Some memories from your childhood stay with you. I can still remember my wonderful father Frank teaching me how to tie up my shoelaces. I can still remember exactly where I was – on the front veranda just down near the squatters chair. I can still remember going down to Mum and Dad’s bedroom and waking Dad up when his only TV show – ‘Point of View’ with Bob Santamaria came on. I can remember collecting the eggs from our chook-house and being scared occasionally by the carpet snake wrapped around the long wooden broomlike shelves. I can remember the elephant beetles that would come once a year to the Poinciana tree and I can still remember getting into trouble when I frisbeed a couple of by brother’s records into the sugar cane field next door after he had attacked my stamp album!
But more than any of these I can remember my mother Zena shuffling along in her dressing gown holding my father’s hand as the ambulance men took him to hospital when he had had a nervous breakdown and massive nose bleed. The same Zena totally and unconditionally accepted it when I left the Brothers for some years – “Damien I just want you to be happy!”
The same Zena had a wonderful sense of humour. I remember her laughter when on the morning after my brother’s fortieth birthday party he was off playing golf and I was attempting to clean the BBQ. The bbq was old and the control labels long gone. I lit a match and reached to turn on the gas bottle. The gas bottle was already on – and woof – flame went everywhere and Damien’s relatively hairy arms and eyebrows were lightly singed. Zena watching same from the top of the landing laughed uncontrollably as her youngest son went flying back onto the grass. “Mum I could have been killed!” “Yes, Damien but gee it looked funny!” My lawyers could never hand deliver my writ – she was always mysteriously “out visiting some poor old lady!”
The women in my life have had an extraordinary influence upon me. Sr Anne Jordan who worked for many years with the Cana Community (homeless men and women) in Sydney taught me by word and example to build deep, respect filled, reciprocal relationship with those whose life’s journey has made poor. My dear friend Tricia has taught me the power of other centred process in facilitation and that our Church will only be all that it could be when women have a seat and a voice at every table. My dear friend Kate has taught me the power of unconditional love – accepted me for who I am – warts and all, foibles and fantasies, brokenness and dreams. Kate also taught me that ultimately it is the process in coming to make a decision that is vitally important – more than the decision itself.
Carmel tried to teach me that in any intimate relationship both have to talk it through, listen it through and walk it through if you are to get closure. I’m still learning. Danielle has gently led me to face my fears and even to tickle them until they and I laugh and get true perspective. Julie and Caroline believed in me when I did not and Mary showed me the power of creativity in facilitation and process and to trust my ‘gut feeling’.
When we deny the feminine we swim through life one armed and when we cling to patriarchy as wall builder, moat digger or drawbridge lifter then we are trapped in fear and never dance. Every great spirituality dances intimately with the feminine – indeed it is all one. Every great creative impulse, artist whether through art or music or word – is in touch with their complete and whole self.
None of the above denies manhood – rather, completes and compliments it. Too many wars have been fought, too many lives lost, too many lives scared because we allowed ego to run our lives like a puppeteer. Too many have lived in fear, been trapped in addiction or walked life’s journey alone and lonely because they could not be vulnerable, could not be real, could not be truly honest and could not their trust their heart’s longing.
This week and every week we should celebrate the women in our lives and be grateful that they, like Zena, have shuffled along beside our stretchers and held our hands! Oh for the day – when we, with courage will dare to do the same.