Monday, September 5, 2016

My Non Political Inspiration

If you have talked with me at any length you probably know that politics aren't really my thing. I have opinions because, well, hello, it's me. But largely I try to keep a wide berth between me and the political realm. I have some very good reasons for this, centering around where I believe our real hope and trust should be rooted. But unless you're using a pulpit to preach politics (in which case, shut up, your pulpit is for Jesus) I'm probably not going to have much to say about your political opinions.

But there's something going on about which I need to speak up. This is such an unpopular opinion I hesitate to say it out loud.

Hillary Clinton's nomination has done absolutely nothing to inspire me as a woman.

Maybe perhaps it will have some inspirational effect on my daughter or step-daughter. If so, great but I don't know. I'm not them. Will they believe in their ability to do anything as women more, because they grew up in the age of a female president? I doubt it. I feel like I'm a bad woman for admitting that, like somehow I have betrayed my entire gender. I don't mean to really, it's just not that big of a deal for me personally.

I probably find it less inspirational than the average woman because in most all of my vocational pursuits I have been the only woman in the room.

I have been repeatedly told that I would never get a job because I'm a woman.

I have been told that pursuing higher education in my field is a fool's errand and I was getting myself further into debt for no reason.

I have even been told that my pursuit of a male-dominated field was irresponsible of me as a mother.

I have had people lie about what I was going to school for because it was more palatable (for them) to say therapist than to say pastor.

And a long time ago I just stopped listening to any of it. I figured whatever I was supposed to do with my life, whatever I felt like I was being called to had nothing to do with other people's opinions. I knew I wasn't in charge of the outcome, it was just my job to stay true to the path. So, I kept going, through my bachelor's and then my master's and now on to who knows what.  But this isn't about me. It's about Hillary.

And frankly, I look at her as a woman and feel, well nothing. Nada. She's just one more likely corrupt politician who made her way to the top. That's not incredibly surprising for me. Of course she did. She had the money backing her, the political system and her cheating husband. Sounds like a normal day in politics to me.

I'm happy for her on a human level, I guess. As happy as anyone can be for someone who's ideals are so vastly different than mine. As happy as I can be for a woman who has stayed married to a man who's treatment of women I find abhorrent.  By association I find her acceptance of him to be a repulsive form of tolerance of how he treats women. But nonetheless, she is a human and this appears to be her dream, to be president so, "Yay, Hillary," you got the nom. But also, no, not yay for me. Not yay for women, at least not this one. The things you have tolerated in your marriage is not an example I want others to follow. You have achieved a lot politically, but at a cost I wouldn't want my daughter to pay.

I have believed for as long as I have had breath in these lungs that the right woman could do the job of running our country. Her nomination didn't change that already held belief. What I have struggled to believe is that our close-minded voting population will ever put a female in office. Her nomination has done nothing to convince me that isn't true. If she were elected, would I be more proud as a woman? Would I stand taller and say "Look, see, she did that! So can I!" No, I doubt it. I already know I could do it, or at least a woman with money, my fortitude and a better grasp on the political/economic/justice system could.

As a woman I find my inspiration in the real women in my life who do the things that people say they can't. I find my inspiration in the women in my life who are deans of colleges, who I know personally and are no less female, no less fantastic in their role than the guy down the hall.  I'm inspired by the female pastors I know who love their congregations enough to set boundaries with them. Who will say "no" and aren't afraid to because they're a woman and someone might not like that. When I see women stand up to their abusers and say no more, that makes my heart beat fast with pride. The women who I am friends with who push me to step out of my own self-doubt and self-flagellation. They make me proud to be a woman. They model what is like to have one another's backs and not descend into cattiness. THAT inspires me! My little girl inspires me when she decides she likes to watch race cars and paint her nails; tough if that's not what girls are supposed to do. My step-daughter inspires me when she stands up against bullies and won't tolerate her friends being treated poorly, when she doesn't keep quiet because she's a girl. That inspires me.

I find my inspiration everywhere, but mostly I find it right in front of my face. Will I still be surprised if I slay some of the giant goals I have before me in my life, "as a woman"? Yes, I must be honest, I'll be surprised. After all, I'm just a woman right? I have to mother, do the laundry, make the meals, and buy the groceries. But that is when I betray women. When I begin to believe that things aren't possible for me because I am a woman and I have to give up being me in order to be a mother or partner, daughter or friend, that is when I fail. I only have a shot a being an inspiration or being inspired when I live out the fullness of who I am.  That's the only shot anyone has at being worthy of being called an inspiration, male or female. This is ESPECIALLY true when, who I am makes other people uncomfortable. When I embrace this false timidity that tells me to be quiet and just do the dishes, I stop being a female I want my children to emulate. When I don't speak my mind in a room full of men because they weren't looking for my opinion, they just wanted a token female, then I betray women. I lose my right to their honor. I am not representing them as I should be. When I vary the standards to which I hold my children based upon their gender I am failing to be anything close to inspirational. When I don't speak up to a man or even a male child because he's just a guy and he won't get it I fail both women and the male in front of me.

But when I go hard in the directions of my dreams even when it means my kids eat frozen pizza two nights in a week, I model something I hope they replicate in their own lives. When I say no to someone I love because it's the right thing to do, I inspire others to be more honest and truthful. When I am vulnerable with those I love, showing them both my softness and my strength, I teach them that being a woman isn't being one particular thing.

So no, Hillary hasn't done much for me as a woman. But so many of you, who I already know are doing so much for me to help me believe that being a woman is an amazing thing. Thank you so much for that.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Open Your Mouth

I despise when I find upon waking that the insecurities which plagued me in the night have followed me to the morning. The discomfort has not vanished before my morning cup of coffee. The steam warms my face, anxiety still just below the surface. I look out over my backyard, listening for the birds, crickets, traffic, the morning sounds, and I long for a reset button. I see the dew on the grass, everything looks fresh and washed. I want to be washed, for soap and water to have the power to make my discomfort dissipate. I want the solution to stopping the feelings to be simplistic, rudimentary even. Take this pill, pet this dog, get 8 hours of sleep, say this prayer and voila, "Look! They're gone. All better." My insecurities have a nasty habit of sticking around.

It seems that so much of the ick of life requires talking to get rid of it.

You have needs? You're going to have to tell someone. Ugh, needs. Who wants to need anything from anyone? Not sure why but other people suck at guessing that shit.

Feeling scared? You're going to have to tell someone. You may need to ask someone to be with you in it. Gross! Who wants to do that?!

Isolation, inadequacy, vulnerability, hurt feelings, the solution always seems to lie in opening one's mouth.

For someone as highly private as me, that's problematic.

My ego has warned me about what a terrible idea opening my mouth is. It has cautioned me against speaking. I have listened.

My ego knows (hell my mind does too) that we are *****this**** close to ceasing to exist if we share those nasty parts of ourselves with other people. Those less than palatable parts of us that we don't even like, need not be mentioned. No one else needs to be burdened with them. If we tell other people about them, well you might as well go crawl in a hole now, because no one else is going to put up with that shit. Certainly, no one will want to be around you anymore.

So, I don't do it. I don't talk. Why would I? I hate talking about me. Ideas, yes! Theology, yes! My kids, yes! Goals, dreams, fitness, yes! My emotions, fuck you, back up! Who do you think you are? I'm pretty sure, my "fuck you, back up" vibe is always on level 10. People are pretty aware of that and since they like their heads to remain on their shoulders they don't ask. They back up. And if you don't ask me; I promise I'm not going to voluntarily tell you. All of this further perpetuates my ability not to talk, and increases my isolation.

I have insulated myself against vulnerability. I have cast myself as a resilient individual. I tell bits and pieces of my life story so that people know I am one thing, and that thing is strong. I weave the story so at the end the conclusion they draw about me lies far away from my possible emotional response to anything that ever happened. Why would we talk about that anyway? I make sure they land in this place of awe, where the hearer has only one possible conclusion. "Shannon must be a beast, she's unbeatable. No way I could have survived what she has."

Because if the hearer is convinced that the predominant thing I am is strong, than they don't ever have to consider how sad I must have been. If they're overwhelmed by my power, than they never need consider how weak and afraid I could be.

I have lived these years thinking I am one thing, striving to be that thing, because being that thing meant surviving. That was the path: be strong, stoic, unshakable.

Now there's this awareness on the edges of my consciousness that I'm not nearly as stoic as I think I am. I have far more emotions than I would like to admit. I am even quite possibly, (still not ready to admit this, ***take a breath Shannon*** whew) sensitive. I deplore sensitivity in myself! I hate being that way! I deliberately avoided ever being friends with females because I knew their capacity to wound me emotionally was far greater than my male friends. If I didn't talk to them, they couldn't hurt me. And if they didn't hurt me than I wouldn't end up crying in my bedroom about someone's comment about my house, my butt, my kids or my cooking. <~ All of which I still think is stupid and a waste of time, when I could be being a productive member of society.

But emotions have come for me, like it or not. I was very comfortable 10 years ago with my emotional map. I only ever felt two things: happy, or angry. I knew how to control and channel those emotions and where to put them. Now all this freaking spiritual work, all this therapy and step work, has me experiencing emotions for which I barely have names. This part of my personality, this sensitive little flower wants to be heard now. God, she annoys the shit out of me. Getting all offended when she gets ignored. Unsure if she should talk to that group of people because she doesn't fit in. If you yell at her, she's probably going to cry. If she thinks you were going to yell at her, she will definitely cry. This little flower part of my personality has more emotions than my daughter has dress up accessories. And I have no idea what to do with her. I have tried shutting her up. It doesn't work. I have tried returning to the two emotional map I had previously, but my awareness has increased to the point where that is no longer possible. I have tried placating her with running, lifting, chocolate, alone time. She just cries, gawd it's irritating! She's there when I go to bed at night feeling scared and less than, she's still there when I wake up in the morning wondering if she'll be loved today.  I find her irritating, and completely unlovable. I'm convinced that she's the part of me that makes me weak. She's the part of me that will lead to my love, my kids, my friends to rejecting me. She is the crack in the facade of my strength and I'm scrambling to figure out how to fill that crack.

Wisdom tells me that filling the crack is not the path. The crack is how the light gets in. Wisdom tells me that although it feels like these emotions are going to make me break into 1000 minuscule pieces never to be whole again, that only by breaking will I ever be whole. Wisdom tells me that the delicate little flower part of me isn't trying to destroy me (IT STILL FEELS LIKE IT!) but rather she's trying to expand my capacity to love. But I have always believed that annoying people are the ones who need things. My role is to be the helper, to support those needy little fucks. Which led me to never needing anything myself. I'm supposed to give, not to take. Especially when I have no idea what I need and taking doesn't even make any sense to me. This little flower part of me has taken warrior Shannon by the hand and is trying to show her the way. Warrior Shannon is throwing an epic 3 year old level tantrum about it.

Somehow after all of my years on this planet, the most terrifying thing I could do is open my mouth and share something uncomfortable I'm feeling. That is still the place where I feel more at risk for danger than anywhere else. The little flower is promising me it'll be worth it.