Not long ago, an unexpected letter came in to The School of Womanly Arts and it took our breath away. We asked Mary Jo if we could share her story with other women, and she generously agreed.
Here it is:
At five and perhaps earlier, I somehow began to believe I wasn’t okay. I believed I was too much, too silly, too active, too happy.
Somehow, somewhere, I got the message I should stay quiet, don’t complain, follow the rules, be obedient.
I believed that my words, my thoughts, my opinion, and all of me, really, were not important. I got the message to stay small and to stay hidden and then maybe I would stay safe. In school I learned being too happy was a bad thing and those who are too happy were put in the corner, the closet, beaten, or maybe something more frightening. From ages five to nine, I only have a handful of memories of my time in my home and catholic school. I later learned I had disassociated to protect myself and would not fully recover for decades.
For most of my childhood, I believed there was something wrong with me, that somehow I was broken and needed fixing. I remember making a list around the age of ten of what it would take to be happy. I wrote that my desire was to simply be happy, nothing more. My list included things like: keep my room clean, do well in school, be nice to others, be kind to others, look good, keep others happy.
By age 12 I had a full-blown eating disorder which lasted for over a decade and included depression and suicidal tendencies.
This led me into a dysfunctional marriage of 21 years and a long-term relationship for seven. I chose “heroes” to save me from my past. Later learning and beginning to understand my co-dependence with narcissistic men.
With the ending of my 7-year relationship, I experienced rupture – I was devastated, heartbroken, broken open.
During this time, I dove deep into self-discovery to uncover me and how to truly discover this elusive happiness thing I’ve been seeking since I was a little girl. Through all my therapy sessions, self-help books, classes, webinars, yoga training and classes, meditation training and classes, learning about the neurobiology of the brain, human behavior and lots of other work – I still felt there was a missing piece. I still felt I was playing small, trapped within four walls and not able to find my way out. The word expansiveness kept coming up in my thoughts and my planning.
And then, Womanly Arts Mastery happened. Mastery was the portal to my happiness, finding the missing piece, my way out — and my body, my intuition, had known it all along! I wasn’t totally clear what I signed up for on that December afternoon at The Experience (the Womanly Arts introductory weekend); what I was unequivocally certain about was that I had to do it.
This I would learn, was my inner compass, guiding me where she knew I wanted to go, to become the woman I have been looking for since I was a little girl.
The experience of Mastery brought me home to myself. I am forever grateful for Mama Gena, for her wisdom, for her life experiences, for her humor, her gift of creating trust and intimacy in room of hundreds of women, for her staff, for the tools she created and shared, and for my new 500+ sister goddesses whom I can call on in a moment’s notice to get me back to pleasure.
In Mastery I learned I didn’t need to be fixed, because I wasn’t broken. I learned how to connect with my greatest gift.
In Mastery, I discovered the breadth and depth of my femininity. I discovered the breadth and depth of my radiance, my divinity, my wisdom, and of my power. Mastery showed me how to become expansive, to become the woman I always knew was waiting to come out. I am now learning to trust my appetite for growth to expand, to live in discomfort and to push my edges.
I rediscovered that happy little girl that was shut down, closed off. She now loves to come out and play, to celebrate, to be curious, and to be creative. Mastery has enabled me to reconnect with all of me and Mastery has opened my eyes to see all women as beautiful.
I now know what I want and how to ask for it, from the bedroom to the boardroom. I am learning to prioritize me, and to celebrate and honor that in others.
This year I turn 60. This year, I’m celebrating me, and all the fabulous women in my life. Before Mastery, I would not have felt comfortable celebrating me. It’s a new day! I’m done playing small, staying within four walls.
I know the world needs me. I know the world needs all women and men to be their best selves.
Through Mastery, I’ve witnessed a transformation in myself and in the women who shared this experience. I believe it is possible for all women to discover their own radiance, their divinity, and inner compass. Stepping into the unknown and facing our challenges is scary and can be paralyzing at times. I also know, Mastery provides the tools, the support, the container to take that journey. I believe all women need to experience this, it’s our birthright to rediscover our radiance, our power, and our divinity.
This, Mary Jo’s story, is why I have been doing this work for more than twenty years. For every woman who has been violated, for every woman who has turned that violation inward, for every woman who has lost her sense of aliveness and her joy, for every woman who has known heartbreak and rupture… Because I know she is still whole, and I know — because I’ve had to walk this same path myself — how to help her “come home” to herself again. Feeling vital and beautiful and worthy isn’t just for “other women” — it is for all of us. It’s why we’re here.
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
The School of Womanly Arts
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.