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There I was. In the dark on a bench on the edge of the forest. It was a sultry autumn evening and it was dead silent. I saw the trainer walk back to the building and I felt alone. Pathetic too. A loser. In the distance I heard the rustling of the leaves and the cracking of twigs. The whole group of women went into the forest one by one. it was a kind of quest from that weekend. Silently on your own in the pitch-dark into the forest. And everyone was gone now. Everyone but me. Because of course I couldn’t. Suppose I would stumble or step into a pit. The shock or blow that my body would get would prevent me from walking for at least two days. And the pain of course. That terrible pain. So yes.
There I was. On that bench. Being pathetic. I brushed my hand over the bench and picked some moss from the wood. I sniffed the smell of the damp moss and I enjoyed it. Too bad I couldn’t go into the woods with the other women. Yes. Sigh. This was the first time I would not do an assignment. The first weekend that I had followed I had found very difficult in the beginning. But they looked through me, hahaha. every time I started sputtering “I don’t know if I can do this with my pelvis, with my back, I don’t know if this is such a good idea …” they yelled back, “I don’t hear No, Marielle! ”So then I did it anyway. In addition, if I was just going to do what the others were doing, they would run to me and shout out what I thought I was doing. So this was such a moment when I had to say no. This exercise was certainly too heavy for my body.
That way I got to know myself so much better in one weekend. I hid behind my physical limitations when finding things scary and I just did the physically too heavy things that I thought I should be able to do. Stupid. I had now unlearned that by now. Didn’t I? Hmm. What did I do on that bench now? An why wasn’t I in that forest? My stomach started to rumble. I thought this quest scary. AND yes, of course it would hurt if I fell and of course it would be difficult for days to come. But also. If I stayed here on this bench it would be safe, but nothing would happen. Nothing. Nothing nice either.
And then I came up with my own golden rule. On that bench. In the dark. Looking at that forest. How can I do this?
Crawling. That was the first thing that occurred to me. I got down on hands and knees and crawled into the forest. My hands swept through the leaves. I shuddered when I felt something soft and wet, probably a slug or an earthworm !!! and crawled on. With every sound, every crack I told myself it must’ve been one of those other women. After all, there were about thirty women walking around here, and even though they were long gone, it could well be that one of those women was already on the way back and that I heard her. Feeling across the ground, searching for a path, I crawled an eternity. I estimated about five minutes afterwards. haha! Then I got up carefully and shuffled through the forest from tree to tree, but then decided to stay as far away from trees as possible to avoid roots and walk as flat as possible. My eyes were more accustomed to the dark and I was almost certain that there were no wolves and bears in the Dutch forests. After another five minutes, I became more confident and stepped through the forest.
I chuckled. I was happy. I, Marielle, walked in the dark in the woods. I used to be scared of beasts and god knows of what else that could be scary in the dark in the forest and now I had defeated my fear of life itself in this dark forest. From now on I would never sit on that bench again. From now on I would only think when something scary or something difficult or something that could be a bit too heavy for my body occured: How can I do this?
I had found my courage again.
In one of the women’s weekends after that, my totem animal came to me in a vision in the sweat lodge; the lioness. Both the prowess of the lion and all its other qualities made sure that I still have her as a totem, especially when I work with women. That’s why I placed her in this depiction. She helps me step into my courage. Or to crawl into it in this case. :-)