisdom."
            “But bodies do break down, grow cancers, all of that.  How can you tell re-balancing from illness?”
            “You can’t.  You treat yourself well and flow with the process.  If illness comes, it comes.  If you are caring for yourself, you must let go and accept.  Do not blame yourself for illness.  Re-patterning is mysterious and challenging.  You cannot control it.  Is it serendipity?  The gods?  Fate?  No one knows for sure.  You see it according to your beliefs.  But it is not controllable.  This is life, my dear.”
            “I just want to know that I’m doing all I can.  The right things.”
            “You stress too much over that, and that pressure you put on yourself affects your body."
            “This is your work.  Release into calm acceptance.  That doesn’t mean giving up acting in ways to help yourself.  Do you understand?”
            “I think so.”
            “Good.  Go, and be at peace.  Or….practice being at peace.  ‘Practice’ is a good word.  That’s what I try to do.  Practice.  Notice that it doesn’t mean being perfect, or having complete understanding.  It is working at what we wish to learn and be.”
            The old woman packed up a basket of herbs with instructions on how to use them and sent the woman on her way. As she left, she noticed that the woods no longer felt unfriendly, and she realized that she was smiling.

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