….dadme la muerte que me falta…..
……give me the death I need…
Have you heard her? She who weeps long into the night, lingering between the congruent worlds of life and death for all eternity as she seeks her long-lost children. The story goes that she drowned them in a river on the outskirts of Mexico City in a jealous rage after seeing her lover with another woman. It was not until after that she realized the terrible consequences of her actions and now she is trapped between two realms, longing to be reunited with them. They say that those who wander alone late at night should beware, for La Llorona has no mercy and you don’t want to be ensnared in her eternal quest, never to be seen again.
Don’t believe everything you hear.
Who can truly say they have ever learned anything of real value unless they have set foot in that macabre world beyond life as we know it now? The world of uncertainty and risk where true, deep knowing is accomplished. It’s a place that we must all pass when we embrace a change or perhaps sometimes more frightening, when we commit ourselves to something we already know; a relationship or a life path, instead of running away in fear. Sometimes letting something die makes space for new life to commence.
Take my garden as an example. My pride and joy. Cultivated from seed. Imagine my horror when I woke up the other day to find that a good number of my precious plants had been completely devoured by a troop of callous slugs. Lots of hard work shamelessly gobbled up leaving nothing but their thuggish slime behind like a thief who pisses on the walls.
Now I’m no fan of those slimy bastards but I wrestled with a “respect for life” ethic and I didn’t like the idea of putting toxic slug pellets on my wholesome organic garden.
So I decided it was time for an encounter with La Llorona. Armed with nothing but a torch and a jar of salty water, midnight of Friday 13th I took a turn around my garden and the great bare-handed slug massacre commenced. It took a while to get the slime off my hands but when the deed was done and I faced the eerie world of the unknown darkness and allowed something to die, I came out the other side with a new, richer understanding of what goes down in my garden at night and now there’s room for new growing.
La Llorona is a mythical creature who takes various forms across many different cultures; the Lady in White and the banshee being some of our most well-known cultural manifestations. In our culture, as in the Mexican culture, we warn against these macabre creatures and they are deemed as something to be avoided. In the healing words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes in The Women Who Run With the Wolves;
While those who are initiated are unafraid of Lady Death, the culture often encourages that we throw her over the cliffs, for not only is she fearsome, it takes too long to learn her ways. A soul-less world encourages faster, quicker, thrashing about to find the one that will burn forever and right now. However, the miracle we are seeking takes time; time to find it, time to bring it to life.
Fear is natural when it comes to facing the unknown (and obviously when facing someone who murdered their own kids), but there’s only so long we can run away from it if we don’t want to live miserable lives and if we want to deepen both our relationships with ourselves and the world. Risk, fear and facing the unknown are part of the excitement and joy of life. They are a prerequisite of real, deep loving and true self-understanding. We know that they represent the death of something but that doesn’t mean that new life can’t be obtained on the other side. Life is a constant cycle of these mini lifes and deaths, not one long straight path like we might sometimes like it. Sometimes death means knowing when to leave and let something die. Sometimes it means committing yourself to something or someone against all the unpleasant odds and letting your guarded self die. It always requires some sort of not-knowing, in which our only guide is that of instinct.
La Llorona isn’t a monster, she’s an unexpected kiss, she’s a career change, a divorce. Whatever you want to call her. The challenge is knowing what the right kind of risk you need to take is at the right time.
I have come to a point in my life where I must finally embrace death once again. Just last week I did a weekend storytelling course at the International School of Storytelling and my heart is throbbing with both joy and fear. I told a story in front of a group of adults and somehow it felt like I found some remote voice from a former self. I’ve known for some years that this is a pathway I have wanted to explore but I’ve been afraid of it. Too risky. Too selfish. Is this really helping anyone or is this just self-indulgence? There’s too much to be done in the world. I’m not brave enough. Not interesting enough. Too shy. People will laugh. It’s not what I know. I’ve found everything I possibly could to avoid it; suffocating relationships, workaholism, relocations, self-righteousness, schoolgirl crushes…..
I’ve always been afraid of fucking up and making the wrong choice. I’ve always been too nice for my own good, letting it get in the way of what I really want. But if I don’t take this risk to allow something to die I know I’ll be bitter before my time because La Llorona is waiting and I’m being summoned.