There are many snapshot moments, snippets of my own story, that have led me to create 'Women's Rites'. Moments which have woken me up to the need to mark life transitions that our culture chooses to ignore. Today, with the bare trees and the nip of winter in the air, a memory of a New Years Eve from over 10 years ago is with me again.
A party in Dartmoor woods, champagne corks flying at midnight, a fire to warm myself with friends. Joyous. But it was one of those moments where the celebration hit me where it hurt. I was suddenly hit by grief, a sense of complete loss that blindsided me. I was single, no child, no man on the horizon. For many, no problem, or a choice freely made. But for me, this was a story I had always longed to live into, a story that had stalled, leaving me to listen to my biological clock ticking into a nowhere land. I started to dare to mourn the baby unborn, the husband unmet, that story unlived. I gave up on it, and felt the pain that lay beneath. I dared to feel the reality of loss.
There’s a strange alchemy in giving up – just pitching up to reality right now and bearing it. I thought about identity, and how it was to be a single childless woman surrounded by friends becoming mothers. It’s a divide to be navigated, not always easy to find the bridge. I dived further into my singledom, and found that beneath the pain there was steady ground, and the mantra that held me there was ‘I am enough’. The question I had was – who honours me here? Where is my rite of passage? My celebration? The journeys I had made to be at home with myself were invisible to the community. The weddings, the blessings for babies, the joyous celebrations of couples and families are firmly anchored in our culture. I had to find my own. And I did.
On Dartmoor, deep work with myths which spoke to me exactly where I was. Over the stile outside my door and into nature where I made art and wrote poetry. In my community, with women who understood the territory. I had to look for it. Years later I too would journey the more conventional celebrations of family life, but even then I was astounded by the lack of attention to the shadow side of those major life transitions. My experiences of being an outsider in terms of our ‘normal’ cultural rites of passage, birthed in me a longing to give this experience back to other women. To offer witnessing and holding through the unseen rites of passage which happen every day. To listen to the untold stories, to see the invisible journey, and to give space for the new story that waits on the other side of the threshold.