I did a quick mapping of my body the other day. Here’s what I discovered – from top to bottom:

  • Many mornings, I wake up with my left eye puffy. Not enough water, too much wine, too many tears, and for some reason, always when sleeping in hotels.
  • My left ear is higher than my right. This causes me to constantly adjust my glasses so that they are straight over the bridge of my nose.
  • I had the left side of my nose pierced.
  • My left shoulder must be slightly higher than my right. Just like my glasses, I am constantly adjusting a sleeve or neckline to symmetry.
  • I wear 10 bracelets on my left arm – always, every day. It would never occur to me to put them on the other arm.
  • Two fingers on my left hand bear the memory of accidental knife cuts in the kitchen.
  • My left thigh still shows the long, white line where I sliced my leg open in the bathtub – shaving my legs against my mother’s wishes.
  • My left knee is scarred from falling from my bike and on to gravel-filled roads – multiple times.
  • My left knee hit the gym floor with a thud every time I did jump splits – thousands of times during four years of high school drill team. And if I pulled a hamstring in a kick-line, it was the left one – not quite as limber.
  • I have ice on my left knee right now, even as I type – strained from a new exercise regimen.
  • My left calf got shut in a truck door nearly 40 years ago, its spidery veins extending, remaining, reminding.
  • My left ankle is dented, mangled, misshapen from falling down the church stairs some 15 years ago. I was on my way to pick up the girls from Sunday School. No subtle slip, I tumbled – head over heels – a mess. Emergency room. Lots of ice. Even crutches for a day or two. “Nothing broken. Nothing to be done,” I was told. Still, it swells by the end of every day and leaves me resistant to wearing a dress and heels.
  • I have a mole on the top of my left foot that I fervently tried to hide when younger.
  • And this just noticed: when I look at my profile in the mirror, it’s my left side that’s turned toward the glass.

Reiki practitioners, chakra experts, those who hold an integrative view of the body, say that the left side represents the feminine and the right side the masculine. I am none of these, but still, I can venture this guess: my feminine side keeps getting hurt. It is unprotected, marred, marked by suffering and pain – past, even present. But my right side, the masculine side? Sure, an occasional bump or scrape; that ache in my shoulder when I’ve spent too much time at the computer. Oh, and what must have been my subconscious attempt at equanimity: the tattoo on my right wrist.

But this is not about equanimity, nor even my left and right sides.

This is about my heart, my emotions, my intuition, my very self. This is about how everything would be different if the feminine within (and without) was trusted – not harmed, expressed – not wounded, sacred – not scarred.

Still… Though I am aware of such, my mind is awhirl with a plethora of associations, insights, and thoughts. Think of the ramifications and implications of this awareness, of the recognition of just how slighted the feminine within me has been! Think of what this has looked like in relationships, professionally, creatively, emotionally – or lack thereof! Think, indeed.

That’s the problem, the issue, the point!

All my thinking-thinking-thinking has got to stop. Which, of course, is completely impossible. At the least, I long for it to become subservient then – to my feelings, to my heart.

I long for the masculine to bow to the feminine – in deference, in diligence, in determined respect and honor.

But oh, how I struggle with this! Even as I write (and think and think and think), I perpetuate the issue in and of itself. My masculine, rational, efficient, and ever-thinking-thinking-thinking brain is hard at work to make sense, make meaning, and along the way, hijack my heart. The masculine within me (and without) wants me to keep writing – pithy, interesting, engaging sentences; concepts and ideas that elucidate this further. Say more! Reason it out! Ruminate. Ponder. Pontificate. Think harder. Think more. Think, period!

But that is NOT the left, NOT the feminine, NOT my heart. Not really.

It’s a battle. No wonder my left side loses, given how exercised and strong my right! Limber, conditioned, and used to getting its way, it knows all the tricks – and employs as many of them as absolutely possible. I stop short. I find a distraction or fifty. I come up with a million-and-one reasons why I need to be cleaning the pantry or heading to Costco or answering an email or checking Facebook or seeing how many documents I could possibly delete off my hard-drive by organizing them in reverse-chronological order (you do that, right?) or considering redecorating options once Abby has left for college or looking at my bank account balance and wondering when I’ll finally get my shit together or wondering if today will be the day in which I won’t eat chips in front of the television set or pour a second glass of wine or maybe watch television at all as I look at the clock on my computer and wonder about how much longer I need to stay here before I can legitimately get out the chips and the wine and turn on the TV. Netflix is so much easier that this!

And my brain is so happy, so occupied, so busy, so productive, so strong! I can see it in my minds eye: the masculine, right hand side of me smiles, flexes a bicep, winks at me, then moves out smartly while my feminine, left hand side leans, lists, and limps.

How do I articulate through left-brain language in a left-brain world the deeper wisdom of the left-hand side, the feminine?

What am I to do? Wait! No more “doing.” What am I to feel, to allow, to invite? How do I bypass this brain of mine – even if only for a while – and listen to that know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within?

I don’t have any answers. And that is a very good start. Answers – at least the Excel spreadsheet, completely balanced, pro and con type – are NOT what I am looking for here. Questions – open-ended, deeply provocative, impossible to answer – are what I need more of, along with the willingness and patience and grace to stay with them, to swim in their swirly depths, to take a deep breath and be willing to go under without guarantee of when or if I’ll resurface, to breathe underwater

One question in particular keeps drawing me ever-deeper into its tidal pull. I allow myself to ask it again and again:

How do I feel? How do I feel? How do I feel?

I feel wobbly. I list toward silence. I don’t know how to make sense of this, what to say, what to write, how to be.

How do I feel? How do I feel? How do I feel?

Frustrated and afraid and angry and small and backed into a corner and threatened and weak and silly and over-reactive and pathetic and stupid and whiny.

How do I feel? How do I feel? How do I feel?

Sad. Full of grief. So many feelings unexpressed for my mind’s efficient compartmentalizing, justification, and desire for closure.

How do I feel? How do I feel? How do I feel?

Tender. Aware. (I’m breathing a bit more slowly.)

How do I feel? How do I feel? How do I feel?

Soft. Pliable. Limber. Strong, even.

How do I feel? How do I feel? How do I feel?

Now that I’m here? Grateful. Like myself. Whole and home.

I had to ask myself that series of questions six times before feeling like I’d dropped into its fullness, its truth, my fullest, truest self.

And, because my brain is chomping at the bit to make sense of all this, this:

The feminine is more likely recognized and revealed when I tell my truth, when I acknowledge my frustration, and yes, always, forevermore, when I grieve. It shows up underneath the anger and certainly underneath the self-contempt – where the sadness and tenderness and awareness reside, where my breathing slows and my strength returns and gratitude floats.

And it takes so much work to get there. Not striving, masculine work, but trusting, slow, ever-releasing, feminine work. Maybe not “work,” but “labor.” Labor that strengthens my knowing, my intuition, my heart. Labor that allows even my memory-body to heal. Labor that releases aches and pains and spider veins. Labor that welcomes me home. Labor that births me anew and is older than time. Worth every push and cry and swollen ankle.

As I type, the ice pack on my left knee has melted and warmed. My neck is tight. I have the beginning of a headache. It’s just slightly more intense on my right-hand side.

That’s good, I think. Wait. No. That’s good, I feel.