Soon, I’m turning 29. My birthday always sends me into an introspective tailspin about what age means, considering the past, and wondering what the heck I’m doing with my life.
When I was younger, I craved independence. I couldn’t wait to move away from home, to manage things all on my own. It worked most of the time, but as a recent back injury reminded me, I am still the absolute worst at asking for help. I got mad at my partner for doing the dishes because I wanted to do them MY WAY.
Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to be around older, wiser women who have seen some life. Many of my students are older women, and they have given me some of the best teachings I’ve gotten from anyone. One of these women has become my counselor, who is helping me repair my past, and my mom even recently became my business partner, descending like a white knight to save my small business from an untimely demise.
I’m nearly 30—I haven’t been a teenager for a decade—and more than ever, I need my mama.
Mama also means something bigger to me than it used to. Perhaps 2012 really is the dawning of the age of the goddess: Perhaps what I am connecting to is the wisdom and suffering of all the women I’ve been before, back to the time when I was just a little egg in my grandmother’s womb.
As we speak, I am listening to my teacher, Eric Stoneberg, who is not a mama himself, but is initiating me into the world of the Hindu goddesses through his Vision Quest teleconferences. The particular talk I am listening to is about Matangi, a “salty old lady,” in Eric’s words, who is “literally the goddess of bedhead.”
She is the classical figure of the crone, in the sense that she represents the wisdom that comes for women past the age of childbearing. My ears perked up especially when I learned that she is something of a patron saint of the spoken word: she will hold you to your truths, and offer you an abundance of words when you feel choked or tongue-tied. She also represents the “outcaste,” those that don’t feel like they quite fit in this world. Matangi defies the classical Indian custom for how women should look in public: She’s wearing a sheer nightie and her hair is all frizzy and crazy. There is something sexy and intimate about her undone-ness, the wisdom and courage she must have to be unwilling to conform to society’s expectations of perfect hair and buttoned-up blouses. Matangi is the punk of the Goddess Pantheon, full of countercultural wisdom, sensuality, and the courage to speak your truth. This salty old lady is, ironically perhaps, the patron saint of teen angst.
I have to admit, I have not grown out of my teen angst. A mom I knew once laughed at a friend who was going through an angsty period: “I have two kids,” she said, “I don’t have time for angst.”
Well, I don’t have any kids. I do have a few plants, but I feel entitled to my selfish existential pain anyway. In many ways, I still feel like that girl in the high school hallway looking at everyone else who appears to have it together, feeling alone in the world and lamenting, “No one knows what it’s like to be me!”
In lucid moments, of course, I know that everyone feels this way. We are all absolutely together in feeling alone. The feminine energy that Matangi and these other goddesses manifests is one of connecting and sharing, even if what we are sharing is fear and confusion and all the things we have trouble articulating.
So now when I am near these older women, women who have seen many birthdays, who always have wise words for me, I think of Matangi, this great undone lady with a sharp tongue and a teen angst heart who sees me coming apart at the seams, sits me down, and teaches me to sew.