About Being an Outlaw

Yes, about being an outlaw…but also archetypes and exhaustion and self-care and then some.

The dictionary defines an archetype as a recurrent motif in literature, art, or mythology; a typical example of a person or thing. You’ve heard of the maiden, the mother, and the crone. There’s the lover, the hero, the magician, the sage, and more. Then there’s the outlaw.

Here’s some description:

  • The Outlaw yearns for liberation from oppression. They’re risk-takers, progressive, and exude bravery in all circumstances.
  • They have a penchant for revolution to help change the world — and if anarchy is involved, so be it — to make the world a better place. They are rule-breakers, despise being regulated, and oppose conformity.
  • They denounce the normalized, what’s accepted, and status quo for something better. To do this, disruption is their tool. They run counter to the crowds. (The Brand Leader)

You can relate, yes? These things describe you — at least in part. Me too.

Here’s another definition that I find even more powerful:

“A woman who begins to take charge of her own life drawing not from patriarchal notions of individualistic success but from a desire to escape these norms is committing an act of social deviance and rebellion. She is the outlaw…” ~ Danielle Dulsky, The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman.

There’s much in me that aspires to this archetype, that wants to be the outlaw. I’m all about liberation and risk-taking, revolution and rule-breaking. It feels required, quite frankly. But to only be this, leaves me feeling tired, sometimes discouraged, and often overwhelmed by just how much remains to be “disrupted” in order to make the world a better place.

I want to be the outlaw AND I am more. I am the maiden, the mother, and the crone. I am the lover, the hero, the magician, the sage, and more. All of these at the same time. As the poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

So, I wonder how to hold fast to the passion, intention, (and critical necessity) of the outlaw while holding on to all of myself — all at the same time.

And then I wonder, “What if I just let the sky fall? The falling sky is what Chicken Little was deathly afraid of — certain the world was coming to an end when, in truth, a single acorn had fallen out of a maple tree and landed on their head.

I am not comparing Chicken Little’s tiny acorn to the sky that we hold up.

I am NOT saying that our concerns are over-reactive or hysterical; they are real and significant; they matter. I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t worry about all that might happen were we to let go of the “fight,” even for a little while; vigilance and perseverance is needed — now more than ever. I am NOT saying that we should just kick up our heels (with or without “outlaw” boots) and forget about it all; ignore the issues, bury our head in the sand, live and let live.

I AM saying that sometimes, especially when our arms are tired and we’re worn out from fighting, that there are other aspects of who we are that deserve our time, attention, nurture, and care.

I AM saying that it is radical — and rebellious and rule-breaking — to be kind to yourself, to nurture yourself, to think of yourself first (!!!); to go within and pay attention to your emotions, to listen to your heart, to follow it; to stop holding up the sky at the expense of all else, at the expense of all of you.

I am saying that perhaps this IS the most outlaw-like choice of all.

To do any of this IS “a woman who begins to take charge of her own life, drawing not from patriarchal notions…but from a desire to escape these norms…She is the outlaw.”

Here’s what’s true: We can advocate for social justice and let the sky fall — both at the same time, at least for a time. We can think brilliantly and feel deeply. We can be (and are) more than enough and never too much. We can be honest and loving. We can tell the truth and be compassionate. We can be the maiden, the mother, the crone and the lover, the hero, the magician, the sage, and more. We can be the outlaw and nurture ourselves in the most generous and extravagant of ways. In fact, we must.

More and more, I am coming to believe that it is just as radical and revolutionary to be kind to ourselves, listen deep within, trust our wisdom, and yes, let the sky fall, as it is to decry patriarchal notions and norms and commit acts of social deviance and rebellion. Even more rule-breaking and defiant than either of these is believing and knowing that we have the capacity to do both at the very same time, to “contain multitudes.”

It’s when we acknowledge, allow, even celebrate all of this — all of who we are — that we become the most outlaw-esque of all.

From one outlaw (and maiden/mother/crone/lover/hero/magician/sage and more) to another, may it be so.


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Not practicing what I preach

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my desire. No. That’s not quite true. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my lack of desire — my resistance to it. Not across the board — but in particular areas of my life.

This awareness has come as a surprise to me, quite frankly.

Desire is hardly a new thought or topic in my world. I’ve learned to follow its impetus and wisdom more times than not (after many decades of just the opposite). And I’ve certainly written and talked about it a ton — redeeming Eve’s story in ways that reveal her as inspiration and model of desire — in the best and most perfect of ways. Our blueprint, our forebear, our legacy! She calls us, beckons us, invites us to desire; she reminds us that our desire is good, that we are!

All this said, you can see why this is a conundrum for me, this chasm between what I practice and what I preach!

A dear friend came to visit me. We sat in my living room and talked of many things — among which was our respective books. She told me about just recently turning her completed manuscript over to a designer who will now create the book itself in preparation for self-publishing. (It’s going to be magnificent.) I spoke of my own manuscript, my timeline, how I am (mostly) pushing past my resistance. And we bantered back and forth — sometimes lightly, other times with much more angst — over the whole world of marketing, publicity, and promotion that yet remains. And all with no guarantee of “success.”

In the midst of all this, I said, “What if I just don’t care? What if I just write the book because it deserves to be written, because I want it written, and then let it go? What if don’t worry myself with the outcomes, the numbers, the success (or not)? What if it’s really about the creation of it — not what happens once it’s finished?”

To which she replied, “I suppose that’s one option, Ronna. Or you could actually acknowledge that you do desire so much more. If you’re being completely honest, you want your book to be wildly successful. You want your work honored, your voice heard — not just by some, but by many. Maybe you could let yourself have that: all of your desire — whether it happens, or not.”

Record scratch.

That was weeks ago. I have been sitting with her words ever since.

Actually let myself want? Really acknowledge my desire? Open myself up to that kind of dreaming — even though it feels completely unrealistic and outside the realm of possibility?

If I don’t desire — at least not in amazing and vast and extravagant ways — if I tamp it down, then I spare myself that pain. Sort of. Not really.

To let myself desire — honest, raw, and unedited — means that I allow disappointment instead of trying to avoid it.


Every bit of my resistance (and yours), every emotion that rises to the surface for me (and for you), invites me/us that much deeper and further in — to our stories, to our soul, and yes, to our honest, raw, and unedited desire. Which, of course, is good…and amazing and vast and extravagant. Really.

When Eve bit into the apple, she gave us the world as we know the world — beautiful, flawed, dangerous, full of being… All we know of heaven we know from Eve, who gave us earth, a serviceable blueprint: Without Eve there would be no utopias, no imaginable reason to find and to create transcendence, to ascend toward the light. Eve’s legacy to us is the imperative to desire. ~ Barbara Grizutti Harrison, Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible

The imperative to desire.

May it be so, yes? For you and me both!

All the wisdom you’ll ever need…

I recently (re)watched The Matrix. It’s one of my favorites, to be sure. Even so, I’d forgotten about the Oracle.

She’s an aging woman in an apron who bakes cookies while she smokes cigarettes, tssk-tssk’s at various things, makes jokes, and surreptitiously, almost nonchalantly supplants her wisdom into Neo’s mind.

This wisdom of hers — its transference — hardly seemed spectacular, but that made it no less true. It was what eventually enabled Neo to step into his role in profound and world-saving ways.

We often wish for an Oracle, don’t we?

We’d like to be able to sit at the feet of wise and beautiful crones, soaking up their wisdom, asking them questions, getting their advice, reveling in their presence, and hearing exactly the words we need in order to be compelled into our future, our destiny, our life’s work in profound and world-saving ways.

Believe it or not, I have an Oracle.

Actually, I have lots of them. Countless women who surround and support; and who, when I’m willing to listen, tell me what I most need to hear.

So do you.

Let me introduce you to just one of them.

She lived in a time long, long ago, or maybe it was yesterday, or maybe it is yet to come.

84 years old at the time of this particular story, she had lived countless stories beforehand. Married only seven years until her beloved had died, she sought solace and refuge in the only place she could find: the temple. And every night and day since, she’d never left; endlessly worshipping, fasting, and praying.

People came and went. Sacred feasts. Sacrifices. Praises uttered. Alms given. Baby boys consecrated and circumcised. Some parents looked away while others looked for miracles. But all of them came seeking. She could see it in their faces. She could feel it in their souls. And she both knew and had what they sought. But rarely was she asked, so rarely did she tell.

Until one particular day.

She spotted the couple immediately — walking through the maze of activity and din of noise. And she saw Simeon, the old priest, talk with them as he held up their son for all to see. Their son. She saw him.

Time stood still. Silence enveloped. Everything stopped.

Words came from deep within her. She hadn’t anticipated them, hadn’t rehearsed them, hadn’t thought them through in advance. She didn’t need to. The deepest truths require none of this.


Were you to ask her what she said that day, she would tell you it was only one thing, just a small thing, and just the right thing…

In The Matrix, after all the build-up and anticipation of what the Oracle would say to Neo, it came down to this:

“I wanna tell you a little secret. Being the One is just like being in love. No one needs to tell you you are in love. You just know it, through and through.”

The prophetess Anna said almost exactly the same thing.

What she saw and named in that child so long ago, was no different than what the Oracle named in Neo. That young boy held within all he would ever need. Full of the divine spark. A birthright of wisdom. Profoundly gifted. Whole and complete. The sacred in our midst. On the planet for a distinct purpose. And his only work, just like hers, would be to live what he already knew, through and through.

Anna whispers (and sometimes shouts) the same to you:

“You hold within all you will ever need. You are full of the divine spark. You have a birthright of wisdom. You are profoundly gifted. You are whole and complete. You are the sacred in our midst. You are on the planet for a distinct purpose. And your only work is to live what you already know, through and through.”

It’s not a secret: this deep, before-the-dawn-of-time, Oracle-like wisdom that this prophetess (or any wise woman) holds and offers. It is simply and profoundly this:

You already know, through and through.

That’s it.

Your wish for the wisdom of the (s)ages and the seeress, the accumulated brilliance of all women throughout time, and certainly Anna’s, is encapsulated in these few words. This one sentence. All that you will ever seek, everything you long to find, the only thing you will ever need.

You already know, through and through.

So sit at the feet of any and all women you can find. Soak up every word they have to offer. And realize that all of them, every one, whether mythic, legendary, archetypal, or even apron-wearing-cookie-baking-cigarette-smoking, will tell you the same thing:

You already know, through and through.

There is only one catch: you have to believe that it’s true.

May it be so.


I write a long-form letter every week. Aptly named Monday Letters. I’d love for you to have it…from my heart to yours. SUBSCRIBE.

What Matters in a Broken World?

Name what’s true.

Go small anyway.

  • A job in which you are miserable.

Acknowledge default behavior.

Name what’s true again.

Go within and look closer.

  • The miserable job: I can pay attention to where am compromising myself, complying, people-pleasing, and not telling my truth. And I can choose to do things differently.

Now, widen the lens.

Name what’s true. Again.

Do the math.

About peanut butter, shame, and old stories

I was journaling the other morning and flashed on a memory from close to 50 years ago…

I snuck into the kitchen when I knew my mom wasn’t there, opened the fridge, and got myself a spoonful of peanut butter — then devoured it and disposed of any evidence before I got caught. This was hardly the only time I took on such stealth activity related to food; this scene is an amalgamation of countless such moments. 

So, the questions you might be asking are these:

  1. Why did she need to sneak in the first place? What was wrong with having a spoonful of peanut butter?
  2. Why did she know to anticipate shame, if caught? What about the shame she felt in getting away with what was not allowed?

My behavior was hardly limited to peanut butter, nor did it end when I was young. I can conjure up memory after memory in which I was convinced that I needed to hide my behavior. Yes, around food, but also money, sex, anything not deemed “good” or “right.” And it persists. 

I am now 61 years old, have been in years of therapy and spiritual direction, am deeply familiar with self-reflection, have grown in profound ways, and am far, far from that young girl in a small dairy town in Eastern Washington. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter. All of these core fears and beliefs remain. No, they don’t hold the same power they once did, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t present, functioning, and often running roughshod.

How about a current example: 

When I order something on Amazon, both of my daughters receive a confirmation email. If they click on “details,” they instantly know what is coming my way. As you might imagine, this is distinctly problematic around birthdays and Christmas, but above/beyond those obvious and appropriate “secrets,” here’s what happens within me: I actually think about what I’m going to purchase (or not) based on my anticipation of their response.

I know! It sounds completely crazy. Cuz it is!! It doesn’t function as powerfully as it once did. I don’t give it a ton of credence. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still there. The pattern persists — and remains — at a DNA-level, it seems:

  • what I want is disallowed or “wrong”
  • not getting caught or hiding is my response
  • shame is a given

It would be really, really easy for me to launch into the story of Eve right now — all the ways in which that telling (not the story itself) has created and reinforced why I feel this way; why you probably do, as well.

There’s another story I want to tell instead. Back to the other morning, my journaling, and the remembered story of the stealth peanut butter…

As is my ritual, I type for about 45 minutes and then draw a card from my deck — just to see what woman/story/wisdom might show up on my behalf and speak to what I’ve written up to that point. The card I turned over? 

I swear: I can’t make this up.

The Unaccused Woman

Do you know her story? If you have heard of her, she’s been called The Woman Caught in Adultery. I despise this “name” for a myriad of reasons: she continues to be objectified, the man is not responsible at all, her “sin” is our focus, it perpetuates the belief that a woman’s desire is dangerous…I could go on and on.

So, I’ve renamed her The Unaccused Woman. Here’s the gist:

Jesus was traveling from town to town, drawing larger and larger crowds — much to the dismay of the religious leaders and teachers. In order to trap him, they brought a woman before him and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” He bent over and wrote in the dust with his finger as they kept demanding an answer. Finally he stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” Then he returned to drawing in the dirt. When her accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one until only Jesus and the woman were left in the midst of the crowd. He said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. He replied, “Neither do I.” 

This story makes mine about peanut butter (or money or sex or Amazon purchases) seem relatively inconsequential. But we have much in common — this woman and me (and you). Centuries and centuries have spoken of her sin. Centuries and centuries have guessed about what he was drawing in the dirt. Centuries and centuries have pondered and preached and pontificated about “he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Centuries and centuries have made this story about his power to forgive. Centuries and centuries have assumed she was guilty — and just “lucky” that Jesus happened along to save her. 

What has not been spoken of, asked, or considered (at least not nearly enough) is who she was in the first place, let alone who she became when all the old stories suddenly disappeared, when she was seen without shame, when she stepped into an expanse of grace. And we’ve certainly not asked what wisdom she longs to offer on our behalf when we find ourselves caught in old stories, reeling in shame (imagined or real), and repeating old patterns that no longer serve.

Perhaps it’s time we did. It’s what she deserves. It’s what we deserve — and desire and need! Whether it has anything to do with peanut butter, or not. 

“It helps me to be in conversation with the women who have gone before us because understanding the past illuminates how we got to where we are and how we might walk a brighter path into the future.” ~ Elizabeth Lesser, Cassandra Speaks

What might she say to you today, knowing what she knows?

The shadows are not your home; step into the light.

Imagine if this was the refrain, the over-arching truth, the wisdom that was inculcated into you from the earliest age. Imagine if her voice was the one you heard in bedtime stories, read in your favorite books, sang of in houses of worship…

You do not need to sneak. You do not need to hide. And you do not need to feel shame. Every part of you is wanted, allowed, and welcomed. Walk through your days in full expression of your desire, your wants, your opinions, your hopes, your emotions, your beliefs. Those hints of accusation, the possibility of risk, the fear of being caught? Never deserved, never appropriate, never yours to take on. And the shadows? They are not where you belong. So now, at last, step into the light and stay there. Stand in the spotlight, center stage, visible and glorious — making your own choices: wise, full-of-desire, and sovereign. It’s time. I am with you.

You are draped with dignity and grace. 

Imagine if this was the blessing spoken over you at birth, repeated at each meal, whispered as prayer while someone soothed your brow and tucked you in at night…

See yourself as I do — robed in velvet, beautiful beyond compare, shoulders back, strength revealed, no questions asked. And in moments and seasons when this vision feels far away, almost impossible, ask yourself: “What does dignity look like right now?” “What does grace feel like right now?” Both are givens. Both are yours. These two — as faithful companions — offer you a way of being that eliminates shame (by self or others), reminds you of who you truly are, and removes all judgment and fear. This IS who you are. Always. From the beginning of time and still today. No matter what. I promise.

Freedom and strength define you.

Imagine if this was reinforced at every turn, repeated in every moment of doubt, tattooed on your heart, the index card on your mirror, the magnet on your fridge…

Freedom defines you — not second guessing or holding back or being small of staying silent or enduring shame. Freedom defines you — so choose, and choose, and choose again: what you want, what you desire, what you believe in, what you know. Freedom defines you — not a man or a job or a culture or your social media numbers. Strength defines you — not compliance or compromise or peace-making or your bank statement. Strength defines you — so risk and speak and give and love. Strength defines you — in the most fierce and tender of ways. Knowing you have complete freedom is what gives you strength. Trusting in your strength is what gives you freedom. Both are yours. By divine right. By inheritance. As impossible-to-ignore truth. You are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.

My experience as a young girl is a small story. Not hugely significant, necessarily. But it offers me a glimpse into so many more stories that were yet to come — and still do. The peanut butter itself is not the cause or to blame; rather, it’s a symptom (and a source of discernment/wisdom) of something far larger, older than time, in my bloodstream…and in yours. 

We have been trained to see ourselves at fault, the ones to blame, deserving of being drug into the center of town and stoned. We assume that pursuing what we want — from the smallest thing to the largest — is going to get us into trouble…or cause it for others. We are fairly certain that we will somehow, some way, be punished. And in truth — every bit of this is all-too-often true! We’re not imagining it or making it up! Centuries and centuries have taught us these lessons, we’ve experienced their pain ourselves, and we’ve certainly witnessed them in others. 

Which is why a story like The Unaccused Woman matters so much. Which is why paying attention to the seemingly-smallest of stories in our own lives matters so much.

“You may think these stories are the stuff of ‘once upon a time’ and have nothing to do with you or your times. But ‘once upon a time’ is now, because the past is laced into the present on the needle and thread of stories.” ~ Elizabeth Lesser, Cassandra Speaks


I hope you will pay attention to your own memories, that you’ll wonder about what they invite, and maybe even listen to the voice and wisdom of an ancient, sacred woman from long ago who has so much to say, so much to offer, and who longs for so much on your behalf. 

And definitely eat peanut butter by the spoonful!!

I write a letter every week — and email it every Monday morning. I’d love for you to have it: my thoughts, truth-telling, not skimming the surface. From my heart to yours. SUBSCRIBE.

1 quote and 3 (tiny) topics

The Quote:

Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us. ~ Adrienne Rich

Topic #1: Internalized Patriarchy

Ooooh, how this has shown up within me lately. Places and ways in which I default to deeply-held beliefs (even though I no longer believe them) and values (even though I no longer value them) that continue to wield their power in my psyche and day-to-day life. Ick. Ick. Ick!

Here’s a quick example…

My book is scheduled for publication in Fall of 2023. (I know: champagne, confetti, all that!) I’ve struggled in celebrating. Why? Because I’m going a hybrid publishing route vs. traditional. And why would I have any ambivalence around this at all? Well, because of internalized patriarchy! Somewhere, despite my better judgment, I believe that being acknowledged and chosen by the powers-that-be actually matters. I want the value deferred upon me by those same powers-that-be. The potential cash-advance? Well, that validates my value even more, yes? Ick. Ick. Ick!

The internalisation of patriarchy is not a fault. Its unnecessary, unrealised legacy women are carrying. We don’t even realise when and how patriarchy has seeped into our identity so much that we hallucinate its compulsions as our choice. ~ Emila Dutta

I don’t like it! 

Here’s what I do like: 

Internalized patriarchy — when seen and named — has a definite upside: the places in which we feel the most resistance, the most confusion, and even the most shame (3 markers that signify patriarchy’s presence, to be sure) serve as powerful sources of discernment. The things we dislike and fight with/against the most are the very things that afford us opportunity to listen to and trust our own wisdom, to remember who we truly are, and to say “of course!” as we acknowledge our sovereignty and strength. 

Topic #2: Re-visioning and Assumptions

By way of review: 

Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.

Rich is right, of course: When WE look back, when WE see with fresh eyes, when WE enter an old text (which includes our own personal texts/stories) from a new, critical direction, we do more than just survive: we finally and exquisitely thrive! And not just us, but all women, all of humanity — past, present, and future!

Mmmmmmm. SO much here, yes? Yes.

But wait, there’s more!

Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves.

“…the assumptions in which we’re drenched.” I love this phrase and it weighs so, so heavy on my heart. Her words describe, in so many ways, what I am always talking/writing about when it comes to the stories we’ve been told, the ones we tell ourselves, the culture in which we live, and so much more. Naming these is what I focus on with clients and strive to consistently name in my own life over and over again. It’s definitely what I reveal (and re-vision) in my book. And every bit of this, to Adrienne Rich’s point, is so that we can know ourselves. 

And that? Knowing ourselves? It matters more than all else, is sacred above all else, is worth more than all else. 

Topic #3: (Trapped and) Liberated by Language

Again, by way of review, the final sentences within Adrienne Rich’s quote:

And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.

When we re-vision, when we acknowledge the assumptions in which we’re drenched, we cannot help but see and name how language has both trapped us and liberated us. Too often, this happens through language that’s been spoken for us, around us, and about us. Stories. Roles. Assignments. Stereotypes. Value. Worth. These have defined us, shaped us, and yes, (mostly) trapped us. 

Adrienne Rich is not alone in naming this. Brené Brown speaks almost exclusively about it in her latest book, Atlas of the Heart:

If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear. This is the framework for meaningful connection.

The key is to make language our own, to claim its power and beauty, to take agency, and to move from being trapped by it to letting it be the source of our very liberation. Ultimately and paradoxically, the very things, experiences, even people that have oppressed or bound us, when named with language, are what enable our freedom.

  • When you honestly name and put language to the harm of your past, you can then step into freedom from it.
  • When you bravely name and put language to your fear, you can then experience a life that is freed from such.
  • When you fiercely name and put language to your truth, you can then begin to live in uncompromising, unedited, and freedom-suffused ways.

All easier said than done. All the work and journey of a lifetime. All deeply sacred.


So, to (finally) wrap things up…

  • internalized patriarchy is a real thing — which is why:
  • re-visioning matters.
  • understanding the assumptions in which we’re drenched matters.
  • naming how language has trapped us matters; letting it free us, even more!
  • doing every bit of this not alone makes all the difference.

All of this, on repeat and with constancy and dedication, is what can and will change the world. Needed now more than ever, yes? 

May it be so.