What I Weigh

Scale

Yesterday, as I was changing in my gym locker room, I caught out of the corner of my eye the scale that stands watch in the room. I smiled as I realized that it’s been well over a year since I weighed my self. In fact, I can’t remember when the last time was.

Two days after I turned 15, a boy at church made an unkind comment about my weight. I stopped eating for almost a year. Even after I started eating again, I spent a long time unlearning the harmful messages that I had internalized for years, that made it possible for one comment to finally break me.

On my 35th birthday, I threw my scale into a dumpster, and I bought my self and my family a dining room table that was exactly what I wanted, around which we could nurture our selves and laugh and cry and witness each other and accept each other.

In a few weeks, I turn 38. I now weigh two little girls who make me laugh all the time. I weigh 11 years of marriage. I weigh living in another country, where I found my self. I weigh reading books that make my brain light up. I weigh coffee in the white mug that fits perfectly in my hands in the mornings. I weigh walks in my neighborhood, stopping to take pictures of flowers. I weigh girl friends who love me and whom I love back. I weigh quotes from saints that I’ve copied down and pinned to a board that hangs above my desk. I weigh so many things, that I’ve put away in my being to keep for warmth and nourishment and happiness. I am full, and it is enough. Not too much, not too little. It is just right. I am just right.

 

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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.

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.