Don't turn your head.
at the bandaged place.
the Light enters you.
And don't believe for a moment
that you're healing yourself.
I sit at the table eating quinoa and greens and I think of a friend who said to justify development, something like, poverty always goes down when the United States goes into a country. And another friend who wrote, while in a village in Guatemala on the edge of a volcano, maybe we are missing the point when we exert so much energy into the preservation of life, rather then the spirit of life.
And I see women bending over to pick up tunics draped over branches drying on the side of the river. I imagine drumming and dancers in a circle in a village center. I see women cooking all day.
And it hits me in full body how our culture’s better or worse is completely of our culture. When we say, it is better to have a democracy, better to have material wealth, better to have individual freedom, we state what we are, what we value. We state how we believe in filling our void. Better and worse come from what we are, and are for us to follow. They cannot be transposed. I know the women in other cultures are rich in ways I will never be or know. I have freedoms they will never be or know. Life is simply lived, it is vast and different, there is a beingness to it all.
I ponder this because I have been thinking about what I want to do and my place in the world and where my care comes from. I realize I feel broken and I want to work with women like me in the United States. But for some reason some cultural voice in the back of my mind tells me to look to the poverty and suffering beyond.
Yet I feel my womanhood has been lost. I don’t know what it means to be a woman. That’s something I confront sitting at the small table pushed into the L of the sink and wall of my narrow kitchen (the clock is ticking). I don’t know what it means to be a woman.
I have a vagina, I have breasts, no one can say women and men do not each possess things the other does not (yes the line is blurrier than we thought). So that is a physical fact, but what is the beingness, the livingness, the magic, the corporeal essence that I as a woman own? I know she is there, I feel my own bodily power snuck behind what I know, living hidden as my own, so that I know one day I may possess my body, my being as distinct, as mine. It is so faint I cannot even speak it.
My identity has formed around traits that are not my own.
I can barely even move, sitting in this power, in this space, sitting in myself in the light at the kitchen table, scraped clean plate in front. I am a woman!!!!! Yet I have no idea how to act as a woman from the beingness that arises from within, I can only sit with her, still, besides my scratching pen, like the purple tulips on the window sill, reflected on the glass against the black of night.
So I ponder the place of this task. It is that small, to belong to my body sitting at a kitchen table in a thin wooden house in Berkeley on a Sunday in February at night. And to me it is huge. It belongs to the world around me. Because here I was born, here in the United States in Miami, and here is where I don’t know what it means to be a woman. Here in Florida, in Connecticut, in California, is where I can see you don’t know and you don’t know and you don’t know and you don’t know. The question is from here, of here, for here. For all of you here right now, it is we who don’t know. It is my gaping hole that I must know to be whole.
That is why I know it is absurd for our culture to say better or worse for others, for an individual to say better or worse for others, for me to think I should be looking to fix something beyond. We as humans, as cultures, find it easy to see another’s lack from what we have. We think our negative space is their hole. It is easy to try and fill our negative space with what we have.
But our own gaping hole is our lack of what we have. Their gaping hole is their lack of what they have, not their lack of what we have. An amputee lacks a leg, not an elephant snout. I want my womanhood, what I have but do not possess. These are the holes that lead to wholeness. These are the holes that the light shines through. One’s hole, a culture’s hole comes from the earth in which it has lived. It is that particular, that personal, that rooted, that small. That large and absurd to the one who feels it as she sits at her kitchen table.
Every culture and being lacks and has. I do not know what the women washing laundry on the riverbank have or what they want to fulfill their beingness. But I know it is theirs and intact. To bring wholeness we must build into that true void with what we have been given, using the tools with which we have learned how to build. Tonight I have a pen, paper, a computer, words, and my kitchen table. It is not ours to take their space, to pretend to know their void. It is ours only to know and create from our own.