P is for Primer

Eight of us sat around a low round table in the reading corner. Mrs. L gave me a thin, soft book, “Janet and Mark.” “That’s your primer,” she smiled at me. The words were fuzzy until I held the book close to my face. We each read the first two pages aloud repeating the same words over and over. “Take your primers home and practice reading the first two pages,” Mrs. L. instructed us.

At the dining room table, I read aloud softly, “Janet. Mark.” I longed to turn the page and read more but recalled Mrs. L.’s voice telling us to practice reading the first two pages. I closed the primer.

“May I read the big Bible?” I asked the woman peeled potatoes in the kitchen. She scrubbed my hands and opened the big Bible on the dining room table. “Exodus,” I read.

The next afternoon, chin resting on the heel of my hand, I repeated in an almost voiceless whisper as Ellie read “Come, Mark. Come, Mark, come.”

Janet and Mark don’t know very many words, I mutely informed the Presence.

At the minister’s house, I practiced reading the next pages of “Janet and Mark.” Then I approached the woman for help with the big Bible. “Don’t you have any homework?” she asked.

“I’m finished,” I told her.

“You’re in the most advanced reading group,” she insisted. “Are you sure you’re done?” I showed her my primer. “Oh well, they must know what they’re doing,” she sighed as she placed the big Bible on the table.

The next day we read two more pages aloud.

May I just peek? I mutely asked the Presence as each child repeated the same words. From behind my primer, I glanced at the other children. They peered intently at their primers. Mrs. L. focused on the child who was reading aloud. Quietly, I turned the page and continued reading. When I reached page eleven, I stopped wide-eyed and open-mouthed, “There’s a picture instead of the word bike!” my voice was a soft whisper. I peered out quickly. No one had noticed. I continued reading. There it is again! I voicelessly but indignantly told the Presence. Pictures but not the word ‘bird’! I mutely told the Presence, Nothing happens. A whole book and nothing happens.

That afternoon, I did not practice reading the primer. Instead, I read Exodus.

Five Minute Friday: Tomorrow

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Matt 6:34)

tomorrowAs a child, I looked forward to tomorrow. By the time I was six, I knew Matthew 6:34 by heart and wanted so badly to “let the day’s own trouble be sufficient.” But each day held so much trouble, a surfeit not a sufficiency. I needed tomorrow.

And then it came. And was different but so much like yesterday — still the surfeit and not the sufficiency. Then came the therapist who told me, “You don’t want to be an ordinary person.” I was confused.

But he was right. I thought tomorrow held the extraordinary and that was what I had been reaching for: I knew I needed extraordinary healing. But today holds the ordinary people and activities that God uses to bring extraordinary healing.

Today holds the friends who are only doing what is ordinary for them but is extraordinary for me. Today holds the smiling face that pierces my heart when I awake from anesthesia: on too many yesterdays, I had awakened alone. Today holds the priest who offers to make an appointment with me and does: on too many yesterdays, priests had dismissed their own suggestion that we should meet and dismissed me.

Today holds ordinary that pierces my heart and heals me. I won’t find that in tomorrow. It’s not over the next hill, nor down in some hidden valley. It’s right here in the midst of a world that so often holds a surfeit of trouble instead of a sufficiency.

 

*****************************

Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

O is for Ouija Board Bible

open-bible1I opened my eyes and read the verse above my forefinger,  “Depart, depart, go out thence…”*

“Huh?” My voice became a series of squeaky, coloratura notes, “Yesterday, You told me ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!’** Today You tell me to depart? You keep doing this, giving me contradictory messages. What am I supposed to do?! How can I know?!”

As my Bible fell onto the bed, I reached for my brush. “I don’t get You.” Each word was accompanied by an angry pull of the brush through my hair. “What am I supposed to do?!” More hasty strokes. “If you want me to go, tell me where!” my arm stopped plying the brush midway. “If You want me to stay, just tell me and tell me what I’m supposed to do!” My voice reached a crescendo, “Just tell me what You want me to do!” I quickly went to my door, cracked it, and listened. “At least I’m the only one here,” I said softly.

“I can’t do this anymore!” I told my Friend. “I can’t continue to play Ouija board Bible!” My breathe came quickly, “I don’t care what Caitlin says. It’s too confusing. I’m not a spiritualist. Opening the Bible with closed eyes and then reading at the place my finger lands is like using the Bible as a Ouija board…” Thoughts percolated within my heart. I waited for them to coalesce into words.

My forehead crinkled. I breathed a loud sigh through my nose, “It’s like trying to force answers out of You to ease my anxiety. But maybe the anxiety is the cross You want me to carry now. It’s not as if I don’t know what You’ve been telling me all along, ‘Wait.’ I just want to know how long I must wait and You won’t tell me that. That’s why I’m playing Ouija board Bible, to circumnavigate You. To get answers You won’t give.”

A calmer face looked back at me from the mirror, “All right. No more Ouija board Bible. When I’m anxious, I’ll tell You. And when You have something to say to me, I’ll just trust You to tell me. You’ve been telling me all my life, I guess I can trust You now.”

I glanced at the Bible lying on my bed. “Please,” I begged. “Help me to wait.”

* Isaiah 52:11

** Psalm 27:14

N is for Not My Fault

Their deaths were not your fault.

The Voice pulled me from sleep. “Not my fault?” I sleepily mumbled. I reached for my glasses from the night table. The scratching sound as I slid them into place roused my mind from fogginess. My head turned towards the clock radio. 3:00 a.m. glowed red in the dark room.

Their deaths were not your fault.

The Voice, the Voice that had told me I was going to New York, that I had been happy once and would be happy again, resounded within me.

“God?” it was a small, high pitched plea.

Listen and write.

I switched on the lamp and took up my journal and pen that had become tangled in my bed clothes.

Your parents’ deaths were not your fault. You are seeing what happened with the eyes of a child.

I wrote: Their deaths are not my fault?

No. They’re not. Do you remember when your father got you back? Where was your nurse?

I don’t know. She wasn’t there. Marmar was there; she made me chicken soup from a foil packet. I sat on Papa’s lap. Siobhan was there. The cook was there. But the iron-faced woman was gone.

Do you remember what your father said?

My lips spoke the words as I wrote them, “He was angry because she hadn’t watched me.” The words echoed through the room, bounced off the walls until they hit and pierced my heart. “She didn’t watch me.” I wrote and repeated the words to the Voice in wondered puzzlement.

That was her job, to care for you, to watch you. You were a little child in her care. She hurt you and neglected you. She was angry with you.

I know. I’ve never understood that. She choked me with the tie of my sailor dress and when I cried out, she told Marmar that I was misbehaving. I think she hated me.

Your parents never knew. And you didn’t know how to tell them. You were four. And you had already had such painful experiences. You had already learned to hide your head in your mother’s lap and push the pain away.

Was it the iron-faced woman’s fault?

It was not your fault. You were not much more than a toddler. You hid from the person who hurt you. That’s what children do. That’s what you did when you were older and you often escaped.

It was really not my fault?

No, it was not your fault.

A tear trickled down my cheek. A pregnant silence filled the room.

Child, their deaths were not your fault.

My lips trembled as I wrote and whispered the words, “But I thought they were.”

You were wrong.

“I was wrong?” I asked aloud with a sniff and then quickly wrote the words in my journal.

You were wrong. Their deaths were not your fault.

Their deaths were not my fault.

I stared at the last words on the page, whispered them again and again. Tears coursed down my cheeks, dampened my pillowcase after I switched off the light, as I fell asleep.

not my faultBeep! Beep! Beep! The bright morning blur resolved into a red 7:00 a.m. once I had pulled my glasses on. A fresh fragrance filled the room. I leaped out of bed and went to look at my face in the mirror. My eyes did not appear ravaged by late-night tears. I seemed younger somehow. My heart longed to leap and sing.

“It was not my fault,” I firmly repeated to my reflection. “I was wrong.” My lip twisted in relieved pain. I smiled though tears, “Beloved, I was wrong! I was wrong!”

M is for My Fault

Beloved,

(My heart softly whispered words as my pen recorded them.)

m is for my fault 2It’s my fault. All of it.

(Tears slipped from the corners of my eyes. I grabbed tissue from the box that sat beside me on my bed. The whisper in my heart grew softer.)

Had I not hidden from the iron-faced woman, I would not have been taken. The man with the mustache would not have tried to rape me.

(The words became a shrill, soft scream squeezed from my heart into my mind.)

There! I’ve written it. Is that what You wanted me to do? Is that why You’ve been poking at me, sending me scary dreams; I’ve just felt so yucky, so off.

Oh Beloved, I haven’t told Dr. V. about the rape. When he asks about that time, I say I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember.

(The shrill scream ended leaving me enervated and limp.)

But I do remember. I remember that I ran away from her. I remember that I hid. I remember arms catching me around my stomach, a hand over my mouth, being carried away. I remember the room in the cold, dank place. I remember screaming for Marmar and Papa. I remember the man with the mustache. I remember his sneering voice. I remember what he did to me, how he hurt me. I remember the rat on the bureau and pushing myself into a corner of the bed so it wouldn’t see me and get me. I whispered, “Rat! Rat!” so softly, so quietly, when I wanted to scream and scream and scream, but the man might come back.

It is my fault. All of it. Marmar and Papa would never have sent me away if I hadn’t hid. They would be alive. I would have been with them. It’s all my fault.

(Inside, I was quiet with misery, drained of the secret I had hidden even from myself.)

I can’t tell Dr. V. I can’t tell anyone, ever. I’m responsible for killing my own parents. Or… If not for killing them, I’m responsible that they died.

(My lip twisted itself into a pained curl.)

I didn’t know. Beloved, I really didn’t know. I only knew that the iron-faced woman hated me. She did mean things to me, she hurt me. I don’t even remember her name. She was just the iron-faced woman. I don’t know if she ever smiled, except that time while she was choking me. And she always lied when I cried out because she had done something to me. She always said it was my fault.

But I should have just put up with it. I should have just let her hurt me. Then Marmar and Papa would be alive.

L is for Love The Unlovable

Words were stuck somewhere between my mind and my mouth; my lips would not open.

“How are you,” Dr. Vogwall inquired.

I looked back at him in silence. My brow furrowed. I closed my eyes for a moment. Neat printing appeared across the screen of my mind. I breathed in, “I’ve been writing songs.” Something had reduced my voice to a soft, flatness.

“I know,” he replied.

I cleared my throat and tried again, “These are new songs, different songs. The others are about comfort. These are about…” my voice trailed off. I took a deep breath and tried again, “They’re about the minister and his family.” My eyes opened wide to catch the response on Dr. Vogwall’s face. My ears stained for the words that might fall from his lips.

His face remained impassive. I looked towards the ceiling and then down at my hands against my grey skirt. “I wrote lyrics about the man, the minister,” pleading filled my voice. I sniffed. Was that a tear? “I don’t know where they came from…” my voice trailed off.

“Would you like to share them?” Dr. Vogwall inquired, his face still impassive.

For a moment, I probed my heart and mind, Do I want to share them? Then, “Maybe some of them.” My voice became clear though it remained soft and flat, “‘You never knew you had struck out already, there was no way you could win. How could I love you when that would betray him, I hated you most for who you weren’t’ that’s part of one verse…” my voice trailed off.

“What does that mean to you?”

“I don’t know,” I whimpered and scratched my chin. “Well… I suppose I do,” my voice was a squeaky, almost whisper. “I think I loved him,” though I sniffed, the tear that had been hovering in the corner of my eye ran down my cheek. “How can that be?”

“How do you think it can be?” Dr. Vodwall’s impassiveness continued.

“I don’t know. He did horrible things to me. He was unlovable. But when I found out he was dead, I wasn’t happy. Why wasn’t I happy?” I pleaded.

“Why weren’t you?”

“I don’t know. A nun once told me a story about a man who died and didn’t know Christ. In the story, Christ invites the man to come be with Him. At first, the man demurs but then he accepts because Christ is so loving and gracious. I know Christ invited. I think I hope the man accepted. I think I want to see him in heaven,” my voice was a puzzled snuffle. “But how can that be? How can I love the unlovable? That’s really what the song is saying. How can all the horrible things he did to me mean less than that he wasn’t my father.”

The flood of tears surpassed my ability to hold them back. My arms across one another in a shivering self-hug and I rocked myself in the leather chair. Dr. Vogwall waited.

“He was unlovable,” I announced when my tears had abated.

“When you were a child, yes. But now?” Dr. Vogwall inquired.

“How can he be lovable now when he wasn’t then?!” I demanded.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” I propped my right elbow on the arm rest and eased my forehead into my hand. The ticking of a clock filled the silence. “I guess…” I began. After a deep breath, I began again, “I’ve changed. He didn’t change. He got worse. That’s why he’s dead. But I’ve changed. I think praying for him has changed me.” I looked up to see Dr. Vogwall slowly nodding his head.

“I can love the unlovable,” I told him. “And…” my breath became a whisper again. I forced more volume, “And I think I can see him as a man instead of a monster.” Tears trickled down my cheeks. “He was a monster. He really was. But he was also just a man.” I sniffed and daubed at my tears with a fresh handful of tissues. Then words tumbled from my mouth, “It hurts so much that he never gave me the chance to love him. It hurts so much that I have to love him in absentia.”

K is for Kern

His plane is landing soon. I rush to the airport; I must see him. When I arrive the gate has been changed. I run to the new gate. Now, the terminal has also been changed. I run through the airport to the new terminal. Each time I arrive, there is a change. I’ll never find him, I mutely tell my Friend as I continue running. Finally, I see him: salt and pepper hair, heavy on the salt, tall, tanned, ice blue eyes. He is dressed in a tan safari jacket and khaki cargo pants; he’s been traveling a lot.

I approach him, reach out a hand, and touch his arm, “Are you…?” He turns. My heart leaps. He pulls me into a strong hug that lasts and lasts and is still too brief. We sit in the waiting area and talk. “I have been looking for you for a long time,” he tells me. “Where have you been,” I want to know. He is about to answer. A voice announces his connecting flight, “I must go.” “But… at least tell me my name!” tears steam down my face. A huge hole has opened in my heart. He taps his index finger against the center of my chest as he slowly pronounces each word, “You are Kern.” The morning sun awakens me: “Kern?” I ask my Friend. “Is my name Kern?” I sat up and looked at the old chair with its faded slipcover. “Who was he?”

“My dream…” my vice trailed off into soft breathiness. I cleared my throat and began again, “I told you about the dream of meeting my father at the airport, and him telling me, ‘You are Kern.'” I swallowed and took in a sighing breath. “I’d asked Professor Cumberlan to help me look into names. She didn’t think Kern was viable but she helped me anyway. I’ve completed the research and she checked my findings. Kern isn’t my family name. I’m beginning the research Professor Cumberlan advised me to do before I suggested Kern.”

I sighed. A tear threatened to fall from the corner of my left eye. I quickly brushed it away. “If Kern isn’t my name…” More tears welled up and spilled over than I could hold back. I sniffed, “If Kern is not my name,” I began again in a small, breathy voice that then descended to a whisper, “what did the dream mean?”

“Do you know what kern means?” my therapist asked.

Wiping away tears with a shredded tissue, I nodded slightly and answered in a small voice, “It’s German. It means heart.”

“Yes. It’s the center, the kernel or seed, the heart of something.” He stopped speaking for a moment until I looked up into his eyes. Then, “I think your dream is telling you that you were the heart, the center of your family.”

“But how can that be,” my lower lip curled; I tried to sniff and blink away the tears. I failed. My voice was a shrill whisper, “How can that be when they sent me away?”

Dr. Vogwall spoke softly and precisely, “I think they sent you away because you were the heart.”

I bowed my head and looked at my hands resting on the chambray blue skirt of my dress. Sniff. Sniff. The tears left stinging salt tracks on my cheeks.

He spoke again with the same soft, preciseness, “They loved you so much, you were so important to them…” My lower lip curled of its own accord. My shoulders began to tremble. “They wanted you to be safe. And they did the best they could do to make certain you were safe.” I took in a moist, snuffly breath. My eyes would not look up at him. “It’s what I would do if my children were threatened. And I’d do it because they are my heart.”

A choking sound forced it’s way from my throat, “Unh. Unh. Unh. Unh.” I blotted the river of tears with a handful of shredded tissues. After a time, my shoulders stilled, my head lifted. Dr. Vogwall’s impassive eyes gazed into mine. I took in several moist breaths and sniffed twice. “It’s what I’d do too-oo,” the words were a moist wail; they shocked me as I spoke them. “It’s just so hard,” I pleaded.

“I know,” he replied. “There was no easy answer. Maybe not even a right answer. Except you are alive. You’ve been hurt but you are alive.”

My head nodded as my mouth twisted with pain. Tears coursed down my cheeks. Dr. Vogwall placed the box of tissues in my lap and waited.

J is for Justice

Clad in red and white striped, flannel pajamas, I stumbled into the kitchen for a bowl of cereal. Gwen sat at the table eating a bowl of some noxious stuff. My stomach churned as the smell of what she ate filled my nostrils. I began breathing through my mouth and reached up to pull my new box of Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran from atop the refrigerator. Another damp box of the same cereal, also mine, sat next to it. Thank You for reminding me to get more cereal, I mutely told my Friend. Abner must have kept the box in his bathroom all weekend.

“Good morning,” Gwen looked up from her bowl with a smile.

“It is morning, isn’t it,” I sleepily responded and added milk to the bowl of cereal I had poured.

“Come sit with me while you eat breakfast,” she invited.

I glanced down at the bowl before her and then raised my eyes from the sight. My lower lip pulled itself down, my eyes widened crinkling my forehead. Gwen laughed at my expression, “I’ll cover the pan.” She quickly got up and placed the cover over the pan of stuff that had filled the kitchen with such a nauseating smell. She cracked the window and crisp Winter air quickly cleared the smell. I glanced down at her bowl eliciting another laugh. Gwen took one of her cookbooks from the shelf and propped it open on the book stand hiding her bowl.

I smiled sleepily, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” she replied returning to her breakfast. “How did Edith like her gift?” she inquired.

I took in a long sighing breath, “She loved it. She even gave me a gift.”

“She did?” Gwen’s eyes widened. “She said she doesn’t give Christmas gifts.”

“She made an exception for me. Goddesses In Every Woman,” my mouth shaped itself into a rueful moue. “That’s what she gave me.”

Gwen gently shook her head. “Because you said that about being submissive…”

“Yep,” I sighed. “That’s what I get for being honest when she’s around.”

“She doesn’t know what you mean, does she?” Gwen’s gentle voice inquired.

“No, she doesn’t,” I shook my head. “And we talked for nearly an hour. When she insisted that you aren’t submissive to Abner, I realized, I was a wasting time. All I could say was that neither of us know the intimate details of your marriage. We only know that Abner doesn’t walk all over you.”

“He certainly doesn’t!” Gwen’s eyes widened with something that might have been anger; her mouth compressed. She took a breath, “He’s never even tried to walk all over me or belittle me or mistreat me. He loves me.”

I shrugged, “Edith’s concern is justice. She always wants to get her due, even in relationships.” Suddenly, my words tumbled out more quickly, “It was like that with Cade. We were always battling for what was due to us. I battled for him to be affectionate and thoughtful and to stop doing things that he knew hurt me. He battled for ll of my time and attention and to make me what he thought I should be.” My voice became a shrill breathiness, “It was hell! During the last two months, I often had an image of myself whacking him in the head while he slept. I’m so glad I left him.”

“So am I,” Gwen smiled gently. Then, with decisiveness, “I don’t like the way he treated you.”

“Neither did I,” I ate a spoon full of corn bran then looked up, “You know, I wish you had told me.”

“I didn’t want to offend you,” Gwen replied.

“I might have been offended at the moment but I would have remembered and left him sooner, before he began showing his sadistic tendencies,” I told her gently. “But I’m away now and the battle for justice is over.” I sighed again and felt a tear smarting in one eye, “Edith just doesn’t get it.”

“Doesn’t get what?” Gwen gently inquired in the stillness that had suddenly filled the room. She waited as I searched within myself for words.

“I used Abner as an example not only because he doesn’t walk all over you but because of the relationship you two do have.” The memory of Gwen rushing out of the bathroom the day before, clad only in her robe, to grab a can of cleanser so that she and Abner could refine their song. “I know about battles for justice. And I know when justice isn’t involved. Most of our clients really need a good therapist or group therapy with the other parties. They’re fighting because they were friends and feel betrayed.”

Gwen laughed. I looked up with a smile and continued. “The asbestos cases, those involved justice. Much of the tobacco litigation — that involves justice.”

“Tobacco?” Gwen asked skeptically.

“Yes. Tobacco companies knew their products were dangerous but kept it hidden,” I confidently told her. “In an odd way, one of the cases I’m working on involves justice. A mortgage lender lied and scammed people into refinancing their homes. Then they discovered the payments were greater than their income. Many have lost their homes and now instead of fighting to help them, companies who bought the fraudulent loans are fighting to avoid responsibility. The homeowners need justice and the companies need to learn what justice is.”

J is for Justice waltzI took a breath, “But that’s not what I want in my personal relationships, I want a relationship like yours,” I looked directly into Gwen’s blue eyes. “You and Abner are always dancing. Everything you do together is a dance. You cook and take unbelievably long showers, which ruin my cereal since Abner never grabs his own box, but you play. And even when I’ve seen you fight, it’s like a tango — you do it together and work things out together.”

“I’ll buy you another box of cereal,” Gwen smiled ruefully.

“That’s okay. I bought cereal. It’s only a big deal when I discover all my cereal is soggy,” I smiled. Gwen laughed. “But the two of you don’t spend much time battling to gain justice from each other. You just love each other. That’s what I want.”

I ate a last bite of corn bran and continued, “I don’t want another relationship where I’m always fighting for my rights, even when I am right. Why bother being in a relationship at all if it’s just one long fight? I want a waltz, a tango.” I stopped for a moment and then, “And I want to dance the female part.”

“Huh?” Gwen asked.

“There were usually only girls in my partner dance classes. And I always had to dance the male part.” Suddenly, my hands gestured, beating the air, “You know, I never learned to follow! Never! I’m dismal when I dance with a man! But I want to learn.” My hands quieted themselves.

“Edith thinks submissive equals doormat. If I wouldn’t let Cade walk all over me, why would she think I’d let any other man do it? He was only my second boyfriend.” I shrugged, “Now I know better. But I don’t want to be en garde all the time for slights and missteps. And I’ll never battle for justice again, not in a relationship. I want to dance. And if I can’t have that, I’d rather not have a boyfriend or get married.”

“You may be more of a feminist than you imagine,” Gwen laughed.

“I don’t think I’m a feminist,” I told her, my head crinkled with puzzlement. Then a smile crossed my face, “Perhaps we need a new name for strong, intelligent women who want to dance with men.”

Five Minute Friday: Random Relief

It’s one of those, “I have no idea what to write. What a relief it would be if the rain would stop so I can walk to the supermarket” day. Since 1 April, I have been writing two posts each day in the A to Z Challenge. One post appears here on Loved As If, the other on a new fashion blog, GlamOfGod. GlamOfGod has been in the works for several years. It’s a great relief that I am finally writing regular posts. (I was beginning to think it would never happen.)

GlamOfGod is one of those projects that I hope will do great things. I want a resource for women to learn all the things we didn’t learn as girls, all the things that fashion magazines used to teach and don’t any longer. Fashion magazines did once teach women to dress appropriately for their actual lives. For a time, I worked in fashion in NYC and part of my job was reading magazines from the 1940s through the 1970s. (“Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!”) Those old magazines have lots of great stuff but it needs to be updated or streamlined. And, I need a regular, frivolous break, a bit of relief from writing and studying and packing to move East in late May. (That will be a relief.)

So today, I have no pithy thoughts for this post. But the timer has howled. What a relief!

I just like this quote from Alice In Wonderland. It has often offered me relief when I forget I’m a bit mad:

relief (1)

*****************************

Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

I is for Ism

“Can I give you your Christmas present?” Edith stood in my doorway holding a red, foil wrapped package decorated with a multi-coloured stick-on bow.

I looked up with a smile from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. “Sure,” I told her.

She sat at the foot of my bed as I unwrapped the package, “I wanted you to have this.”

Goddesses in Every Woman?” it came out as a question.

“I think you’ll find it interesting,” Edith’s words expressed finality.

“Oh,” my voice was a soft, soprano breathiness.

“It’s about how within each woman there are archetypes of goddesses,” she smilingly told me. “She’s a Jungian. You studied Jung, right?” Edith’s gaze turned to my over-filled bookshelves which held several volumes by and about Carl Jung.

“I did,” I nodded. My shoulders tensed and then words tumbled out of my mouth, “But I don’t agree with everything he wrote. He keeps God at a distance.” I breathed in slowly and willed myself to relax my shoulders. “You know I don’t believe in goddesses, right? Or that we’re goddesses? You know I’m a Christian and I really do believe what I say I do?” I inquired.

“I know. But you should read Goddesses In Every Woman. It will help you gain a more feminist perspective,” she finished on a triumphant note.

The conversation we had had in her car late one night came to mind. Edith had asked me to stay and talk with her after our other roommates had gone in. The night was warm. We had all just returned from dancing at a small bar that served great hamburgers. I was comfortably sated.

“You don’t really believe that wives are to be submissive to their husbands?” she had begun. She must have overheard my conversation with Anne, I had mutely informed my Friend.

For more than an hour, I had tried to get her to see that I could not be a Christian if I just tossed out the portions of Scripture I found difficult. Before leaving her in her car, I had summed up my argument, “I’m a Christian. You’re not. I’ve told you what I believe.” Goddesses In Every Woman was her answer.

“Thanks,” I drily told her. The next words burst from me, “You know, I’ll probably never read it.”

Edith’s eyes widened, “But you should. It will help you. You’ve got all these antiquated beliefs. How can you not believe in feminism in this day and age?”

I is for IsmThe words, “believe in feminism” resounded within me. My forehead crinkled, my eyes narrowed. “I don’t believe in feminism,” my words were clipped, my voice held the tinge of a British accent. “I don’t believe in any ism. I believe in God. I try to pick up my cross and follow Christ. We think isms deserve our faith. But they don’t. They’re theories, ideas. Some are worth considering. Some are not. I am not a feminist. I don’t believe in feminism. I believe –”

“But you believe you should be submissive to your husband!” her words cut me off. “You’re the equal of any man. No woman should submit to her husband. Men and women should be partners or men will walk all over women.”

“For goodness sake!” I ejaculated. “Who are these men that walk all over women? Where are they? Yes! There are some. I just broke up with a man like that and I’ll be careful to watch for red flags in the future. But not all men walk all over their wives. Abner doesn’t walk all over Gwen.”

“Gwen doesn’t submit to Abner,” Edith confidently interjected. “They’re equal partners.”

“We’re not privy to the intimate details of their marriage,” I insisted with a derisive note. “But we do know that Abner doesn’t walk all over Gwen.” I took in a breath, relaxed my shoulders which had again tensed, and continued, “There are good men and bad men. Good women and bad women. I know. I’ve been hurt by the bad of both sexes and loved by the good. And all of us have the potential to do bad, to walk all over others.”

“Women are more trustworthy than men,” Edith rejoined. “We’re less violent. Men make wars. They’re destroying the earth.”

Words tumbled from my mouth: “Do you know who Margaret Thacher is?” I asked shrilly. “She took England into a war with Argentina over the Falklands. It’s mostly a big rock! And what about Indira Ghandi? She went to war against Pakistan and supported other wars in South Asia. Both of them are women. When women have power, they’re no less violent than men. Violence is a human issue.”

Edith stood up, “I hope you read it.”

“Thanks again for the gift. I’ll probably never read it,” I replied relaxing my shoulders. “I hope you liked your gift.”

“I loved it!” Edith gushed. “I love pierrots.”

“I’m glad,” I ruefully replied as she sauntered out of my room. I got up and closed the door behind her.

“Huh!” I breathed out sharply. “I give her a gift that makes her happy, she gives me a gift to make me what she thinks I should be. I hate isms!” I told my Friend. “I hate them! Isms are idols pretending to be truth.”

%d bloggers like this: