There's a book for every turning point in my life.
When I graduated high school and ventured to Norfolk State University, Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss reminded me to be myself and embrace new people and experiences. Following college, Meg Jay's The Defining Decade, a life-saving work I still visit every now and again, reassured me that I could survive my emotionally unstable 20's. I literally carried that thing with me everywhere for like a month, and her words stood as a pocket-sized reminder that I wasn't the only twenty-something whose life seemed to be in crisis.
Then, once I was knee-deep in my career and stress blurred my vision for my life, I searched for literature that was deeply insightful; words that celebrated my power as a passionate young woman seeking truth. I needed a book that encompassed everything there is about being a whole woman. And as fate would have it, I stumbled upon an interview where photographer Natasha Campos cited Women Who Run With the Wolves as a go-to book about just that.
"Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life."
Before I discovered Clarissa Pinkola Estés' bestseller, I questioned everything. I felt largely misunderstood by myself and others. In the search to discover who I was, I was about as graceful as a 10-month-old's first steps, and I felt like I had no real control over my life. Like, I desperately wanted out of New York, but I wouldn't leave. I wanted to stop loving people who didn't love me properly, but I continuously dealt with shitty guys. For someone who never bites her tongue, I never truly felt confident in my voice or my ideas. I second-guessed so many decisions in fear of other people's judgement.
It was as if I knew I had magic in me and the power to craft the life I wanted to live, but I didn't know how to access it.
Thankfully, though, Estés' understanding of womanhood showed me that tapping into my queenliness required trusting my God-given intuition and the deep female psyche.
“It is worse to stay where one does not belong at all than to wander about lost for a while and looking for the psychic and soulful kinship one requires?"
According to the Maya Angelou-cosigned book, the wild woman is self-assured and courageous. She is not unruly or out of control, but she is daring. She is feminine and trusts the earth and her spiritual connection to it. She also understands her unmatched internal power, since she is the creator of life. In love, she is nurturing but smart. Her heart leads but she never shushes logical caution. She is intuitive. She is liberated by her sexuality, and when it comes to her creativity, she nourishes it. And now, I strive to be this very woman every single day.
“The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place."
Here are four things I learned about the woman I am and want to be through Estés' Women Who Run With the Wolves:
1. Being naive means being your own worst enemy.
The thing about not knowing yourself is that you never do what's best for you. Through the stories, old wives' tales and studies discussed at length in this novel––"They are for you to read and contemplate in order to assist you toward your own natural-won freedom," Estés writes––I realized I wasn't woke in matters of the heart. For instance, instead of side-stepping heartache, I'd willfully choose the Future type over the Russell Wilson guy believing he'd want to change (because of me, duh!). Thankfully, Estés drops gems about these errors of judgement throughout Wolves and forced me to start acting in my own best interest at all times, especially in relationships.
2. Happiness is directly connected to creativity.
For some time, I swapped out passion projects for stable work, which often suppressed my quirky, creative side. Limiting my playful spirit, however, was like stomping out my light. After Estés broke down how I could foster my spirit of ingenuity to create vision for my life, peace of mind, and contentment started flowing. Amen.
3. There's healing in feeling every emotion.
I gloss over my sadness or anger because positive thinking is so on-trend these days. But sometimes I'm just f*cking pissed and I want to bask in it. It's a waste to pretend everything's fine all the time. For instance, when my father got locked up, instead of showcasing how broken I was by it, I quickly accepted it as just a new normal of my life. In turn, I became bitter and silently raging because I wasn't dealing with the pain. Anger, like all emotions, can be a positive, though. Estés identifies it as not only a source of pain, but also an origin of great ideas and healing. The key is to not let it fester and consume you. Additionally, she explains how to feel my emotions and how to place boundaries on those feelings as to not allow them to control my life.
4. Belonging is a blessing.
I have an anchor tattooed on my finger as a constant reminder that I'm grounded, stable and I belong somewhere. I moved around a lot as a kid, so as an adult, I operate like a loner. Sure, I have friends and loved ones, but no place ever feels completely like home. But Wolves emphasizes finding my pack. It's still hard for me to feel connected to people and things all the time, but since embracing those I considered my fellows "wolves," I've experienced a stronger sense of self.
All in all, women are some of the most powerful beings in the world, and it's our responsibility to be at our most emotionally and mentally fit. We need books like this to teach us the key to living our best lives. For Black women, this is especially necessary since we carry the burdens of our culture on our backs. Wolves was a long overdue awakening for me, showing me that in order to slay I had to reconnect with my instinctual nature on every level: spiritual, economic, emotional and mental.
So I must say, my world's been different since cracking Wolves open. Confusion and uncertainty used to send me into an emotional spiral, and to be honest, I felt weak. My newfound power, faith and trust in myself, however, steels me in the event that life gives me lemons. Hopefully my understanding of these lessons will continue to deepen into my 30s. But if it is, hopefully there'll be another book waiting for me.
"...I call her Wild Woman, for those very words, wild and woman, create llamar o tocar a la puerta, the fairy-tale knock at the door of the deep feminine psyche. Llamar o tocar a la puerta means literally to play upon the instrument of the name in order to open a door. It means using words that summon up the opening of a passageway. No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively."
What are some books that have had a life-changing effect on your life and why? Share with us below!