NO MAN’S LAND
The former Mount St. Joseph Convent, Peterborough, Ontario
Before refurbishment, Peterborough artists are invited to fill Mount St. Joseph Convent with their work. Ramune uses two dormitory rooms in a corridor known as ‘no man’s land’, so named because no men are allowed through the heavy oak door that protects it. She covers the walls of one bedroom with stream of consciousness writing about shame. As a counterpoint in the other room, Ramune draws a life-sized woman standing proud in her nakedness.
Writing on the Wall
They say there are only two emotions: love and shame. That all other emotional states are either driven by love or shame.
There’s an ancient Celtic goddess called Sheela Na Gig. I saw her carved on a church, holding open her vulva for all to see. So why do I feel shame about mine? Why can’t I be proud of it, the way I’m proud of hands that work or feet that run and dance.
Not that I dance. Why? Because I don’t want to be seen. To be seen is to be criticized. Lumpy. Ugly. Clumsy. Too fat. Stiff. Frigid. Too sexy.
Too sexy. Now there’s a thing. That’s the real truth. I’ve been too sexy my whole life.
Imagine an infant that was taught it’s OK to touch, to love, to roll around naked saying “look at me, I’m gorgeous.” Imagine a grown woman who believe the same thing, who thought that every tiny hair on her was adorable – the hairs on her arms, eyelashes, upper lip and toes were valuable, worthy or praise, worthy of love.
I sprout a hair from the mole on my chin & and children laugh. People look away. So I tweeze.
What if the hairs between my legs were adorable too? That dark, musty place that holds the sweat and smell, where it’s shameful to ooze or drip. What if everything about that place was OK? We could show it, talk about it, touch it and laugh. Touch it and enjoy. Touch me and enjoy. Openly, happily, celebrate the pleasure.
I want sex. I ache for it. Crave it. There’s a gaping hole between my legs craving sensation, stimulation, satisfaction. My whole body aches. Aches to be adored. Nurtured. Touched. Caressed. Held. Heard. Recognized.
There’s a living being between my legs that wants. Wants to be love, touched, made, met. Like a baby, before words, it knows. Knows what’s needed. I need the physical to take me somewhere else. Through the earthy, dirty, damp place of worms, of joyous chatter and primal screams.
My own touch isn’t enough. I want union, to take me to a place bigger than my own.
I am a deep well of wanting. Why? When I have so much? Is this part of the human condition? The weather’s mild yet I long for sunshine. I try to eat well yet I long for chocolate, cake and ice cream. The days pass peacefully, yet I long to jump, shout, sing so loud it hurts. I want to walk barefoot, swim naked, sleep under stars, live like a frog. And my body longs the most. I am a gaping hole of wanting – longing to be met, to expand through connection. Not to be alone. Yesterday I walked in the woods and felt loved. I breathed in the love in the leaves, branches and breeze. How would it be to breathe that love everywhere I went? To feel loved the whole world over?
The place I long the most is the deep doorway to my interior. It’s where I feel the life, where connection begins and ends, my sensor, receptor, creator of joy. And yet it’s hidden, forbidden, made to stay small.
I want to explode into life and inspire others to do the same. “We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine”. That’s the poem Mandela read to his entire country, to the world. We’re all living at 20%, with the volume knob turned low. What’s the fear? That there won’t be enough space for us all? Sometimes I know I am as big as the biggest mountain, as powerful as thunder, and then I feel shame. Who am I to have such thoughts? Heaven has to be reached through earth. That’s why we’re here. Through the mud, sticks, stones, mistakes and sweat that’s needed to take each step. Not through the half-lived search for perfection that we have become
There is no place for my anger. The rage inside. The rage that makes me want to run, jump, hit, kick and explode into unbounded energy. Anger is energy and yet it’s not allowed. But where should it go? Some days I wake up angry, pure fire desperate to burn. Will I end of my life only knowing embers, match unlit.
How would it be to say exactly what I think? And the people who heard knew it was only me expressing me in that moment, on that day? If they knew that minutes later it might be different, that we could all laugh or rage or cry and know it wouldn’t last forever. It should never last more than the moment it’s said. That the truth is no more than a series of moments. Accumulated moments that make one glorious, spontaneous, unedited whole.
What if I could be anyone, do anything, say anything I wanted?