feminism / Life / motherhood / self-love / Thoughts / womanhood

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Name a free woman that you know, what you could learn from her? My forehead wrinkles, my eyes look left and right and up, as if looking around my empty room will manifest a free woman in my life from whom I can learn. I don’t know any. I know women who are standing on the starting line preparing to launch themselves into freedom. {They’re following something, but what? They don’t even know.} I know women who are free in bits and pieces. Situational, like ethics. I see women who think they are free but when we watch them we wonder if they even know what that means. Women who convince themselves that living into their roles with vigor is their identity. I see peacekeepers who remain silent so the water doesn’t ripple when they enter it: olympic high divers who don’t make even the smallest splash falling from the highest heights into the muck of it. They pass undetected through the most sensitive mettle detectors. They’ve left their entire being in one of flimsy plastic boxes to be x-rayed and evaluated. As I sift through all the women in my life, I can’t find one who unapologetically takes up space, asks for something off the menu, returns that cold meal without apology. I don’t know any women who speak their mind without retraction.

It’s a lie. As I type this, I thought of one. I can think of a woman who stumbles through life authentically and never offered me an apology for her being. {Do you think it’s you? As you read that, did you rebel and stiffen and think, what about me? When I said I knew one, did you think it was you? I’m sorry my dear, it probably wasn’t.} Regardless, I want more of them. I want to surround myself with expanding women.

Michelle Obama said she used to resent her husband for getting to the gym after they had the girls. She decided she would stop resenting him and make sure she got herself to gym. I want that. I want women who fulfill their own needs and create their own happy because that’s too big a burden to put on another person. I want women who don’t content themselves, who are hustlers making themselves happen. If I want these women in my life, shouldn’t I be one?

Don’t other women want these women? Someone who’s so themselves that you just have to be yourself because anything less isn’t appropriate for the situation: a sackcloth at the grammy’s. A black sweetheart neckline at the met gala. That’s it, I want the met gala of women in my life. I want to set aside my peacekeeping silence and instead be a peacemaker with my words. At least in that I have a start. I want to be this person all day. Now I’m the person who puts a warning label on a Facebook video with swearing. I want to swear. I want to talk about vaginas, and orgasms, and politics, and religion. I don’t want to dial it back. I don’t want to cry when I say what I mean. I don’t want to take it back. For years, I stopped writing I at the beginning of sentences, even in this blog. I’d avoid it even to the point of verbosity. I want to get over that. I want to want without apology. And I want I to be first when it needs to be. Well, isn’t that last sentence ironic?

8 thoughts on “More

  1. Hey scared struggler, nice to be back in blogging land and reading your posts 🙂

    This one has had me thinking and reflecting for days and days…it’s definitely hit a nerve for me.

    I’m wondering, are you talking about women either consciously or unconsciously making themselves smaller? Or invisible? Why do you think we do this? Why don’t we feel comfortable or confident enough to take up space?

    Is it because like in your Michelle Obama example we, for some reason, forget to take responsibility for ourselves, expecting that others will make space for us? Or do we think its plain wrong or “selfish” to ask for space? (I know I’m nearly always battling with that one, but isn’t it ok to love and take care of others * in the same way that we love and take care of ourselves*)

    Being ourselves fully and unapologetically, that sounds amazing – “someone who is so themselves that you just have to be yourself”… I have two friends who are pretty well like that and I count myself blessed to have them as friends because just by being friends they have helped me find out who I am a little better. They are big personalities with naturally high levels of confidence and extroversion – maybe that helps?

    Is about about having the skill of assertiveness though? Or even just about having the knack of actually in fact knowing exactly what it is you want in the first place? Or maybe more sensitive folk – male or female – just simply find it harder to put their opinions and the self out-there for fear of criticism? Some people do seem naturally almost utterly impervious to criticism – I wish!

    Anyway, thanks for the post! Have you had any further thoughts since you wrote it?

    I am in a small book club (especially created for COVID social isolation times) and we are reading The Screwtape Letters CS Lewis. This part seems relevant, indirectly perhaps:

    “Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

    That kind of sounds like, following a dismantle of self-will, being gifted the ability to truly and freely take up space and expand in ways previously unimagined…

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    • “Isn’t it okay to love and take care others the way we take care of ourselves.” Mm. The order of your non-question is at the heart of the post. Why don’t we ask: isn’t it ok to love and care for ourselves the same way we love and care for others?

      I think from a very young age we are taught to set aside ourselves, our instincts, our voices in favor of others feelings and desires. Hug that person or you’ll make them sad. Reject him sweetly and softly or you’ll upset him. Be gracious, be grateful for the attention. He just likes you that’s why he makes you miserable, harasses you, sexually assaults you. You’re too whiny. You’re too bossy. You’re too loud, too emotional.

      Did you know that girls have more mirror neurons than boys. They learn best by watching. My daughter has quickly picked up several things, one of which is helping when not asked. She sees me cleaning up and follows behind, helping as she goes. I cannot sit and watch someone else clean up in my house without stopping whatever it is I’m doing and helping. This often frustrates my husband because the second I sit down to eat he starts doing something and I stop and try to help. I get annoyed at him because I feel I have to help him. He doesn’t understand that I can’t relax while he’s working. He doesn’t feel that way. I don’t know why. Part of it may be his family. They do what they want when they want and don’t worry about what other people are doing. I was raised to think about others first. I picked it up from my mom, I learned to consider others or risk their disappointment and also probably church where the men sit and talk and the women put out the food and clean it up.

      I do notice that women are more prone though, to disappearing. It’s natural I think and cultural. When we love someone we bend to them. We take their name. We bear their children and it only makes sense that we’d be the primary caregiver because we’ve got the breasts. Nobody can replace that. We hear their cries and drop what we’re doing and rush to fix it. We don’t eat because we’re busy taking care of them. We love them and they take us over. We let them. I’ve started to love the color green. My sons favorite color is green.

      Extroversion doesn’t feel tied to it for me. I’ve since thought of another friend who is free. She is very quiet. Sometimes she leans over to me and says things like “that just chaos your ass doesn’t it?” She’s got bible verses on her wall and resurrection eggs in storage. She doesn’t care that she isn’t using her degree. She says exactly what she means even if it makes her look bad, but she doesn’t say much. That quiet freedom is just as enviable to me.

      Untamed by Glennon something or other is a book I’m reading. I don’t relate to it a whole lot but the fun therapy style journal I got with it is deeply effective. It asks me these questions like: what do you do to renew yourself? What are you passionate about? What do you know you need to do but you aren’t? Nothing. That’s my answer. I have no idea. If you asked me that of my kids or my husband or my mom or family members I could tell you. It’d be easy. But I have no fucking clue. Don’t tell me I’m alone in this. That’s what I’m saying with this. Don’t tell me I’m the only one. It’s never about others. It’s about me. I refuse to be alone in this lostness and so I determine that the other women around me are undeniably as blank. Yes, I’ve watched them morph and wonder where the heck they’ve gone, but maybe they’ve just changed. I can’t really know that. But I assume. Assuming is what I’m passionate about….

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        • One more thought, that passage from the screwtape letters is it. It’s the archetype we (the women of this feeling and nature) try to mold ourselves into. I really only feel myself why I doing something amazing for someone else, when I’m serving. Giving up the focus on ourselves is how we expect to be able to live in freedom. But what if it’s just erasing us?

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          • Regarding the Screwtape passage: I feel like this issue is a tangled mess of a few things…
            Jesus, a man, God humbled to become flesh, washed peoples feet and said do the same. There is something clearly important to God in this image regard how we should relate to fellow beings. Psychology also tells us that giving and serving others is, maybe ironically, good for us and our mental well being.
            This is distinct from erasing oneself however. I do not think this image requires the server to lose their personhood and become nothing. Perhaps WHY the person is serving, selflessly giving, without giving thought to their own needs, that’s most important?
            What should be done about it? Not sure. Certainly calling things out for what they are is the necessary beginning of change. For myself, since reflecting on your thoughts raised here have decided that my needs and wishes in our family context should be considered not last, as they often are, but equally alongside all other family members needs and wishes and that change feels good! So ta for that kick up the backside to question old habits which die hard!

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            • I too have been pondering on your words. The old hymn that says: he could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free”: God willingly with no one who could dare to pressure endured the cross to save us. Jesus served us in the ways you discuss incessantly. But no one forced that. It wasn’t a requirement, it was live and pure grace. If we aren’t doing that out the abundance of our hearts, but instead because we are told, required or somehow pressured, it means nothing. I still vehemently hold that self-sacrifice, serving others etc are essential, but I am struggling with how this plays out when you aren’t being refilled.

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        • Oh man, this is very poignant and disturbing. Again, I can personally relate to this not so much from a childhood home point of view but from within a wider cultural point of view. Here’s to us all working towards all people being seen and heard and nourished… wouldn’t that be nice?

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      • Like I said earlier, your thoughts have really hit home for me in some way, I’m just finding it hard to figure out in what way, and why exactly. I think I’m seeing how the order of those statements is important…
        I don’t know why there is this gendered difference! And I certainly don’t know the way out of it. I love those journal style questions, they are gold.
        For sure you aren’t alone in it. Maybe some of us just feel it in degrees.

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