Embracing Her Majesty

by ©Donna Henes

You need only to claim the events of your life
to make yourself yours. When you truly possess
all you have been and done, which may take some time,
you are fierce with reality.

—Florida Scott-Maxwell
American/Scot psychologist and writer (1884-1968)


When I started introducing the Queen in workshops and articles as a helpful archetype
for midlife women, I received many requests for detailed instructions on how to become
a Queen. "Dear Mama Donna," women would write, "I want to be a Queen, too. How do
I access my power? How can I feel good about myself? How do I change my life? How
do I find magic and spiritual wisdom? How do I know what to do? How do I learn how
to rule?"

The reality is that I cannot possibly know how anyone else will attain her Queendom. I only know how I came into mine, and that is largely through hindsight. The truth, my truth, at least, is that there is no one truth. We must each find our own way in this world. As a shaman, I teach through example, but not through dictum. I can and do offer information, exposure, personal experience, encouragement, inspiration, suggestions and support to my constituents, but I cannot — dare not — pass judgment or establish rules and laws. It is simply not for me to say.

When my students and clients come to me for help and spiritual guidance, I listen to their concerns and embrace their needs. I pat them on the back, give them a good, swift kick in the butt, or let them cry on my shoulder, as needed. I can tell them what I did in such and such situation, how I did it, what I learned from this or that lesson, but I cannot tell them what they should do. How do I know what their souls need? Only they know what they know. I can, of course, aid them in reaching into the well of their own deepest wisdom, and help them to hear the messages from their best inner Selves. A woman who has attended several of my workshops recently hugged me and told me that I had changed her life. "Well, no, of course, I didn't, honey," I assured her. "You changed your own life." The fact of the matter remains that I could not give her what was not already hers.

You take your life in your own hands, and what happens?
A terrible thing: no one to blame.

—Erica Jong
American writer (1942-)

Each one of us has a story, a myth, a legend to write, to paint — and to live. The shamanic assumption from which I operate is that every person has her own mission in this lifetime: her own path, her own dreams, her own symbols and sensibilities, her own visions and designs, her own way of learning, her own personalized hard-won lessons. That we each have our own singular life to live. That every one of us must figure out for ourselves the fullest, richest, most effective, ethical, and satisfying way in which to do it; and moreover, that each and every one of us possesses the wisdom, the power, and the responsibility to make it so.

The story of our lives is ours to create. We can design our own roles and ideals, compose the scripts, and author the sagas of our own futures and that of the environment around us. While we cannot necessarily control the circumstances and influences that present themselves to us in the course of living, we can choose how we will respond to them when they do arise. Our power of choice is our sole control in the world. With each new paragraph, each turn of the page, each new dawn, each moment in time, each blink of the eye, we are gifted with another opportunity to exercise our right to choose. Coffee or tea? Lemon or milk? Right or left? Stairs or elevator? Vacuum? Vote? Cheat? Trust? Care? Dare? Change? What paths we take, what decisions we make influence how the story will proceed and who we will be from this day forth. As George Eliot reminds us, "The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice."

The difficult times that we encounter in our lives might tempt us to dull our senses and opt out of any upsetting experiences, choosing not to let things "get to us." We often try to ignore the hard parts — pain, fear, guilt, grief, confusion, anger, and disappointment — dilute their impact, drown them out in an endless list of pleasurable addictions: soporifics, anesthetics, mood enhancers, caffeine, food, hormones. We can even turn ourselves off altogether. The point is we don't have to engage in the emotional upheaval. Nobody is making us. We could choose to drink cabernet and watch Public Television, play cards, play it safe, every night for the rest of our lives if we wanted to. It is an option. It is ultimately up to us whether we succumb to the unexamined life or try to figure out what the hell is going on inside us and around us, and engage in it, alter, change, and grow with it, so that we might fulfill our greatest destiny and dreams.

If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes,
there is always another chance for you.
And supposing you have tried and failed again and again,
you may have a fresh start any moment you choose,
for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down,
but the staying down.

—Mary Pickford
Canadian-born American actress &
Co-founder of United Artists
(1893-1979)

At midlife, we are at a major crossroads in our lives, and we can choose to move ahead, turn right or left, stay where we are, or go back where we came from. The Queen chooses always to choose, to involve Herself fully in the process of Her life and living, and to actively direct the drama of Her myth. She urges us take up the challenges of changing,
of aging, engaging in all that life has to offer. And She reminds us to look upon the difficulties, disruptions, disappointments, fears, and failures we have experienced as important life lessons, without which we could never hope to ascend to a throne of responsibility and rule. She encourages us to entertain the entire palette of our emotions, for there is where we find our strength and knowledge and true value. Some things in life just have to be learned the hard way and evading them is counter-productive and eventually destructive. The only way to
get through them is to go through them. There is
a wonderful old African-American Spiritual that says, "So high, you can't get over it.
So low, you can't get under it. So wide you can't get around it. You gotta go through
the door."


I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error,
by risking, by giving, by losing.

—Anais Nin
French writer
(1903-1977)


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