The girl you were, the woman you are

What would the girl you were, think of the woman you have become?
Let’s take a moment and survey together.
It is so important to spend time reclaiming the turf we have carved, in this life.
Because sisters, we have carved.
And most of us are so accustomed to galloping ahead to the next moment and the next moment, thinking that all we have done can’t possibly be enough.
So this blog, this moment, is dedicated to you. To every place you have been, every road you have navigated, every choice you have made.

Right now – tell me a way you were insanely brave with your life.

A way you were beyond strong.
A way you were outrageously silly, or naughty, or both.
A way you chose love.

When we are girls – girls on the cusp – we are a tangled knot of longing. We have no idea where all of this hot messiness will lead. The business of being a woman is tough stuff, made more difficult by our judgement and self-criticism. Not to mention the judgment and criticism of the world around us.

I think one of the most challenging things we can do in life is to make peace with our passions. To find a way to inhabit all that we are, inside of a world that approves very little of who and what a girl is, a woman is.

When I was growing up, I loved hugely.

This was a trait that my mother feared.
She wanted me to hold back my love, to keep it in check.
The way I love is just…me. It’s my art, my prayer, my purpose.
For the same reason that your way of loving is just…you.
It’s feminine. Inclusive. Open-handed, open hearted, generous.
Shutting it down, shuts us down.

My best friend in high school was named Betsy. She loved her dog Mokey more than anything in the world. And Mokey was in the process of doing the thing that all aging dogs do. He was dying. Betsy was beside herself about this, so I decided to make her, by hand, a stuffed dog version of Mokey. I bought a pattern, and got just the right colored velveteen for his coat and his brown spots, and somehow figured out the button nose and button eyes. I was extremely excited about this creation and this process. My mother disapproved of it. I felt ashamed. She did not want me to give so much.

Why did I love so much? So big and so out of proportion to the way other people loved? This force was very powerful inside of me. And could not be stopped. So I just hid it as much as possible from my mother and others, but went on serving the force. Concealing the magnitude of my passions.
(“Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away”’ the Beatles told me.)

Forty years later, Betsy tracked me down on Instagram. We took our time, we planned a lunch.
And when I told my mother how thrilled I was to reconnect with Betsy, the first thing she said to me was, ”Remember how I warned you not to make that stuffed dog for her? You loved her too much. You always loved too much.”

Now, I am no longer a child. I am a woman who has loved and lost enough to know that no love is ever lost.

Loving someone or something with all your heart, passion, and soul is always a fantastic idea.

There is no better one. I explained that to my mother, even as I felt the shame of her shame splash over me.

It was remarkable to see Betsy – to receive the stories of one another’s lives, to fill up on all the beauty, pain, and courage.

When we were together at lunch Betsy gave me so many things.
She gave me the memory of our favorite English teacher, Mrs. Bittner, who demanded: “When you enter my classroom, do not enter through the door. You must enter through the loins!”
(And I thought that loin thing was my idea all these years 😉)

She gave me the memory of my father bringing us chocolate-covered strawberries during a sleepover. I had forgotten the silent, awkward love of my father who cared for me, not in the way I needed, but in the way he could.
She gave me the night we stayed up late creating a board game about Richard III for honors English class that our classmates could never win. And the moment I insisted we go outside to dance wildly by the trash cans in order to stay awake.
And finally, she gave me a small, hand-crafted locket with a tiny photo of me encased in glitter, dressed in my cap and gown.

I wear this pendant around my neck, since that day, so that the girl pictured – the one who loved too much, who dreamed too big, who was awkward, and hidden, and scared, and never fit in – gets to feel and see the woman I have become.

A woman who has made her way in the world on the radical, outrageous power of too much love.

She would have been so relieved if she had known it was all going to turn out this way.

With so much love and pleasure,

P.S. Reconnecting with love – the love you have for yourself and others – is the greatest gift you can give yourself. This March, I want to support you in reconnecting with that glorious, unstoppable power. We’re opening up our foundational course to The Womanly Arts, Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp to bring you back to the girl you were, the woman you are. Registration opens next week, so stay tuned for more information about how you can join the Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp in March!

Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.

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