BLOG by Michelle Adam, author of Child of Duende: Today, I remembered it as if it were yesterday. I was in my father’s apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I sat on the bed in one room, in massive pain from the night before when I had pulled my arm backwards to pick something off the floor I had pushed off the night table by accident. My father was in the other room, listening to his news on the television, absorbed in his own world. And I was sitting there, not only in pain from having pulled a muscle, but from having flown this far south from my New Mexico home to be with my father, whose emotional absence in the other room only made me feel more alone.
Those days, almost five years ago, in my father’s world in Buenos Aires, were excruciating. And today, as I felt the same pain in my neck and left shoulder, and realized it will soon be three years since my father’s death (on February 23 to be exact),the memories of my attempts at love and connection with my father came back to me. The pain I carried in Buenos Aires had been a buildup of not having felt seen or loved by my father—or at least him not showing me this—and of feeling this ache show up too often in my relationships with men.
That month in Buenos Aires had been my commitment to change, to building a relationship with my father I had never had. And while those first weeks together were painful, the dam of silence, that wall of communication so thick it hurt, my journey south with my father provided much needed healing. The little girl in me, who had so longed to feel, hear, and receive love from her father, finally did. The few years that remained before his passing became crucial for our relationship to heal, for him to leave this world having given more of himself to his daughter and to those who had waited for him to show love.
Today, as I go further back in time, beyond Buenos Aires, to earlier years, when I was healing from a hip injury (and much greater heart ache), I came across journal entries that spoke so much of this need in me to be loved by my father. It made me reflect on what happens to so many of us, and specifically young girls, when we feel our father’s absence. The messages of what it means to be a girl, and later, what it means to be a woman, become extremely confusing.
Recently, I read a blog that reflected on the Super Bowl halftime show (by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir in the Feminism and Religion Blog) and how so many people reacted strongly to two Latinas who danced for a nation with all their sexuality and womanhood on display. Her blog caused me to think more deeply about this piece of being a woman and how we represent ourselves in the world. And it dovetailed into my own experience as a young girl seeking approval and love from my father, and my journal writings about it in 2001.
That great ache and longing to be loved that I felt as a child—and in Buenos Aires and shared in my journal writings 20 years ago—plays such an important role in whom I would be later in my life. “There is such a desire I carry to make a man happy,” I wrote in my journal of 2001. “There’s this begging to be loved and to be allowed to be loved, this feeling of needing to act a certain way or be a certain way to receive love.”
When that little girl longing so much to be loved by her father becomes a woman, what happens to her in relationships? And in this society, where there’s such pressure for women to look good, or be attractive or sexy enough for men (as Trelawney Grenfell-Muir in her Feminism and Religion Blog wrote about) how do women, and especially young women, know how to be themselves and empowered as women (and especially when not having healed that daughter-father wound)? And how does our sexuality come into play in all this?
It can be a confusing mess, I think, and that became very evident in the uproar and ongoing debate about the two Latinas—Shakira and J Lo—dancing and singing at Superbowl half-time. On one hand, these two women owned their sexuality and weren’t afraid to show this. I remember as a young woman how I had worked hard to “own” my own sexuality as a way of owning my own power (not waiting for someone to bring it out in me or to see and love me first). It was a way of owning my own body, or not being afraid to be a woman (and not to be in the shadow of my own insecurities). So, when these two women danced, I saw it as them owning their own sexuality, sensuality and aliveness. At the same time, did the fact that these two women danced in a sexual way take away from others seeing them in their talent and their greater soul essence?
It may be a stretch comparing these two Latinas to my own journey as a woman coming into my own as I healed a lost love with my father. Yet, I feel there’s a piece that still aches in so many of us as women…in our DNA and our lineage…and that is of having grown up in a society and world where what we do, how we do it, and how feminine we are when we do it, is judged every day…where being loved and liked for who we are matters so much yet where the ultimate decision-maker is our father or our patriarchal system.
I think about that little girl who became a woman of twenty years ago, and then the one of 5 years ago, still crying in the other room in my father’s apartment, waiting for his love and approval. How many of us have lived that? How many of us women have sought to define who we are, not just as individuals, but as women in a society that for so long defined us, that told us who we needed to be to receive approval, love, and power?
When we make peace with that part of ourselves… when we come home to the love we are and the beauty we are as ourselves…no matter what the world thinks…then we’ve come to fill the gap in our hearts we’ve spent so long aching to fill. Maybe we will look at a half time show of two Latinas and be able celebrate who they have chosen to be and honor their gift. We will be able to look in the mirror at ourselves and other women around us and love the heck out of what we’ve become. We will also have an immense amount of compassion for this long and arduous journey we’ve taken to get here and simply love ourselves without a need to wait for anyone to do this for us.
My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of returning home to the earth inside and all around us. It’s now available in Spanish as Niña Duende: Un Viaje del Espiritu, that’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page or at www.michelleadam.net. It was soon be published by the Spanish publisher Corona Borealis and the Portuguese publisher, Edições Mahatma. It can be ordered at a local bookstore or directly from me (for those outside of the U.S.) as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video