I climbed trees and rode my bike and roller skated on sidewalks for hours on end when I was a child. As an adult, I have always been physically strong without having to work at it. Nor have I had to think much about my health. I have been able to trust my body to do pretty much everything I wanted it to do. I am also fiercely independent. And I don’t always like to be touched because my body is extremely sensitive to other people’s energies.
On the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete I was always the first one in and out of the caves and usually the first or one of the first up and down the mountains too. This changed when I injured my knee a few years ago in one of the caves and then six months later re-injured it in a fall on my front steps. I was told not to stress my knee by the pharmacist, and as a consequence stopped walking and doing yoga. I began to lose my physical strength.
A few days before this fall’s tour, I slipped in a taverna while sopping wet after a wonderful swim in the sea. Landing on my backside on the perpendicular edge of a tiled stair, I developed a large raised swelling called a hematoma that was painful to the touch. When I broke my fall, I pushed back against my injured knee. Luckily, nothing was broken. But I started the tour in a less than optimal physical state.
I had to ask for help in the caves and often for a hand to steady myself on uneven ground on the archaeological sites and even in getting in and out of the sea. This experience was an eye-opener for me. What I found was that touching and being touched by another person while being helped was sensual and extremely comforting.
Because I needed help, I walked arm and arm with one friend down a mountain and with another on the streets of Heraklion at night. I found that physical connection deepened friendships. By the end of the tour, I was so used to physical contact that one of the pilgrims and I walked arm and arm on the way to the museum, even though I didn’t really need any help.
At Mount Juktas, I leaned against a handsome young man who was our van driver for a good half an hour. Though there was nothing sexual about our encounter, I could tell that he really loved helping me and enjoyed taking my arm and holding my hand. This got me to thinking about all those women I have known over the years who (I supposed) feigned helplessness in the presence of men or (perhaps) simply were not too proud to ask for help when they needed it.
As a result of this new experience of physical connection, I am beginning to question my habit of fierce independence. I did not go to the doctor before, during, or immediately after the tour. Who me, I don’t need doctors! But after being badgered by two friends, I am going to an orthopedist today. I want to get strong again. Maybe a doctor can help me better understand how to do that.
When I regain my physical strength, I hope I will not forget the lesson about interdependence and longing for bodily connection I learned when I asked for help. While of course I do not support “you big strong man,” “me little woman” tactics, still I wonder: maybe those damsels in distress I always despised were on to something after all! People like to help each other and we enjoy the physical contact that comes with it.
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Carol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.
Join Carol on the life-transforming and mind-blowing Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Sign up now for 2018! It could change your life!
Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger