Thursday, September 14, 2006

Honouring the inner masculine

Ok, to even the debate, let's talk about the inner masculine and inner feminine, instead of calling it the sacred whatever. The inner masculine is about the fathering you received, according to Linda S. Leonard, author of The Wounded Woman, Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship. I found all kinds of archetypes and images that resembled my relationship with my father, in this book, which I originally read over ten years ago, and recently picked up again.

My father's legacy to me was neither all positive or all negative, but since I left home at age eighteen, and especially as I had children and questioned the parenting I had received, I have focused on the negative - the rageaholic angry man who threatened us with verbal abuse, yelled at us for minor infractions and seemed to lose it for no reason at all. The patriarch, the authoritarian 'boss' of the household who made us feel tense and uncomfortable and seemed to belittle my mother's opinions and attitudes, in spite of proclaiming a deep love for her. The man who behaved inappropriately with women and girls.

I can't begin to describe my parents' co-dependent relationship, but suffice it to say, I was a father's daughter - the eldest, the one encouraged to excel, praised for my brain as well as my looks, made to feel special, the apple of his eye. On the other hand, while he encouraged me to pursue my interest in theatre as a hobby, he pooh-poohed writers and artists as likely to be starving in attics or alcoholics, (although he paid for my sister to go to art highschool and loved to paint himself). He just didn't think they were good careers.

Reading about the armoured Amazon woman archetype, I saw myself in that image; somehow accepting my father's image of me as strong, intelligent, rational and in charge, also led to an overidealizing of the masculine qualities of strength, hardness, and self-protection that lead to a terrible burden of over responsibility and joylessness basically - and sore shoulders - maybe cause it drove the playful feminine underground. I saw my stay-at-home mother (another bohemian artist in her soul) as the weak one without power (and in this situation she mostly was). But if women turn themselves into ambitious, competitive fighters to get ahead in the world and turn our backs on the softening influence of the feminine, of spontaneity, we negate a part of ourselves and become too serious, rigid, lose the joy of life. Leonard describes some of the mistakes we make when we imitate this rigid idea of the masculine, like this:

"This young woman's Amazon armor covered up a shame of her femininity so that she overrode the demands and needs of her body. She also mouthed a theory that there was really no difference between men and women. And she treated her body that way, not acknowledging the changes of body and mood brought on by her menstrual periods." Linda S. Leonard

Of course I am interested in how we override our monthly cycles, and our bodies in general.
So I am reconsidering my father's legacy, since his death two years ago. I remember the artist in him that painted a stained-glass window with water colour paint and black tape on our huge front window, the Madonna and child image he outlined in tape on the family room window. He was a quirky eccentric, his yard was never mowed on time, the weeds drifted over to the lawn of the extremely nit-picky neighbour who happened to be my vice-principal at high school. He collected old cars that rusted out while they waited for him to 'repair' them with my brothers and his yard was the 'shame' of the neighbourhood, or maybe just of me.

But he was also a warm, sensitive man, who taught us a love of story, and language. He loved Little Theatre; before we were born he acted and directed plays. He played piano and sang, mostly after a few beers, and he loved literature, opera, music in general. He taught me a love of the French language and I followed my own dream to Montreal, and married a French Canadian.

Now that I'm beginning to recover my inner masculine's positive side, I hope this frees up my creativity! that's the promise Leonard holds out. That conscious recognition or naming of the beast, brings light; that seeing the shadow or dark side of my father as part of myself, and seeing his good qualities as part of myself too, will heal me.

here's to reclaiming the inner masculine, the man with heart.

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