The Ceremony of Myself

A Moon Time testimonial

Danielle George / The Runner

I starkly remember the first day I got my period. I had to go to the bathroom at 4 a.m. in the morning and as soon as I saw red in the toilet bowl, I burst into tears. I felt the beginning of something daunting, as if a new, unexplained responsibility had been placed on my shoulders… and I did not want it. I scratched at the door to my parents’ bedroom and woke my mom. Her tone with me was firm and coldly professional as she reached under the sink to tear off the plastic backing of a pad, sticking it to the inside of my underwear. I felt like I was wearing a diaper, and I craved emotional support of a type my tired mother didn’t seem to register was needed.

In many ways, this resembles the tone with which I’ve had to continue to face the mantle of womanhood—so often, I wish for the ideal of curling up in mummy’s arms and being soothed by reassurance only to find that the world moves too fast and the burden is too strong and all of us women are collectively tired from having to simply be strong all the time. Women carry so much weight and navigate emotional labour in all forms of relationships, while the mainstream expectation is that we bear this all with a stiff upper lip and, no matter what, keep the ugly stuff under wraps.

My period to me is like a waits-for-no-one exclamation mark fighting to give voice to this “ugly stuff,” the murky inner workings that through a direct metaphor explain why it is that women have held the weight of the world for so long, so often unacknowledged.

My period is also a routine personal test. I experience an intensity in my overall emotional state and capacity as my period approaches, every month. I have an existential “what the hell am I doing here?” few days during which I question everything, and every bit of myself. I have come to see this painful monthly test as a gift, though, for I am reminded of my fallibility and the cyclical nature of life. It is full of beginnings and endings, of stages and phases and perpetual change. I am starting to accept that there will always be temporary piques in pain and loss, followed by temporary joys. My body is a testament to this.

I also spent many years wishing my period was regarded as more of a special circumstance —because really, what a miracle it is, what a renewal, what a big chunk in so many people’s lives that happens for so many years and includes so many emotions. One particularly visceral experience in my life gifted me with an acknowledgment of the sacredness of my period, and by extension my womanhood.

Several years ago, I was in an abusive relationship. One night, I had a particularly invasive experience with my abusive ex-partner. There had been many building instances of violence in various forms in our relationship, but that night was perhaps the first night that I actually fully realized that I was being abused. A lightbulb came on as my threshold was crossed. I remember lying in bed that night stunned and unable to sleep as my ex drifted off beside me.

The following morning I rushed to work still stunned, realizing that my period had just started too. It was a special day during which the organization at which I had just newly started working —a group that largely provided social services to indigenous folks in the city—had organized a medicine picking outing where staff would collect plants that could be used in ceremonies with clients year-round. On this excursion to an area outside of the city, I was taught that I could not pick medicines for anyone else but me that day—my period made me the exception. The teachings from indigenous elders on our staff team cautioned all of us that a woman on her Moon Time is seen to already be in the most powerful kind of ceremony possible, a renewal that would strip any medicines picked of their healing properties.

As I gathered medicines on my own, slightly away from the rest of the group, I confronted the juxtaposition of the worthlessness I had felt in how my ex had treated me and my body, and the immense power that I had just been introduced to in my Moon Time through the generously shared traditional knowledge of the first peoples on Turtle Island. This teaching offered me an alternative understanding of my own power at the most necessary time, and it threw into sharp relief so many intersecting aspects of my privilege and my oppression in the pairing of these two intense events, side by side. I felt a yearning within my core to embrace the burning woman soul I felt rise up in rage inside of me.

At the time, I barely knew her. Years later, I have made many gains in welcoming her into more and more moments of my existence. And with every one of my periods now, I remember the smell of sage, I remember the gift of being told that I was in my own ceremony already, of being welcomed to share in this sacred understanding. I thank all of the women and brave gender warriors who have come before me, and all of the strong survivors who keep going, keep fighting, and keep graciously opening their hearts to others who come their way. I thank the fact that there are actually long lineages of traditions and stories that celebrate women and femininity far more than the western, imperialist, neoliberal world ever has. And I thank my body for surviving too.