unpacking

To the women: I love you.  I want to love you with my whole, cracked-open heart.  I want to support you.  I don’t know how.

To the men: I love you.  I want to love you with my whole, cracked-open heart.  I want to support you.  I don’t know how.

Women, you are bleeding.  Your first blood came long ago, not from between your legs but as you clenched your jaw, biting hard onto your tongue, with unspoken words dripping down your chin.  Who do you think you are, speaking, thinking, feeling for yourself?  Be a nice girl.  You swallowed so many emotions that the only thing that survived was bitterness and fear.

Men, you are bleeding.  Your first blood came long ago when you were told to be a man, show no fear or weakness, and you beat your heart into a pulp until it bled out.  You were told your emotions had no place, no right, to live inside you because real men don’t cry, so stop being such a pussy.  You swallowed so many emotions that the only thing that survived was numbness and anger.

Women, you have hurt me.  You have cut me down with the sharpness of your words… those spoken to me, and those that were daggers into my back.  You called me a slut when I consented, and a slut when I didn’t consent.  You have competed with me, and wished for me to fail to gain the attention of men.  You have shamed my body, my words, and the paths I have chosen.  You have torn me down with envy to feel your value at the expense of my own.  You have disregarded the monogamy of my relationships to satisfy your conquests, and you enjoyed being the woman on the side.  You have bullied and abused me.  You have reminded me that I have failed my duties as a woman by not being a wife and mother.  You have played your role in upholding rape culture when you protect and defend predators, when you place blame on your sisters, when you slut shame and dehumanize.  You have deepened the gender divide, and the old stale gender roles and conditioning of the patriarchy.

Men, you have hurt me.  You have talked down to me, talked over me, talked about and to me like I was an object.  You have been violent with your words and actions. You have called me a slut for giving sex, and a tease when I have not.  You have made my heart and my body a battleground to wield your weapons from every war you lost before me.  You have tried to possess me as one of your belongings.  You have made decisions about me and my body that I did not condone, because you didn’t think I had any right to have a say in it.  You have reminded me again and again that I am not safe in this body, and of all the ways I could ‘ask for it’.  You have asserted your strength over me because you saw me as a conquest… or inhuman… or both.  You have imprinted the trauma of generations and generations of burning and rape and abuse along my ancestral bloodlines, and I can feel the pain and grief and fear of these wounds deep in my bones and nervous system.

Women, I have hurt you, too.  I have hurt you in so many of the ways you have hurt me.  My feminism has neglected indigenous women, women of color, and trans women.  My feminism has not made room for you to forgive and heal.  I have watched you make yourself smaller to make me more comfortable in the way that I have for you.  I have perpetuated the sister wound over and over again.

Men, I have hurt you, too.  I have been angry with you for not giving me what I wanted from you even though I never told you what that was.  I have expected you to always know exactly what to say and do, to remain stoic in the face of my chaos, to ‘be a man’.  I expected you to be strong for me, even though no one was being strong for you.  I have been angry that you could not hear the words I was afraid to speak or feel into the pain I could not express.  I have taken a ride on the ‘that’s just how men are’ bandwagon, deepening the shaming of the masculine.  I have been afraid of you and angry with you because of things another man did.  I have forgotten all the times throughout history that you were sent to war, that you had to watch as your women were burned and raped, that you were expected to provide at all costs, that you were not allowed to feel or express any of it, that you had to turn to destructive ways of coping again and again.  I didn’t notice that you are so much more likely to be murdered, to commit suicide, and that, still, male genital mutilation is ‘normal’.  I didn’t see your pain, and I didn’t stand up for you.

Women, oh you have LOVED me.  You have shown me the many faces of the feminine; the sovereignty of the Maiden, the creative force and nurturing of the Mother, the deep wisdom of the Crone.  You have taught me about the nature of creation and destruction through the Wild Woman and the Dark Goddess.  You have shown me the freedom to express sensuality and sexuality as the Lover, and the strength and prowess of the Huntress.  Sisters, you are all of this and more… I bow deeply to your grace, your strength, your softness, and your resilience.  You have helped me remember how to be in devotion to the Old Ways, and what it means to pray.  You have been a soft shoulder to cry on and a deep listening ear.  You have shown me how to receive.  You have inspired me to know that I can do anything, be anything, if I only dare to.  You have shown me the true meaning of sisterhood.  You have taught me who I am – you have been a mirror that reflects back all the gifts, beauty and strength I could not see in myself.

Men, oh how you have LOVED me.  You have shown me the many faces of the masculine; the courage and strength of the Warrior, the warm, loving care of the Father, the steadiness and integrity of the King.  You have loved all of me from an endless well as the Lover, and you have made love to me. Brothers, you are all of this and so much more… I bow deeply to your strength, your wisdom, to the full spectrum of all that lives inside you.  You have shown me the most tender vulnerability, the depth of love in your heart, and you have trusted me to receive it.  You have shown me the beautiful alchemy that occurs when the masculine and feminine merge into one.  You have made me feel safe in my skin, safe in the world, safe to express who I am, safe to fall apart, safe to speak my desires.  You taught me how to surrender, how to lead, how to take action.  You have shown me how someone who has carried a heavy weight on their shoulders can still stand tall.  You have taught me who I am – you have been a mirror that reflects back all the gifts, beauty and strength I could not see in myself.

To the women: I love you.  I want to love you with my whole, cracked-open heart.  I want to support you.  Please teach me how.

To the men: I love you.  I want to love you with my whole, cracked-open heart.  I want to support you.  Please teach me how.

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