Last month, I had an absolute shitstorm of a month. It began just before my last bleed started. I descended into my bleed sobbing and grieving. I kept thinking (and my friends kept saying) – “It’s because you are bleeding. Things will get better in a few days.”
Things didn’t get better. Shit flew at me from every direction, every day. All different kinds of shit. It wasn’t just stuff in my personal life (although that was the big stuff). There was a parking ticket, an irate authority figure accusing me of things I hadn’t done, angry drivers, lost money. I was forced to develop special ninja skills to deal with the shitstorm. I breathed, I affirmed, I sent love to people who abused me. I did yoga and tai chi. When I opened the door of my van in Sainsbury’s carpark and a brand new 10-litre can of white emulsion that I’d just spent my last £10 to buy for someone else as a favour, fell out and landed upside-down, cracking the lid and spilling slowly onto the tarmac, I sat down on the floor and laughed. I laughed so much that one of my socks flew clean off my foot and flew across the carpark and landed in a puddle. But my ninja skills weren’t always enough. Every day I’d think: ‘Right, I’ve got this now. Things are gonna start getting better,” and they didn’t get better. There was some twisted shit going on in the universe, something terrible I’d done in my past (life?) that I was paying for, some lesson I was supposed to learn, I don’t know what the fuck…
Then, it broke, just before the start of this cycle. There was calm and peace and hope. I descended into this bleed exhausted but spacious. On the first day, not much happened. On the second day, I bled. A lot. It just kept coming and coming, soaking pad after pad. I was lucky enough to be alone and I sat at home and painted.
One of the paintings I finished was this one: Phoenix Rising. The image came from a line drawing I found here. I had sketched an approximation in my sketchbook and she flew from there onto the canvas.
And this is what I realised: The phoenix is a perfect metaphor for the female cycle.
She is a symbol of rebirth and renewal, transformation and resurrection.
According to the Greeks, the phoenix was a spectacular bird who made a nest of twigs and branches. Instead of laying eggs and preparing to raise chicks in her nest, the phoenix was preparing to die. She sat in the nest and generated a massive amount of heat. Using the twig nest for kindling, she set herself on fire and burned to ashes. Then, three days later, the phoenix would rise again from her own ashes, reborn and renewed.
This is precisely what happens to us when we bleed. If the egg we release at ovulation is fertilised, the creative force within us creates life and results in pregnancy. If unfertilised, our womb (our nest) prepares for the death of ourselves at the end of the cycle. Our hormones(our body heat) trigger the onset of menstruation (the burning of our nest). And we bleed. We burn. We die. And three days later, we rise, renewed, from our own ashes: transformed, resurrected, reborn. Every month.
In my world, my bleed felt like a purge. On day 3, the day after I finished Phoenix Rising, I felt a shift in energy. I had been reduced to ashes, annihilated, beaten by life. And yet. I bled and I felt myself rising again. Older, wiser, stronger, kinder, braver, more courageous. I was not beaten, I was renewed. And I’m ready for any-fucking-thing.