“I’m scared you’ll think I’m hideous,” I told him, reluctantly. Not hideous in a physical sense - but perhaps, that too. Hideous in a spiritual, emotional, sense. Hideous to the soul.
“Not at all. The opposite is true. I’m more attracted to you.” he responded, without any reluctance at all.
“Because it’s the real you. You’re finally letting me in.”
I clutched the phone in my hand, staring out at the expanse of Pacific Ocean in front of me. And me, an angry cat in too small a cage, looking out at the endless blue and dying to be freed. Wanting to bulge out and break the bars and unleash the anger, the hurt, the fear that was slowly evolving into indignancy, dying for a chance to express.
“Growl, baby. Let it out. You need to growl at me. I can take it.”
Growl is a term from the great John Wineland (watch his video on growling and releasing here), a teacher and, as far as we’re concerned, living saint and channel of the divine. His teachings help men fully embody their masculinity with both strength and vulnerability, offering the doorway to profound new depths for couples like us. We both understood in this moment what needed to happen: I needed to let out a feral and uninhibited ‘growl’ at my partner and allow him to see and hold the messy expression of my feelings. To tell him in words, sounds, or movements how mad/sad/pissed/confused I was at life, at what we were growing through as partners. It was a growl 36 years in the making, the sound of which would extend far beyond this moment and this problem at hand and be heard as far back as childhood memories and my first experiences of betrayal and abandonment. And he, diligently, would need to stand with an erect spine, wide-open eyes, and arms, and be as foundationally strong and reliable as a rock. My rock. To allow it to all come out, accepting it without taking any of it so personally as to be wounded, scared, or disfigured himself. He was to be the rock wall that contained my fire yet let it burn, wildly.
But I stood there, phone in hand, no shortage of air around me, and continued to tremble in my cage. The idea of letting him see the hideous parts of me, the emotions I had not yet tailored to be likable, and the thoughts or fears I had not yet manicured to be intelligent, and had not yet double-checked their validity nor cross-referenced them to all his experiences and needs. This is how I usually approached conflict and disagreement: by hearing out the situation, simmering inside, then lifting invisible ‘walls’ around me (as my partner has named them) until I can emerge with what feels like a well-thought-out opinion. That way, I protect myself from ever being seen in what is considered forbidden in a woman: rage.
In their book, Female Rage, authors Mary Valentis, Ph.D. and Anne Devane, Ph.D. outline the origins, implications, and associations of this vital and sacred space of rage, and the ways in which women damn themselves by suppressing it rather than risk being damned by society and men for releasing it.
But here he was, steadfast and patient on the other end of the phone, a million miles away back at our home while I stood on an island in the middle of the ocean, alone (ah, the irony), waiting for me to drop the match of my rage upon the wood in front of me, and burn it all to the ground. Burn the giant and looming fears and insecurities and anger that were clouding my brain and our ability to connect and repair the rupture between us.
“Growl, baby. You’re ok.”
Whenever he says the words ‘you’re ok’, something in me softens. As if a wound deep within my heart that stings and I have started to recoil from it and he becomes the salve that finally soothes the aching.
“I’m just so mad at you because….”
It wasn’t a harsh blow. It wasn’t gasoline on a fire. It was a slower, and softer burn than I thought it would be. With each word the cage I had constructed around me feelings and myself began to dissipate, falling into the sand and getting washed out with each coming wave. He sat on the other end of the line, listening intently, nodding through his moans to let me know he understood, offering a ‘yes,’ and ‘I know that hurts’. He did not absorb anything as an arrow into himself, he did not take any of it personally. He simply held the space for me to growl. In the process, my anger quickly melted into just overwhelm and what it had always truly been: heartbreak. I allowed myself to hurt before him. For my heart to ache and my soul to long for the simplicity and naivety I had had only a day before, when the idea of anything going wrong in our relationship had been so far off in the horizon, I couldn’t even see it.
But we are human. We have conflicts, too. We make mistakes. In this moment, I could not be more human. I had not been more human in a very long time. Out came the old stories and boundaries I had built for indiscretions of the past. Exposed were the rules and beliefs I had come to live by for all the things that past lovers and friends had done to break me. What was left, when the fire had fully burned it all to the ground, was an open space for us to build new understandings of love, and trust.
My tear filled rant ran its course, and all he said was:
“I’m so proud of you, baby. Thank you for letting me in and letting me know all you’re feelings.”
Hours later, still in a small space of shock for having unleashed such oppressed and trapped parts of me, I began to feel an unlikely sensation: gratitude. For that, something so small, so insignificant in the long run of our relationship, had revealed such an untapped yet relentless part of me. My rage. My emotions. My divine feminine ability - nay, my divine feminine right - to be fire, and beautifully burn with passion. Through it, he had not been repulsed by what felt like what Valentis and Devane might call a medusa-esque embodiment that would turn him off and ultimately scare him away. Instead, it instead that he’d watched my fire-dance and been mesmerized. In fact, he’d fallen deeper in love.
And so had I, through the act of learning to love what I had, until this moment, considered my most unlovable and unacceptable parts of myself. Now, over the horizon of the ocean, I could finally see clearly.
My deepest gratitude goes out to my partner for making a small, and completely forgivable mistake. For teaching me to forgive someone, which inadvertently gave me permission to forgive myself. For being human, and therefore giving me the opportunity to allow myself to be human as opposed to the poised and perfect woman I thought I had to be in order to be loved. For holding the space for this rage, this fire, and for showing me that love does not need to look or be perfect. It can be messy, and in fact, the mess and mistakes are almost always invitations to deepen. For being the bravest, and most diligent friend and partner I could have ever wished for. And a small thank you to the mistake itself; for being a miracle in disguise.