Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Friday, February 26, 2010

Revisiting the Void

After a fourteen year hiatus, I revisited New York City. When I had a free moment, did I head out to the hottest Broadway show? Did I rush to the latest newsworthy restaurant? How about a trip to Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty or, perhaps, the Met? No. None of the above. Out of hundreds of spectacular choices, I headed straight to the Guggenheim.

The first and only time I had experienced this curvaceous feminine oddity in a world of linearly-structured museums was as a young teen. It left a lasting impressing on my hormonally-affected adolescent mind. I loved her curves, the illusion of having no beginning or end, the seemingly empty yet pregnant space in her center, the ascending spiral to the Gods. So my return to Manhattan would not be complete without paying homage to the Goddess amongst museums.

In the midst of a noisy dinner, I received a phone call from Mom, alerting me to a special event at the Guggenheim. I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying—just words here and there…Guggenheim…anniversary…void…exhibit. But it didn’t matter, because I had already decided that it would be my first stop.

On Sunday, I made my way uptown, constantly rechecking the cross streets. It should be close. There’s Central Park. Where is it? The Guggenheim is neatly hidden away behind a row of angular apartment buildings. Her curves are nestled behind their sturdy frames which stand guard like overprotective husbands, fathers, and brothers sheltering their wives, daughters, and sisters. This reminded me of her Greek sister Goddess at the Acropolis, suddenly appearing above in the most unlikely Athenian places.

Although the Guggenheim’s outside appearance is impressive, enter within her for an unimaginable experience. During my first trip, I was too young to contemplate, analyze, or evaluate her with my mind. Instead, she found her way into my heart. This time, with years of experience and a bit of wisdom, I was overwhelmed. And just in case I didn’t get it, her Fiftieth Anniversary (which also coincided with my fiftieth year) included the striking exhibit Contemplating the Void. You see, Frank Lloyd Wright and many others got it too. They understood that the gestational center, the Void, isn’t empty at all, but contains all the necessary ingredients for new creation.

This time I did contemplate. Visiting the Void is quite common to midlife journeyers. For those of you who fear revisiting this vital center, remember that this is the place from which all is created. There is absolutely nothing to fear, unless you are set on holding onto your old way of being. Only then is there everything to fear. Those of you at midlife recognize this conflict. We must revisit her center. Our new creations will then radiate outwards, just as they do at the Guggenheim.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Rude Awakening, Appreciated

I woke up this morning to jarring, banging, pounding—as if someone was trying to demolish the building. It upset me, but only for a few seconds, because, courtesy of difficult neighbors, this is how I had been awakened for months on end. A few minutes later as my mind cleared, I realized the noise was different than usual. Rather than door slams, crashing pots and pans, and shouting, this time, someone was actually building something. Was that a drill? And, yes, there was a hammer. The whole building shook, but that was nothing new.

There was another big difference. The neighbors weren’t here! This was perhaps the third time in months that they were gone. Why? Because, this time, someone else was making noise loud enough to disturb them. I think it was coming from the stairwell, but, by now, this noise had become a part of me, stuck somewhere in the outer layer of my emotional body.

When this began several months ago, I thought perhaps I was being warned of an upcoming earthquake; after all, California is due. I also realized then that this was a metaphor for my life, a life that had become shaky at best, one whose foundation was threatened. Not a comfortable seat, even though I had been the first to rush forward and claim it. A bit later, I mused, perhaps this is what happens when you ask for inner peace? The divine chef of the universe serves you up the noisiest most obnoxious din she can muster. This seemed even more likely since the message was coupled with the external illusion that these were nice people who weren't capable of screaming obscenities or producing a jarring, shaking, pounding clamor every five to ten seconds for hours on end. Surely, they were only cooperating to further my own life-education.

By now, you may be wondering why I’m still living here. As I write this, I can’t help but wonder the same.

But something happened this morning when I realized that this noise was created by actual construction, rather than disturbance and chaos. I remembered that, just two days ago, a ten-year-old leak in the bathroom sink had been fixed. And the plumber had been good enough to repair the tub faucet as well, just in case. One of my Twitter friends reminded me that this represented energy that had been dripping out of me for, well, ten years. I knew exactly what kind of energy it was. Water, our feminine energy, is also our life force. Appearing through our emotions, it is the energy that is often suppressed, that goes unnoticed. This bathroom leak, in fact, had been slow, barely noticeable, until I placed a cup beneath the faucet. I had been surprised by how significant this drip-drip was. It added up at the end of the day...week...month...years. This vital force, the emotional expression of the passions that fuel my life, had been leaking out for as long as I could remember.

This is the same force that is apparent when our emotions come out in a flood. Once, one of my colleagues tried to warn a laboring patient of the dangers of postpartum hemorrhage. Searching to find an appropriate illustration and fueled by a sense of urgency, she walked over to the sink faucet, turned it on full blast (water droplets dancing and exploding into the room), and said, “See this? This is how quickly you can bleed out.”

I realized that I had lost the entire content of my suppressed life force over and over again, slowly but steadily…drip-drip-drip-drip

Yes, this day was different. The drip had been fixed, and I was feeling stronger, already thankful for the extra energy. And this time the very structure that had been shaking beneath my feet was being repaired. And it was in the stairwell.

Now I have a functional sturdy exit.


What aspects of your life are leaking your life force? Do you recognize this only when it comes rushing out? Are you on steady ground? What foundation or structures in your life need repairing or reinforcement? Have you been heeding the signs?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Timeless Beauty

Once again, I am thankful to Twitter for connecting me with like-minded people. More and more women are exploring our society’s refusal to accept death and aging, and, lately, they’ve been tweeting about it. Elissa Stein, author of FLOW is working on her next book project, Wrinkle, and her recent Huffington Post piece, The Age of Invisibility, was about our mistreatment of the elderly. Through twitter, I also learned of photojournalist Robbie Kaye’s documentation of her Beauty of Wisdom interviews with women in their seventies and older, conducted at their beauty shop appointments.

It’s time to address this peculiar societal dysfunction.

In the not so distant past, the anorexic teenager was our society’s single representation of beauty. The Twiggy template lived on, decades beyond her actual owner. Dove’s relatively recent campaign was one of the first to use normal-looking normal-sized women models. Their famous Evolution video revealed the false representation of the final icon of a female model that appeared on a billboard. By the time the initial picture was adjusted, it was so far removed from the original that it was difficult to connect the two. Our sense of beauty, both outer and inner, has become unbelievably warped.

It took my traveling to Greece to become aware of just how culture-specific beauty is. I was relieved when I discovered that the Greeks were blind to the dark hair on my body that was deemed socially-unacceptable in the U.S. I was thrilled that women who we would consider overweight showed no hesitation in wearing tight clothes in public or bikinis on the beach.

But there was another difference, and this one had more to do with inner beauty. In Greece, the elderly were cared for, honored, and respected by their families. Often, these elderly women provided the structure and foundation for the family. Many of my Greek friends were raised by their yiayias (grandmothers). Because the Greeks are a very social people, I had more conversations with elderly women there than I did with one of my own grandmothers. I could not return to my apartment without talking with a yiayia who lived in my neighborhood. She would pull out a seat cushion and rush to make Greek coffee when she saw me approaching her marble steps. In fact, I had to add an extra thirty to sixty minutes to my trip home if I didn’t return during her afternoon nap.

These grandmothers not only shared their life wisdom with me but provided me with such a strong sense of family and stability that it eased the 6,000+ mile distance from my real family. Looking at the world through their eyes provided me with an immediate sense of what is truly important. Linear time disappeared. Relationships and relating became crucial. It was clear that what we do is not as essential as how we do it, and that those we love are more important than anything else in this world. The emphasis on artificial physical beauty disappeared in a land where nothing could be more gorgeous than the dramatic scenery, weathered by the same natural elements that wrinkled the lovely faces of the elderly.

I became aware of another striking difference. These Greek women lived each day in the present moment, just as children do. In fact, they lived their entire lives in this way. This was a country in which the natural cycles of life were recognized and death was accepted along with life. The Greeks understood that in order for anything new to be created, the old must dissolve. They remembered what we have forgotten, that unrestricted growth is unsustainable and undesirable.

Both of my biological grandmothers died long ago. Now, more than ever, I absorb my mother’s memories of her mother and her mother’s generation. Not wanting to miss any of their wisdom, I grab hold before it disappears forever. By forgetting her, I lose. By forgetting them, we all lose.

Ours is a young nation. How can we expect to mature without the wisdom of our elders? Without this wisdom, we continue to destroy our earth and ourselves. The longer we hold onto this notion of unrestricted growth, the more this destruction continues. When will we, as a nation, begin to face our fears about aging and death and, instead, honor the hard-earned wisdom of our elders? When will we see their true beauty? Until we do, we will remain blind to our own.

You can read Robbie's letter to her Beauty of Wisdom women on the Feminine Revelations site.