About 20 years ago, I went to hear a mythologist speak. At the time, I didn’t know what a mythologist was, but I was open to listening. That night, I received a gift that I never saw coming. He spoke about being wounded. I’m not sure I was even aware at that time that I was wounded. He stated, quite simply, that our greatest wounds lie next to the greatest gifts we have to give to the world.
That simple idea has stuck with me and drives most of what I do today. But the question is: What gift do I have to give that the world needs, and what exactly is the wound that lies next to it?
My story begins at my beginning.
I was a girl. A girl without a mother. A girl who did not know herself. A girl who did not know her worth. My mother died when I was two weeks old, and although I don’t remember anyone ever telling me it was my fault, I remember feeling that I was the killer. My father, a simple and good man, never spoke of her. I suspect it was too painful, but in his silence, I read blame. So, instead of becoming bigger in the world, I became smaller—armed with the knowledge that I was powerful enough to destroy someone else, but not with the power to become more.
I was a young woman. A young woman without direction or guidance. I fell into and out of this and that, guided by who I thought I was supposed to be but not by what I really wanted. I was attracted to community, and especially community around women. I know now that I was looking for my people, and I found them in a bunch of theater geeks. But even then, I stood on the outside and just dipped my toes in, not knowing my power, not knowing who I was, not knowing my worth.
My wounds guided me to be in groups but kept me from really being myself, showing myself, and being vulnerable. I felt the need to be powerful, so I wasn’t afraid of making decisions and directions, as long as no one questioned my power. But it was just pretending, not really being.
I was a married woman. A married woman without knowing what it means to be married. I married a man who didn’t have a father figure, so between the two of us, we were missing big and important influences. We didn’t understand each other, and often, we were unwilling to do the work that being married requires. We were each alone in our marriage, either by physical distance or by emotional disconnection. We each wanted to feel powerful as a way of not feeling hurt, yet neither of us knew how to do one without destroying the other.
I was a mother. I was a mother who wanted to be different from the mother I knew. I thought I knew who I was—a person in the world—but discovered who I was didn’t fit what a mother was supposed to be. So I became the version of what a “good” mother was (that I could manage), and in the process, lost myself to my children’s needs. I spent years thinking of everyone but myself, and then felt guilty when I did think of myself. I spent years in isolation with young children when mostly what I wanted was community. And in community, I sat largely on the sidelines watching. What I was able to do, though, was find a few important women whom I leaned on, and who leaned on me—and in that small community of mothers, I was saved.
I was a girl, and then a young woman. I am no longer those. I am however, a married woman and a mother. And still learning to replace the powerlessness of not knowing who I am or where I belong with the knowledge of my power and finding places where I belong.
My wounds are healing, and I am finding my place in the world. It’s important for me to know my community and to build it continuously, and I’ve found a way to do it with my business—Women Hold the Key. I’ve replaced isolation with reaching out, and not knowing my power with giving others the power of connection. It may take a lifetime to get there, but I’m working on it.