Patriarchy

This past week has been a stunning display of patriarchy in America. Like many people, I’ve felt personally sucker punched by its acute audacity and cruelty. At the same time, I’ve been thinking about things like the nearly 500 immigrant and refugee children who are still separated from their parents – a stain on our conscience from which we should never recover.

The most accurate description of patriarchy is not men vs. women. It is those with power vs. those with less or without. This is one of the reasons that my upbringing in the Christian faith was the original force behind my deep commitment to push back on patriarchy. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first. Jesus sided with those with less power.

When we resist patriarchy, we do so for women, and for our babies, including all the babies in tent cities in Texas and those separated from their mothers and fathers, because all children are our children. We do so for the differently abled and those without access to living wage jobs. We do so for all those with less power.

In her book Memories of God, Roberti Bondi wrote that for the ancient Christian teachers, “humility was about slipping underneath the whole hierarchical social web of judgments by which we limit ourselves and one another in order to love and act fearlessly with power and authority.”

We slip out from patriarchy, we claim power through acts of love, and with that power we bend the arc of the moral universe to justice.

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I Believe Dr. Ford

I lit a candle for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford this morning. 

Two Scriptures come to mind today: “The world does not know you, but I know you.”

We know you, Dr. Ford. Your sisters, daughters, mothers, those with less power but with truth – we know you, and we see you. You tell our ancient story. Of bearing, of surviving.

The second is one of my favorites: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

Whatever happens today, Dr. Ford, I pray that your heart is strengthened by the witness of millions of women. I know truth and love and grace will win and heal; I pray that they win in your lifetime. I pray that you see, if not today, then tomorrow, the justice your truth secures. If not for you, then for our daughters or for our granddaughters.

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” (Muriel Rukeyser)

I was never meant to be enough for them.

The most tender and dangerous and important adventure of my life is being a mother. (It is not the most important adventure of every woman’s life, and that is ok!)

As my children grow, my arms must open wider and wider to let them run their own paths. Today, they both expressed a need that, as much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t meet. I felt sad, and I grieved. In both cases, though, someone else stepped in and did for them what I could not do. Someone else nurtured them and loved on them.

A time will come, over and over, when I must trust my children to the world. I am not enough for them. I never will be. I was never meant to be. I have to trust that there are other arms waiting to hug them, other eyes waiting to see them, other hearts waiting to know them.

There was a time when I held their very being. Their breath was mine, and mine was theirs.

That time was never going to last forever. They were always going to have to learn to breathe on their own.

And.

And there is a place outside of time, where I will always hold them, always bear them. I will be to them an anchor to being, to love, to belonging forever.

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My Mom Career

After getting a master’s in international relations, I started my career, supporting a campaign to end the genocide in Darfur. Then I helped create a nonprofit that partnered with locally-led initiatives in Rwanda to provide job training and education.

One of the things I observed while I was doing this work was how fiercely African mamas worked to take care of their families and others in their community. I use mama in a broad sense: all the women who nurture, from biological mothers to young women who, as teenagers, took in smaller children after the Rwandan genocide and raised them. I felt a conviction, for lack of a better word, that the most powerful, most influential thing anyone could ever do was take care of their closest community, starting with their selves and their families, and moving out in an ever-widening circle of compassion.

This shift in the way I was thinking about my work happened at the same time that I was, unexpectedly, becoming a biological mother myself. In several different ways, I moved from my “big” work to the very immediate work of growing a child.

Continuing to create my life – including my career – in the years since has been a sometimes pain-staking process that has required a lot of grace (from my self to my self) and patience and trusting that if I take a step, the path will appear. I still have to trust that, every day. I want to make the world a better place. I also want to be there to pick my daughter up from the bus stop in the afternoon. The meta shift in my thinking about what it means to serve my community exists alongside the real-life practice of caring for my family.

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I took this photo at a conference I attended this week, to look back on as a reminder that, as difficult and scary as it can be trying to create one’s own path of career and parenting, I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to do what I love most, which is: first, to love on my babies, and second, to build stronger communities through health and education access.

The topic of this education conference is the Future of Work. I hope to support educators preparing young people for meaningful, self-sustaining careers that allow them to be their best selves and take care of their families and communities. We all deserve that.

Goodnight, Clothes

Photo: If Moms Wore Tube Tops

Today I cleaned out the basement and parted with the remainder of clothes from my single life that I hadn’t heretofore realized I was, indeed, never, ever going to wear again.

In memoriam, an ode: Goodnight, Clothes (a la Goodnight, Moon)

Goodnight, short H&M skirt. I have no idea how I ran to catch a bus whilst wearing you.

Goodnight, hot pink strapless top. I ask, why?

Goodnight, fair isle sweater. Fair isle is classic. Maybe I will wear you again? No, I will not. It has been over ten years.

Goodnight, nightgown that I wore with heels and called a dress. The nightwear section was cheaper, and I was poor.

Goodnight, old clothes. Goodnight, 25-year-old Christa. You had so much fun.

Don’t worry, I am not sad. I cannot even tell you how comfortable it is to wear yoga pants and blouses that breathe and drive a minivan.

#metoo

Since about mid-September, I’ve been thinking back to, “This time last year….”

This time last year, we were closing in on the US presidential election. I was not certain that Clinton was going to win. I knew nothing was a given. But I was hopeful. Having grown up in evangelicalism, I have as many conservative friends as liberal ones. I know them to be good people. Surely the majority of Republican America would not vote for this man.

And yeah, yeah, HRC got 3 million more votes than Trump. That is the tiniest bit comforting. But just the tiniest bit, because Trump still got almost 63 million votes.

This time last year, I was daring to believe that there weren’t that many people who would put up with his shit. I was wrong.

I’ve been debating whether or not to post #metoo. Because of course, #metoo. Reading the avalanche of #metoo stories, I feel as I did watching the second presidential debate, almost exactly a year ago, when Trump incessantly interrupted Clinton and paced menacingly behind her: I feel like I can’t breathe.

Over the years, I’ve heard people say, “There’s no need for feminism anymore.” I witness that is their reality, that they feel no need for it, but there are millions of us gasping for the air of autonomy. To not be interrupted. To not have our space taken away from us. To not have to contort our selves into ever smaller shapes to make room for others’ sprawling colonization of our space. And of course, to not be raped. To not be blamed and shamed.

It is part of my story, one that I tell openly, that I’ve dealt with depression since I was 13 years old. I don’t view it as a pathology so much as a completely appropriate response to having read a history book. An appropriate response to the feeling of fingers beginning to creep around my neck, squeezing my throat, threatening my breath. I was so young, but I was already experiencing the silencing of my girl voice and objectification of my girl body.

One might call what I was feeling grief. As I’ve grown older, as I’ve surrounded my self with friends and a life partner and poets and other authors who are witnesses, who get it, I’ve come out the other side of grieving. The depression has subsequently eased.

I have to admit that as I’ve read all of the #metoo stories this week, I have been scared of grieving again. So much grief. How can we bear it? Especially, how can we bear it in this world where even a man who claims to be an ally, joining our marches, has assaulted dozens of women? Where a man stalks a woman, openly, in front of God and everybody, and 63 million people say, “Yes, he should be the most powerful man in the world”?

I don’t know the answer. All I know is #metoo.

This Is 36

Last night, I erased the past week from our dry erase five-week family calendar and filled in the dates for five weeks from now. I gasped when I wrote October 1 on the board. It’s hard to believe that I’m nearing the last couple of months of being 36, with a birthday in November.

I am amazed and comforted and excited about how my sense of self has continued to grow so much stronger and deeper in the past year.

During #thisis36, I became a full-time freelancer. I broke up with a bad therapist. For the first time ever, I pulled off my shirt in the middle of hot yoga class to move in just my sports bra, something I thought I could never do five years and twenty pounds ago. That is, when I weighed twenty pounds less but wasn’t as fully at home in my body. The image in the mirror has grown older, but I’ve grown kinder towards her. Not that the process has been seamless. There were about two weeks over Christmas when I was aghast and ashamed of a large new wrinkle that seemed to appear overnight. I was thinking about all the ways I could fix it, then suddenly, like a ribbon above my head, appeared “Or…” Or, I could accept it. It is hard to adequately convey in words how that Or shocked my body. The power of acceptance rippled through me and propelled me through a doorway, set me free in a place that I hadn’t been before.

To feel my increasing sense of agency and power makes me happy to be alive. This is 36.