Love her but leave her wild. ~Atticus (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Most of us were tamed as children.
We weren’t allowed to run wild. Or if we were, only in certain circumstances.
I remember longing to be a tomboy in some ways, although I was very much a girlie-girl. The tomboys always looked like they were having so much fun climbing trees and getting muddy and having snarled up hair. I watched them, intently, with my brushed neat hair and pressed dresses, sitting as lady-like as possible on the porch steps or the sidewalk.
I think my mom longed to be a tomboy too. She wore jeans and it seemed like such an act of defiance. Her jeans and t-shirts were her own special fuck-you to my grandmother I think.
I know she, my mom, was raised to be lady-like too, to be girlie, to wear dresses and always have her hair neat, to speak properly and only when spoken to. And so, as an adult, she wore jeans and tied her hair back in messy pony-tails and swore like a sailor.
But not around my grandmother, her mother. Never then.
And of course, we were never allowed to be anything but proper around our grandmother too.
And so the lessons were learned early on to hide parts of myself. To hustle for love and acceptance. To bend and mold myself to another’s liking, no matter what.
This all came to a somewhat abrupt stop when I was pregnant with my own daughter. And the vows I made so many years before that all the abuse and shame and neglect would end with me came crashing forward and I claimed those vows again.
I wanted different for my own daughter. Hell, I wanted different for me.
I saw the pain in both my mother’s and grandmother’s eyes when they tried to connect, to interact with each other. My mother always on guard for the next criticism, my grandmother having the best intentions but always picking and pointing out all my mother’s “faults”.
I saw the pain in my own mother’s eyes when she tried to connect with me and I knew my own reluctance and resistance to letting her in for all the reasons I had.
I knew their heartache and I knew my own.
I didn’t want that for me and my girl. I still don’t.
Some days are better than others and some days my grandmother’s harsh voice comes out of my throat and some days my daughter watches me with weary eyes and some days we connect in ways that I never knew possible for a mother and daughter and my heart swells and I know that cycles are breaking.
These cycles that go back beyond my own grandmother. Back generations and generations. Back to the times when patriarchy took root and women began to be disregarded and de-humanized. Back to a time when women first learned the lessons of what they must do to survive, what they must do for their girl-children to survive.
The cycles, the trauma; the looks, the tones; the violence, the neglect; the complicity, the compliance. Passed on and down, over and over.
All leading to isolation and loneliness; anxiety and depression; disconnection from the women who came before and the women who came after. Passed on and down, over and over.
I was very young when I made the vow that it all stopped with me. Maybe five or six. And for a time I thought that meant never having children, as it was the only way I knew to guarantee none of it would be passed on and down again.
And then biology and wanting and the meeting the right man and well, here I am today.
Ten years ago I renewed my vows that it all stops with me. And every day since I renew them again and again.
Part of the renewal is continually finding ways to connect to the women who came before, to continually re-examine my own relationships with my mother and grandmothers and their relationships with each other. To step outside myself and see what is still being passed on and down and doing as much of my own course correction as I can.
This is one of the ways we burn it down. This is one of the ways we change our culture and world for future generations. By doing our own work of unearthing and unraveling and dismantling and dislodging and embracing and being.
On April 1, an intimate group of women will begin to gather for my next six month online women’s circle. (CIS, Transgender, and AFAB non-binary all welcome). We will explore our relationships with other women, with our mothers and grandmothers, their relationships with each other and connect to our female ancestors to heal wounds and trauma and embrace their strength and power. If this sounds like part of your own journey of self actualization, of social liberation, of becoming unleashed, then I invite you to learn more and request an application here: http://gwynnraimondi.com/unleashingourself