Keri and Amy talk about the Wild Woman, how she's often unwelcome, and what happens if we let ourselves listen to her.
Keri Mangis is an author, speaker and owner of Curiosa Publishing, LLC. Her work has appeared in Spirituality and Health magazine, Star Tribune, Elephant Journal, Addicted to Success, and many others. Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness—A Memoir of New Beginnings, won several awards, including the 2020 IPA award for Mind, Body & Spirit. Book her to speak at your next event! And check out Embodying Soul, now available as an audiobook.
Amy Hallberg 0:00
So there is no rhyme or reason to why I record a podcast when. It just occurs to me that we need to record something. And then it happens. And when that podcast actually comes out is sometimes a mystery. The following conversation was recorded in June of 2021. My friend Keri was posting things that just spoke to me and I said, let's have a conversation. But I am choosing to air it now. Because this is about the wild woman, the woman who is forced by society to be a certain way. And as I am recording this intro, now, we are coming up on some very important elections, in which it will be decided whether women get autonomy or not. You're listening to Courageous Wordsmith, Episode 66. This podcast presents conversation with and for real like creatives, and how we find and keep walking our unique paths. I'm your host, Amy Hallberg, welcome to my world. Today, I'm talking with my friend and fellow author, Keri Mangis.
Amy Hallberg 1:27
So, Keri, you and I have been direct messaging back and forth. You've been posting a ton of pieces lately. And every time I'm like, Yes, and, we're back and forth. And we're talking about this. And it's really resonating. Why don't you sum it up? Sort of the crux of what you're getting at right now. What's really speaking to you?
Keri Mangis 1:49
Yeah, I think some of the pieces that I've noticed that I've touched on you, there's a common theme. And it's this theme of, well, just in a big picture way, it's the theme of the wild woman. But more than that, it's the theme of the human being being willing and able to go deep into our wounds and do the most valuable, the deepest kind of rooted healing that we can do for ourselves. In contrast to sort of this civilized put together, I have to be strong for for these people kind of way that women go about the world. So this is just been my exploration for a little while as, what if we all start going deeper? What if we let ourselves go and really go deep into our pain? I think we're afraid that we can't come back from that. I really do. I think that there's an innate fear. And I have experienced, and I've written about it in my first book of going really, really deep, you know, the scream chapter, going deep into my wildness, going deep into the primal pain, going deep into a pain that was beyond my own, but connected more to a female collective rage that's just 1000s and 1000s of years old.
Amy Hallberg 3:04
And what is the crux of that screaming chapter because it's really important not to gloss over what that is, especially what's happening right now, in our world. What is that chapter, the screaming chapter.
Keri Mangis 3:18
So it's, you know, deeper into my book, and by this time, the reader will have seen that I have done all the things that society tells us to do, you know, I have suppressed my emotions, I have quieted myself down, I have shrunk around men, I have made myself smaller and convenient and agreeable. And along the way of doing that, what you don't even realize sometimes is how much trauma we're just, we're just burying
Amy Hallberg 3:46
and ingesting from everyone else. At the same time, we're taking it on
Keri Mangis 3:50
All of it. And for me, a lot of it was sexual abuse and and that's what the scream chapter was, awareness came upon me of all of the the abuses. And you know, some of them are micro abuses, and whatever. But I think, you know, that justification of calling them even a micro abuse is a justification we don't need and abuse isn't abuse, a transgression is a transgression. And I think, after I was done with my excuses, and my "What did I do wrong?" And what role did I play in all those, all those questions that women ask because of themselves, and that society asks of them. Finally, I just broke through all of that. And I got to the pain. And I just, I couldn't hold anything in anymore. And the next thing I know my husband and I are sitting at a stoplight, and I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and from this very, very deep, primal place inside me. And there's this other voice that's in there right at the same time. Going knock it off. Stop it, you're acting crazy. He's going to leave you he's going to divorce you he's going to take the kids but this other part of me was so much stronger. I couldn't override it, I had to just let it out. I am very lucky that I have a husband who could support that and hold that space for me. And I think this is the place I'm coming from them that yes, it's possible. If we teach each other to do this, we can let each other go deep, do the real real work and help bring ourselves back stronger.
Amy Hallberg 5:29
I think part of what you just got out there is that we have this fear that if we really show our raw, honest, most vulnerable self, then people will leave us. And that is, in fact, true. You and I both have experienced abandonment from so that we considered close when we had no choice but to acknowledge what was breaking open inside of us. So in both of our cases, our marriages have survived and are probably stronger, because we know they're not going to fall apart when we do, but I lost all of my work colleagues, which was my whole social network. I mean, it's not like they all were like, you know, we're not your friends, but I quit going to work and there was my network, you lost a whole bunch of work colleagues. And we had to begin again. So I think we both know that we can come back from that, because we have, but there's still more work to do. I don't want to go back there. You know, we're recording this the day after my daughter's graduation. And it was a hard week, because graduation time is a hard week, there's a lot of expectations on these kids even right up until the end. It's not smooth sailing. It's their stuff to do right up into the end. And there's a lot of pressure. And so, you know, I was sharing with you that first I was strong for them. And then I had a good old fashioned meltdown. And then I reached out to the people that I have in my life who just they know both that I'm strong and that I can be a hot mess. And they love me both ways. You know, and then, and then by the time I got to my daughter's graduation, they started playing pomp and circumstance. And I just, I had tears coming down my face. And I was like, let them, like everything that happened at graduate, I just cried and cried and cried. I was so stinking proud of that kid. And I was so stinking proud of me. And I was so stinking proud of us for navigating a system that is not set up to honor the wild women in us.
Keri Mangis 7:39
The original purpose of society is order, which to some degree we need that. But when it turns into control, when it turns into suppression when it turns into obedience, then that's a different problem. And I think that that's sort of where we've gone. We've gotten so deep into obedience, and we're cultured, so young, to you know, listen to adults, respect your elders, you know, again, everything has light and shadow. I'm not trying to all of a sudden say, let's just overthrow society.
Amy Hallberg 8:12
We need people we are social creatures,
Keri Mangis 8:14
and we need some sense of order. But yeah, the containers for us to just free ourselves and, and return to, you know, we're animals. And you know how animals heal. I mean, when they, if you've ever seen those videos of like, animals in the wild and one is chased, right? And then right, they make a narrow escape. And then after that, they just shake, and they shake, right? Crazy, right? And then they just go back to doing their normal thing. And they're not six months later, still, you know, having PTSD about that experience where they almost got eaten by a lion. We humans need to learn how to do that.
Amy Hallberg 8:56
Well, I think, you know, we've just been through a year, like none that any of us have ever lived through. And I think we'd like to just shake it off quick and move on. And yet one of the things you mentioned was that spirituality. And this is a theme that I resonate with strongly. Spirituality can just be one more source of control. And right now I'm seeing a lot of Don't be angry. On the one hand, I'm hearing people saying, feel those emotions, acknowledge them, let them come through you. What do the emotions want to tell you? I'm hearing that because I surround myself with people who think along those lines, but that's been a careful cultivation on my part. On the other hand, I have this button it up and be happy now because we're good. And that was over and we're done.
Keri Mangis 9:41
Right? And you're exactly right about spirituality being spiritual groups just being yet another source of this kind of control. I had a post out a little a little over a week ago, it was a very powerful post, about looking at our own shadow sides. And that's deep hard work. And in , you know, inviting people to do that. You don't know what kind of toes you're going to step on. And I had one woman reach out to me and she said, I hear what you're saying. But she said, you sound like a priestess, a voodoo priestess, which I thought was hilarious. But then she finished it up with, you know, say it with love. Right? So this is a kind of way that we monitor each other, especially women monitoring women, like, you know, loosely say it with love, she said, so what she's telling me, and what she's trying to shame me is for the anger and the passion that was in that piece. And it, you know, it works a lot. I mean, it doesn't really work on me anymore. But it used to, and it does all the time. We don't like to be perceived as angry. It's, you know, it's a shameful thing.
Amy Hallberg 10:50
And yet, why are we angry? You know, so one of the best gifts that somebody gave me back, I would have been 23 years old. And coming off of a relationship that I had hoped would turn into something with a man who just was very, he was gaslighting me. And he was very, very smart. And I would say I'm as smart as him, but he needed to be the smart one. So we would spend lots and lots of time talking about how amazing he was like he was in medical school. And he would take tests and afterwards we would talk about all the questions on the test, and how he had done them. So right. I mean, it was just growth, right? And I came out of that relationship with a very small sense of self like, right, like, because any time I would try to express myself and be like, well, that isn't you or he just diminished me in a lot of ways. And somebody recommended that I read the dance of anger by Harriet Lerner. If you read it. It's a classic. Oh my gosh. You know, like, I'm hearing this question really come to fruition from a lot of places. Now. Oprah Winfrey is talking about this, for example, right? Prince Harry, I think is talking about this, people are talking about this, and then we shame them on down in here. He doesn't know what he's talking about. Bla bla, bla, bla, bla and broke. But anyway, right? This idea that anger is important, because it's teaching us where our boundaries are. It's teaching us what matters to us. It forces us out of a place of smallness, because anger cannot be contained. And if you do not find healthy ways to address it, it comes out sideways. Anyway. So permission to go, here's my anger, what is this about? And to not just be like, Oh, mustn't be angry, you know, young lady, you go to your room until you can be pleasant about this.
Keri Mangis 12:43
Well, that's the internal voice in all of us.
Amy Hallberg 12:46
Well, that family was also external. It was very, you talked about how your some of your stuff was around sex. And I'm sure I have some issues around what was told to me about sex as well being brought up very Christian, but a lot of it was around my emotions. You need to keep that in check.
Keri Mangis 13:04
Yes, well, and you're right about anger. I would say that there's another thing that I've been writing about lately is the wild woman. And of course, hand in hand with that is writing about the emotion of anger. And I do have another piece of it called anger is just passion turned inside out. I mean, and you know, isn't that really like anger is coming, it's a messenger. It's not a demon or an enemy. It's a messenger. And it's telling us that something matters. It doesn't mean that you don't have to investigate why that matters to you, you probably do,
Amy Hallberg 13:36
but you need to not go out and make things bad with people and sabotage everything.
Keri Mangis 13:42
And at some point, you know, I'd love to have these conversations about anger without feeling the need to even say that, right. I mean, we know that that's true. And that's a given. But anger is also, think about music, think about art, think about, you know, some of the greatest pieces of expression in this world originated from, from anger, and then they got they got transformed into something else. You know, anger is behind activism. I mean, if we're not angry, then we're pacifists. Yeah, I think we need to welcome anger back. And that's part of this descent into our wildness.
Amy Hallberg 14:22
This is one of the claims against white Minnesota women, right. I mean, we're one year out from George Floyd, you live in Minneapolis, I claim it as my sort of honorary hometown, right? Like the charges. Oh, that was horrible. Now, can we get back to whatever it was because it was unpleasant. Right. And the thing I think is interesting. If you don't acknowledge it, there's a story there that just keeps coming up. Keep coming up, keep coming up, keeps making you mad. There's something there. You haven't excavated but once you do excavate it, like I'm noticing when you talked about sexual trauma, you were able to talk about that in a pretty even tone because it doesn't have that energy anymore. Like you move through it, you've moved beyond it. Correct?
Keri Mangis 15:12
Amy Hallberg 15:12
But at the same time, there are stories, there's a story that I've been working at that it's, let's see, 30 years old ish, 30 years old that I'm still sitting with arguing with fighting with like, like, you know, like, like wrestling with God sort of around this story. It's because I hadn't broken it open yet. Right. But once you break it open, I think you would agree those stories that we wrestle with the most that make us the angriest in the writing, are the stories that people want to read and cite back to us when they read our books.
Keri Mangis 15:47
Yeah, there's something about seeing somebody completely fall apart, and then seeing them move back into wholeness, that helps to distill that fear that we talked about at the beginning of going to that place in the first place. Just briefly, there's an ancient myth called the myth of MIS, MIS. And it's about a woman who loses her father on the battlefield, a young woman, and she's so distraught and overcome with pain, she begins to lick his wounds, thinking that she can bring them back to life. And when she can't, she runs off into the woods, and she strips off all of her clothing. I mean, and you know, in a lot of those situations, you know, we lose somebody, people want us to go back to the house and do a funeral and act normal and pay the bills. And Mis just said, I can't do any of that, I am going into the woods, stripping off my clothes. Eventually, she grew feathers and fur, eventually her nails turned into claws, you know, she became truly, truly the wild woman. And there's something in that story that I was like, I identify with that, you know, if I lose somebody, I don't think I just want to go back and make coffee for the guests. I want to go run into the woods, and I want to go scream and rant and rave for a while. But see, here's what happened is, society began to shun her, they started telling stories, they started telling the children that she eats children than to stay out of the woods, and she was excluded. There in lies that fear of what happens to women, when they go wild, they get excluded. So we hold it together on a shoestring for the sake of what appearance.
Amy Hallberg 17:35
Absolutely. And what I find fascinating about that, though, is from her standpoint, having been that wild woman having walked close to the veil, and in a very public way, and there is no other choice, there is no going back. So therefore you kind of have to keep going through and into it. And having learned how to talk about that. And I know that you've had this experience as well, having learned how to talk about that you find that there are a lot of people who are desperate to talk about that. And people will confide things to me in ways that they never would before when I was presenting as perfect or trying damn hard to write or, or even like she's falling apart but but she's trying so hard to keep it together. When I will allowed myself to fall apart because I have literally no other choice, I found out how many of us there are who are just desperate to have some space to fall apart. And for that it's okay.
Keri Mangis 18:40
Well and think about our dialogue about the woman who's holding it all together. It's all about while she's so strong. She's so amazing. I couldn't do what she does. You know, she's considered admirable in our society, the woman who will not let herself fall apart.
Amy Hallberg 18:57
Yeah, and I have to tell you, like I said, graduation time and I've got two of them graduating. So I'm, I'm sort of paying attention to messages we give to graduates. And you know, a lot of times like the speeches will say some things about you're going to fail, pick yourself up, bla bla bla bla bla, right. But there's also the award ceremonies. And the award ceremonies are given to those people who work the hardest, did the most work, spent the most hours, surrendered the most sleep, and had the least margins. These kids are amazing and got the straight A's. Do you know what you have to do to get the straight A's because there's a hell of a lot more accountability, by which I mean busy work than there ever was. When you and I went through school you talk about endless curiosity as the source of your greatest wisdom and I relate to that strongly. I mean, that's part of the reason you and I connect so well as friends is because we both really need to, to indulge that curiosity not just tolerated or sort of "Yeah, okay. It's there" and sort of excuses away but really really, really dig deep into that curiosity. And so to reward people for doing what, to me is the exact opposite of that. It just rubs me wrong. It rubs me wrong in a really big way.
Keri Mangis 20:14
I went to a funeral a couple years ago before the pandemic, and I was really triggered because the way that they talked about the woman was, they told the story about her this anecdote about how there was this trip, and she didn't want to take it, and how, you know, it wasn't her thing or whatever. And anyway, somehow she got talked into it. And then they ended the story by and she never complained the whole time.
Amy Hallberg 20:40
To be, you know, a gold star and an A plus, right?
Keri Mangis 20:44
Right. She never went wild. She went along, to go along. And that's the kind of women that we need. There is also we're talking about the individual fear of going wild. There's also a, I believe, a collective fear of what would happen if women just in droves, right, like said, I have had it, I've had it with being catcalled, I have had it with being treated like my body is just a sexual toy. I'm tired of jobs that don't pay me as much as a man, I am tired of. Like what? I think that there is a societal fear of what would happen if women really lost it, which is why we keep doing this, which is why we just keep buffering the edges. And we keep patting women on the back for holding it together and for not complaining. Because it would be a revolution, if women actually really did
Amy Hallberg 21:36
following the extent of some of these laws that are being passed right now tells you that we're damn close to that and that people are scared. Did you see that viral? I think it's a TikTok video. But anyway, a viral video of valedictorian in Texas, who scrapped her scripted speech and gave a different speech about how to how do you think it feels for me to have no autonomy? And for all my dreams to be so I think this younger generation, I don't think that they're willing to be what circumscribed in the way that mean, we grew up, we grew up in the 80s. Yeah. And we sort of, you know, we were busy fighting for our place in a man's world. Yes. Instead of understanding "No, no, no, no, it's all our world." And there is room for feminine ways of being in this world, it doesn't all get to be defined and framed by male whiteness. Correct?
Keri Mangis 22:37
Correct. And you know, that that speech that she gave, you know, I looked through some of the comments on it. And you'd be surprised? Well, you wouldn't be surprised. It still shocks the conscience, how many people said, this young lady should have stuck with the script, she should not abuse her platform, she should be ashamed of herself for having been given this privilege and abusing it. So much of that shit. Now, there was a lot of, you know, obviously supportive comments as well. But those shaming comments. Yeah, that's, that's what we're talking about here. And they're very loud
Amy Hallberg 23:11
Yeah, they're very loud, because they are afraid of what would happen? You know, I mean, what would happen if you lost control of my considerable gifts, the ones that the universe endowed me with to make a difference in this world? I mean, to me, that's the height of hubris that, that we can understand what God intended for some woman's gift. It's not man given? Correct. You know, so, where does this lead you? I mean, as you're writing all these things, and you're putting these messages out there, what do you think is the most amazing thing that could happen? You know, like, what's the vision of what could happen if women really did collectively assert who we are.
Keri Mangis 24:01
So one thing that we tend to do as women is we police each other. And we tend to try to keep each other in check through shame, through guilt. And we in doing so we continue to give men more space and more voice and more power. And so the Yin Yang is balanced, right? There's so much of that male energy in the world and there's not enough of that balanced compassion and insight and wisdom and intuition, which are the qualities of the feminine, there's too much of this action and aggression and we know this. So if women start letting go and stop justifying, stop minimizing, and just feel their pain without any kind of qualifiers, you know, this is my pain. You know, not well, I shouldn't feel this but or Well, other people have it worse, but I mean, we are the masters of qualifiers as women, about our pain. It's how we get through, it's how we keep ourselves put together, quote, unquote, as we gaslight ourselves and tell ourselves it's not as important as it is, or well, at least this didn't happen to me, the moment we stopped doing that the moment we stopped qualifying and excusing him, we just really feel, the possibility, then, is that we also find our deepest power. Because that pain, is tangled up with our power, and it's down deep inside us. So we go in and down, right, too much of spirituality is focused on up and out, we need to focus on in and down, that's where our pain is stored. And it's also where our power is stored. So it's sort of like, if you are brave enough to go into that tunnel of darkness, where your pain is stored, you will also find the diamonds of your gifts and your strength and your power. And then more and more women will stop giving this extra space to men. And men will start having to yield to to you know, female voices. And we can have a more balanced society, more balanced conversation, more balanced power, more balanced child rearing, I mean, everything can come into more balance, because men aren't going to automatically just start giving up their space, we're going to have to demand it and we can only demand it with power, and we can't get to our power if we won't go through our pain.
Amy Hallberg 26:35
You know, as what you're saying there, and I'm thinking about men who are, you know, I learned a new phrase this year: Incel, which is involuntarily celibate, which means that apparently men should get to determine which of us should bread on them. I mean, but there's a lot of loneliness amongst men where what they really want is connection. And the way they would get it would not be by crowding on us. And, you know, speaking to, it's been a long time since I've dated now coming up on my 20th anniversary. But back in the day, there were men were, you know, if they'd have given me some space, they would have gotten some really good parts of me. But instead, what they did was crowd me in and I would like, no. And you know what, now that you've done that, we're done, and you don't get anything from me, right. Whereas if men were to give women space, stop control us, they would find, not only the best in ourselves, but if their only purpose in life is to control us. They're missing out on major parts of their better selves to the feminine part of themselves.
Keri Mangis 27:47
You know, I've been co writing with a friend of mine, and we've really been circling the wagons on the topic of misogyny, and patriarchy, and so forth. And in one of the recent posts, I wrote a little bit of a direct letter to men. And it went a little bit like this said, Men, you know, I know you think that she's powerful already. But you should see her when she's just with me, you should see her when there's no men in the room. She's in her full power when she's not worried about whether or not you're checking her out whether or not she needs to be presentable. She doesn't feel the need to smile or laugh or coach her opinions behind I think, some maybes like you should see what I see. So that article went out. And we got some feedback on that particular section of the piece from a man who wants to be an ally to women. So he's definitely on our side, but he said that that particular passage made him feel guilty.
Amy Hallberg 28:38
Keri Mangis 28:40
And he did not like that.
Amy Hallberg 28:43
You know what, some of the things that made me feel guilty, not guilty, guilt put upon me by other people and things like that, but guilt where I know that I have held back or I have controlled situations, I have, you know, in my case, it would be as a white woman, right? Things when I controlled things to be in my comfort zone. I had to move through that. God, I feel like shit about myself for that. So the same thing about motherhood, then you move through it. Okay. So I'm going to have to accept that. That's how that was. Now, if I can put that down, what does that make possible? What doors does that open?
Keri Mangis 29:23
Exactly? Because what he wanted us to do was stop writing things like this so that he didn't feel guilty. Instead of wow, that post crack something open in me and I'm going to explore that.
Amy Hallberg 29:36
I'm going to sit with that pain. I'm going to feel it. I'm gonna shake a little bit. I'm gonna let it rattle me. Yeah,
Keri Mangis 29:43
because it's okay. It's okay. If you can eventually say, You know what, I think I'm one of those guys that hasn't made space for women. Good. Thank you. Now you really are an ally. Now you're really, now you're in it
Amy Hallberg 29:59
As a woman, how many times have I tried to control other women? And this was a realization, I have an aunt that I'm not so very fond of, because from the time I was very young, she was quite controlling, due to her childhood, bla bla bla bla, right? When I realized, wow, and you wrote about this, too, sometimes I am that aren't. Yes. So sometimes, I'm still going to have to keep doing that work. So that I am not the enemy of other women, just as much as I'm not the enemy of LGBTQ people, my daughters, people of color, people who don't speak English as a first language, any of those things, so that I am not imposing those things. Because sometimes I'm the enemy, too
Keri Mangis 30:45
That, and that's shadow work. And just like our pain is or how our power is held captive by our pain, our light and our gifts are held captive by our shadows. So when you're doing your shadow work, and you're asking yourself those questions, in what ways have I diminished anothers value? In what ways have I not made space for people's voices, then you are, you are through that process, allowing more of your own light and power to shine through, like it really is Shadow Work is is a freeing process.
Amy Hallberg 31:22
which, to be clear, is not false equivalency. It's not given credence to flat out lies, because there is quite a lot of that in our society right now, this is different than that, right? This is different than you have to give credence to the crazy woman who goes crazy by doubling down on what bigotry and xenophobia and etc, right,
Keri Mangis 31:46
it's not about giving in to your worst selves. I think that's what you're saying. It's not about giving in to the worst part of you. And I think it's important that you said that and brought that up, because that's a little bit about what the Trump movement actually is, and has allowed and no true shadow work. It's not about giving in and claiming it and freeing that, it's about recognizing our humaneness and our collective pain, our collective wounds, our collective ways that we adapt and cope, to get through the world. That's all it is. Yeah.
Amy Hallberg 32:24
And so sometimes we're just going to have to feel it. And what comes out on the other side of that wildness is,
Keri Mangis 32:33
well, I can tell you a little bit how the the myth ends, would you? Yes. So eventually, the king decided to put out a reward for someone who might be willing to go into the woods and retrieve Mis. One man agreed to try. He went on in the woods, he stripped off all his clothing, he sat down on a tree stump, arranged himself in a sort of visible way, if you know what I mean. brought out his violin and began to play the most beautiful, soft, gentle, welcoming music and Mis couldn't help but poke out and see, you know, this man naked playing music and a tree stump and she got a little more curious and a little more curious. came a little closer, it came a little closer. And eventually he began to feed her a little bit. And then he began to play more music with her sitting right there. And then he began to make love to her and in her wildness, and then one day, he brought her down to the water and he washed her off, and he brushed her fur until it turned back into hair. And he trimmed her claws until they turned back into nails. And he just cared for her and loved her and waited for her. And then one day she said, I'm ready to go back. And they returned.
Amy Hallberg 33:54
I think a lot of us are ready to return. Thank you, Keri.
Keri Mangis 34:00
Yeah, you're so welcome. Thank you.
Amy Hallberg 34:05
Thanks for listening to Courageous Wordsmith. Today's episode featured Keri Mangis, you can read about her and check out links in the show notes. Backstage at Courageous Wordsmith: my editor is the talented Will Queen and my producer is the fabulous Maddy Kelley. If you enjoy this podcast, you can help it thrive and grow organically. Please subscribe right on this page, share with your friends and sign up for True Lines, my letter for real life creatives so that you can stay current with future episodes. And if you're feeling called to write and you would not like to write alone, you can learn more about me and my community at Amyhallberg.com. I am Amy Hallberg and until we meet again, travel safely