“Jonah-like we all have to be spit out of the belly of family and cultural assumptions, a new person, freed and unqualified. But this is one of the purposes we have seen for dark nights of the soul: to prune, to cleanse, and sort out the essential from the illusory. We have to do something with our anger other than suppress it or vent it. There are a thousand possibilities, but each of them has to honor the emotion while giving it form and meaning. Ultimately, you transform your anger through a channeling of your life force, and this liberated vitality gives you your presence as a unique personality.” Thomas Moore [Dark Nights of The Soul]
It’s time to get back to the book I started, finish it and set it free. Onward.
Any doubts as to one core Ruth-truth can be vaporized by this song. It’s the essence of who I am when I’m uninhibited by the crushing program of patriarchal bullshit that ushered me into adulthood. It’s the flag I fly in the face of the moral insanity and misogyny still thriving in that same culture today and spewing out of those who claim love but know nothing of it as they tie their fave scapegoat to the stake.
Yes, I am this, and most definitely NOT a princess:
I bet you can tell by the title that I’m done with forced appreciation days. I bet I’m not alone. I bet there are a million other moms out there who would just like the world to recognize that women are human, that moms are human, that moms have too much asked of them and not enough expected of them in terms of their growth as individuals and. And. I bet you the consumer ideology that heaps a load of obligation on our backs smells really bad right now while the money rolls in and the lines queue up at the local Cheesecake Factory. I bet you.
[I bet you none of it compares to the birthing our children do of us mothers. I bet you no one has a clue. I bet you there is nothing more challenging or more beautiful or more terrifying or more heartbreaking than bringing 3 lives into an utterly mad, mad world.]
I bet you might assume this is a terrible day for me for some crazy reason. But the truth is, it’s not. It’s a day like many others, a day in which I’m contending with the very intense requirements of motherhood while juggling the fallout of others’ mothers’ fallout while everyone ignore’s the power of others in general. And a day when women are the first and easiest scapegoats in a line of ancient feminine scapegoats. But I don’t feel like one of those scapegoats. I refuse that vibe. I just know this world. And I weary of the disorders posing parenthood and authoritarianism crushing humanism and transformation. It’s everywhere, all day, everyday and it especially wreaks havoc on mothers, telling them they can never ____ and the shouldn’t ever ____ and if they fart sideways they might ruin the world. Ha, and they might actually. It’s a rigged game.
Here’s to mothers. Here’s to women who mother but have never felt the surreal sensation of a bowling ball-like human body coming through the most amazing otherwise recognized channel of incredible pleasure. As it turns out, being able to push ’em out doesn’t guarantee you’ll do much very well beyond that flesh-ripping moment. And it’s high time we quit romanticizing motherhood, I bet.
Here’s to people who refuse bullshit and manage to enjoy forced appreciation days no matter what they conjure of mothers’ worst reruns or best creations. And here’s to the ones who loathe it.
[Here’s to my children whose lives have ushered in epochs of gut-wrenching, heart-embiggening, tragedy-contending, beauty-bowling moments. Here’s to my children who show love in ways no Mother’s Day can convey, who shine and grow and rip up my pretenses, my pride, and my ideas of what is perfect by being gorgeous expressions of wholeness becoming. Mother’s Day can, otherwise, go fuck itself.]
“Even once the true cause of my disease is discovered, if we don’t change our institutions and our culture, we will do this again to another disease. Living with this illness has taught me that science and medicine are profoundly human endeavors. Doctors, scientists and policymakers are not immune to the same biases that affect all of us. We need to think in more nuanced ways about women’s health. Our immune systems are just as much a battleground for equality as the rest of our bodies. We need to listen to patients’ stories and we need to be wiling to say ‘I don’t know.’ ‘I don’t know’ is a beautiful thing. ‘I don’t know’ is where discovery starts. And if we can do that, if we can approach the great vastness of all that we do not know, and then rather than fear uncertainty, maybe we can greet it with a sense of wonder.” Jennifer Brea on CFS/ME and the ways the medical model can improve for all of us.
I so often wrestle with whether or not to express what CFS/ME does to my life, how it shapes the landscape of my mind, my will. More often, I choose to sparingly articulate how it impacts me, simply in the interest of sanity. But I find, as more and more people wake up to the truth of this disease, that it is becoming more empowering, less overwhelming to go ahead and speak up. The ignorance is melting away as people realize it’s not a psychological issue but a real assault on the body.
As Jennifer Brea experienced initially, so did I. Fever over 106. Pneumonia for the first time in my life. Early 20s. Never. The. Same. After my primary care physician sent me in many different directions seeking a diagnosis, we landed on the diagnosis of CFS. And the alienation began right there in my doc’s office, with her set of prejudices awaiting me like a box, a prison cell.
Brea’s TED talk speaks to so many of the issues confronted by those who walk this path. Her words, in their affirmation of the validity and impossibility of the struggle, bring balm to those who have suffered this illness for a long long time.
(Former Semi-Evangelical Facing Post-Trump Choices)
There was a time in my life when I had to make a choice about where I stood on a crucial issue in my community and personal life. It feels like a lifetime ago. I have since faced similar choices — deciding “where I stand now that I know this…now that I have experienced that.” Sometimes I can choose the luxury of not standing, just flowing with and being with what life has been. But the one point in time that defines so many moments for me and especially helps me find clarity in the midst of confusing feelings, thoughts and impressions stands out in the starkness of illumination that only abuse survivors can provide.
At the time, my children were only toddlers and I had one more beautiful child to bring into this mad world. I was sure of so much. I had been raised Republican, evangelical Christian and most of what that entails, with the exception of racism. Or so, I thought. In any case, as I look back, I can see the cloaks falling away from me, the ones that covered my humanity in shame and confusion, the labels and identifiers now wiped away by a love of human, of being human and the divinity found where my skin begins — stripped by life’s more relentless tides, timely connections, brutal truth and a refusal of my own bullshit. No longer evangelical, republican or much else, I sit here viewing where we are as a nation with a Trump presidency on the horizon and it asks me to choose.
And I’m drawn back to that time when I chose to stand with a family member who had survived sexual abuse at the hands of one who was meant to protect her, her husband. The fact that so many in Christendom have believed that a man has every right even if his wife isn’t consenting was not without oppressive effect at that time in my life. (The historical imprint of this toxic belief may well be what has influenced so many white women to vote for Trump. They have become desensitized to their own value.) So, I fell back on pure logic and grace. It was the next phase in my walk out of the confusion created by the dogma of my youth as I asked myself: what is marriage and how is a marriage shaped by actions and how do divorces evolve out of those failed marriages? What are actions of divorce vs. actions of union? I asked myself how much a ceremony makes something real. And how much more real the actions of those involved in the relationship might be, more real than beliefs and more real than stated intent. I asked myself how a broken person could ever truly join with another broken person if the breaking point had to do with capitulating who you are in order to survive authoritarianism. Questions like that gave me no room for pretending. It impacted my own marriage in the process. And in the final analysis I found myself at that place where you ask: “How do I show love to both of these people in my life without betraying the one who was abused?” That question is inevitable when you have shared your life with both people and are faced with the truth. Then ensues questions about love and what love does or doesn’t do and especially Ruth as love and love as Ruth being honest with herself about things like spiritual energy and historical imprints of abuse on family trees. And.
So, the picture of someone standing over a line dominated my thoughts: one foot set on the ground on one side of that line, the other set down on the other side of that line and one hand outstretched, holding the hand of the abused while the other is holding the hand of the abuser. Straddling one truth: someone brutalized another and I’m the connection between them now. Why? What message does this send to the abused? The abuser? There are some mind fucks that just shouldn’t ever occur. But there it is. I realized that there are times when our deepest expression of love for abusers is to refuse their darkness, to turn away from them as a whole organism and silently hold out for their battle with their demons to end well for all of us, banishing the darkness. There are people who dedicate their lives to helping abusers. They invariably discover the abusers have been previously abused. But they don’t rush out to the most recent victim and say “Hey, s/he couldn’t help it…”
I look at this election and the racism, misogyny, climate-denying, xenophobia and bigotry teeming from the underbelly and oozing from every orifice of its history. It reeks. And in the middle of it all, I find my parents voted for Trump and in the ensuing confusion find myself trying to understand why people vote for Trump. Previously, all I could do was knee-jerk react: You choose Trump, you hate and enable hate. But these are my parents. I’ve faced plenty about my past. Why now this? Why did we have to also add this to the strain of our shared history? Where do I go with this? And on Facebook, I find posts of articles that ask us to look at what motivates Trump supporters can be met with intense disagreement by some who passionately loathe Trump. I passionately loathe all that Trump has created with his life and his platform, if you could call it that, a platform. It’s more like a quagmire. Those disagreements catapulted me into days of silence, reading, poring over my own words, posting, deleting posts, blogging, deleting the blog post. It’s tough when you want to speak to the heart of what is critical right now.
Suddenly I’m standing on that line in my mind and I realize that at this point, as had been true way back when, my only choice is to pull my whole being to one side and one side only for now. I am with those who mourn, who need healing and restoration, who see the abuses hurtling down the lines of generation after generation, individual after individual for centuries of oppression and abuse. The only way for me to hold to what I value the most with my life is to turn my back on any attempt to understand why a person would vote for Trump. For. Now.
For now, my questions to those who say they did not mean it as a racist / misogynist / xenophobic / climate-denying choice is this: Why were you comfortable with the associations of racism et. al. if you are not thus? Why is it so easy to ignore and/or dismiss the centuries of suffering of minorities, the marginalized, women and the earth? How much more easily will you be dismissed should this monster decide you have no value? These questions remain when all others have been somewhat answered. I cannot yet find an answer that assuages the sense of the power of this particular association.
To stand over the line and hold the hand of a Trump voter and the hand of those who hurt is to abandon so much of what is precious, vital, essential to our wholeness as individuals and as a people. It is a splitting down the middle and a tearing asunder. Until there are better days, more clarity and more of a sense of change of heart in those who protest the “deplorable” label (without self-examination or attempt to understand the minds of those of us who have a huge issue with enabling an abuser the likes of Trump et. al.), I can’t smooth ruffled feathers when statements about Trump voters are made. Those statements have been earned. I can’t seek to understand something that, at this point, appears insane and not make a liar of myself and a sham of the work to oust oppression. I can’t do that without abandoning my own humanity, my own grief.
(But I am wired to seek that understanding eventually. And it will be part of what I write and post about here, there and everywhere at some point. In fact, I did diverge into a moment of understanding here already, didn’t I?)
While I left the rigor of adhering to Biblical codes aside with a few exceptions, I remember a passage of scripture that resonates to this day: “To everything there is a season…a purpose…under heaven…a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.” The season of standing with those who mourn is upon us here in the US and all over the world. Until the majority can agree that our exceptionalism serves only to rape, maim and destroy value, we must hold together with those here and abroad who know, who are kith and kin of the heartaches and losses created by the violations and brutalities of ignorance, “rightness” and elitism. Our work will be one of supporting and birthing a new way of being with our humanity as a nation and as people refusing the hatred, and ugliness that has landed us where we are today. We pull ourselves together in unity, in reform and in the hope for deeper understanding when the time is right. We stand in love.