“The Rowan tree is the tree of psychic protection, and discrimination. …the rowan is about integrity and personal sovereignty.” The Witches Book of Days
It is the month of Rowan, and what better time to write on the theme of personal boundaries? ‘Womens’ stories endlessly resound with the question of how to nourish others, without losing ourselves. From the baby at the breast, to the care and nurturing of relationships, to the petty drudgery of household tasks repeated ad nauseam, these are women’s duties, women’s concerns, and women’s agonies.
While it is tempting to delve into the question of how much this is women’s nature, and how much is enculturation, it seems pointless, for of a certainty, it is the way it is in my culture and many others. This is not to denigrate men; to deny real, loving men. It is simply to acknowledge this:
“…feminist Germaine Greer described something she sees with increasing frequency: the weeping woman, the woman stopped at a traffic light with tears streaming down her face, or exiting a stall in the ladies room with red-rimmed eyes, or slumped in her seat at the movie theatre, clutching a handful of Kleenex. The weeping is always private, indulged on the sly, and Greer sees the sorrow behind it as a cultural phenomenon as well as an individual one, a reaction to the lingering understanding among women that despite several decades of social change, the world remains largely indifferent, disdainful, even hostile to their most defining qualities and concerns.”
Greer goes on to say that women weep in frustration, at being overworked and underpaid, at attending to the needs of others before themselves. At the men who find it difficult to be intimate, at the continued requirement to always be lowering their expectations, or their standards. “…the power and strength of a woman’s emotions considered pathological or hysterical or sloppy, her interest in connection considered trivial, her core being never quite seen or known or fully appreciated, her true self out of alignment with so much that is valued and recognized and worshipped in the world around her, her love, in a word, unrequited.” (Greer quoted from the book “Appetites”, by Caroline Knapp.)
Does this idea of unrequited love strike you, my imaginary friend, as forcefully as it does me? That the warmth of kindness and generosity should have so little value when pitted against accumulation and power? That for love to be genuine, each must value the essential nature of each other?
This is the season to look deeply within ourselves, to understand what we value and why we value it. It is not a simplistic question of individual setting of boundaries, it is a conscious decision to live with integrity: to say I value family, friends, community – connection. That I affirm their value by living them, no matter how the world may scoff. That I affirm that love is not unrequited by acknowledging that your efforts to make the world – your world – kinder, more generous, more loving is a hero’s quest. Love and strength to my sisters and brothers who share this quest.