my life journey

Kathleen AspennsI have always found comfort and solace in nature. As a child I was fascinated by plants and loved learning about and growing them. Endlessly fascinated by the diversity and wonder of the plant world, I was also drawn to the sense of peace and serenity in the garden.

At home, things felt different. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian doomsday cult. Constant companions for the first part of my life were fear, repression and the demand for obedience. Strictly hierarchical and male-dominated, women and children were expected to be compliant. Acting or speaking up in any kind of challenge was completely unacceptable.

This worldview was based in fear – the teaching was that the world was going to descend imminently into a war that would destroy the planet, and the only chance to survive was to gain God’s acceptance through strictly following His laws, enabling you to be one of the chosen upon His return. This acceptance was always conditional upon continued obedience to authority.

This framework extended into the home as well, love and belonging was conditional to continued good behavior. What I learned to do to survive was to repress who I was to fit the mold of a “good girl”, pliant and obedient.

I can see now how my early life was all lived on the surface. The important things were to fit in, not speak up, and accept what I was given. I was told what to believe and how to act; I never felt anything positive about the religion, only fear of being wrong. As I grew up, this incongruence between what I was told to believe and how I felt in nature became more and more troubling to me.

I was strongly drawn to nature-based spirituality. My own experiences of peace and feeling connected only took place in nature, alone with the plants and the earth. I read every book I could find, and started to see a light, a possibility that my life could have meaning and a future outside of the culture in which I was raised. As part of this learning process, I started to develop my intuition and ability to get clear answers directly from Spirit and Nature.

My father developed cancer when I was a teenager, and he became more devout than ever. He felt his illness was a judgement from God, that he had not kept the faith strictly enough, and as a family we were at fault as well. God working a healing miracle on his behalf depended on all of us. Unfortunately for him, he died within a year of his diagnosis, the summer I turned 17.

I can certainly see how my lifelong struggle with “not being enough” has had a lot to do with this upbringing. There is always the feeling of coming up short, the constant shame of being imperfect and unworthy. This area has been a focus of my inner work for a long time now, and I have found profound relief from using flower essences and connecting to my spirit and the love I experience from Nature. I am so much more able to accept myself and no longer feel the crippling guilt and shame that kept me from being at home in my own skin.

I never doubted for a moment that my mother loved me, but her beliefs demanded she be an obedient servant to my father and the family. She never could step in to protect her children (or herself) from her angry and emotionally cruel husband. Her role in life was strictly defined for her, to comply with the demands of authority, to serve selflessly, and to put herself last. She excelled at this, and was much beloved for it. She never said no to any request.

Sadly, she too succumbed to cancer in 2014. When she found out she was sick, she continued her work and her duties, adding in a complex regimen of natural treatments. My mother was always the busiest person you knew, the “how does she do it all?” kind of person.
A profound moment for me was during time spent with her as she was nearing the end in the hospital, listening to her finally reflect on her life. She never had time for this sort of thing before, and she was able to speak candidly of her life. Her debilitated state, “weak as a kitten” in her words, was the first time she was ever able to accept the care of others.

The socially lauded example of the selfless woman, never doing anything for herself, always giving, is often presented as being the noblest form of womanhood. Women everywhere find themselves stuck living this existence, giving far beyond their ability, becoming desperately depleted. I have examined this belief I also carry during my journey, and have worked to untether myself. In a world that grows in awareness of environmental sustainability, when will we as women realize the model we are encouraged to emulate is impossible to actually sustain? Our health suffers, our spirits suffer, our community suffers. With the help of flower essences, in conjunction with my spiritual practice of connecting to and trusting my greater self, I now have a greater ability to judge my willingness and ability to give. I find myself more able to say yes joyfully, from a true spirit of wanting to serve, because I know I can also say no.

I am grateful to have my wonderfully supportive husband through all of this. Our relationship, nearing two decades now, has been a solid foundation for both of us to grow. As I grow ever more true to who I really am, and release this strong programming to be always accommodating and “nice”, it has challenged our marriage to evolve, as any living thing must do. We are both equally committed to our own growth, and to tending our collective garden of love together.

The process of grieving my mother has been painful. In addition to grieving her death, I have also deeply grieved all the losses of my life. The child part of me has needed much love and care, as she holds so much early pain and trauma. I am proud of myself, and of my progress, and can hold my head up and know that I have done the best I could. My connection to Nature, my mentors and loved ones, and the gift of flower essences, have enfolded me in grace, helping me to fully embrace the pain of this life, as well as the joy. Going through difficulty has helped me become a more compassionate person, a better listener, a more heart-full presence. My life journey deeply informs my work as a flower essence practitioner, and I am passionate about helping others discover the peace and contentment I have found.