The air around us is wintery and I begin to shiver. As I exhale, clouds of condensation form and shatter like shrapnel all around me.
He’s standing above me, a kind and gentle soul who thinks he has the answer to the djinn that have turned my life upside down.
His quaint little village church stands on a sleepy English lane far from where I have come. There are no djinn here, except those he tried to drive out yesterday.
It would not be the last time I was exorcised. Another seventeen years later it would happen once more, only this time it would be of my own choosing.
He starts to bless me, welcoming me into the church and asking me to invite the Almighty into my life. I shudder inwardly. Already I have a strained relationship with the Father, the Son, and their orderly House and now, he’s asking me to choose between the djinn and the ‘Man’ himself.
In the absence of a third option, I silently choose the djinn. Or rather, in my moment of hesitation, they choose me.
Unknown to him, a young woman’s life had been plunged into the Dark Feminine before her time and his kind-hearted words were not the ones she needed to hear. Without guidance, she left the church that night to live an honest life, one filled with integrity, justice and redemption. And yet she would always be running.
It would be seventeen long years before her soul would awaken to the call of the Wild Woman within her, the One who would bring her safely home. Seventeen long years before she could recognize who she was and not turn away.
Months earlier, we had climbed over the wall of a Shia graveyard, looking for his burial site. It had been my suggestion as the gate was locked. I didn’t yet know how easy it was to wake the dead, I only wanted to help my friend who spent her days in darkness.
Years later, I would learn that ‘helping’ never helps anyone.
He was taken from life too soon, the result of a tragic car accident. As we entered the sacred territory to find him, both our layers of protection were porous, hers from grief and mine from trespassing. We knew the sand covering his body would be fresh and faintly marked. We also knew it was only a matter of time before we would be found. What we were doing was forbidden.
And so, in the pitch black dark of the new moon with only distant street lamps to guide us, we split ways, each covering half the grounds.
We bypassed the tombs and trod carefully around the small mounds of earth above those who had recently departed, squinting to read their names drafted in Arabic on small cardboard signs. Still, without meaning to, we woke the dead. They drove us round and round in circles until we found each other, her crying, myself numb. We could not find him.
Our time was up and she fell to the ground whispering her prayers and goodbyes to him as I held her. Then she carved his name in the sand with a stick and I placed the pink roses we had brought for him beside it. We left as silently as we had entered, this time with our heads bowed down. But we did not leave alone.
Seventeen long years later, We would find her on a main street in London. Myself – and the Dark Feminine I had long since carried.
Together We had been to the frontlines of war and suffering and back. Now, as I was trying to leave, She wanted Us to stay. She couldn’t survive in peaceful places and I was weary from bearing witness to others’ battles. We had found ourselves head-locked in our own battle for survival and for once, I wasn’t backing down.
“She thinks you’re an angel, Claire. It was your light that attracted her.”
As the woman We have come to see explains, I feel myself drifting towards the light, the nour, a name I had long since abandoned. At seventeen, I was often called angelic-looking, with my mane of brilliant thick blonde hair, gentle blue eyes and luminous pale skin. After the trespassing I had waxed and waned, coming into a womanly fullness only to lose it almost as soon as it arrived.
“Of course you are an angel but you’re an earth angel and…”
She continues to ramble on until her next words bring back to the present with a thud.
“You see, she doesn’t know she’s dead, that’s all. All we have to do is tell her.”
Oh, so it’s as easy as that? God, why didn’t anyone ever think to tell me!
But after years of carrying and now fighting with Her, I suddenly don’t want Her to go. She is my fearlessness, my boldness, my audacity to go places where others would hesitate. She’s become so much a part of me and what I do in the world that I don’t know how to let Her go. We’re so enmeshed I don’t know where She ends and I begin.
It was Her who sat comfortably at the end of the iron prison bed as they prostrated in prayer before her.
It was Her who waited patiently in an underground prison for hours so that he could finish writing his letter, all the while knowing the story of the two drops of blood at her feet.
They had beaten them so hard in these corridors that many had passed out.
They had hung their arms from behind over doors, pulling their shoulder girdles out of place. They had electrocuted them, strung them up like pigs on a spit, forced them to sit naked on glass bottles and to stand for days on end until gravity and fatigue took over.
It was Her who found his wife in a fishing town south of his underground prison.
Her who brought his wife to the Ministry of Justice and argued for her permit to visit him while my own husband waited at the end of a phone line, threatening to divorce me if I did not come home.
It was Her who did not turn away from the stories of the martyrs, the fursan el-leil or ‘riders of the night’ who guarded the streets of the refugee camps at night. It was Her who honoured their memory.
It was Her who carried me twice from my marital home and into safety. Her who hustled so that I never became destitute.
Only She, with her dark and compassionate heart, could bear witness to such suffering then stand up and take action. Only She could always be there for me.
Now I know that this is what can happen when a young woman finds herself face to face with her Dark Feminine before her time and without guidance. She will lose her sensation for danger and descend to the depths of who she is until one day, she recognizes the Dark Goddess for who she is.
She… my post-traumatic self. Who ‘helped’ me to save others. And who saved me when I could not do that for myself.
When he stole my honour he also drove my spirit out of my body, leaving a void where she could later take root. Her, my other half. My shadow. My mirror. My Dark Feminine who would one day become my Goddess.
Within moments of telling her she was dead, I let go and She peacefully departed. Her work in the world done, she left behind her fearless qualities that I have since claimed as my own.
Weeks later, I found myself sitting at an ancient Celtic site. Fields of green surrounded me and to my left, an igloo of carefully arranged stones. At its heart was a tiny passage and another altar where the Pagans would gather once a year to welcome in the piercing light of the Winter Solstice.
I knew in my bones that I had finally come home, a place where I could be there for and return to myself.
It mattered not which land I was standing on, only that I was immersed in the wild and rugged beauty that surrounded me. In the months that followed I would find myself in nature step by step. I would learn how my menstrual cycle was connected to the moon, which was connected to the tides. I would come to hear my own voice in green and flowery and sandy spaces.
I would know war and all its misery and still commit myself to a life of peace.
Our final words still echo in my ears.
I wish I was more ‘normal’, I had spoken softly.
“Yeah,” she had smiled as she raised her eyebrow at me, waving her arms around as she talked to spirits, “me too!”
As we both laughed at the irony of my comment, I felt a long-lost glow returning to my cheeks. I exhaled the sadness and inhaled life.
She was a modern day white witch, a healer and clairvoyant, but in that moment if anyone had seen us from afar they could have sworn we were ‘normal’ friends meeting up for a coffee. Both of us in our 30s, both of us with blonde hair, and both of us dressed in pastel coloured fabrics.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about us, at least on the surface.
The air around us was light and spacious.
“You know you’re very intuitive, Claire. You do know a lot, it’s just you need to listen, to believe in yourself more.”
It was not the first time I had been told this. She didn’t know this – or maybe she did – but my great Celtic aunts had carried the ‘gift’ of seeing. I had known from a young age that so too did I only it was never explained to me and I didn’t yet understand how to protect it. Left unguarded and untrained, its energy had been misused and scattered.
The older I get the more comfortable I become with this innate feminine ability to listen and ‘know’.
I regularly pause to cultivate it. I make sure not to over-tire myself so that I can hear the difference between my own voice and the voices that surround me. Voices like marketing, advertising, media, colleagues and others.
I have learned that my ability to listen is connected to the quality of my energy which I nourish through rest, sleep, healthy food and exercise. I dance, I fight, I sing, I laugh. I make time to slow my thoughts down through sitting.
But mostly my magic comes in letting go.
And with each story I release, I create more space for knowing.
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A little note from me….
Wow, what an exciting 6-month ride this has been! Whether you joined me at the start or you’ve just found your way here to this post, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for staying present, for taking the time to listen.
I hope it has been a worthwhile journey for you too!
When I started writing in late December, 2012, I was just weeks out of my last field mission. Surrounded by journals I had scribbled in over the past two years, I made a decision on my bed not to use them. I stored them at the bottom of my wardrobe and instead, trusted the call to listen to my deeper self, to see where it would take me.
It had taken four years to act on this call to make a painful journey home and collect the pieces of my teenage self, whose life had been shattered by rape.
It was not the rape that was so hard to bear, rather it was the betrayal by someone I had trusted, a 17-year old ex-boyfriend, and the conditioning for abuse that then followed. And so Flow & Restore became a journey of forgiveness towards him, myself and others. It sat within a wider process of fully owning the anger and rage I carried within and replacing it with an abundance of love and acceptance.
At the time I started writing, I had just finished reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I had also come to the end of an 18-month journey in Jungian analysis that had taken me through and beyond my divorce and other traumas. I had tended to my own fires and built a stable inner ground to stand on so that I could come home to recover and integrate my teenage pieces.
I knew myself and what I stood for, and I knew that in some small way I had to share with other women my journey of survival, recovery and reconstruction.
And so, without any fixed plans other than to write, I started to blog. Each time I sat at the computer I let my fingers guide me. Each time there was a new beginning and an end. Each time I jumped between different stages of my life, learning that through integration, they all become One.
I wrote with the support of a group of wise women who never once turned away from me, even in my darkest moments.
Often, I couldn’t bear to read what I had written until after it was published, which is why there were so many typos in the versions that went out by email! Tant pis, I learned to be perfectly imperfect along the way, as an earlier health coach had once encouraged me to consider. My readers were generous enough not to call me out on them.
Much of my storytelling weaves in and out of prisons. The prison is both a real construct I know well because of my humanitarian work and one I have come to know metaphorically since the age of 12.
So many of us women lock our memories up in compartments of our minds, thinking that only then we will be safe. We do not realize that until we find the courage to unlock these iron doors and face what lies behind them, we will never find the courage to be our authentic selves.
Writing is a way of unlocking these doors, a way of setting the memories free so that they no longer haunt us or subconsciously drive our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. So that we can stay happy, healthy and human while making a difference in our world.
I hope I have inspired you to write or examine your own journey in other ways.
As for me, my writing will continue in another place, one whose direction I have yet to uncover. After a short break of rest and another geographical move, Heal+Restore will start coming into her own fullness over the summer. And with a focus on Martial Arts, Yoga and Nutrition, and a theme of Power, Passion and Purpose, there will be no stopping her!
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Some highlights from the past 6 months…
Top 5 countries to visit Flow & Restore…
The blog was read in an amazing 66 countries, with the UAE, UK, USA, Palestine and Canada hitting the top five. Between them they made up well over 3,000 of the almost 6,000 views!
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Your top 5 favourite posts…
My top 5 favourite posts…
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My top 5 places to write…
At work! Yes, I hesitate to admit this but some of my best entries have been written in 15 minutes from my desk. The pressure to write quickly created a moving meditation for my thoughts and fingers that I would later tidy up at home.
In bed. There’s nothing like curling up in your favourite pajamas after a long hot bath to write.
At the kitchen table. Making rounds of coffee and herbal tea has never been so quick – but mind the biscuits!
In busy and noisy cafes, the noisier the better. No comment!
Everywhere. Most of the memories for my posts arise when I’m doing something else. It is when I’m most busy that the flashbacks occur. If I try to think too much about what to write, it all goes blank. I can only put that down to a post-traumatic character
If there is anything I’ve learned about overcoming trauma, it’s about letting life flow through its natural ups and downs and when the memories arise, restoring them to their full glory through creative expression. Any form of expression will do and writing is just one.
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Flow & Restore’s top 5 lessons…
Be Truthful – Know that your truth surpasses that of any other, that there is never just ‘one’ truth, and that life is not as simple as being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. We live and flourish in the spaces in between.
Be Bold – State your truth clearly for the very act of releasing what should not be hidden is what keeps us whole. Respect your own boundaries and those of others and if others respond in silence, never assume your words have not touched them.
Be Forgiving – Learn to let go of the past. Tread lightly on this earth so you can leave behind a beautiful energy of footprints for the many women who will lead long after we are gone.
Be Fearless –Embrace your Dark Feminine. She will take you to the depths of who you are which can be terrifying but it is there you mine your stories, and there you heal and restore.
Be Yourself – The world doesn’t need any more carbon-copied or airbrushed women. It needs more women who can show up as they are, content in their own unique beauty, and radiantly and authentically alive!
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“The Dark Goddess waits at the heart of the Underworld. She may guide your journey in, she may be the voice you hear calling to you, she may hold the answer you seek. But when you meet her she will skewer you with her rapier eyes which see only the truth. She will flay you with the cries of her heart that have been ignored and she will hang you up to rot with her anguish that is your own. To rise again you must encompass patience, compassion, understanding and courage. All of these are attributes of the Dark Goddess and you will have as much time as you need to gather them. You must demonstrate these attributes not just towards the Dark Goddess, but towards yourself as well. Otherwise you will not be free to leave her realm.”
Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul by Jane Meredith
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Claire is a Humanitarian and certified Health Coach, Karate Black Belt, Women’s Yoga Teacher and Relax & Renew Trainer. She runs two blogs. Flow & Restore (www.flowandrestore.me) is a journey through violence to find happiness, health and humanity. Heal+Restore (www.healandrestore.me) is a journey through peace to find power, passion and purpose.