The Little Match Girl

A sad little girl with black hair holding matches out in the snow

Journal Date: November 28, 2020

This morning, I was trying to keep reading. I didn’t know what else to do.

So I picked up Women who Run with the Wolves again, and opened it where I’d left off at Chapter 10.

This turned out to be a chapter that had more than one story in it.

So I finished the first part, with the story of “La Llorona,” and kept reading into the next one.

This one was called “The Little Match Girl.”

It was not what I expected it would be.

I’d heard of it, and even read it once before (as part of an assignment Mama Gena had included as part of our homework in GPS).

But this time, it shocked me. Because I saw that this story was about me.

It told of a poor little girl who lived alone in a dark forest. She had no mother and no father. She had no money or possessions, either, except for a few matches that she bought for half a penny and sold for one.

Winter came, and the cold weather, and she tried to go sell the matches in the nearby town. 

“She wandered the streets and begged strangers, would they please buy matches from her? But no one stopped and paid her any attention.”

One night, suffering from the cold, she decided to light her matches to warm herself, though she had no wood and no kindling.

Every time she lit a match, she found herself immersed in some fantasy, only to awaken again colder than ever.

She struck the third and final match, and in her fantasy her grandmother appeared, “so warm and so kind, and the child felt so happy to see her…” But then the grandmother began to fade, as the little match girl felt herself rise up into heaven.

The story ends sadly, with the little match girl found cold and dead between the houses the next morning.


It wasn’t this telling of the story that resonated with me so much as the commentary that followed.

Here is the first paragraph of interpretation after the story:

“This chid lives in an environ where people do not care. If you are in one of these, get out.”

Hm. Well, that was pretty direct. 

She continues: “This child is in a milieu where what she has, little fires on sticks–the beginnings of all creative possibilities–are not valued. If you are in this predicament, turn your back and walk away.”

Estes seems to feel pretty strongly about this. She goes on to say, “This child is in a psychic situation in which there are few options. She has resigned herself to her ‘place’ in life. If this has happened to you, unresign yourself and come out kicking ass.”

I feel that this has been where I have been most of my life. I had resigned myself to place for so long. I had come to believe that there was no other way for me.

“She cannot awaken to a life with a future because her wretched life is like a hook upon which she hangs daily. In initiations, spending a significant amount of time under difficult conditions is part of a dismemberment that severs one from ease and complacency. As an initiatory passage, it will come to a conclusion, and the newly ‘sanded down’ woman will commence a refreshed and enwisened spiritual and creative life. 

However, women in the Match Girl condition could be said to be involved in an initiation that has gone awry. The hostile conditions do not serve to deepen, only to decimate. Another venue, another environ, with different supports and guides, must be chosen.”

I think this is why I have been so focused on wanting to move to Mexico City. I have intuited the fact that this is not an environment where I will ever be able to grow. I’m 32, and it still seems impossible. I don’t think the conditions around me will ever change. So I’ve decided I must go somewhere else.


“The Match Girl wanders the streets and she begs strangers to buy matches from her. This scene shows one of the most disconcerting things about injured instinct in women, the giving of light for little price… Bad lovers, rotten bosses, exploitative situations, wily complexes of all sorts tempt a woman to these choices.”

This has been true about me. It has been the saddest thing about me, about my life: my willingness to lower the price, to just give myself away to anyone, to beg them to accept me. 

But how was I supposed to know better? I was always taught (by words and by force) that this was the only way.

“The Match Girl lights more matches. Each fantasy burns out, and again the child is in the snow and freezing. When the psyche freezes, a woman is turned toward herself and no one else.”

And it was all for no use. Every shitty boss, emotionally abusive partner, it all ended the same. With me left even more out in the cold, again. Everything I did to hold on to the fantasy ensured my own future end.


“It is a psychic fact that when libido or energy wanes to the point where its breath no longer shows on the mirror, some representation of the Life/Death/Life nature shows up, here portrayed by the grandmother. It is her work to arrive at the death of something, to incubate the soul that has left its husk behind, and to care for the soul till it can be born anew.”

I’m at that point now. I’ve spent this past year in surrender, dying to everything I’ve ever known or believed to be true. 

I’m ready to move forward. I’m dying to be reborn.

A sad little girl with black hair out in the snow

“And that is the blessedness of everyone’s psyche. Even in the event of such a painful ending as the Match Girl’s, there is a ray of light. When enough time, discontent, and pressure have been brought to bear, the Wild Woman of the psyche will hurl new life into a woman’s mind, giving her opportunity to act in her own behalf once more. As we can see from the suffering involved, it is far better to heal one’s addiction to fantasy than wait around wishing and hoping to be raised from the dead.”

Encountering the Animus

Journal Date: November 25, 2020

I decided to do some reading for fun, for myself, so I picked up Women who Run with the Wolves again. 

I’m picking up where I left off, in the chapter on nurturing the creative life.

And once again, I’m finding that it’s exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

As I picked up where I’d left off, the theme of the chapter turned to the nature of the animus in a woman’s psyche.

This is something that has long interested me. I knew my inner masculine was far from healthy, but I was lost as to what to do about it. I think here, I have found a way to start.


“Animus can best be understood as a force that assists women in acting on their own behalf in the outer world. Animus helps a woman put forth specific and feminine inner thoughts and feelings in concrete ways.”

“He brings ideas from ‘out there’ back into her, and he carries ideas from her soul-self across the bridge to fruition and ‘to market’. Without the builder and maintainer of this land bridge, a woman’s inner life cannot be manifested with intent in the outer world.” 


Furthermore, Estes speaks of the distrust many women feel for the masculine, even within themselves.

“Generally, this wariness comes from barely beginning to be healed traumas from family and culture during times previous, times when women were treated as serfs, not as selfs.”

And it is not even “previous times” for all. Not for me. This treatment was for me, in my time.

I think that’s the core of the issue: I was denied the right to have a self. 

I was forbidden from myself.

I felt I existed only as a reflection, as a means to another’s end.

“It is still fresh in wild woman’s memory that there was a time when gifted women were tossed away as refuse, when a woman could not have an idea unless she secretly embedded and fertilized it in a man who then carried it out into the world under his own name.”

This has been the most painful part of it all: my alienation from self. My disconnection from my own body, mind, heart and soul. My self-betrayal and self-abandonment, based only on the assumption that I had less of a right (to think, to act, to be) than anyone else.


“The key aspect to a positive animus development is actual manifestation of cohesive inner thoughts, impulses and ideas.” 

The positive animus appears to be action oriented, concerned with bringing form to the ideal. It is practical, not simply theoretical.

“Archetypally, the King [representing the Animus] symbolizes a force that is meant to work in a woman’s behalf and for her well-being, governing what she and soul assign to him, ruling over what psychic forces are granted to him.”

Unfortunately, the masculine as I have come to know it is not this way.

I have experienced the masculine not as protector, but as perpetrator. As the source of violence and fear. As that which seeks to control, and to silence me. 

Even if only my own inner masculine, the animus which rules my terrorized interior world with an iron fist.


“But what if something takes over the creative flow, making it muddier and muddier? What if we become trapped by that, what if we somehow perversely begin to derive issue from it, to not only like it but rely on it, make a living by it, feel alive through it? What if we use it to get us out of bed in the morning, to take us somewhere, to make us a somebody in our own minds? Those are the traps that wait for all of us.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

It is definitely a trap that I have fallen into. 

And haven’t really gotten out of.

Honestly, I’m still here, wallowing in it as we speak.

I think it’s a great question to ask: What purpose is your illness/inferiority complex/lack of creativity serving for you?

Because it does serve some purpose at this point.

First, it’s a great excuse.

It gives me all the reasons I could ever need for why I can’t do x, y or z.

It allows me to tell myself, “Well, my unhappiness/lack of success/whatever is because I’m not really trying. If it weren’t for this, it would all be different…”

It allows me to avoid taking responsibility for my own life.

I can keep blaming it all on someone else, and keep away from the recognition of how I continually give away my power.

Because yes, I do have power. Even now.

I don’t have to wait until everything is “perfect,” until I’m “fully healed” or have gained approval or validation or whatever it is I’ve been waiting for.

I could start now if I wanted to. If I chose to. 

I’m starting to suspect that I’ve always had more power than I think I do.

I must stop assuming otherwise. 

It’s not just out of fear, but laziness, that I do this.

Because assuming I am powerless amounts to an act of surrender.

By refusing to look at all the options I have to create and influence change, it is as if I were just handing over my life and my self to whatever it is outside of me that would have me in subservience.

It’s time for me to remember: I don’t have to do that anymore.

Descansos

Journal Date: Thursday, November 5, 2020

I just finished an exercise Estés suggested we do in this chapter on rage in Women who Run with the Wolves. It’s called “Descansos,” and here we are to mark all the little (and large) deaths of our lives.

Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly. To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chiquitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place.”

Estés encourages us to make our own descansos, to sit down and examine our lives, our losses, all the places which must be remembered and at the same time, put to rest.


I had a lot of crosses to mark.

My life has been filled with losses. One right after another, with little chance to recover in between.

At this point, I have between 25-30 crosses marked down to represent what I have lost.

Descansos

It’s a lot, but somehow it still doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t even think my greatest losses are even on here.

My deepest pain comes from having missed something more intangible than a job or a boyfriend or anything I listed here before.

Maybe my greatest loss is actually me. My own self.

To have grown up never knowing (not to mention never liking) myself.

To never have felt at home. Not even in my own body. 

Especially not in my own body. This was a source of shame, and where I could locate all of my pain. Better just to not be here. To escape, by whatever means necessary.

And not just my body. I was estranged from all of me.

Always looking outside of myself for the “right” answer. 

The “right” way to look, think, feel, act, be.

I didn’t even know what I was looking for.

I just knew that I was doing it wrong.

I was just wrong, period.

I never belonged to myself. 

That’s the worst part.

I was in such a rush to give myself away. I would sell myself off to the lowest bidder. I was constantly in a rush to find the quickest way to betray myself next.

It’s very sad.

Looking back on all of this, I feel so tired. 

Exhausted. 

What was the meaning behind all of this?

It’s hard to understand.

But I’m starting to feel ready to grieve my losses. To grieve, and to let go.


“Remember in ‘The Crescent Moon Bear’ the woman said a prayer and laid the wandering orphaned dead to rest. That is what one does in descansos. Descansos is a conscious practice that takes pity on and gives honor to the orphaned dead of your psyche, laying them to rest at last.

“Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.”

The Wisdom of the Crescent Moon Bear

Journal Date: 10:15am – Thursday, November 5, 2020

I’ve been reading a chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves today. This one is on rage, something I do need guidance on at this moment in my life.

Here, she tells the story of the “Crescent Moon Bear” as a way to show us how we can deal with our anger.

The story starts with a woman preparing for her husband to come back from the war. She goes shopping and cooks meals for him and does everything she can to please him and make him happy.

But when she goes to him and offers him what she has made, he gets angry and flips over the trays, sending everything she has worked so hard to prepare onto the floor.

The pattern repeats itself over many nights. The man is still in a state of shock, and will not be consoled. His mind is still preoccupied with the images of violence and fear he has seen and experienced in the war he’s only just returned from.

So the woman, in a state of distress, goes to seek out the healer on the outskirts of the village.

The healer tells her to go climb to mountain and bring her back one hair from the throat of the Crescent Moon Bear.

So the woman ascends the mountain by herself to meet the bear.

As she walks the trail up the mountain among the rocks and under the trees, she says, “Arigato zaisho,” a way of thanking the mountain for allowing her to walk on her body and to pass safely.

Getting to even higher ground, she surprised by the birds which fly out at and then past her, these birds representing the spirits of the dead with no family, the muen-botoke.

She tells them, “I will be your relative. I will lay you to rest.”

The muen-botoke symbolize the parts of ourselves which we may have abandoned during times of distress.

These can be thought of as the difficult emotions and experiences which we may have repressed or dissociated from during any incident which was traumatic or otherwise overwhelmed our body’s capacity to cope.

The woman promises them that she will be their family, she will bury them. With this, it is as if she is saying, “I will recognize you as my own, I will honor you and put you to rest.”

Finally, after continued struggling up the mountain, the woman finds the tracks of the crescent moon bear. She hides near the entrance of her cave, and every morning, she leaves food out for the bear to discover upon waking in the morning.

Slowly, with patience, she gets closer and closer to the Crescent Moon Bear, until one day she finds herself directly underneath it.

She tells the bear of her situation, about her angry husband who has come back from the war traumatized and upset, and asks the bear for a single hair from its throat which she needs to heal her husband.

The bear, taking pity on her, consents to let the woman take one hair from the shining silvery crescent on her throat.

Having received the white hair from the crescent moon on the throat of the bear she rushes down the mountain through the Village to the house of the healer.

She rushes up to present the single white hair to her. The healer then smiles and throws the hair into the fire.

The woman cries out in despair, having lost the one ingredient she had struggled so much to obtain in order to heal her husband.

The healer reassured her, telling her the hair itself was not necessary. In learning how to approach the Crescent Moon Bear, win its trust and receive its message, she had learned what she must do to heal her husband as well.

“Now you know what you need to do. Go home, and repeat everything you have just done here with your husband. That is how you can heal this rage and find love again.”


In this story, we can take each character be a part of the woman’s own psyche.

The husband represents animus, the masculine inside of us, in this case the part which has been wounded. Normally, it is responsible for outer directed activity, for creating structure and boundaries and pursuing ambition and achievements in the world.

However, when wounded, it may have a tendency to respond by being either shut down, pushing others away, or with senseless rage and aggression. These responses are typical of the “fight-flight-freeze” trauma responses that are activated after periods of great stress or danger.

The woman here stands for the anima, or the emotional, feminine part of our psyches. This is the part which loves, which strives for union and ultimately seeks healing by going to find the healer outside of the village.

The bear can be thought to represent the wisdom of rage itself. The Crescent Moon Bear, and the primal power of sacred rage which she represents, are something which many of us fear and reject, but which, when approached with the proper care and respect, can ultimately serve as one of our greatest teachers.

The woman’s interactions with the bear and the environment around her along with her journey up the mountain show us a way in which we can start to come to terms with these difficult and troubling feelings.

With caution, with respect, with care, understanding and a little bit of fierceness, we can find the wisdom we need to release our pain while preserving our natural instinct to protect.

The bear teaches “that one can be fierce and generous at the same time. One can be reticent and valuable. One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all at the same time.”

In fact, I believe that in many ways it is the “NO” which makes the “YES” possible. If we are unable to communicate the points which are our limits, we will never be able to feel truly comfortable expressing the fullness of our power and can never express the fullness of our generosity, as well.


When we have discovered how to approach the tender, hurting parts of ourselves which we have previously sought to disown, we can begin the journey of healing and learning from our rage.

Our anger and our pain are worthy of being treated with respect. To push them away, or to ask that they simply “be nice” and act as if nothing has happened, is to do ourselves a disservice.

It is understandable to be wary of such a powerful and potentially explosive current of raw energy within ourselves. But there is a message waiting for us if we can sit quietly and let it speak to us.R

Repression or denial is hardly effective. In fact, it only makes the denied energy louder and more destructive, as it struggles to get us to pay attention to pain which needs tending to.

There is inestimable hope and healing available to those who turn towards the powerful sacred rage of the Crescent Moon Bear.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “Women who are tortured often develop a dazzling kind of perception that has uncanny depth and breadth. Although I would never wish anyone tortured in order to learn the secret ins and outs of the unconscious, the fact is, having lived through a gross repression causes gifts to arise that compensate and protect.

In that respect a woman who has lived a torturous life and delved deeply into it definitely has inestimable depth. Though she came to it through pain, if she has done the hard work of clinging to consciousness, she will have a deep and thriving soul-life and a fierce belief in herself regardless of the occasional ego-waverings.”

I know that this is true about me. This has been my path. What was once my shame is becoming my strength, and of that I am proud.

“This is our meditation practice as women, calling back the dead and dismembered aspects of ourselves, calling back the dead and dismembered aspects of life itself. The one who re-creates from that which has died is always a double-sided archetype. The Creation Mother is always also the Death Mother and vice versa. Because of this dual nature, or double-tasking, the great work before us is to learn to understand what around and about us and what within us must live, and what must die. Our work is to apprehend the timing of both; to allow what must die to die, and what must live to live.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves

This is what I must do now.

This is a turning point for me, and I must choose what will fall away, and what I will carry forward with me into the future.

I’m starting to come to terms with what has happened to me. I’m starting to be ready to see where I need to go next. And who I need to be, in order to get there.

Nepantlera 🙋🏻

In a constant state of mental nepantilism, an Aztec word ‘meaning torn between ways’, la mestiza is a product of the transfer of the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another. Being tricultural, monolingual, bilingual; or multilingual, speaking a patois, and in a state of perpetual transition, the mestiza faces the dilemma of the mixed breed: which collectivity does the daughter of a dark-skinned mother listen to? 
-Gloria Anzaldúa

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“Supposing that Truth is a woman–what then?”

Nietzsche asks us to consider the possibility (in his preface to Beyond Good and Evil) that “all philosophers … have failed to understand women,” and by extension, the Truth that she represents.

Maybe a feminine conception of truth will be opposed to the dogmatism of western philosophical history.

A feminist epistemology would approach the nature of truth differently. Instead of looking for one objective Truth, it would acknowledge the many relative Truths that we are able to experience.

The Name of the Rose

When I was 23 years old, I took a walk by the river near my father’s house on an early summer day. While walking behind our neighbor’s yards, my eyes fell on a single red rose, the only one of its kind behind the fence. Stunned by its singular beauty, I stopped for a only moment, before I shuddered and hurried to continue on my way.

I quickly rushed away, scared my neighbor would see me and confront me. I walked away as fast as I could manage, but not because I was afraid he’d be upset at my intrusion on his land, that was only an incidental afterthought.

Without wanting to, I imagined the man would come down to where I stood, smile, and hold out to me the severed bloom, this innocent wounded beauty.

“What’s wrong with that?” I questioned myself. “You should be thinking of how fortunate you’d be instead.”

But my allegiances had spontaneously established themselves.

I now only had sympathy for the rose.

rosa-encarnada

Not long afterwards, I discovered the poetry of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I accepted it as a gift, and I felt thankful that she had written what I’d been too timid to even admit to myself.

So in gratitude to her, I chose to translate a poem of hers which spoke the words I’d never even allowed to become conscious. 

Proof of the Apparent Danger that, Once Possessed, Beauty is then Abandoned

Rose incarnate flaunts proudly to the meadow,
bathed in cochineal and carmine:
luscious, in lush open fields;
but no, for being beautiful
you will also be sorry.
Do you see, the first white light rushing
towards the Dawn?
So the risk becomes more imposing
as much as one’s beauty grows more impressive.
Don’t believe it makes you invincible:
If, misguided, you consent,
to be cut by an insolent hand
for the seduction of beauty and fragrance,
When guilty cheeks can no longer blush
you will also be sorry.
You see that charm which collects
assurance with his courtesies?
Then don’t esteem beauty
more potent than lust.
Run from the calculated caress;
if, imprudent and ingenuous,
you convince yourself that you are loved,
you’ll find yourself coming;
who, in coming to be possessed,
will also be sorry.
Surrender your beauty to nobody,
for it’s a crime that your perfection
should serve as conquest for his vanity.
Take pleasure in ordinary eminence,
without finding yourself the servant
of one who, once conquered,
won’t properly respect you;
you who, singularly had,
will also be sorry.

Anyway, even today, I think of the rose with compassion. I don’t  believe we’re really that different, after all.