What follows is a commentary by Merry Stetson Hall about how she entered the story I tell in my spiritual memoir GROWING UP WITHOUT THE GODDESS and discovered that we shared similar hidden abusive experiences growing up in a culture that does not honor the feminine as divine. Her story touched me deeply and affirmed that this is our collective story and that as each one of us heals by finding the Goddess within, that healing spreads out to all others, too. Thank you, Merry!
I commandeered GROWING UP WITHOUT THE GODDESS right out from under Burl's nose for two days! I intended to look at the format and presentation because I'm almost committed to using BookSurge to publish BRINGING FOOD HOME. I found your story too compelling to put down, however, and read every word greedily.
A review follows, but first I wanted to share with you more personally.
You are, indeed, right that your story bespeaks the gender abuse all women suffer in one form or another in our patriarchal culture, whether or not the abuse manifests in sexual rape. It pervades our sexuality, our relationships, our self-esteem, our spirituality, our employment, our status, and every conceivable aspect of our being on earth. It perverts our fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers too in a different way. You are right on target, too, when you suggest that the sexual manifestation of this abuse is inevitably rampant throughout our homes and families, because it is based on misogyny. You offer the painful details of your personal experience with eloquence and courage. Because you also trace your recovery in ongoing detail, your story stands as a guidepost for the acknowledging and healing journey we all must take. Your understanding that we can never be fully healed in a culture that continues its patriarchal abuse and asks us to turn to an all-male Father/Son God for guidance out of sin is invaluable. We heal ourselves by resurrecting the Goddess; we resurrect the Goddess by healing ourselves. This is our ongoing mission.
I, too, found the Mother I so badly needed in the Goddess as she variously manifests within me, within nature, within human history, within the universal energy that flows through us all, within my therapists, and eventually even within the female abusers who became my personal teachers. I am especially gifted to see and hear Her present in my husband Burl's experience, relationship, and voice--a rare blessing.
I cannot yet fathom whether the story I have woven from my own experience with my father is shrouded memory or personal mythology. I have decided that it really doesn't matter, because it requires a story of that scope to account for who I am and how I am wounded. My story goes that he used me and my vagina as a "mule" for black market goods when I was 3-4 years old and we were in Japan right after World War II. He then abandoned me in mind and spirit while still a part of the family in body as he sank into psychosis and frequent sexual liaisons that took him from home.
My mother's coping mechanism of putting a "normal" face on all this, moving the family whenever the truth started to catch up with us, mothering/nursing/forgiving her husband, and encouraging me to love/respect him as a father, only deepened the abuse and delayed my recovery. As a young mother, I ended up stepping into the role of my mother's mother, comforting her and getting her legal representation when my father finally threatened to leave her/us for his newest lover.
I did not have a brother (unless the half-Japanese half-brother I fantasize we left in Japan is real and not imaginary), but I have a now-deceased, abusive older sister, more deeply wounded than I, who spent her time on earth hating herself, life, our father, and most especially me for stealing from her the scant amount of love, attention, and affirmation my mother had left after mothering our father and nursing the wounds he inflicted on her. By the time mother had coped with my father, my sister, and her own pain, there was little energy left to mother me though she meant well. To gain at least her approval I identified with her and took on the role of "the healthy one who would succeed and uphold the family honor."
Only through my willingness to fail, to hurt, to do the incredibly painful work of acknowledging and healing have I grown now as a 65-year-old into a true though shaky manifestation of that role. Like the velveteen rabbit, I have become real. Only Sophia could have placed and nurtured the wisdom, willingness, courage, patience, and forgiveness in me that this transformation required.
Here's my book review. I hope you find it helpful.
GROWING UP WITHOUT THE GODDESS gives story and form to the abuse all women suffer in one form or another in our patriarchal culture. Sandra Pope offers the painful details of her personal experience with eloquence and courage. She shows how the denial of the Goddess has blighted both men and women from generation to generation in her family and the human family. She reveals how rape and incest team up with denial, neglect, and the perversion of victims to maim us. She shows how both the egregious and the subtle forms of sexual abuse pervade our families, our sexuality, our relationships, our self-esteem, our spirituality, our status, and every conceivable aspect of our being on earth. Her message that we heal ourselves by resurrecting the Goddess and resurrect the Goddess by healing ourselves is much needed in today's world.
Merry Stetson Hall
Author of BRINGING FOOD HOME: The Maine Example. Her book profiles local farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, processors, distributors, merchants, restauranteurs, consumers, and advocates. Through these profiles, it explores how a healthier community, economy, ecology, and ethic are growing up around local food in Maine.