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Friday, July 25, 2014

A rant in which I try not to rant....but end up ranting

Ugh.  My spirit is vexed.  I don't want to get all 'Sister Woo-Woo' but I can't think of any other way to say what it is I feel.  I've written nothing but poetry for months, however, this morning I came across a blog post by Matt Walsh regarding the upcoming movie 50 Shades of Grey and while I agree with everything the author states, I think more could and should be added.  It's not that my voice is so important or that I seek a platform to spread my own personal opinion but rather that I'm so disturbed I feel the need to 'write it out.'  I'm saddened, even grieved, by just the existence of these books and I'm convinced that the conversation needs to be deepened because I think that what bothers me the most is that we're talking around what needs to be talked about.  We may not be seeing what is actually wrong, not just with the content of these books but with our society.

I did develop an opinion on this series however long ago it was that the first one came out.   A strong opinion.   And, no, I haven't read the books.  I could barely stomach reading the plot summary of each installment on Wikipedia.  I did read excerpts from the book because I had read that the writing is terrible.  Which it is.

So, I am bothered and I do have something to say.  I don't want to come across judgmental and, in fact, I'd love it if I was able to argue my point without inserting my faith but that's not completely possible.

Although I do believe that these books are an example of principalities at work and while it does bother me that even Christian women are justifying their merit, I'm troubled at a deeper level.  

Walsh makes four points in his article, entitled, "To the Women of America: 4 Reasons to Hate 50 Shades of Grey" and I concur with each.  Walsh happens to be a ranter.  He's not afraid of getting in his reader's face.  He doesn't mince words.  But surprisingly, as I read his article, I realized that if I were to rant about this book / movie I'd be ranting even more.  But I don't want to rant.  And I don't even really want to appeal to anyone.  I just want to shed light on what exactly it is I find so disturbing about the popularity of this series and why it actually makes perfect sense that we've been drawn to it, despite the fact that the writing is beyond terrible.

And the writing is godawful.  That alone frustrates me.  It frustrates me that we've devolved as a nation so much that content (shock appeal, really) trumps style and skill.  But, whatever.  It's not shocking. I've heard that the average American reads only at a seventh or eight grade level.  I was unable to verify that statement but the popularity of the 50 Shades books inclines me to believe that it's probably true.  It also frustrates me that the publishers, no doubt, were well aware that the writing sucked but published anyway because they knew that the content would drive the sales.  Again, no surprise.   Still, the quality of the writing merely adds insult to injury.

The injury really lies in the content because the content is a clear attack on women.  It's my feminist bent that's so riled up rather than my Christian convictions.  Which is why I don't even want to speak to Christian women about it. I don't need to list a bunch of Bible verses to make my point.  One would suffice:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  -Philippians 4:8 NASB

That was my primary reason for choosing not to read this series.  My own personal Christian based reason.  But Christians are entitled to their own convictions, their own choices and their own relationships with God so I'm choosing not to call out in judgement what any individual Christian woman chooses to 'dwell on.'  That's their business.  I also, for the most part, feel that what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is their business. I have to focus on myself and what feels right to me.  I don't have time to get caught up in the legalities of other people's intimacies.

But looking to Feminism, then, rather than focusing on Christianity, I still don't find the answers I'm looking for.   What I want to know is:  What is so appealing about a book where the heroine chooses degradation and dominance?  What attracts us to these books?  If Feminism was working would we be lured by this kind of thing?  How can we on the one hand have videos circulating like these: Britteney Conner's poem, "Consent";  Venessa Marco's poem; and this one on sexual objectification and then on the other hand be so strongly defensive of and captivated by something like 50 Shades?  It seems rather inconsistent to me.  

I've struggled all day with these words, put them down, returned.  I've wondered if I shouldn't just write a poem about it and be done.  But for some reason I've been compelled to keep at it.  So, in thinking about these questions and looking at the subject in a number of different lights, I've formed a few answers for myself.  

I think one reason for the inconsistencies I see is that we're afraid, as women, to admit what we want. Maybe we're not even sure anymore what we want.  We think we want equality and that we want respect and then along comes 50 Shades and it flies off the shelves and this all goes out the window? And then instead of just admitting that our flesh is strangely turned on by smut we try and justify it.  We tell ourselves that the heroine makes a choice for herself, that it's about the relationship of the characters rather than the sex, that the girl in the end becomes empowered.  So, of course, we're not perpetuating rape culture and of course books like these have nothing whatsoever to do with atrocities like the rape of a fifteen year old girl photographed and spread on social media.  


Yeah, something doesn't seem right, here.  Both Feminism and femininity are under assault.  And I think that the popularity of these books speaks to that and also points to what many women do want.  A desire that both Feminists as well as women who would not consider themselves to be Feminists might be afraid to touch for different reasons.   

While I consider myself a feminist, I am sure that most Feminists would not count me as one. In the political spectrum, I lie closer to Conservatism than I do to Liberalism.  I consider myself a feminist on the grounds that I believe in equality for women. I believe that the Feminist Movement was good and necessary.  We said we could do what we were already doing and more; that we could have it all.  We proved that we could do what we were already doing and more.  However, I also think we sacrificed certain things for the sake of other things and found that we cannot, in fact, have it all.  And in the process, to some extent, we displaced men.  Because this is how the pendulum swings.  This is how these things go.  We needed and we still need to fight for equality.  I'm by no means saying we should have not begun the fight.  Yet, I do want to point out that now we are in this place where women continue to speak out, women continue the fight to be heard, women continue to fight for their rights (however these rights happen to be individually interpreted) and this is good.  But it seems to me that somewhere along the way we've become a bit confused.  Everything has become skewed including the ideas that began our fight in the first place.  We've 'progressed' to a point where it's become practically politically incorrect to insist that men 'be men' or to state what it is we want from men.  While stating that we need nothing from men we're forgetting that we might want something from them.

Because here's a series where Anastasia -- the heroine (?) gets some version of the 'fairy tale ending,' right?  She gets some version of a Prince Charming.  The frog morphs in some way into a marriageable man, right?  It's just a sexed-up, adult version of the lie most women have been buying into since our youth.  Can we at least, collectively, admit that?

 I, for one, believe that we do want something from men.  Books like 50 Shades confirm this.  If women weren't looking to be stimulated or offered something in some way by men, these books would not have been bestsellers. They wouldn't be basing a movie on these books.  They'd be irrelevant.  No, if we're being honest, these books give us some of what we want-- what many of us have been trying to deny for decades that we want. 

So, what do we want from the male species?  Do we even know anymore?  Do we want to dominate or be dominated?  I thought we just wanted equal standing.  So, why are we castrating men on the one hand, portraying them as stupid and child-like in the media and then asking them to stand up in other arenas?  What are we doing with our relatively new power? These are the questions I feel we need to answer for ourselves.  These are the questions we need to ask.  And it's okay if our answers differ.  But the questions are valid.  

Reading through the comments on Walsh's blog I was struck by the nature of quite a few of the dissenters.  I read a lot of statements by people claiming that Walsh shouldn't speak on what he doesn't know about.  He hasn't read the books so he can't understand how the two main characters' relationship develops.  Develops into what?  From the plot summaries it appears that Christian remains, at the very least, a narcissistic abuser with a hero-complex who continues to control Anastasia even once they're married.  You don't need to have a degree in Psychology to understand that a. abusers don't change because they've fallen in love and b. that healthy relationships don't evolve out of unhealthy premises. They devolve.  

There were also a lot of comments stating that Walsh should leave the subject alone because this is, after all, fiction.  I will agree that yes, the idea that a sociopath can somehow become an amazing and loving husband is indeed pure fodder for story line.  

Another line of reasoning that troubled me in these comments was the idea that Anastasia ends up empowered.  For the love of God, people.  One of two things happens in any abusive relationship.  The victim either becomes empowered or they remain a victim.  So, supposedly, Anastasia becomes empowered.  Let's say that's true.  She rises up somehow out of the midst of degradation and punishment and becomes a better version of herself.  Why was she so unempowered in the first place? Why did she choose to enter a relationship of this nature?  Why was she attracted to a man, who at first wants only to use her?  Why was her self-esteem and her self-worth so low that this would be appealing at all?   

This is where I feel the Feminists have failed their own call.  This is where I feel like we're not asking the right questions.  What is so appealing about a book where the heroine chooses degradation and dominance?  Shouldn't we be able to raise girls into women with a high enough self-esteem, a strong enough sense of worth, empowerment enough already that they feel no need to travel down a dark path with dangerous men in order to find their own 'hard and soft lines?'  Why can we not consistently send this message?  As women? As Feminists?  What attracts us about this book?  Why do want to read about a character dabbling on the edges of cruelty and perversity to figure out that what she really wants, in the end, is love?  Because we're afraid to say that's what we want.  We're afraid to say that our feminine nature desires strength in a man.  

I suppose that because I am a Christian I cannot fully separate my faith with my view of these books.  As a Christian, I can't help but believe that through these books, the enemy is, once again, perverting something that God created as good into something harmful and twisted.  Oldest trick in his book.  And I'm not talking about sex, though clearly sex is perverted in these books.  What I'm talking about is a woman's desire for a man to lead.  And I realize that I need to tread carefully here.  Many women who consider themselves Feminists would at this point ( if they hadn't earlier) vehemently disagree with me. So, I'll concentrate for a minute only on femininity and under the assumption that these books pervert that in some way.

I do believe that women were born with an innate desire to be submissive.  I'm wary of using that word-- however, I think it's the correct word.  I think that for the most part women want a leader; to be led.  I do not think women are incapable of leading or that women need a man or need to be led.  I'm saying that I believe deep down, when in a relationship, women desire to be protected, desire an example of strength, and desire leadership.  Leadership, not dominance.  But leadership from men sadly seems to be in short supply these days.  So, Christian Grey enters the scene and he is some of what we want.  He is a warped version of what we want.  He provides much of what we're unwilling or afraid to admit that we want. 

Meanwhile, we continue to stand strong on what we see as important issues in regard to how women are viewed. We've got videos circulating on social media that speak to true empowerment for women.... and then we have 50 Shades.  So, essentially, we take two steps forward and twenty steps back.  We say we want a voice, we want power, and then we say, wait, no we don't.  We want a little bit of BDSM in the bedroom where the man's in charge.  Cause that's hot.  Why is it hot, ladies?  I'll tell you why.  Because the layer under the layer under the layer if we're willing to keep peeling is that we want more from men.  We don't want to be responsible for the children and the household and the finances and men's delicate emotions, too.  We want to share the responsibility.  There's a difference. But we're soaring ahead of men at a higher rate than we ever have and that's great that we can accomplish all we've accomplished.  I want us to continue soaring.  But I also want men to keep up.  It's as simple as that.  And you do, too, or your desire for 50 shades wouldn't be so immense.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

I am either a very slow learner or very stubborn.  I'm not sure which is preferable.  I woke up this morning with that ever so familiar gnaw of indecisiveness.  The very thing I wrote about yesterday.  So, I prayed.  I loosely settled on a 'plan for the day.'  The monkey wrench came, as is not uncommon. Indecisiveness returned.

You know, I have this character defect of being much attached to what I want.  I tend toward inflexibility.  This is bad enough in itself.  It leads to stress and seeds of selfishness being sown, rather than seeds of love and service.  It's compounded by the fact that I don't actually know what I want.  I just seem to want something else a lot.  Something other than what's presented me.  This is a problem.

I was sort-of ruminating on this this morning and I realized that of course, this all goes deeper, as character defects often do. Often these flaws sprouted in childhood in self-defense and we have fed them for so long that they can not be easily extracted.  And I'm an over-analyzer.  I like to know cause.  Which can be tricky.  See, I think if I know the why, then I can deal with the what.  But really, I can't deal with the what at all.  Awareness and knowledge are necessary and should be sought after but the only way to actually shed any troublesome character defect is to pray it away.  Sometimes God is more than happy to oblige.  Other times, He lets us struggle so in our weakness He can be made strong.

And sometimes analyzing can be a tool we use to postpone giving something over.  At least, in my case. And then, sometimes, analyzing leads to realizations that aren't exactly settling.  This was the case this morning.  I realized that my indecisiveness over the small things is a cover-up for the big things.

There is unrest in my soul because I am living my life in a way that is incongruous with how I desire to live my life.  How I know I am called to live.  And so it manifests in unease with small decisions. I am avoiding big change so resisting small change.  Oooh, how painful it is to write this.  But I feel that if I don't acknowledge to myself the truth, I will stay stuck in the wavering.  Which is an unpleasant way to live.  So, I have to give all of myself over.  I have to allow God to lead my life in the weighty matters as well as the seemingly inconsequential ones.  Only then, will I have peace.

"...sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always understand."

-Madeline L'Engle

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Time

Already wondering what I was thinking when I wrote a couple days ago.  Why, again, did I want to return here?

So often I'm prompted toward what doesn't make sense.  Or, probably, more correctly worded, I'm prompted toward what goes against my flesh.

I was praying yesterday, lying on the floor of my room, and in need of answer.  I wasn't feeling desperate or sad.  More like anxious and slightly irritated.  I felt indecisive and feeling that way makes me grouchy.  It's all a time issue.

The setup now is that my kids go with their dad, one to two days a week.  At first I hated it.  Now I love and hate it.   In the beginning, I just felt lost without them and sort of wandered around the house in not quite knowing what to do with myself.  As time went on, I began to look forward to these breaks,  anticipating my 'alone time'.  My 'me time'.  But I've found lately, that these days arrive and I want to squeeze everything into a twenty-four or forty-eight hour period.  I want to write, do schoolwork, clean, paint, shop, catch a meeting.  But the bottom line is, that usually I can't do all that.  So then I feel stuck on the prioritizing.  What do I want to do? What do I want to do most?   This has become a pattern for me.  And I find that I've become resentful when asked to do anything I don't want to do on these days.  I've become selfish with my time.  This time where I end up not really accomplishing much of anything because I'm so busy debating on what the best way to spend my time is and I get angry if something pops up that isn't in line with the plan I haven't created yet.  It's ridiculous, really.

So, yesterday, that's the place I was in.... and I realized I'm sick of it.  So I prayed.  I asked for direction.  And I do pray every morning that God would direct my thinking.  But the goofy thing is,  I rush through the prayer so I can get on with my day, thereby, negating the entire purpose of the morning prayer.

So I'm laying there, and God shows me that I'm going about it all wrong.  I'm stuck because I'm trying to figure things out.  I'm trying to get the most for me.  What do I want to do with my time? Well,  it's not my time.  That's what God told me.  It's His time.  So, maybe, that's a basic understanding for most but it came as a revelation to me.  I hadn't looked at it like that before.  I had tried other 'tricks': gratitude, being in the moment, attempting to not rush.  But honestly, these things weren't working real well.

So, realizing that my time- my time with or without the kids, really belongs to God, seemed like a relief.  Surprisingly, I didn't feel the need to fight against that idea.  It didn't feel like God was snatching something from me and had plans to fill my time up with selfless acts of service.  Rather, it felt like a responsibility was lifted.  If it's God's time and not mine, all I have to do is obey His leading.  That removes the pressure of figuring out my every moment and then worrying about if I've chosen the most 'fruitful thing'.

So, I agreed.  With God.  With relief.  And I'm here.  Because it seemed, this morning, as if this was a good place to start.

And you know, a lot of things are being 'taken' from me right now.  In a spiritual sense.  And that's okay.  In fact, it's actually, pretty good.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I haven't written in seven months.  I feel a little rusty.  I had pretty much come to terms with the idea that I would no longer blog here.  Much has changed and I struggled with finding a place I wanted to share from.  Originally, when I began writing here, I was married.  I was homeschooling.  I was living in Iowa.  I was desperately seeking a closer relationship with God out of the depths of loneliness and a need for meaning.  In so many ways, I found that intimacy through this process.  I found that as I shared here, God met me and touched me and perhaps, used me on some slight level but ultimately, used this place and the writing that occured here to draw me into Him.

Life happened, as it does to us all and everything I thought I knew was suddenly challenged.  I moved home to Arizona and my marriage began to deteriorate.  Not wanting to share the details of that horror (nor would I have been able to had I wanted to) I wrote less and less.  I had nothing uplifting to say and no hope to transmit.  The pain, too, was so personal, that words would not come.  At least not in this form.  I did write poetry.  I returned to that form and there was a different sort of healing in it.  I could write the truth but with more vagueness.  I could touch on what I was feeling in the mystery and symbolism of stanzas and I was freed from the need for the sort of raw honesty this blog required.  This blog required that truthfulness from me because as I wrote here, I felt compelled, more and more, to share openly.  I had realized early in my writing here, that transparency would be the only way I,myself, would receive and was the only hope I could bestow.  When that openness no longer seemed an option, I trailed off.  I missed this place but began to look back at it as a season, rather than somewhere I had been permanently called.

And yet, I am here today.  And I don't know what that means.  I am not sure if God wants to use this place again as a means to reach me or if I am just feeling a little extra wordy.   All I know is that today, I feel story brewing in me, in my life, that perhaps, could be processed here; could be shared here.

I won't waste time on backstory.  I am no longer married.  I have returned to homeschooling after one year off and I am still in Arizona.  I am still and will always be seeking that deeper walk and that, I think, is why I have returned to this place.  Something is stirring in my soul.  Many things are beginning to shift and while many are still too new to share, I do feel prompted for some reason to process through these changes here.  To write about the joys and fears and ups and downs of this crazy walk with God.  I have found Him here before and I believe He has more to reveal, so I have returned.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Bigger Purpose


Once upon a time I applied to grad school.  Like, once upon a time, two weeks ago.  To one grad school.  My top choice grad school.  So, I sent my application out, sat back and waited patiently.  For two weeks. Then (and only then) I got a wild hair to Google, “Chances of getting into an MFA Creative Writing program.”  Basically, the news was that, had I applied to Harvard medical school or Harvard Law, I would have stood a better chance. 

That awkward moment when you realize you've been painfully naive.  Why or how I did not quite understand the low probability of acceptance, I don't know.  How did I not know this when three years ago I chose English Lit as my major - the end goal in mind, grad school. 

I have no Plan B.  Thus far, in my life, I've found nothing I want to do other than write.  And yes, I can write without a Master's, but I can't teach without one.  And I suppose that teaching was really already my Plan B.  Plan A, originally being, to study what excited me for as long as possible while honing my craft.

The bigger point in all of this , the reason I'm writing about it, really doesn't have much to do with the somewhat horrifying notion that I better come up with a backup plan for life.  No, the thing, triggered is the "God thing".  The God thing that has tormented my mind for life.  

Praying last night only for His will, I found myself in Eeyore -esque  fashion bemoaning that, "It's alright.  God probably doesn't want me in grad school."  Can you hear the long, slow, pitiful tone here?  "He has it reserved for someone else.  It's okay."  

Then another voice of every prosperity preacher I've ever had the misfortune of listening to,  melded into one, starts yelling at me like a gym teacher, "God wants you to be expectant!  That's what pleases Him most!  Name it!  Claim it!  Let's go! "  I'm panting and that voice is shaking its head, warning that if I don't get in, it's just proof of my lack of faith.  Then, there sits God, arms crossed, waiting.  Waiting for my faith to pronounce itself.  He's surveying all applicants and those with the most faith win.  That's one version.  Another is where the one with the most virtue wins.  Or whoever prays the most.  Take your pick.  

With me, it always comes back to this fear - that there's a popularity contest with God, and I'm at the bottom of his favorites list.  He sits judge of a pageant and we parade in with talents and testaments of purity.  First place takes the prize.  Yep, God's gonna give whatever I want to someone more deserving.  And furthermore, shame on  me for even wanting anything.

I immediately run down the procession of unanswered prayers in my life.  A few, I can see now, were for my good , but several still hang in the balance of all enigma, placed in a category labeled, "You'll find out when you get to Heaven - Dont Waste Your Sorrows:!"

I'm well aware my theological understandings are just a little messed up.  So, I start chanting the Serenity Prayer and remind myself not that He will give me the desires of my heart but that all things work together for those who love Him.  Then I worry I don't love Him enough.  I stifle that thought and concentrate on the 'work together' part and begin sharpening my trusting skills.  I make mental note that one purpose in all of this might be the awareness I'm experiencing on this "God thing" that I had though I had grown away from.  


I joke with myself that my naivete actually substantiates the fact of my childlike faith...and that has to increase my points.  Returning to a less serious view of myself, I tell myself, Well, this will just be my practice run.  

I turn the radio way up when Alanis Morissette's Hand in my Pocket plays and I choose to believe that.  That right there is God speaking to me.  That's the God I get.  The God I love.  The one who says to me, "...everything's going to be fine, fine, fine, 'cause I've got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a high five..."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Fall


Bought by the blood, kept by the power, art an adoration and yet- I worship self and I make a terrible god.  Why is it so hard to be obedient, remain in the state in which called?  Wise in my own eyes, I fall, and then by precious grace, the fight is won; adorned again in words not my own, pruned to bloom, I count it joy to lose that I may serve the work.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Light

I want to write about it but I don't.  And I wonder if a lot of people are feeling that way.  There are words - but not enough and maybe, not the right ones.  I want to hope but I struggle.

Maybe, it's just pen to paper, heart to heart that heals.  Maybe, it's voice.  It's listening.  Sharing.  Cleaving.

I could be wrong but it seems I've seen much more faith based commentary, postings, stories, this time around - how sad to have to say, 'this time around' - and I think it's because they were children- babies, really.  Tiny.

My kids were with their dad this weekend and when the two little ones came home, I hugged them both, hard and looked at them.  I looked long at my five year old.  My kindergartner.  At how small she is. I think of how she wouldn't have been able to grasp, really, the evil.  Honestly, I can see that she would fear, but confusion, too, would have clouded.  Looking at her, I pray that it was quick and that they didn't have time to process.  The cruelty or the pain.  And I have to believe that God somehow miraculously overrode the darkness in those moments.  And that's what I'm seeing out there in the conversation we do and don't want to end - a new hope-filled discussion on God's presence and the afterlife.  Because when it's babies, we need a heaven.  I have to believe this because otherwise, it's too much.  It is too much right now for those families.

When Verity touched my face this morning with her little hand, just that size for a short time longer, the tears came for those who won't feel or hold the little hand of their child, won't experience that child's remarkable child-like forgiveness and glee.  How will they celebrate Christmas?  How? How do they tell the kids left, anymore, that the good guys always win?  The siblings.  The twin.  How do the nightmares go away?  And the missing?  I have no idea.

We are best when we are loving children.  I think our parent sides are the best sides of us.  And when we can't protect our children  ....when the President spoke these words, and told us we all needed to help, my cynicism wanted to sneer,  no, I'm not trusting the village anymore because one person gets it wrong and this what you have.  But then the stories are there of those beautiful teachers who are martyrs and I know that children can bring out in us what is of God.  God is a father.  And a mother.  And I have to trust somehow that in the majority of us is that God given light.  And that it has more power than the darkness in one.

Could we be a multitude of light?  Are we sick yet of the dark?

This Christmas, let's bring back the light of the world.