Seeing Through a New Lens: Part I


I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.
I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

This morning I awoke from a dream in which a woman calls me on the phone to tell me about an idea she has. “It’s erotic,” she says almost apologetically.”That’s okay,” I say, “I’ve been thinking about that lately.”

It’s true. Recently, a heightened awareness of the joys of physical life has reminded me of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman’s desiderata: ‘the eroticization of all life.’ By this she means experiencing and being grateful for the sacred energy which activates nature, our bodies and our psyches; creates and maintains the ongoing birth/death/rebirth cycle of life; and can fill our time on Earth with enthusiasm, creativity, meaning and passion. Libido, chi, Eros, God, and kundalini are some of the names we give it, but to me it’s all the same thing.

The woman on the phone continues, “Get a lens. A good one.” I imagine a big camera lens. “Take it with you. Listen to people’s stories. We don’t need more theory. We need to see real lives, hear real stories, like the one about the woman in Palestine protesting the war.” I imagine writing a new book of stories told by women from around the world. I could illustrate them with images captured with my new lens.

The dream stayed with me while I ate breakfast, read the latest news about the election, and prepared for the day. Should I take it literally? Was my anima suggesting the theme for a new book? Meanwhile I was also wondering about the theme for this blog post. Last night’s dream? Suddenly a memory of a painful incident in my teen-aged years came to mind. I had written about it in The Bridge to Wholeness, so it would be easy to rewrite here. Bingo! I had my theme. So here’s that story inside this story.

When I grew up the rules for girls were clear. Women wishing to be acceptable to mainstream society were limited to three roles:  lily-white virgin, supportive wife, and devoted mother. Any other way of being feminine was suspect, and women who stepped too far out of these prescriptions would be punished by self-righteous advocates of patriarchy. I had three experiences with this kind of prejudice during my teen-age years and they all did exactly what they were meant to do:  keep me fearful of, and submissive to, men.

The first occurred in the 6th grade shortly after my father died. I was home alone after school when a man called and asked for my mother. When I said she wasn’t home he told me in vulgar, sexually explicit terms what he was going to do to me. Then he said, “I’ll be right over.” I ran to a neighbor’s house and stayed until my mother came home. I never slept easily in that house again.

The second experience involved another phone call. The summer before tenth grade a friend was at my house when the phone rang.  It was a boy who wanted to talk and flirt but wouldn’t tell me his name. The memory of the obscene call was still fresh, and I told my friend I didn’t want to talk to him. A bold and sassy girl who had no fear of boys, she happily took the phone and continued talking as if she were me. At first this was fun but when her voice took on a disturbing sensuous quality I asked her to stop. Keeping the phone away from me and covering the receiver so he wouldn’t hear me, she continued the conversation. When she hung up, she refused to tell me what he said, and soon I dismissed the incident as harmless.

Weeks later I went to my first high school dance wearing a new white dress. Before long, the shy wallflower I had been through junior high was dancing with a boy. During a break he led me to a group of boys he knew. Among them was a boy I’ll call Ken who had a crush on me in the fifth grade. When we were learning folk dances he asked me to be his partner several times, but being loyal and shy, I never danced with anyone but Jimmy, my friend and neighbor from across the street.

This is the dress from my story. Here I'm wearing it again to the senior prom.
This is the dress from my story. Here I am two years later wearing it to the senior prom.

The boy I’d been dancing with said hello to Ken, then moved on to talk to the next boy. Face to face with Ken, I smiled and said, “Hi.” With a cold, venomous stare he spat out a single word: “Pig!”

I stared at him in shocked bewilderment. When I could get away without being noticed, I hurried to the ladies’ room where I locked myself into a stall and sobbed until the dance was over. I never wore that dress again without feeling dirty and ashamed. Perhaps you already know why Ken said that, but it took me 30 years to realize he was the anonymous boy on the phone.

Two years later my story took another turn. I’ll tell it next time. Meanwhile, perhaps you’d be willing to share a similar story. I can assure you I’ll listen.

We don’t need more theory. We need to see the world through a new lens. We need healing stories, like the video I saw on Facebook yesterday of Jewish and Palestinian women singing and dancing together in the streets to protest the war between their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

 Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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12 Responses

  1. I’ve just glanced through a post about photography and the benefit to the picture of using a wider lens! 🙂 So – and I’ve just returned home after being away for several days in the bush where one of the guests was saying about his camera and using a wider lens. And, this morning while trying to figure out a cover for new book, I captured one possible one of an eye, and thought how this looked like a lens –
    So, ways of looking, ever widening, broadening, seeing differently. I’m amazed at the synchronicities thank you Jeannie. Hopefully I’ll find the one of the Jewish and Palestinian women dancing in protest. No internet connection in the wilderness so the video (vide: see) may pass me by. Though I can see it in mind’s eye …
    I have many stories of viewing certain happenings one way and then years later viewing them completely differently. It’s a good reminder to us all to cast back and look now –

    1. Thank you for sharing your associations and synchronicities with camera lenses, Susan. Isn’t it fascinating to see these connections occurring all around us? I love it when that happens. I had several synchronicities occur as I was working with this post and the dream that triggered it. I usually see these occurrences as ‘messages’ that what I’m doing is meaningful enough to pursue in whichever direction I’m feeling compelled to go for whatever reason. I rarely know the reason, but don’t worry about it. I just feel like something is going on in the unconscious and paying attention to it is enough to continue the work! This post was a direct result of seeing things this way, and the next will be the same. I don’t know everything I’ll want to say yet, but I know there’s a lot left and I know I’ll be led there when the time comes. It’s such a joy and relief to live with this kind of trust after years of assuming there’s only one way to do things and fretting when things don’t go the way I think they should!
      I always appreciate your thoughtful input. Thank you again.

  2. Though I had some painful adolescent experiences, Jeannie, I never had anything like these. I can’t imagine how difficult and painful that second incident you describe would have been for me. Thank you for writing it.

    1. Your kind and understanding reply brought tears to my eyes, Diane. We all carry scars from various kinds of wounds, and they plague us in all sorts of ways, including negative, defensive emotions, attitudes and opinions that create problems in our daily lives. One point I want to make in these posts is that our scars can keep us so stuck in one-sidedness that we can’t see the bigger picture. Our narrow vision gets in the way of our search for love, meaning, peace and fulfillment until we find a new, stronger and wider lens from which to view ourselves and the world.
      Misogyny is one of my scars and it has long affected my life in ways I couldn’t see and didn’t understand. But now that I’m seeing through a new lens, I’m acquiring a distance from, and objectivity about it that is freeing me to be more understanding and forgiving of myself and others.
      Thanks so much for writing. I hope you’re enjoying a beautiful Fall in the mountains. 🙂

  3. You’ll see from my blog that I’ve been swirling round some of the same area the past couple of weeks or so. And eroticisization is exactly the word which describes where I’ve been dwelling of late being kissed by Eros and Thanatos simultaneously.
    You mentioning those stories from your younger days, reminded me of how ‘unready’ I was for teenage life I remember being asked to come out by a friend because a certain girl wanted to see me, because I had ‘lovely teeth’! I was terrified and not ready for the opposite sex! I was 15. I also remember taking a girlfriend to see Scotland v Northern Ireland in a goalless game on a very wet Tuesday night: that relationship was doomed!
    But then I remember walking Susie home about five weeks into our relationship and as I held her, there was a feeling come over me which felt like ‘death’…I had asked her to come to London with me and she had agreed we would marry! On that walk home we bumped into the girl who would be Susie’s bridesmaid…this was very late at night and felt strange, especially when Susie told her she wanted to tell her something and anne-Marie blurted out “I know. You’re getting married” so many things fell together that day to confirm we were doing the right thing. The ‘death’ feeling I think now was my subconscious telling me, this is meant to be, this is permanent.
    And here I am today, thinking of all this, reading your words and tossing over in my mind the subject of Seductions which I’m using as a maypole to dance around for what I hope will be my next book. Which will hopefully kissed by both Eros and Thanatos too.

    1. Yes, I think I did note a touch of eroticization in your poems of late! 🙂 Lovely. It seemed to me as if you were in a vitally alive place, both physically and psychologically. I assumed it might have to do with your retirement and move to the beach which might be making you more aware of the Eros and Thanatos cycles of tides and waves and nature in general. Fascinating and very meaningful. I love this newest, very ’embodied’ phase of your writing. It speaks to what’s happening to me too, as you’ve already noted.
      Poor terrified 15 year old boy. It’s a tough age for girls as well as boys: terrors around every corner. And new exciting pleasures too. I have three 14 year old grandchildren and it’s fascinating to see them going through these things that take me back to the agony and ecstasy of my own teen-aged years.
      I love your stories. The ‘death’ feeling and synchronicity surrounding your proposal to Susie was especially fascinating. Yes, giving up your independence and freedom is a scary and permanent thing. (Thanatos) But it’s also a learning and growing thing. (Eros). 🙂 There they are again.
      I expect they’ll also kiss and bless your new book too, now that you’re becoming so aware of the balancing dance between them as they circle the maypole in your psyche. I can’t wait to read it. Blessings on it, and thank you for your always warm and fascinating contributions here!

  4. I also love Marion Woodman’s eroticism of all of life–the imagination, including body, psyche, and spirit. She lived it.
    I’ve been fortunate with boys and men, partly because I could always tell my parents what had happened and my mom was open about educating me as a girl. There was that man who exposed himself when I walked home from school in 4th grade. In a home with a dad and brother, I wasn’t shocked by men’s genitals. My mom called the police who had already apprehended the man who had been doing this around town that day. He didn’t threaten me, although his exposure was a big surprise. There were a few incidents of groping in junior high, but my mom taught me early to protect myself. I always did.
    I look forward to Part II.

    1. Marion certainly did live her talk. A unique, brilliant woman.
      Thanks for your examples. You were, indeed, fortunate with boys and men. And you were lucky to have a mother who taught you how to protect yourself. I wonder if many girls of my era had that. I didn’t, so I had to wing it. But I had a very healthy sense of self-preservation and kept myself out of iffy situations so, except for the events of this story, I remained safe and essentially untraumatized.

  5. I have felt like a teenager again – experiencing those ‘first love’ tingles – with my newly evolved Knight in Shining Armor animus. He is always there when the ‘darker’ shadowy animus threatens the younger girls in my dreams. Working on understanding all this recent dreamtime activity.

    1. Hi Gail, I know the feeling. The longer I’ve worked with my dreams and the inner characters they reveal, the more thrilling and satisfying it is so have the love, help and companionship of my ever-evolving animus. My soul doesn’t seem to know or care whether the feelings come while I’m awake or in a dream; whether the man representing my animus is in my waking or sleeping life. Either way, the images represent and stir up same energy and elicit the same feelings of love and gratitude. And they have the same impact: a knowing that I am known and loved by something wonderful. I think our souls are made of love and for love, and nothing in life brings more comfort and satisfaction than having a conscious relationship with that love. Thank you for writing, and blessings on your exciting journey.

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