Monday, October 6, 2014
Women who Run with the Moon
“As women, when we’re children we’re taught to enter the world with big hearts. Blooming hearts. Hearts bigger than our damn fists. We are taught to forgive - constantly - as opposed to what young boys are taught: Revenge, to get ‘even.’ Our empathy is constantly made appeals to, often demanded for. If we refuse to show kindness, we are reprimanded. We are not good women if we do not crush our bones to make more space for the world, if we do not spread our entire skin over rocks for others to tread on, if we do not kill ourselves in every meaning of the word in the process of making it cozy for everyone else. It is the heat generated by the burning of our bodies with which the world keeps warm. We are taught to sacrifice so much for so little. This is the general principle all over the world.
By the time we are young women, we are tired. Most of us are drained. Some of us enter a lock of silence because of that lethargy. Some of us lash out. When I think of that big, blooming heart we once had, it looks shriveled and worn out now. When I was teaching, I had a young student named Mariam. She was only 11 years old. Some boy pushed her around in class, called her names, broke her spirit for the day. We were sitting under a chestnut tree on a field trip and she asked me if a boy ever hurt me. I told her many did and I destroyed them one by one. I think that’s the first time she ever heard the word ‘destroyed.’ We rarely teach our girls to fight back for the right reasons.
Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time. Take your time. You are taught to hide, censor, move about without messing up decorum for a man’s comfort. Whether it’s said or not, you’re taught balance. Forget that. Displease. Disappoint. Destroy. Be loud, be righteous, be messy. Mess up and it’s fine – you are learning to unlearn. Do not see yourself like glass. Like you could get dirty and clean. You are flesh. You are not constant. You change. Society teaches women to maintain balance and that robs us of our volatility. Our mercurial hearts. Calm and chaos. Love only when needed; preserve otherwise.
Do not be a moth near the light; be the light itself. Do not let a man’s ocean-big ego swallow you up. Know what you want. Ask yourself first. Decide your own pace. Decide your own path. Be cruel when needed. Be gentle only when needed. Collapse and then re-construct. When someone says you are being obscene, say yes I am. When they say you are being wrong, say yes I am. When they say you are being selfish, say yes I am. Why shouldn’t I be? How do you expect a woman to stand on her two feet if you keep striking her at the ankles.
There are multiple lessons we must teach our young girls so that they render themselves their own pillars instead of keeping male approval as the focal point of their lives. It is so important to state your feelings of inconvenience as a woman. We are instructed to tailor ourselves and our discomfort - constantly told that we are ‘whining’ and ‘nagging’ and ‘complaining too much.’ That kind of silence is horribly violent, that kind of insistence upon uniformly nodding in agreement to your own despair, and smiling emptily so no man is ever uncomfortable around us. Male-entitlement dictates a woman’s silence. If we could see the mimetic model of the erasure of a woman’s voice, it would be an incredibly bloody sight.
On a breezy July night, my mother and I were sleeping under the open sky. Before dozing off, I told her that I think there is a special place in heaven where all wounded women bury their broken hearts and their hearts grow into trees that only give fruit to the good and poison to the bad. She smiled and said Ameen. Then she closed her eyes.”
— A Woman of War by Mehreen Kasana
Brilliant. Brought me to tears. I recently had someone brutally unfriend me based on a sort of essay/rant I had written on Facebook. Someone I held as a dear, dear friend no longer speaks to me, no longer looks at me, or smiles at me, based on something I wrote online. That had happened to me. My very own life experience that I chose to write about. That did not, in any way, involve her. Or anyone she knew. That she didn't agree with. And didn't agree that I should write about it, and didn't agree that I should so openly share my experience with others. And didn't have any problem sharing her opinion on the matter. Screaming her opinion, rather. When she was yelling at me, I was test-driving her car and trying to keep the peace. As she shouted and berated me, maintaining that I was out of line to write what I'd written and that I overshare, I forced myself to remain focused on driving. Turning on the turn signal instead of the windshield wipers, making sure not to veer in and out of lanes, and smile and try my very best to remain calm and rational until I could get to safety. I'd been in a similar position before, in a car, no less. That prisoner feeling crept up again. But this time I smiled. I did not panic. There was enough of that going on. Her energy felt demonic and thick and vicious and it scared me, but I smiled. I smiled because of the year and a half of seeing a gracious therapist who has unconditioned my mind and retaught me how to think. I smiled because I chose joy over fear, even in a terrifying moment. I smiled because if I'd gone there, if I'd gone off the edge, I'd join her. I'd crash the car. Or be stranded somewhere. I smiled tenderly and used quiet, kind words. But I stood my ground. I was not a doormat. She could not throw her vitriol all over me and expect me to accept it. She could not push me over, even though I am usually off balance and would normally cave. I was defiant. I did not raise my voice, though I was tempted. I defended my writing and my words. Maybe for the first time in our relationship, I displayed a firm backbone. I was honest but civil. I didn't gush or put on dramatics.
It destroyed her. I watched as slowly her composure broke, her eyes went wild, her eyebrows raised high, her voice raised, considerably at first, for she expected me to back down. To cower. And then at an all-time high. Few people have shouted that way at me. She went bat shit crazy. She was screaming and I was steering. It was like a bad nightmare.
It breaks my heart each and every day, to think that my loud and shouting truth, the voice I am only able to express through my truest passion, writing, turned someone so far against me that she slammed a door in my face and screamed she would no longer be my friend anymore. That she was so incised by respectful words I'd strung together and shared on a social media forum. But her opinion of my writing is fine. I was not hurt that someone didn't like what I'd written. It happens every day. I don't write so that people will bow down to what I say. But I do expect that as a woman, writing about my own experiences which happened to me, another woman would at least give me the decency of respecting me. As a woman. As a human. I might not like John Boehner. I actually do not have the stomach for anyone in the entire GOP, women included, and personally believe that this country would function much more easily if the entire Republican party was done away with. But I respect their rights to their opinions. That is their civil liberty. I don't have to like them.
It happened in May. I have not been able to think of anything at much length, since. The whole situation was so intense and so awful and so odd that in the aftermath, I was perplexed. Which led to feeling broken down, completely. I stopped writing cold turkey, stopped getting close to people, stopped smiling at everyone like once before, stopped going to church, stopped picking up the phone, stopped texting, stopped falling in love. I screamed and cried and didn't eat and when I did I vomited. But I did not apologize. I did not beg, go running back, nor make a million pleas, as was custom before. I stood my ground. Painfully. Nothing has affected me this way. Not my parents' divorce, not my own nightmare of a breakup, not a trauma that would land me in years of therapy, not a lot of things. But I stood by my writing. Like a beast. Like a mama bear. Like a hyena. Well no. Not at all like a hyena. As much as I wanted to cackle insanely, I just could not bring myself out of shock. It was one of those experiences like out of You've Got Mail...although this time, I was victorious. I did not say precisely what I thought of to say later. But still. I stood up for myself. And I was thrown out. Literally out of the car. Figuratively, out of the friendship.
Afterward I thought I stopped caring. But the fact is, I do care. I care more. I write more. I get even closer to people. I break boundaries. Tear down walls. Within myself. I do not give my power away. It feels good to hold onto one's willpower. I will smile at everyone, even when my smile meets a glare and darkened eyes that want me gone and out of sight. Even when I say a greeting and am ignored. Greet anyway. My heart broke once again with the ending of that fast and furious friendship. Tonight something inside was re-ignited. Thank you to my dear soul, Margarita, truly, sharing this piece of writing with me and for giving me this most precious gift. Passing this along. Breaking my heart wide open again. I love you, friend.
Posted by Shannon McClure at 10:54 PM
Saturday, October 4, 2014
I did not write yesterday. I did not write today. And now I have a zit.
I think the universe is telling me to write. Even if I don't think it matters. Even if I am not ready.
And to buy face wash.
I am a writer who wrestles, on a second-by-second basis, with anxiety and doubt. I have anxiety about the weird chicken smell coming from the kitchen right now, even though I made fajitas hours ago. With the fan on. I have anxiety about being 31 and never having had my career yet. I'm not in the middle of a booming career. Not at the start of one. Not at the end of one and starting another. Not married and devout, so as to be supporting my husband's career. Not a mother, so as to be home all day entertaining little hellions (which I'm actually looking forward to. Very much. One day.)all day. Nope. I am just a 31 year old who moved home last April and as of this past April, is renting a room from her family. Who have been so kind as to take me in. I have anxiety about the fact that I could fall into a major vertigo attack at any given moment, and even more anxiety about not having one, thinking the last one was truly the last. My anxieties have anxieties. And not taking any kind of sedatives, I have chosen to face the anxieties head-on and to treat my dis-ease (Louise Hay, thanks) with essential oils.
But sometimes 2 drops of oregano oil under the tongue just doesn't cut it.
And sometimes, no matter how scattered we've become, we are forced to take a step back and stop rushing and take a good hard look.
And then doubt comes creeping in. I have more anxieties than doubts, but the doubts are starting to rear their ugly heads again. Doubt about being the best writer I can be and the best human I can be at the same time. Or even just about making sure to write daily. And yet hold a day job. Here my doubt becomes being a good person but is a writer a good person, truly? Don't writers uncover things, dust off and expose? Don't essayists, my chosen genre, especially have to dig deep and be more self-absorbed than most writers? Doesn't being very self-focused actually aid the essayist? Exposing the real issues of society? Giving light to dark matters? Speaking up when everyone else chooses silence?
I tweet and I Facebook. But do I actually write?
When it comes down to it, am I actually writing?
Or am I just looking to see how many people responded to something I quickly churned out on Facebook. Is that writing? The kind I want to do? I need to be gentle with myself which I touched on last time but I also need to step back and take a good hard look at where I am and where I'm headed and what I did today to get me closer to being the writer I dream of becoming. There are books in me. That aren't being written. When will they get written if they're not started now? I have been so focused on others' plans that I haven't been going for my own.
Waking up at noon today was relaxing. I chilled in pajamas and then memorized lines for a local play opening in 2 weeks. Which doesn't do anything for what I want to be doing. But I did set the intention to participate in community theater once again. And then literally the next night I was asked to audition. I didn't think it would lead to what it's lead to. Having rehearsal almost every night of the week instead of being well-meaning but aimless. Meeting new people. Realizing I can, in fact, memorize a script if I work hard enough at it. Stumbling through blocking. Be(com)ing comfortable in my own skin. This experience which at the beginning filled me with doubt is now filling me with confidence. Not in myself. But in the universe knowing and life perfectly unfolding, imperfectly. The job I'm overqualified for but now thankful for, the relationship I was certain would blossom over the course of this year which never, in fact, did. My sister's strength and love and insistence in revealing to me the truth of that "relationship" situation, as painful as it was. And the truth which was then revealed to me (by me): that I have much work to do on myself before ever getting romantically involved with someone else. I was in doubt and denial for so long, but now feel peace and even grace. I am just not able to love somebody else as deeply as I want to until I can love myself as deeply as I need to.
I know this year is almost over. And when I mull it over, it is hard to find lessons. I had anticipations and expectations, several of which did not come to light. I can dwell on them or I can face them. I can see the lessons for what they were. They taught me things. To be strong. To be bold. To be less absorbed in others. To be more focused on my own actions and less focused on the actions of others. To react less.
I know it's October. And the beginning of the month, at that. There are opportunities afoot, and opportunities as-yet unheard of. But they're there. Weirdly, despite Mercury retrograding, I feel this shift coming on. The trick is to face anxiety and doubt head-on in the next few months and live in each moment. I'm feeling very uncreative tonight but I wanted to at least write something.
Now maybe the zit will go away.
Posted by Shannon McClure at 9:09 PM