By CC Treadway
As we collectively enter into the feminine, I am struck by my own experience that has led me to understand, and understand deeply, what this means.
Recently, after arguably one of the hottest weeks in NYC, I drove up to the Catskills to stay with an old friend and her family. I had not seen this friend in almost twenty years, but she and her family are more significant in my life than I could possibly convey in words. This family, the Wilkinsons, made me a part of their family when my own family life had fallen apart.
I met Heather when I was 12 at an Episcopal church inter-county sleepover. I recognized her as a fellow gymnast immediately by the way she walked, so of course we had to be friends.
In those early years, I would go over to the Wilkinson’s house in Pelham, New York, and be greeted by two enormous dogs, a cat, her brother, and her parents, who would promptly put me to work. This work included walking the dogs, taking out the garbage, walking to the grocery store in the dead of winter, setting the table, etc.
The Wilkinsons lived in a grand old Victorian, 4 stories high with 8 bedrooms. The house was heated only by woodstoves. Heather’s father, John, preferred woodstove heat, and was uncompromising in this preference, no matter how cold it was. Hats and gloves were frequently worn if necessary. John, a hotshot lawyer in NYC, had a lot of hobbies: fly fishing, camping, skiing, really anything that had to do with nature. He and his wife Mia, a pro-gardener and teacher, held fast to old values that were all but disappearing. Pre-boomers from New England don’t mess around. Their work ethic and consistency is a force to be reckoned with. I got it, I loved it, and I paid close attention.
To me, each time I entered the Wilkinson’s house was like going to paradise. My own house, just a few towns away, was going through a lot at that time. My parents did not get along and were beginning what would become the longest divorce process known to man. At the Wilkinson’s I was part of a functioning team that had a purpose. I gladly participated.
I’m imagining they understood exactly the role they played for me. I was Heather’s favorite friend, and so I was informally adopted. My parents, always up for an adventure, were thrilled that I was being treated so well and shown so many new things.
The Wilkinsons took me on all their family vacations. We went horse back riding in Jackson, Wyoming, camping and fishing in upstate New York, swimming in Delray Beach, FL, and skiing in Okemo,VT. Every year they took me to their college reunions in Williamstown, MA, and they even took me along to visit with their best friends in New Hampshire. As a family, we would watch the Olympics together, getting into every nuance of the gymnasts, dissecting the ice skaters, and passionately cheering on the skiers. They brought me along everywhere as one of their daughters, and delighted in my personality and my quirks. No one ever yelled at each other and “flaws” were seen as something to chuckle about.
Eventually they bought a second home in the Catskills with even more woodstoves, skiing, dogs and sitting around the fire with drinks, all getting along. I went up there as often as possible.
THE FANTASY FAMILY IMAGE
Throughout these 6 years from age 12 until I graduated from High School at 18, I was shown a way of life that held and supported me through tough times. My parents finally divorced when I was 18, and in my head, the Wilkinsons were the model I used for the family life I was determined to have as an adult. I thought that I had kept my admiration for them to myself, but in this most recent trip to the Catskills, Heather told me I wrote, “Because of you and your family, I now know what family actually is,” in her senior yearbook.
After high school, Heather went to Williams college and I went to the Rhode Island School of Design. Heather became a doctor. I became a filmmaker, dancer and healer of sorts who dated the wrong guys. Heather got proposal after proposal from stable men. We fell out of touch.
I remember feeling in my 20’s like I just wasn’t good enough to hang out with the Wilkinsons anymore. I didn’t want to bring my darkness into their light. I felt ashamed that I was so all over the place, that once again the last guy I dated blew me off after he slept with me, that the guy I was seeing now had 2 other girlfriends, and I had 3 other boyfriends outside of him just to be safe. I truly didn’t feel I deserved any better, and I couldn’t bear to feel my own deeper needs.
All the while the myth of my ideal family life I was going to have remained strong in my head. I could see the house in the Catskills, the garden, and the functioning family unit as we did lots of outdoorsy activities.
As I danced, worked at MTV, went to healing school, dated countless men and moved countless times, I knew that someday I would have that stable life. I held onto it like the rock of Gibraltar. My feelings of shame and sadness around my inner broken home were still so strong. So, the contrast between how I actually felt and my fantasy family image was a tough gap to bridge. All the while I was dreaming up this perfect movie, I developed myself as a person, dedicating myself to my spiritual path. I became a successful video editor and later a self-employed healer. I began helping a lot of people, writing music, and traveling. I was an adventurer, and I worked hard.
But at the end of the day, I dismissed all these things as unimportant. They were only what I was doing to heal myself until I moved to upstate New York to become a Wilkinson. I could not let go of that image, or there would be nothing to hold onto, I would just be floating in emptiness.
THE IMAGE BEGINS TO CRUMBLE
In 2010, after a broken engagement to a real woodsman in Arizona, where we had a garden, a big dog and national forest as our backyard, my image began to crumble. This was very scary. After trying for two years to create my image, I left Arizona, defeated, and moved back to New York. I faced my biggest fear, because I felt there was nothing holding me to anything. The program had failed. For awhile I sat in nothingness, floating with no purpose. It was tough, but also liberating. For the first time I had no real agenda for anything, so I just let the Divine take care of me. I worked on my music and my healing practice and just took it one day at a time.
Naturally, when I let go of the image and the control, the life I was supposed to have come rushing towards me. Literally hundreds of artists, musicians and healers entered my life without effort. I formed deep friendships. I just went with it and began to have more fun than I could ever have imagined. My relationship with my parents also began to heal naturally, at a level I never expected.
But then after several months of singing, dancing and making art with the best people in the world, the winter wind began to blow, and the image of the woodstove came back with a vengeance. It was time to move upstate and do it for real. I was determined and began the motions of finally claiming the life I had been dreaming of all these years.
In January of 2012, I was in Woodstock, NY, looking at the perfect cabin with one of my best friends. I thought that my husband would walk through the door at any second. But then it began to feel kinda weird, like I was in the hologram deck on The Enterprise - set to Norman Rockwell. It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t me. The image began to dissolve and I started to freak out. I didn’t know what was going on, but I had to get out of there and get back home to Brooklyn with my community immediately. My friend intuitively knew what was happening to me, and we drove out of Woodstock like bats out of hell.
Since then, the remnants of this safety net have been continually dissolving as the real CC has been emerging. It’s been a little disorienting, but claiming myself as a musician, a mystic, an adventurer, and an artist has made me the happiest I have ever been. Letting go of the identity as someone who is just healing herself so she can have her family and farmhouse in the woods, to come into a fully embodied, musical goddess is way better than the fantasy, because it’s who I am naturally.
How grateful I am to have not only had the beauty that the Wilkinsons offered me as a teenager, but to have had that image keep me together while I healed, and while I traversed my human journey. Somehow, here in 2012, the slate was wiped clean, and I became strong enough to let the safety net go.
I would write in Heather’s yearbook now, “Because of you and your family, it was safe for me to find my true self.”
THE CATSKILLS, 2012
Of course, while all of this was happening, I got a touching email from Heather Wilkinson herself. After 20 years, I found myself driving up to the Catskills to come full circle.
When I arrived at the Wilkinsons in July of 2012, the solid rock I clung to was very much in tact. The garden I helped build as a teenager was thriving, the dogs were running and playing and the quilts on the beds just as charming. After 50 years John and Mia are still best friends with their nightly cocktails, long conversations and mutual passion for nature.
They welcomed me back with open arms, inviting me to come to the house any time I wanted, with or without them. I felt their warmth and generosity like an old friend, and I was overwhelmed with their love and trust in me after all these years.
Heather and I had a lot to talk about. It was so good to see her and reconnect. It became obvious that her journey was more like mine than I had believed. She has moved countless times as an ER doctor, been in several relationships (she never married anyone who proposed), and in 2009 we both suffered a life altering back injury that took us out of type A mode to begin the journey of the integrated woman. She ended up taking 3 years off and is now emerging as an acupuncturist. In my back-injured bedridden days in Arizona, I learned to let life take care of me, to let the earth speak to me, and to trust I was provided for at all times.
THE BIG PICTURE
I am witnessing so many of my 30 something female friends going through a profound change. We just don’t have the testosterone to be type A workaholics. Somehow in our post feminist reality, we took on the idea that we should be able to pull this off. It is a pressure cooker. It seems the overworked-woman’s-nervous-breakdown is par for the course.
What I like, and what I see us doing, is reclaiming the feminine in this deep, sultry, spacious way. Sinking deeply inside and feeling the universe in our hearts and our wombs is opening doorways to our passions without burning out. We are so beyond the subservient wife, but we are also beyond the overworked, constantly in charge career woman. The new, integrated woman is rising just in time for December 21, 2012.
I think many of us reach for an ideal that was imprinted on us somehow. But most of the time, that image isn’t realistic, it is simply a tool to help us find who we actually are.
After almost 2 decades of art, healing and music, I have found a way to combine all of my passions and work part time, making more than enough money. I cannot overwork myself and expect any magic to happen. My delicious female friends are all going through this journey, some are also balancing children and husbands. Even though Heather and I come from very different family situations, she is also on this path.
We women need our time, our quiet and safe space for the magic to arise, so we can receive the gifts of the universe, and so we can hold a loving space for the world.
As the triple goddess we have our ferociousness, and we have so much strength and endurance, but the magic comes in the softness. I desire a world where it is safe to be as soft as we are, as fluid as the waters we are born in, and as deep as our hearts can go.