Tag Archives: V-day

Revealing Our True Selves

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It was a 6th grade assembly and I sat in the bleachers with my mouth hanging open as I watched a visiting jump rope squad perform a routine to Michael Jackson’s hit, Billy Jean.

“She is so cute!” Billy said pointing to the confident smiling girl in the center of the floor.  The boys quickly agreed that Jill (God I even remember her name!) was the cutest and I began to feel my skin grow hot and green.  It was another confirmation that what I needed most in life–to be loved–existed outside of my ordinary power.  If wanted to be like the confident girl that everyone adored, some serious changes were in order.

I began to grow out my hair (the whole mullet thing was seriously cramping my style).  I begged my mom for new clothes.  But even as I tried to change the outside, something was still fundamentally wrong with me.  I began making a list of all my physical inadequacies:  bony knees, glasses, no breasts (not much has changed in all these years).  I began to dread that since I couldn’t change these things that I would be doomed to live in the Land of Nerdom for all of eternity.

When my elementary school announced we would be starting our own jump rope team called the Jammin’ Jumpers I shed my usual shyness and ran to the front of the room to sign up.  Every girl was allowed to come to the practices, but if we wanted to travel to other schools and perform we had to make the cut.

I practiced for hours at home every night until I could do the routine in my sleep.  This was no small feat for a girl who didn’t even know how to jump rope and was called klutz by her family because she was often found splayed out on the ground with no explanation for why she just fell on her face.  Try outs were one week away and I was ready.

During our final practice the girls began to gossip about who was going to make the cut and who wasn’t.  Suddenly I realized the intense anxiety that filled the room as all of our eyes fell on Jenny.  If I lived in the Land of Nerdom, she lived in a land somewhere beyond it–in the next solar system.

Jenny was adopted and she looked different.  She was Native American with dark skin, wide chocolate eyes she looked at the world as if she had come from another planet.  I saw her jump rope tangled up in her feet. Tears welling up in her eyes.  I ran over to her and asked her if she wanted to practice with me after school since she lived on my street.  She looked up at me and smiled.

We practiced every day up until tryouts.  She told me how nervous she was.  I told her to watch my feet.  I promised to stand by her during tryouts.  I told her I would whisper the moves so she knew what do to.

Finally the big day arrived.  “Billy Jean is not my lover,” blared through the gym speakers.  “Criss cross,” I whispered to Jenny.  “One, two, three, four, heel toe,” I whispered.

The teachers made two initial cuts.  Jenny and I stood in the center of the gym with a few other girls. The teachers asked us to perform the routine one last time.  I was so relieved that I hadn’t made the cut yet so I could help Jenny.  I continued to watch Jenny’s feet and whisper the moves to her.  I was so proud of her.  She was nailing it.

At the end of the routine the teachers said, “We could tell which of you had learned your routine, and which of you were watching other’s girl’s feet because you had not practiced enough.”  Then they read the last cut.  When they called Jenny’s name we both screamed and jumped up and down.  But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

The teachers folded up their papers, stood up and congratulated the new Jammin’ Jumpers.  And I was not one of them.

“But you knew the routine!” Several of my peers gathered around me to console me.  They knew that I knew the routine.  They knew that I had worked with Jenny all week.  But the teacher’s did not.  I remember that pain of being unseen.  Of having no words and no power to change the outcome of the situation.  I remember the dark clouds that rolled in that day.  The way I curled up under my covers and cried when I got home.  I remember that feeling of exclusion, as if my exile from belonging was now publicly official.

The teacher’s were right, though.  I was not looking at them and smiling.  I was looking at Jenny’s feet and whispering her the moves.  I was sacrificing my best so that Jenny would make the cut.  Only I had no idea how much I was sacrificing.

As a woman, I find that sacrificing everything–even my success–is a very easy thing to do. I was raised in a Christian home that valued service and shunned selfishness.  I looked to Jesus who gave even his life away for others.  I learned how to be a spiritual doormat.  The nuance I was missing was seeing clearly who I AM.  Often when I let others define me I feel like I am a nobody.  On the other hand,  Jesus (as ego-inflated as this may sound) knew he was God (at least in some of the gospels)  and it was this radical audacity that really pissed off the religious leaders.  He was claiming his own power.  A power that he knew was divine.  I had yet to find a connection to that kind of power in my life.  For so long that power remained outside of my self.

Psychologists tell us how important mirroring is in forming our early identities as children.  When we have been abused or neglected that work of seeing our true essence is even more difficult.  As I have grown up I have often had women confess that they hated me initially because I was tall and beautiful, which I still don’t get because when I think of “me” I think of the picture posted at the top of this article.  I think of the girl who didn’t make the Jammin’ Jumpers.  How blessed are we when we are surrounded by people who see our value and divine worth.  (Even when we sport mullets.)

What I am finally learning as I near 40, is that belonging is not about fitting in at all. Brene Brown reminds us that actually fitting in is the ultimate barrier to belonging.  Her research has shown the tolls of trying to twist ourselves into something else for others.  Belonging begins with self acceptance.  For me it begins by loving the nerd that I am.

I still don’t know my limits, I don’t know exactly who I am and what I am capable of.  But I am testing those limits and gathering the courage to face whatever learning opportunities present themselves.  I am becoming mindful of the twisting that I can do for others (this has nothing to do with yoga)  in order to belong.  I am learning to distance my true self from the voice that is constantly hounding me:  “You’re going to get run through the ringer for that one.”  “You’ll never make a living doing what you love.”  “You have nothing to give.”  I am learning that this voice wants to protect me from future harm.  But it goes too far when it protects me from truly living.

So I am learning to live with less judgement.  To accept each day as having an abundance of grace and all that I need on my path.  I am meditating on the great I AM.  When I meditate on I AM I cannot see myself separated from the mystery of creation.  Instead I become keenly aware that the life force of the universe dwells also inside of me.  Jesus called this God.  It has also been called Love.  A love that is stronger than death.  And it’s this realization of incarnate love that allows us to make the great sacrifices in life.

I remember watching Jenny run down the hallway with all the Jammin’ Jumpers.  I had never seen her body radiate so much joy.  And in the midst of my own feelings of rejection, her joy touched my heart and I was able to share in her bliss.  The illusion was that I had been cut off and separated from that joy–but the truth was that I had been a part of it all along.

Today, I know that I am not the outcast I thought I was.  I am the fruit of creation’s ancient journey.  I am made of star dust.  I am a miracle.  I am enough just the way I am.    And so are you.

Michael Jackson was right, Billy Jean is not my lover.  I am the lover I have been looking for all along.  And you are yours.   May you have compassion on yourself this day, and receive who you are.

Happy Valentines Day!

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My Religion Needs Feminism Because

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“Lady Wisdom” Art by Melanie Rogers

My religion needs feminism

because I am a girl.

My religion needs feminism

because we are women, mothers, daughters, sisters, and grandmothers.

My religion needs feminism

because the Bible says, “Let us create humanity in our image,” but the majority of Christians only worship the He part.

My religion needs feminism

because Jesus stood up for women, but the early church fathers and 2000 years of Christian tradition has deified and canonized men’s voices, while highlighting the Roman kingly virtures of strength, power, perfection, rule, victory and might.

My religion needs feminism

because trying to be perfect and victorious is not good for me or my community or the planet.

My religion needs feminism

because I used to think woman was the source of evil,

because many people still think she is.

My religion needs feminism

because Eve has been blamed for too long,

because eating from the Tree of Knowledge has many benefits, as does curiosity.

My religion needs feminism

because the female body is no less holy than the male.

My religion needs feminism

because Jesus told us to take his body, but it is our bodies that have been taken.

My religion needs feminism

because when I nursed my children I knew what Jesus meant when he said my flesh is food indeed.

My religion needs feminism

because everyday sexism still exists, because some interpretations of the Bible actually encourage it,

because my seminary still discussed whether or not women should be ordained.

My religion needs feminism

because Mary’s virginity was never the point.

My religion needs feminism

because the Bible reveals God in the feminine form as Shekinah, Lady Wisdom, and Sophia, and countless women but it still sounds weird to say, “Dear Mother,” or “In Her name we pray”

because I’ve never prayed to a She at church. Ever. (And I’ve been to MANY).

My religion needs feminism

because I want to pray to Her, but it still feels so strange to pray this way,

because I want to pray with others until it sounds completely natural, completely knee-jerk,

until She’s not just an idea, but an incarnation.

My religion needs feminism

because I’m so tired of doing mental gymnastics to translate the imperial masculine church words into the Living Word that speaks to me.

My religion needs feminism

because we are neither whole nor holy without Her.

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Rising with the Unnamed Woman

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I don’t know her name.  But she and I have been called the same.

It’s been over 20 years since it happened to me.  I’m just now experiencing, at age 37, how it feels to transition from surviving to thriving.  I’m not carrying around a big secret anymore.  I wrote a memoir.  I’m not afraid to stand in front of a crowd.  I do it every week.  I am not afraid to speak.  I sing.  It took over ten years of therapy.  I’ve had to work through drug addictions and build self esteem.  I still have my bad days still when something triggers me and I’m fourteen again and the floor opens up beneath my feet and I spiral down the bottomless pit.  Like when I watched the news coverage of Steubenville.

I wanted to die because the whole high school called me a slut.  Because the rapist bragged.  Because I was the new girl and I had no friends.  I cut my wrist.  I didn’t have the national news empathizing with the rapist.  I didn’t have stupid bloggers calling for a whore registry or saying women enjoy being raped.  And so I am reaching out across the internet to tell the young woman that you have my support.

I am saddened that I have not seen the mainstream media report on how rape can effect a woman in her lifetime,  or provided resources, but has shown me instead that rape culture remains alive and well.  I caught myself thinking, “I’m so glad I never said anything at the time.”  (FEMINISTING had one of the most powerful, spot on responses to the verdict and the media’s reaction.  Thank you!)

To the unnamed woman:  I am proud of you for speaking.  For your bravery.  You give me courage.  You are helping us change the world.

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Fatimah, You are Rising!

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Under the moon she grew

Under her bare feet she knew

Terra strong and terra true

Under the moon she knew

Fatimah, take my hand

Fatimah, run free across the land

One night they came into your bed

And they smiled when you said

No please don’t

And they laughed when you bled

After they had their fun

They dumped your body on your father’s front lawn

Fatimah, take my hand

Fatimah, your blood curses our land

You were food for the hungry

You were drink for the thirsty

For their sins you were atoning

Though you did not die willingly

Mama save me! you screamed

Right before your father shot you

In front of your family

Fatimah, take my hand

Fatimah, take me to the Promised Land

This poem was written in honor of a young girl named Fatimah who was gang raped and then died in an honor killing performed by her family.  They are still haunted the experience and say that Fatimah visits them in their dreams, asking, “Why did you do this to me?”  (Fatimah is also the name of Muhammad’s daughter, a figure that resembles the Virgin Mary.)

Creech, Jessica.  Fatimah.  Lifting Women’s Voices, Prayers to Change the World (c) Morehead Publishing, 2009.

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Rock Baby, You are Rising!

In honor of V-day and with One Billion Rising I have decided to rise with a song dedicated to the all the high school girls who’s dignity is threatened by sexual violence.  Here are the lyrics and a performance of Rock Baby (as it appeared in Lifting Women’s Voices, Prayers to Change the World (c) Morehouse Publishing 2009).

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I was thirteen when they had me

On the concrete as I said please

I hope they like me now

They were sixteen and seventeen

The skaters, the strangers and me

The new girl in town

Take my flesh and take my blood

I needed so much love

So I gave my flesh and I gave my blood

My Rock Baby

High fives all around the room

After she cried in the bathroom

‘Cause the blood scared her so

You popped her cherry, boy! Way to go!

Take her flesh and take her blood

O my God she thought that was love

When she gave her flesh an she gave her blood

Her Rock Baby

Rumors gathered steam

She fucked the whole football team

Now every guy wants a piece of meat

Isn’t this her dream?

From prude to whore what a pendulum swing!

Take her flesh and take her blood

You know she doesn’t deserve love

Go on and take her flesh and take her blood

That girl’s just a slut

Your Rock Baby

She’s been under our covers

Under our skin

Under all this hate we keep her in

She’s our miracle in the making

Our Rock Baby

Even if you can’t hear her

When he enters the city

When he opens the gate

You will hear the rocks say,

Prepare the way! Prepare the way!

Prepare the way!

I will speak

Today.

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