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A Love Note To Your Suffering

Taken from Women Who Run With Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

So, we have seen that we wish to make rage into a fire that cooks things rather than into a fire of conflagration. We have seen that the work on rage cannot be completed without the ritual of forgiveness. We've spoken about women's rage often deriving from the situation and her family of origin, from the surrounding culture, and sometimes from adult trauma. But regardless of the source of the rage, something has to happen to recognize it, bless it, contain it, and release it. 

Women who are tortured often develop a dazzling kind of perception that has uncanny depth and breadth. Although I would never wish anyone tortured in order to learn the secrets ins-and-outs of the unconscious, the fact is, having lived through a gross repression causes gift to arise that compensate and protect. In that respect a woman who has lived a torturous life and delved deeply into it definitely has inestimable depth. So she came to it through pain, if she has done the hard work of clinging to consciousness, she will have a deep and thriving soul-life and a fierce belief in herself regardless of occasional ego waverings.

 A body who has lived a long time accumulates debris. It cannot be avoided. But if a woman will return to the instinctual nature instead of sinking into bitterness, she will be revivified, reborn. The woman who returns to the instinctual and creative nature will come back to life. She will want to play. She will want to grow, both wide and deep. But first, there has to be a cleansing.

I would like to introduce you to the concept of descansos as I've developed it in my work. If you ever traveled in Old Mexico, New Mexico, Southern Colorado, Arizona, or parts of the South, you have seen little white crosses by the roadway. These are descansos, resting places.  Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone's journey in life halted unexpectedly.

 Women have died a thousand deaths before they are twenty years old. They've gone in this direction or that, and have been cut off. They have hopes and dreams that have been cut off also. Anyone who says otherwise is still asleep.  All that is grist for the mill of descansos.

While all these things deepen individuation, differentiation, growing up and growing out, blossoming, becoming awake and aware and conscious, they are also profound tragedies and have to be grieved as such.

To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las mujeres chiquitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place. I like to make a timeline of a woman's life on a big long sheet of white butcher paper, and to mark with a cross the places along the graph, starting with her infancy all the way to the present or parts and pieces of herself and her life has died.

We mark where there were roads not taken, paths that were cut off, ambushes, betrayals, and deaths. I put a little cross along the time line at the places that should have been mourned, or still need to be mourned. And then I write in the background  "forgotten" for those things fat the woman senses but which have not yet surfaced. I also write "forgiven" over those things the woman has for the most part released.  Descansos is a conscious practice that takes pity on and gives honor to the orphaned dead of your psyche, laying them to rest at last.

Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting place for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos marked the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There's a lot to be said for pinning things to the Earth so they don't follow us around. There is lot to be said for laying them to rest.

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