Did you see the 1968 film, Yours, Mine and Ours, with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda? If so, then you will have a pretty accurate image of my family, except we were a family of 11, not 20. I was the second to youngest and invariably got lost through the cracks of chaos. It's no wonder since my younger sister was born within months of our parents getting married, and everyone was trying to find their own place in this newly joined tribe of the Read/Willets family.
It was no one’s fault that I was “squeezed out” similar to “Philip” in the film, who was constantly forgotten. Looking back today I marvel at how well my parents did managing our brood. I have so many treasured memories and so much gratitude for my parent’s vision and courage bringing us together, and raising us all with an unshakable love.
And, I had my own story within this larger story. When my little sister was born she was diagnosed with Down syndrome and needed lots of attention. My parents were so committed to all of us, but there is only so much bandwidth a human being has for nine kids and one with special needs. The relational dynamic that effected me was benign neglect, meaning a noninterference that was assumed not to have an adverse impact. It was not intentional, but nonetheless, it had a tremendous impact on me. As a young child, I did not understand that because I was feeling lonely and unseen, I was coping by morphing into a helpful little girl, and I was catching on quickly that the more I could do for myself and others the more attention and acknowledgement I got. The helpful little girl became a an expert people-pleaser. It was my MO in every day living and surviving.
This way of coping honed my masculine side. We all have masculine & feminine sides to us, and depending on our nurtured upbringing (the training ground), and our nature (the innate or essential qualities or character of a person at birth) we will favor our masculine or feminine side. For me, I leaned into my masculine side for survival. I became fiercely independent and self sufficient, I did not ask for help, I pushed through adversity without help. I became the rescuer for many, oh yes, co-dependence was well established in my little girl years. My sister (who had her own story inside the larger story) would verbally torture me during the day, and at night slip into my bed terrified by bad dreams that had awakened her. I welcomed her need of me, slurping up any leftovers she had for me that resembled love. I was adapting to my environment, trying to meet what I thought it needed of me in order to be enough.
My very first memory of my capable training was when I was around 10 years old. My mother was sick in bed, and asked me to help her cook dinner. I was anxious to please and excited to be asked. I remember her giving me step by step instructions. Allow me to draw a picture for you of what each step entailed. My mother and father’s bedroom was at one end of our rather large rambling home, and the kitchen was literally at the other end. It was a hike!
Mom’s first instruction was to go to the kitchen and turn the oven on bake 350…☑️, then return to her bedroom for the next instruction. Now, take the chicken out of fridge, wash it and put in a roasting pan… ☑️ Now, get some butter and smear it all over the chicken and then salt and pepper…☑️, wash carrots and celery, and place in bottom of pan…☑️, then…
Do you get the picture?? I was running a bloody marathon with each instruction, but loving it, feeling needed, so helpful, so capable, and pleasing my mom…and she kept telling me what a great job I was doing! This scenario was the beginning of my fiercely independent, overly capable, self reliant Self. By the way, I brag that I roast a kick-ass chicken to this day!
My masculine side took over to shield me from the hurt, and help me feel more accepted, more seen, and more loved. Ironically, it is my feminine side that holds the nurturing trait, the deeper desire for emotional intimacy. In recent years I have been working on leaning into my feminine side; the softer more inviting, vulnerable side. This side of me makes room for others to help and support me. She invites intimacy, sharing her private thoughts, allowing others to get closer and know her truer Self. She supports and nurtures without needing to fix. She seeks to understand and considers others with less judgment and the need to be right. She loves with a thinking heart and loving mind. She no longer desires the one woman show in her daily life, she joins others. And, this way of being is a work in progress…still challenging at times, but overall there is so much more love and emotional intimacy and honesty.
As I invite more of my feminine side to take up space, joining my masculine side, I discover how much more access I have to all of me, and loving my Self well. This joining reveals a profound connection with Self and Others and beyond.
Do you lean more into your feminine or masculine side?
Think about what defining moments in your training ground may have influenced your dominant nature.
What would you like to work on to create a more balanced relationship between you feminine and masculine?
As always, more to be revealed…