Hold Your Own, Sweetness

I have this amazing friend who is kind, generous, and loyal in a way so few people are loyal. She is the woman who will always come to your rescue, who will always be there for you, who will stick by you no matter what crazy things you say or do in France, on the phone, in the summer, while driving through Aix en Provence looking for a bathroom.

And when you need her, she will pack her kids in the car and your kids in the car and cook people chicken nuggets or pizza, all while feeding a dog and answering emails for work and helping her daughter bake cupcakes.

There are not many people like that in this world, and if you find someone with that kind of loyalty and generosity and beauty, you don’t take it for granted, hear?

I’m not sure how she got the way she is, whether she learned how to be that way or if it’s just her essence, or both. But her mom let her down real bad when she was younger, because her mom got terribly sick and depressed, and couldn’t come out of it. Her mom was vibrant and gorgeous and smart as hell, but she didn’t have a lot of self-confidence, or a feeling of inner value, and she thought she was nothing without a man. And so her mom took her life when my friend was a teenager, and that left my amazing friend unmoored for a very long time, trying to make sense of life and love, trying to move on after experiencing the biggest abandonment of her life.

Women need strong mothers, and men need strong mothers, and so do little boys and little girls, too.

But we don’t really live in a world that honors and values strong mothers. And mothers are struggling, trying to figure out what to do.

We may pay motherhood lip-service. But put your money where your mouth is, America, and put your actions behind what you value, and you’ll see that our respect for mothers keeps coming up short, over and over again, in this large world. We don’t honor the brilliance and magnificence of a woman who grows a human being in her body and then pushes that creature out, and then gathers everything up and starts working at an office or running a business and cooking everyone dinner while her breasts are dripping.

Ya know?

But women, God bless them, keep choosing to have kids anyway. Women keep putting their families first. Women keep putting their needs on the back burner because they love so fiercely and so loyally that they don’t know any other way, and they navigate and dance in these two alternate worlds, and they try to find a way forward, and they’re the rocks holding up the foundation of our entire existence, and yet they get little or no recognition for all the power they have. They don’t ask for it, either. They just keep doing their duty, standing behind the scenes.

And it’s time, my friends, for mothers to rise up.

It’s time for mothers to own their own voices, and to own their own souls, and to stop prostituting their bodies and their dreams and their minds to the highest bidder, and to instead stand in the vitality and beauty of their essence and their power and know themselves well and fight for themselves and their daughters.

We can’t hand the world over to our daughters, the way it is now.

NoSiree. Nope. Not gonna have it.

And let me tell you the kind of world our daughters are seeing, if we women, we strong mothers, don’t start taking a stand.

1 in 5 women is raped. 1 in 3 women is a victim of sexual violence.

51% of women are raped by an intimate partner.

91% of victims of rape and sexual assault are female.

90% of sexual assault victims don’t report the assault.

And sons are victimized, too, and may have an even harder time reporting, because it is terribly uncool to be a vulnerable man.

Women walk around feeling, by the way, like their bodies are not their own, like they can’t own their words, that their purpose in even having a body and mind is to attract a man who will love and desire them. And men often believe this, too, even though they don’t want to, and even though they ache to see a woman they love not feel empowered or embodied.

Women give up, they give in, they hand so much of their power away. They don’t know how not to. They haven’t been effectively taught.

None of us, men or women, have witnessed enough mentors and models who have done anything different, and so we mimic and copy what we’ve seen and who we know, and we rarely take the time to uncover and live into the power inside us.

And a lot of our mothers have let us down.

They didn’t want to. They didn’t mean to. They just didn’t have the capacity to do any better. They didn’t have the time. They didn’t have the resources. They didn’t have the confidence. They didn’t grow up in a climate where other women and men would fight for them, because those women who needed to be a support system were maybe broke, or beaten, or trapped, or abandoned.

And so the only way forward, my friends, is for us women to become the mothers and the women we didn’t get to see. We need to embody the New Woman. This is not a woman who is imitating a man, or abiding stupid patriarchal ideas of worldly success.

Nah.

This Woman Just Is.

She is Mercurial. She is Bold. She is Full of flavor.

She is Brave. She is Outspoken. She is Deep and Wise.

This Woman has Substance.

This woman is not top-heavy, trying to intellectualize her life or yours, thinking her accolades are what makes her who she is. She is not the car she drives, the clothing store she shops at, the “diet” she’s on, the yoga poses she can do. She’s not sidetracked by stupid stuff.

She’s a Woman of Presence. 

She’s a Woman who walks in the room and makes everybody ponder, because they haven’t seen anything like this woman before.

She doesn’t play the game. She doesn’t listen to the rules.

She is her own, see.

She belongs to nobody else.

And yet, she loves wildly, freely, and is full of warmth.

She is shrewd when she needs to be, smarter than anybody knows. She’ll surprise you.

She is healthy, full of vitality.

She speaks with depth, her voice as rich as earth. She is egoless, yet filled with confidence and passion.

She does not sell any piece of herself to make a buck. She finds a way around that. Because baby, this woman has faith like you wouldn’t believe, and when you have faith, that mountain you’re looking at can fall right into the sea. There are no words called “boulders.”

This is the woman who creates the world my daughters are going to inherit. And I’m not looking for her to appear on my doorstep, or in the limelight, in the form of somebody else. This woman is me. She is me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me.

And I’m not limiting myself for anyone. I’m not curtailing my dreams or my essence to please any fucking person or group of people. Because I know who I am.

And damn, I am so full of love and abundance.

I’m so hot you may be scared to touch me.

But I don’t hurt. I don’t bite.

I’m practically God incarnate.

Remove the practical.

And I embody this in every space I walk into, not out of anger, or egomania. I simply inhabit me. Not someone’s idea of me. Not the rules of who I’m supposed to be. Just me.

Brilliant, wise, bold.

Jana. That’s spelled J-A-N-A.

And this body, honey? It’s mine. It’s mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.

This is what I’m teaching to boys and to girls, about themselves, about the power they have within them.

You should, too.

 

Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash

The Magic of Women

I want to tell you a story about the magic of women.

This is one story. One. There are so many others to tell.

Story One: Enter Elizabeth

My middle daughter is now 10, but after I gave birth to her, I experienced a kind of anxiety and fear I had never before known. Giving birth to her, under the care of an amazing midwife, was inordinately painful, and au naturale, and while it showed me something I didn’t know I had within me (the ability to give birth to a 9 lb. baby after 3 hours of pushing and a hell-lotta pitocin), I also felt somewhat angry with that baby. Why did she do that to me, split me in half? And why was she so big? And why couldn’t she just rest peacefully in her crib so I could sleep? And why did my breastmilk make her cry?

It took a couple of months to realize I had postpartum depression, something that had seemed so foreign to me, so impossible for me, this strong woman who thought she could handle anything.

And so I went on a drug, and I employed a therapist, and I finally started dealing with all the shit that had lived inside me that I had never had a moment, or a breath, to access. All the pain of being a female and birthing a female which I had stored up, the fear of doing everything wrong, the legacy of a matriarchal line that had to be tough and strong, the anxiety of those around me that had for decades seeped into my pores and build a little castle inside, a castle that was only now being revealed, and it was much larger once the clouds started parting from around its towers.

Depression was my teacher, you see. To go inward. To figure out how to live better. And my daughter was the catalyst to help me grow, so that I could be the kind of mother I wanted to be to her, so that I could show her another way of living, of caring for yourself, of respecting your body, of not letting wounds and pain store up until something inside you cries out desperately to be listened to.

I also started a blog.

That blog gave me so much hope and so much connection. I was isolated and alone, worried about the career hit I was taking in my time as a stay-at-home mother, and my blog helped me find like-minded women all over the world to relate to. We talked about marriage and running a house and careers and our dreams and our passions. A comment from one of the women I connected with, or a blog post from another about the struggles and fears she had about raising kids, or about an alcohol addiction, or about being a good, kind citizen of society, lifted me up from my depression and isolation and made me feel part of a community, a community I could not find near my home. This was a virtual community, but it was as real as any space in a building. Those women were my safe haven, my sweet place, my lifeline during a time of transition and fear and healing so that I could move through my postpartum depression out onto the other side. Which I did, and became stronger.

I don’t remember how I began interacting with Elizabeth. I just know that one day I saw her blog, and began visiting it, and she began visiting mine, and we commented back and forth. She was spicy (which I love!) and kind, and had so much energy. And soon we realized that we were both budding novelists. So at some point, I organized a call with her and another online friend, Amy (who has since gone on to be wildly independent and successful, a world traveler), to discuss our books. We created an online writing workshop. And in one of those first calls, Elizabeth started to share the hardship she had been going through. Her family was experiencing a lot of transitions that had to do with health and finances, and her marriage was being challenged in a whole host of ways, and yet she had such strength, such determination, such a positive attitude. She was scared, of course, but she had faith, and she was full of love. And I admired her faith. I always admire people’s faith. Faith and love are all bound up together, an emblem of sacred beauty.

Over time, our little writing workshop ended, and the blogging community dissipated, too. Many of us women kept in touch in various ways, but we also branched out to become immersed in other pieces of our lives. Jobs, additional children, moving to new locations. Through facebook, we kept tabs on each other.

My own life underwent a complete turnaround. There were job shifts for me and my husband, then a third baby, then a divorce. I had to find a new place to live, I had to find different work than I’d been used to, there was financial strain and a whole new kind of life-stress. There were health difficulties, too, and through all of this, children to raise. And when my head finally started to bob up from under the water, I came across Elizabeth again. Still a go-getter, still filled with positivity, still plugging away at trying to save the world. And now we both shared something new, an abiding faith, a shared love of SexyJesus, who had helped us get through so much shit it was impossible not to love and know he existed and was there, always finding new ways to save us and the world. So when I finally got Elizabeth on the phone, I learned that while I was in my underwater struggling phase, she was too. She had been through so, so much, I didn’t know how she was able to bear it. And her response, now that she was above water, was not, Sheesh, glad that’s over, now let’s close up shop and make a shit-ton of money. Her response was not People suck, life is too hard, fuck this shit!

Her response was, Now that I know how bad things can get, how can I help others?

Whose hand can I hold when they’re going through similar pain?

How can I be a resource when someone goes through a tragedy like I’ve been through? 

Who can I support because she feels isolated and alone?

And her depth and beauty and love and faith astounds me, and her generosity and her energy, and her willingness to wake up every day and try to do her part to fix this world despite all she has been through.

That chick seriously does a video to help other women every morning while the kids are asleep.

People, I know there are great men. I mean, the history books are full of them, aren’t they? There are all these monuments built. Men who fought in battles and shot people and won lands independence, or something. Men who did some sort of science research and got a wing in a hospital named after them. Men who founded a college, or a city. Men who have a lot of money and gave it all away to poor people—wait, no. That doesn’t happen.

What I want you to focus on right now are the women who are always doing kind, generous things, even when it’s behind the scenes and they’re not making money. Women who are holding up their families and the world. Women who are the foundation for everything we have, a foundation so strong and pure and vital we don’t even recognize it exists, because it’s like the house whose shrubs have covered up the stone, so we only see the stucco on top. Women who are giving birth and making love and microwaving chicken nuggets at the same time they’re getting on calls and organizing birthday parties and talking to doctors and taking care of aging parents.

We think power is in force and fireworks and a lot a lot of money. We think it’s in prestige and fame and loud, angry voices.

But what we actually have, when we strip away appearances and illusions that invade our day, is the women, who are undergirding all the livelihood that ever was, and who are often suffering and in pain because they’re trying to do so much, and they have been told they’re worth less for so long, and they’re struggling to understand who they are at the same time as take care of everyone else, and get so little respect or credit for all that they’ve done and will do.

It’s still a man’s world. But women are rising. We’re gonna make this place whole. We’re gonna clean up this mess.

And it starts with people like Elizabeth.

Hallelujah, Mother Mary, here we fuckin’ come.

 

(And check out the amazing things Elizabeth Rago is doing on Modern Domestic Woman.)

 

“circle” by matthewvenn is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Women Rising

It is really hard for women to rise up.

I’m not saying we can’t do it. I’m not negating all the women who have done it well. I am just saying it’s very hard.

Patriarchy is a real thing. We hear that word all the time and have grown desensitized, because we need to call it something but don’t know another word to use. Perhaps we can call it, “the-way-things-have-been-done-for-thousands-of-years,” but that word is a little long.

Because it is not just men who support patriarchy. It is women, too. And sometimes women are bigger supporters than men ever were. There are plenty of enlightened men who want the best for their daughters and sisters and wives, who want to see women succeed. Men who appreciate their female bosses and listen to the concerns of female friends. And there are plenty of women who dislike other women, and try to put a big net over them when they try to fly. Because another woman succeeding feels threatening to them, like all they gained could be taken away. Or another woman succeeding makes them second-guess their own life choices.

I’ve lived through enough at this point in my life to say, “It is difficult for women to rise up.” It has been difficult for me, because I’ve seen the orange cones at every step. I have tried to fulfill the needs of everyone else rather than my own, and it’s led me to a lot of barren places. I have buried the talents within me, because I wasn’t taught to believe in myself, and learned how only recently. So I recognize that it must be very hard for women less fortunate than I am to do great work. And it’s 2019. I thought things would be better by now.

These past two days I was at the BlogHer Conference Creators Summit in Brooklyn, New York, and I saw what the world could be like if it were run by women. Instead of competition and domination, it was about sharing, sharing, sharing. Here is what I did, and here is what you can do too. It was about lifting each other up, sharing tools and expertise, not hoarding it for fear someone else’s success takes yours away. It was a group of women who said, You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. I will do what I can to help. 

It was women who said, Nothing is off the table for you. You have a seat right here, along with us. Come join.

This is not always how women have acted, or continue to act. Many women don’t know how deeply ingrained are the lessons that women are bad, conniving, superficial, and undeserving. They unknowingly teach this to the next generation. And that kind of thinking, that kind of believing, has got to stop.

Because going forward, with technology as it is, with our social climate the way it is, the thing we must stress most of all is community. It is about being in a circle, rather than a ladder with hierarchy. Everyone has to have a seat at the table, and actually, there are more seats now for those who have been shoved in the back. They get a turn.

We, women, we now get a turn.

And we’re not going back to picking up scraps. No, sir.

I am so grateful to organizations that make it an intention to build up and support women. Building up and supporting women doesn’t mean you dislike or discount anyone else. It just means you recognize an injustice has occurred, and you’re going to play the game differently. Building up women means take an axe to the damaging walls that have been built, toward seeing that surface crumble so people can move through. Building up and supporting women is about women who have chipped away at that high, high ceiling, and now they lift up new women on their shoulders so they can climb onto a new floor.

It is not always nonprofits or religious organizations who do good in this world. What I have seen is that there are so many people in the business world who are doing mental yoga all the time. They have developed an internal compass based on their own experiences, and one of their personal convictions is to help others. And they offer their time and advice and expertise freely so others can benefit, too.

Mostly, what I’m saying is, if you know a woman who needs a little bit of support, please give it to her. It doesn’t have to be financial, although that can certainly help sometimes. Mainly, what she needs is a little boosting, a little lifting up. A little celebrating her vision and her courage to dream. Give her your hands, and weave them together at the fingers, and let her place her foot in your palm, and begin to lift her.

In this regard, I am currently doing whatever I can.

“Cheerleaders”by prc1333 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Nourishing the Spirits of Our Children

The Giving Tree is one of my favorite books, and it is also the book that makes me cry the most. I never knew why I cried so much, but I knew it had something to do with mothers. It was so obvious to me that the tree was a mother. (Of course the tree is also nature, and these are one and the same, but don’t let me digress.)

That tree is so abundant, so wonderful, and she gives, and she gives, and she gives. She is so good at giving.

And that little boy takes, and he takes, and he takes. And he takes again. Because that’s what the tree has taught him. Complete and utter selflessness. She teaches him she was made to tend to his needs. She so very much wants him to be happy.

And in the end, when she is just a stump and he’s sitting on her, waiting to die, no one is happy.

So let me tell you something.

I believe myself to be an excellent mother. Most women don’t say that about themselves. Most mothers, for a long time, have been taught to shit on themselves. And there are plenty who would read my statement of excellence and narrow their eyes and force an angry laugh. I don’t care about them.

What I care about is you, another woman reading, who may be so breathless and scared and frustrated because she is behaving like that tree. And she knows there is so much power in her, so much life, and she wants to grow all the abundant, juicy fruits she knows she is capable of, but she doesn’t know how, because she has never been taught. Instead, she’s been taught that women sacrifice forever and never take their lives into their own hands. Instead, she’s been taught that love is about endlessly giving to others and never knowing herself.

So to that woman, I want to say: Your children do not own you. Your partner does not own you. Your parents do not own you. Nor does your boss, your colleagues, your family, your friends.

You do not have to become a stump.

And your children, in the deepest part of their hearts, the wisest part of their brains, do not want you to become a stump. They want you to be the abundant, flourishing tree they come home to.

So you need to feed yourself, and not give it all away.

What I am saying to you is, if you want to nourish the spirit of your daughters, if you want to teach your sons how to love women, you need to nourish your own soul. You may need to take time away. But more than anything, you need to show your sons and daughters, by your actions, that you believe you matter. That loving others means you first need to learn how to love yourself. Not just in word, but in deed too.

I can sense the way some people might react to a statement like that. Especially Christians, who have been told to always put others first. But Jesus never said “Put everybody else before you.” He said “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and in order to do that, you have to know how to love. I’m just giving you a little roadmap.

Showing your kids that you matter might mean they get a little frustrated at times. It might mean that they sometimes miss you or feel abandoned. It’s similar to letting a baby cry himself to sleep. It sucks to listen to that cry, but he’s gotta do it. He’s gotta sleep. And when everyone is getting a good night’s rest, the world is a lot more hopeful.

If you, as a mother, are breathless and tired, if you feel weak and unappreciated, if you’re trying to do 10,000 things and none of them seems to work out because you’ve lost all the spark within you, take a stand. You are not property of the state, having to do what you’re told by some giant, threatening overlord. You have been invested with personal power and great capabilities that can help you make your decisions. You have a network you can each out to, and if that’s not a good network, form a new one. No one is going to die if you go out for a couple of hours to drink coffee and read, or write, or do yoga in your bedroom, or dance and take really long showers.

Young women will learn a lot better how to be strong and spiritually-minded, socially-concerned, when they have a role model of how to do it. They’ll know happiness and confidence by how it feels to be in your presence, by watching you, and wanting to go down that path.

Because love and kindness, the most important foundation of all, does not mean constant sacrifice. It does not mean being docile or weak. A loving, kind woman is not a woman who says, Let me lie on the ground so you can step on me on your path to success.  

Love and kindness is supporting other people reaching their potential. It’s recognizing the inherent worth in every person. It’s learning first how to be kind and loving to yourself, so you can illustrate that for others. Self-loathing only helped a bunch of angry, selfish people.

So nourish the spirits of your daughters. Nourish the spirits of your sons. Show them what an embodied, loving, capable woman looks like.

Not a fuckin’ tree stump.

 

“100 Trees” by Rach Liang is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0

Dance Your Way to Happiness

 

When I was in Paris, France, this past summer, in the Church of Mary Magdalene in the Opera district, I walked in and began to dance. It was Bastille Day, only I didn’t realize that until later. The energy of freedom was in the air, and when I heard the organ, there was nothing I could do put take off my shoes and move.

I have never danced like that before.

The religious tradition I’m a part of is the Quaker tradition, a group that started in the 17th century with the feeling that they were reviving early Christianity, Christianity at its roots. They acknowledged that many ministers or leaders in the mainstream Christian church were just phoning it in, did not know how to live lives of devotion and faith, but simply memorized Scripture and went through the motions. The Quaker brand of worship was sitting in silence, waiting until Spirit moved through them to speak, to offer a message that would hit people at their cores. They were about being open to divine guidance, about being led. When Spirit moved them to speak, their bodies would shake, and that’s how they adopted the term “quakers,” a far stretch from the original, “friend.” And at the time, Quakers were led to do some pretty radical things. They disobeyed typical practices of the day, hierarchies in speech and dress. They were persecuted, tortured, even killed when they practiced religious freedom. But they held fast to integrity, to justice, to the movements of spirit in their lives that would force them to continue to grow and change. And they gained a pretty good reputation, although now, centuries later, Quakerism is uh, sort of, dead.

No one knows who we are. We’ve lost something. Something big.

All religious institutions struggle with the institutional nature of existing: with hierarchies, with politics, with outdated practices. People begin to worship the framework rather than loving those who exist presently within that framework. People worship hierarchy and status quo rather than worshiping God. It happens in all religions, and it sucks. Sometimes, the people really following the message of the divine—simplicity, humility, and love—are the people who’ve eschewed church altogether. People who develop an independent internal practice outside of a community.

But I love my community, and I want it to grow. I think Quakers have a powerful message to offer from inherent beginnings in openness, in flexibility, in thinking outside the box. In trusting in their inner wisdom, rather than just following everyone else. In having a solid, personal foundation of faith. And Quaker communities can be a place where people heal from the pain of faith communities where they were not accepted. Because silence is beautiful.

But our bodies are beautiful, too. And a big problem with Christianity today is that the spirit is cut off from the body. We have been taught that our bodies are bad, that our bodies are wrong, that our bodies are full of sin. And so we lack comfort and peace within the physical home we’ve been given, the home that is our birthright, the place where Spirit dwells. We hide our bodies, we’re ashamed of them, we pretend they don’t matter. We batter our bodies in myriad ways. We think that our bodies are ugly and imperfect, things that need to be changed. We treat our bodies like crap.

But times are changing.

And they’re changing through women.

Women who are tired of being told we’re inferior, that we know less, that the wisdom we hold within us is useless. Because we see this world suffering, and we have the power and success now to take action, to do things differently. We go to yoga classes, we go to African dance. We nurse our young in public. We let our bodies grow large. We run marathons. We remove our bras. And we connect with others, holding hands to make a new world, where harmony and community is at the center. We recognize that does not always happen in the boardroom.

Harmony? Community? Sounds a lot like Jesus’s message.

Not greed, anger, war, domination, or corruption, which appear to be the mainstays of the day.

All the puzzle pieces are here for a movement to begin, something powerful that will effect radical, monumental change. We just need to be brave. We need to learn to trust ourselves, to trust in the goodness in us and in other people. We need to embrace our own leadings and stop shutting ourselves up, stopping before we start. We need to do this from a foundation of deep meditation and contemplation, not irrationally acting out. And when we take this time to be silent, to uncover, we’ll begin to recognize our own divine nature, to step into it, to grow into it, to become.

And this is all going to happen through celebrating and moving joyously in our glorious, beautiful, God-given bodies.

Do you want to come?

 

Image from http://www.eglise-lamadeleine.com/visites-de-leglise

Saving Yourself

A few years ago, I sat outside at a restaurant with a young woman I cared a lot about. We met at a new job I had started, and we clicked instantly, even though there was more than 10 years between us. And I admitted something to her then that I hadn’t said to anyone else.

“I just want someone to save me,” I told her.

She took a sip of her sangria and reached for the flatbread.

“It’s better to save yourself.”

I narrowed my eyes a bit when she said that. Because I was convinced she didn’t know what she was talking about. Of course it was better, but I didn’t know it was possible, and I was tired. Starting over as a single mom after 11 years of marriage, having had only two boyfriends in my life, working full-time after piecing together small bits of income and raising three kids…. This was all very overwhelming. What was wrong with wanting a handsome, kind, and sexy man to step in and make it all better?

Let me tell you what’s wrong with it.

Everything.

My friend, despite the fact that she had her own flaws, had her own demons, and ended up taking her life a few months later, was absolutely, without a doubt, right. I wish she was here so I could tell her that.

It is better. To. Save. Yourself.

Ladies, listen.

We have been taught that men make our lives better. We have been taught that when life gets you down, when the chips are against you, just fall into a clump and a man will appear with money and status and kiss you and bring you to fullness, make you alive.

Oh, this is such an impossible and ridiculous assumption! Because these poor men are like, Waa? Me?? I can’t even put my socks in the hamper. And you want me to save you, this vivacious, spectacular, heavenly queen from another realm? I wouldn’t. Know where. To begin. 

Can I give ya some money instead?

The only man you’re going to attract when you lack belief in your self-worth is a man who lacks belief in your self-worth. And you don’t want any of that.

It is women who have saved me, time and time again. Over and over. That’s what the universe teaches. That, I discovered, has been Her law.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy and love so many men. And I can’t do everything myself, and I don’t want to. Men are so kind-hearted, they help me when I get lost. (And I get lost a bunch. It’s ridiculous.) They say really intelligent things that help me think a little clearer. They share their experiences, which makes me more compassionate and understanding. They fix my car. (Hallelujah!)) They give me tech-support. (Oh, God, that gets me hot.)

So I am not putting down men. I am just stating, for the record, and because it’s absolutely without a doubt true, that they are not Gods. So let’s move forward with that acknowledgment.

Women are the ones, in my life, who have come to my rescue. My mother, for one. Every. Single. Time. My friend Kerri, who when I was terribly, terribly down, made me dinner on snow days and let me hang out in her quiet, soothing house. Who gave me jade plants that still stand strong on my windowsill. My friend Elizabeth, who gets me jobs and offers me work and even made her husband help me take a ton of books to goodwill when I was moving a few years ago. She gave me an aloe plant. That shit’s thriving.

My friend Susannah, who never judges me, always listens, always makes time to hear me out. And gives the best, most loving advice, without any hint ever of jealousy, or the desire to cut me down. That’s just not in her.

I have more friends. Brilliant ones, lovely ones. David will be pissed if I leave him out, so let me just make sure he gets a mention. David plays basketball with my kids and hangs out with me on my custody-free weekends, and we get along so well because we never have the pressure of sex. He’s like, the best guy friend I could ever hope for. And we’re both just totally flexible about almost everything (except food, because he won’t eat fish, and I won’t eat beats), so aside from arguing about where to eat, everything between us just stays chill.

What I’m trying to tell you is that there is no one person who rescues you, who saves you. You save yourself, with the support of people who are amazing. We all save each other. That’s the way it works. That’s the better way. Because when you walk through life carrying this open, wounded spot in your soul, you end up attracting other wounded souls. And of course we’re all wounded in some way, but two wounded people are bleeding too much to help one another out. They just don’t have the resources to give. So take time to heal your own wounds, and you’ll attract someone who has also healed (hopefully), and by then, you’ll have figured out that, Shit, the realities of life, of love, are different than what you thought. Happiness is different than what you’ve been taught. You are different than who you thought you were, and actually way more amazing. Because your mind is the narrowest part of you, and it tells you silly things. Now that you can get beyond that, into the calls of your spirit, everything is looking up!

Finding who you are, taking time for that person, settling in, learning to love yourself with all your flaws and imperfections, all your beauty and greatness is, just, Wow. There is no greater gift on this earth. And it’s already inside you, all the resources you need, all the power, all the glory. Not out there. In here. Just waiting to be unlocked.

Phew, right? What a relief.

 

“Kiss”by vipwallpaper is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Your Body Belongs to You

Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away?
Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobies
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex
I got my arms, got my hands
Got my fingers, got my legs
Got my feet, got my toes
Got my liver, got my blood
                                                                                                             –Nina Simone, “Ain’t Got No”

It wasn’t until this past summer, during the last few months of my 39th year, that I realized how deeply ingrained was a belief I had that my body was not my own, that it was made primarily for a man to enjoy.

I have always remembered a reading from college by W.E.B. DuBois, an African-American Harlem Renaissance author who wrote The Souls of Black Folk. In this sociological work, he explains that black people walk around with what he calls a “double-consciousness,” operating on two levels simultaneously. One one level, they move through the world like people. On another level, they move through the world with the consistent reminder, or consciousness, that they are black. Because wherever a black person goes, he is viewed through a double lens.

Until recently, as a woman, I have also felt the effects of that double lens. I don’t know when it started, but I felt as though my more prominent role in life was to be seen, rather than to see. That I was the object of someone else’s life rather than the subject and author of my own. And this particularly related to my relationships and interactions with men, because there was a sense that I was only good enough, or worthy, if a man I desired deemed me relevant. Attaining his love or attention and admiration would set everything in order, I seemed to believe. His love and adoration and cherishing would right every wrong, fix every flaw within me.

I am sad that I held onto such a damaging belief, not even wholly aware it was living in my flesh and bones. But it is not surprising. It is what we women, through centuries of domination and dishonor, have been told, both outright and implicitly.

Oh, how I hope and pray that my daughters will not fall victim to the same trajectory. How I hope and pray that we can teach young girls a new way forward. But in order to do that, we must acknowledge it, recognize it, heal the wound.

This false belief women have about our bodies, about the very essence of being female, is particularly aflame in those of us who didn’t grow up with a nurturing, warm, solid father figure. Who didn’t grow up with fathers who showed us what it looked like to be a good man, an emblem of gentleness, kindness, and compassion. A father who encouraged us to lead, to be true to ourselves and our instincts, to grow. A father who lifted us up, who demonstrated respect and honor for a woman’s wholeness, for her living into every part of herself.

We have all been sorely lacking in these models, both in family life, in politics, in corporations, and in churches.

So let me tell you the truth, as a way to heal the damage of the past.

Your body is solely, completely, unequivocally yours, to do with what you want. It is whole and perfect and beautiful, just as it was made, no ifs, ands, or buts. Your body may change and grow in all kinds of ways, and that is part of its power, its mastery, and its mystery. Regardless of what it looks like, it is still, and will always be, yours. It is the most special home you’ll ever live in, and it is the home you take with you wherever you go. You can invite people into this home, you can share it with others, but all of that is your choice. Your choice. Yours. Every single minute of every single day of every single breath, into the eternity of breaths you take. Your choice.

You and your body were not made for pleasing anybody else, though pleasing someone can be a cool side-effect. Catering to others’ needs and wants and lusts and desires was not the purpose of your being born. You do not have to alter your body to make someone happy, or “fix” it in some way to get someone to love or acknowledge you. You do not have to open your body to anyone to gain respect and acceptance, for that respect and acceptance already lies implicit within you. You do not have to let someone use your body for their own aims.

Your body is not an object for anyone else. It is the source of your power, and it is your church. It is your temple, your sacred altar.

And no matter what your body looks like, or what your body has been through, God thinks it is beautiful. Every single day. You are not a number to God. You are not a size, or a shell, or an image of brokenness.

And no matter what you decide to do with it, God will always love you and your body.

God’s deepest wish, in fact, is that you would feel the same.

 

 

Image from https://dailymythogies.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/goddess-figures/