Dethroning the Strong Independent Woman Within:
The Pain of Initiation and the Return to Trusting Love
We often ask for transformation, but can we bear the discomfort transformation will ask of us? Can we really show up to the moment and do as it requests? Because transformation is an alchemical process, it takes energy, containment, patience, fire, and it takes courage. It may take longer or shorter than you think. If you are transforming into something new… you may not know what you will have to do, or be, or sacrifice on the road there.
And this is where I find myself again and again on the soul’s journey, which I will gladly share with you, because we need imprints of how we do this whole life and love and transformation thing. We need stories and fire starters and words we can feel. Whispers from a dear sister. Wisdom gained from life’s scars, shared over cups of tea and foot rubs, and notes to your heart. We need more than just ideas, we need stories and I want to share them.
So, here I am. Again.
I said I wanted love, sacred partnership, home… I prayed for it. Again and again, I prayed. And I have been asked to transform so much as I open to receive.
In the process of transformation to receiving love, a rite of passage is upon me: a deep aspect of my created self is learning to take a back seat. To her, that feels like a death. And in some ways, it is. She is one of two parts inside of me, currently coming head-to-head, toe to toe, ready for war in the last two years of being within sacred relationship with a man. One is a part inside of me that speaks with gentleness and with a calm even tone. She is the ocean licking my toes, the feeling of picking a ripe peach from a tree as the sun sets and biting its sweet sticky flesh… She is the moment you put your head on your lover’s shoulder, when you pull the down comforter up and slide your feet under and take a deep breath, she is the rest within the little spoon tucked into strong arms on a chilly night.
“It is time to look beyond just the self, it is time to choose love over adventure, it is time to choose home, it is time to choose roots. It is time to ground. It is time to choose the beauty of creating a home. Tending to love. Nurturing. Family…”
She whispers on a summer breeze with light rain, tickling me:
“It is time. You can trust love. You can trust a man. You can trust someone to have your back. You can devote yourself to someone, something bigger than you, bigger than your own story, it is time, it is time.”
She comes and goes from my heart’s awareness in the blink of an eye, but she leaves an imprint, a dab of honey I lick at until it’s gone.
And it’s taken me a lot of deep work to hear her. It has taken deep pain and deep healing and un-learning and un-winding and de-armoring. Deep, deep, deep gut-wrenching moments, for years, like Inanna writhing on the meat hook.
It felt incredibly vulnerable to hear this soft voice at first, and listen to her too, and to allow all those tender desires into my being… to have the courage to want new things - to want safety, to want home, to want communion, to want someone to depend on… those deep and tender wanting’s have been the most vulnerable things I’ve ever let myself want. I was never a woman who let myself want those things, especially not in public. Until now.
Which brings me to the other part of me, seated at the helm of my internal board of directors, hair neatly coiffed some days, wild and free on others, looking at her google cal, booked solid, she has a list of accomplishments a mile long. When she hears the warm honey whispers entering me like a slow-moving flood, and sees me folding my partner’s clean underwear, soft in my hands, she looks at me like… “Seriously, girl?” She has been kvetching and yelping and thrashing inside of me as my life priorities get rearranged. And this hurts her, because she has been deeply revered for many years inside of me since I invited her up and into her throne as I healed myself, found my voice, and reclaimed my power. (Cue title of my book that I wrote in 2018, which was born in 2020.)
She and I are close. And I took a lot of hard work to find her. Before her, I would hold in feelings, get upset tummies all the time, be afraid to have needs in life. And she helped me make a case for my voice, my needs, she helped me learn to speak up.
This was a great healing place for the soul journey, but not a destination to stay at and move into.
She’s been my ride or die. And she is not going down without a fight. She can feel I am trying to move her out of the driver’s seat, and she goes away now for days and weeks at a time, but when she feels I am in danger, she keeps trying to come back. She is constantly looking for all the different reasons why I should not settle down. Why I should not “settle” for this man or that one. (Her words, not mine!) She is constantly moaning to me:
“This person is not good enough for you. And this person is not hot enough for you. And this person isn’t worldly enough for you. And this person isn’t artsy enough for you. And this person isn’t ambitious enough for you. And this person isn’t intellectual enough for you...”
She is just sitting there, in a proverbial episode of Sex and the City, holding a Cosmopolitan, wearing all black, a combination of the voices implanted into my mind circa 1999 of Samantha, Miranda, and Carrie. (Not Charlotte, of course.) She sits with them and every other feminist text I drank in like coconut water on a hot day during my 20’s. These voices saved me. Liberated me. Eternally. I have drunk from their nutrients again, and again, and I am forever grateful to them as they are now encoded in me and there is much healing still to be done… But from 1999 to 2022 is a long time to keep taking the same vitamins, repeating the same inner mantras.
My strong independent woman is a smart one. She is a fighter. She has traveled the world. She has made herself up from nothing. She has cleaned rich people’s toilets for a living, she has taken care of people’s babies. She has pitched her film ideas and her TV show ideas in a room full of execs at HBO. She has sat at dinner with Courtney Love. She’s loved all gender expressions and studied many spiritual traditions. She has written a book. She has paid off student loan debt. She’s dated celebrities. She’s stood on stages at film festivals. She’s been in the glossy pages of magazines. Millions of people have viewed her artwork. She has worked really hard to get where she is.
So for her, the idea of shifting into relationship over independence and the idea of devoting herself to a less-than-perfect mortal man forged in the oily ovens of the patriarchy and to saying yes to taking on their traumas by proxy, to saddling up to their insecurities on the reg, to canoodling their quirks daily in the kitchen, to smiling over their idiosyncrasies for years… for her, that sounds maddening, like hell.
In fact, she is shuddering inside of me hearing those words! She wants space to fly. To be free. To be weird and wild. She does not want someone always over her shoulder, telling her how she’s putting the dishes in the dishwasher wrong, or how she left her jam-smeared butterknife on the counter, or how her tinted sunscreen hangs on her face visible… she wants to be free. And when she feels constricted, she becomes an angry woman. Rageful, in fact.
She has worked hard to free herself from the societal constraints that said she wasn’t good enough as is. Or, too much as is. And now that she thinks she is good enough, most days, and not too much, most days, she needs to make sure that she’s not affirming that she’s not good enough, or too much, because it took such deep work to get there.
And this is where it gets tricky… Imagine, the strong independent woman within at the table with the gals from Sex and the City saying: “Girl, he is not good enough for you. He is this, he is that. Why would you devote your life to him? Blah blah blah…” And then this other part that’s a blossoming, fresh, emergent part. That’s new. That’s coming up like a little sprig of green grass, that’s whispering in your ear, soft like the flap of butterfly wings. And I wonder as I look at both of them:
“I want to be devoted to love, to beauty, to home, just as much as I am to my art, and to culture, to solitude, to independence, to sovereignty, to world change, and to my spiritual path. Can’t I have both? Do I have to kill one of you? Do I have to deny one of you nourishment? Can I be a woman who is strong, who is free, who has an opinion? Do I have to forgo that, too? Can I not be a woman who does not want to be criticized or be judged and can I also be a woman who loves to make food for her man, make sure the sheets are clean for him, loves to draw him a bath, who has made sacrifices for love, and is happy to have done so? Is there a way to be both? Do I really have to choose?”
A living question.
It’s not so black and white, though it often feels that way. And it doesn’t mean I will give up on fighting for women’s voices to be heard, bodies to be honored and liberated, and for the earth to be honored, and for great healing in the colonized stolen land I sit upon. The initiation isn’t about denial, or giving up, it’s specifically a centering in the realms of home, relationship, and family. An internal hearth that is being made. Which itself feels like a return to something ancient that remembers that there is more to life than computers and work and success and is a return to village and community and sharing. It comes from the heart of a Feminine I didn’t see around me as a child, but have since experienced, in all its healing power.
The process of centering a new internal voice is one of the most scary and vulnerable things, an identity shift, a transfiguration. Moving to the backseat a part of you that’s been creating a beautiful life for you, the part of you that has been the reason for your success. Offering her as a sacrifice to Love. Integrating her wisdom. Because you know she has done her job well, and she is in you, and she built a lot for you, but doesn’t need to be the leader anymore.
And what a scary thing to do to try and dethrone that part of you! What if it is a mistake?
How vulnerable and risky to promote the voice that is tender and feels like entering the warm summer ocean enveloping you, as she says: “I want to give and receive love more than anything. I want home. I want family.”
How to bear the tender vulnerability of promoting that voice to the throne for a while, and the potential of failure therein? Especially when you saw your parents marry and divorce many people. Especially when you don’t quite believe in trusting someone to hold you, and you are used to love coming and going, but not being stable. What if this New Self is rejected? What if she fails? What if she’s abandoned? What if all the fears of the strong independent woman are indeed true? And what if that strength atrophies and there’s no resurrecting her?
And you know she gets you through life well, through hard times. You know that she has helped you to be a fighter, a survivor, and it has helped you get out of debt, has helped you make a business, and get a name out in the world, connected you to the Divine with fire and rage and will.
So, crossing the threshold into newness is very risky. You may fail. And that’s part of it. That’s part of the process. To not stay stuck, to move, to attempt the journey, and trust wherever you land.
Perhaps your journey is the opposite. Perhaps you are looking to elevate the voice inside of you that says: “I am strong. I can do anything. I am wise. I am weird. I am incredible!” Perhaps that’s the voice that needs to come through for you at this point in your journey. Perhaps your voices are completely different and their conversation about your womanhood is starkly contrasting to mine. We all have these different archetypes inside, each waiting to live their own myth, their own fairy tale, each waiting to be heroine, victor of their own narrative. Sometimes we don’t even know they’re running the show! They’re making decisions for us, and we wonder: “Why am I pushing away some of the things that I want?” Because one part of you may want them, and another part of you may be saying: “Hell no!” And that’s why. There’s a split and you must face that head on.
It takes courage to even consider shifting. This where the process becomes an initiation. Sometimes life pushes you in a direction, and it does it for you. You go through heartbreak. You accidentally get pregnant. Or you go through a disease. Or you lose a job. And something shifts. Something in your orientation shifts. Your priorities get rearranged.
And sometimes, you have to make a choice. And the choice requires willpower. It requires courage. It requires stepping into a possible failure. There will likely be pain in this wringing out, in this internal shifting. But there is a knowing that you’ll make it out to some other side. It will look different on the other side. It will feel different. It is walking into an unknown.
And that is actually what your soul wants.