During the past summer, I read Kathleen Winter's book Annabel. In an earlier post I highly recommended the book. Since that time, the book has been nominated for the most prestigious prizes in the Canadian literary world.
There is a passage which touched me so much at the time. I was not really sure why it had so much impact. The whole book had an impact; there are numerous passages that might have got my attention, but this one, in particular, was worth copying out and saving. I did not put it on my 'fridge... too many questions to answer to the uninitiated, you know. I put it away and told myself if someday it 'explained itself' to me, I would blog about it. Guess what??
In the book, Jacinta and her husband Treadway's daughter/son Annabel/Wayne is a true hermaphrodite. In the early days since her/his birth, the ambiguity continues... but for how long?
“Everything Treadway refused to imagine, Jacinta imagined in detail enough for the two of them. Whereas he struck out on his own to decide how to erase the frightening ambiguity in their child, she envisioned living with it as it was. She imagined her daughter beautiful and grown up, in a scarlet satin gown, her male characteristics held secret under the clothing for a time when she might need a warrior's strength and a man's potent aggression. Then she imagined her son as a talented, mythical hunter, his breasts strapped in a concealing vest, his clothes the green of striding forward, his heart the heart of a woman who could secretly direct his path in the ways of intuition and psychological insight. Whenever she imagined her child, grown up without interference from a judgemental world, she imagined its male and female halves as complementing each other, and as being secretly, almost magically powerful. It was the growing up part she did not want to imagine. The social part, the going to school in Labrador part, the jeering part, the what will we tell everyone part, the part that asks how will we give this child so much love it will know no harm from the cruel reactions of people who do not want to understand.”*
Winter captures so much of my struggle for balance and honest expression. For me, it was inevitable that this passage and it's longing for a continued duality Annabel's birth condition made possible would resonate. Recently, my own growing admission of an inner duality brings on a longing to find authentic expression for both sides in a world where ambiguity is unacceptable.
There are no parents to blame here, the real struggle for power goes on between my ears. I am not naturally rebellious, but a voice inside says "Be yourself,". Then it continues, “but just who are you?”.
Is it really about the scarlet gown? Is it about the secret intuition? Is it about the heart and its mythical insight working through a male body? Still more questions than answers.
The voice inside says "Find a way to manifest those magically powerful male and female halves, complementing each other, then you will be true to yourself."
*page 28, Annabel by Kathleen Winter, House of Anansi Press Inc