In a class I am taking we were asked to journal with these questions: Ask yourself who are you in the inner voice that does not speak in the world around you or which you have worked tirelessly to bring into fruition in your life. Who are you that has felt suppressed and suffocated?
I sometimes think that I do not know who I am anymore. Life teaches us that it is those outside of ourselves who determine our value to society. We are given love and support (if we are lucky) by our parents as children. Our value is determined by how much time and attention they give us. If we get a lot, we grow up confident in ourselves trusting our way through life. When we attend school our value is determined by the effort we put into our studies, the grades we receive and the extracurricular activities we take part in and finally by the friends we choose.
We enter the work world and our value is determined by the levels we attain as well as by the paychecks we receive. Value is added to our lives by the friends that we have and by the love and attention we give and receive with our families.
All of these build an inner view of who we are – our accomplishments – our achievements – our successes and how we deal with our failures – all of these contribute to how we see ourselves.
Over the last five years I have lost everything that provided a view for me from which to value who I am in the world; that is, what I contribute and how I value myself. I was forcibly retired from a career that I loved. This meant that I no longer had my work – work that I thought was valuable to others and which contributed to a better world. I also lost the paycheck by which that work was valued.
I think those who are financially poor learn the system. They learn how to get what they need early on, but being thrown into that world as a senior citizen has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I am having to learn the system and to be honest, I get angry about that! My neighbors are all either elderly or disabled and by and large have been so their whole lives. They have known no other existence. I have no common ground with them and so live an isolated existence. Everyday however, I offer gratitude that I have this. I have truly learned to appreciate my own front door that locks me in and all else out, my own refrigerator and my own bathroom.
I believe in myself. I know I am strong, smart and resilient. I am just not bouncing as I once did. So through all of this, I have filled my time by educating myself and by offering my wisdom and knowledge to others which helps me feel that somewhere I have value to someone.
So who am I really? I am someone that can always be counted on. If I tell you I will be there – I will. If I tell you I will do something – I will. If you need an ear – my ear is here. I am someone who cares. I will fight for you if you need me to fight for you. I will stand up for you if you need me to do that. I have never been one who can be quiet when I see injustice in front of me. I don’t go looking for it but when it happens – I fight it.
I love to learn. Sometimes I think I am a giant sponge soaking up everything around me. Learning excites me. It feeds my curious mind. I love to write even though I often get stuck. I love a simple life in many ways but do miss having a car and having access to my own things which are all in storage in another state. I feel adrift because I am not sleeping in my own bed and do not have the few precious things I own around me – the familiar pictures for my walls – the clock that has been in my family for generations – the desk my mother sat at before me and my beloved books that I use in my work. These are all beyond my reach with no way being shown to me as to how to get them back. Perhaps what I need is a fairy godmother!
The weight of the “not having”, the weight of the struggle to survive pounds you down into the ground so that you really don’t know who you are anymore. I know how it affects me and I am strong. I look around at my neighbors who have lived this life forever and wonder, what keeps them hopeful?
Through this has come the awareness that many must go through much of this when they retire. Perhaps if they retire with plenty of money it is not the same but there must be a shared experience in attempting to discover who we are now that there is no job and no paycheck. What is our value? Part of this sense of lacking worth as an elder comes from living in a culture that places no value in our seniors. Elders are not lovingly cared for as they are in other parts of the world. When parents get too old to care for themselves they go to nursing homes, out of sight and out of mind. I am nowhere near that stage in my life but I do need to know that I have a family that cares and friends to emotionally support me. I still require evidence of my worth, not just my own opinion. I give thanks that I do have great strength within, as well as the knowledge that I have always been able to take care of myself.
What has this to do with Feminism and Religion? Being a feminist has given me strength and courage. I have had a life-long belief in myself and my power to manifest. My spiritual path has taught me that all things happen for a reason. It also teaches me that when things leave our lives, we are making ready for the new. This fills me with hope and gratitude. With our Thanksgiving holiday coming in just a few short days, I am focusing on the blessings in my life. I am also looking for ways to help others in similar situations in whatever way I can.
Deanne Quarrie, D.Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess and author of five books. She is an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College, teaching classes on Druidism, Ritual Creation, Ethics for Neopagan Clergy, Exploring Sensory Awareness and other classes on natural magic. She is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, as well as The Apple Branch where she mentors women who wish to serve as priestesses. She and a business partner are in the process of opening Shaman College: Seminary for a Sacred Earth where she will offer courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism and Goddess Spirituality.