Mirror Mirror

Women who grab power, or try, are generally reviled or at least held in suspicion (see the day’s news for examples). Mistrusted. This was true throughout our long history, when stepmothers were always evil and maidens always powerless and pure. When independent or sexual women were accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake-that’s not some cute historical narrative-those women were murdered. Funny how the Brothers Grimm were writing their misogynistic tales full of violence toward women about the same time. And all the women and girls watching learned a powerful lesson. Namely, it’s safer to hide under the protection of a man, shut up and keep your head and skirts down. Ever wonder how those themes play out in society today?

Much serious scholarly research has already been done on this subject, but I have written an unserious poem about Snow White’s stepmother for an assignment in my creative writing class. (See also Forbidden Fruit) I know it’s not a serious poem because my professor told me it isn’t. Maybe that is why it was fun to write.

Here it is:

Dead Madonna

Her loving arms a memory now

An intruder’s face emerges in the

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Who is the fairest of us all?

No longer you, faded queen

The Virgin waits with her little men

unsullied body

a heady cocktail

of youth and beauty

waits to quench the thirst of the prince.

She is the only draught worthy of rescue

Resignation to fate her only

hope of elevation

Attempting escape

Renders her attributes mute

Else she will fall

To the dark magic of assertion

The witchcraft of power

The banishment of desire

In that case

Boil her lungs and

boil her liver

Use plenty of salt

Set a place for one

Lips smacking

bloody in the middle 

Mirror Mirror…

Still the young one

Why is it only Witches

demand a place at the table?

And where is her father now?

He rides away with

a nudge and a wink

 and his men and his horses

pockets full of money and deeds

and larger concerns

And so I ask you

Do we write our stories or do the tales tell us?

P.S. My memoir, The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid, releases on April 4th! It is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

The Savage Price Of Piety

One of the great things about having adult children is when they share the music they listen to or the books they read or the things that make ’em happy. They grow up good if you don’t kill ’em. Which brings me to the song of the day: Poor Isaac by The Airborne Toxic Event.

See, it all started with Spotify and a shared playlist. Poor Isaac was on it and my son wasn’t sure if I would like it because it’s kinda rock and roll and I am not so much. But its a freaking amazing song and got me thinking about the story of Abraham and Isaac, the highlights of which I remember from Sunday school.

God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a test of faith or loyalty or whatevs. Sacrifice as in stab to death. Murder. And here’s the kicker-Abraham agreed to do it. Can you even imagine? I found this so shocking as a young child that I asked one of my parents if they would kill me if God said to, hoping they would say of course not. Instead, they explained that since Jesus died on the cross, sacrifices were no longer required. Not sheep or goats or children. God would never ask them to sacrifice me, so no worries. I could be thankful to Jesus for that lucky escape. Obviously, the penalties for murdering your child because a voice in your head tells you to are more severe now than they were back in ol’ Abraham’s day, but I didn’t know that.

Just when I think I’ve turned over all the stones… anyway, it’s a great song and I hope you will give it a listen. Also, if your kids have made it to adulthood like mine have, track them down and hug them tight, one more time.
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Once more:

Poor Isaac

Deconstructing My Religion – CBS News

The show looks at what happens when people have doubts about the faith tradition in which they were raised, and how the sharing of personal stories can be a means to heal from spiritual trauma.
— Read on www.cbsnews.com/video/deconstructing-my-religion/

Song Of the Day

What song haunts you?

What song sums up your life?

What tunes runs through your head on an endless loop and will not be forgotten?

River of Dreams by Billy Joel is the one for me. Today, anyway.

What’s on your mind today?

Girls Walks Out of a Bar, a memoir

Big hard questions are making my head spin. Why is it that the importance of the separation of church and state isn’t discussed all the time, loudly? Where is the discussion of balance between the fundamental right of religious freedom and protecting children from the zealotry of their parents? When does religious freedom turn into abuse? Where is the line? How do we talk about this stuff and not end up fighting about politics?

These questions give me brain buzz and I have no answers, SO how ’bout a book review, instead?

YES.

Girl Walks Out of a Bar by Lisa F. Smith is the current favorite on my nightstand. I heard Lisa speak at the Hippocampus Writers Conference a few weeks ago and knew I wanted to read anything she had written.  Turns out her book is a memoir about her addiction to alcohol and cocaine while holding down a job as a high rolling NYC attorney in a big fat law firm overlooking Times Square. No easy task. She managed to hide her struggles not only at work, but from her closest friends and family. Her honest portrayal of that grim reality is gripping, horrifying, messy. She does not spare the reader, which is why I like her.

Do we ever really know what is going on with those around us?

There is a moment in the book when she blurts out to her friends, “I think I’m an alcoholic.” They are at a party, as usual. Everyone is drinking, as usual. Her words are met with resistance.

No one asks, “What makes you think so?” or “How can I help?”

Her admission is met with denial by them all, except for the one guy who wouldn’t meet her eyes. I bet that guy agreed and didn’t want to say it or maybe he was thinking, me too. The other friends… hmmm… they didn’t want to hear it? Perhaps their own fear of having to change overcame a desire to reach out. Maybe they were thinking, you can’t be an alcoholic because that means I am too.

Who knows? Lisa doesn’t blame her friends or try to explain their reactions, but left the scene hanging to replay in my head.

Happy ending! Lisa gets help, kicks her habits and is now a sobriety speaker to the legal community, where addiction struggles are rampant. Her courage to reach out for help, risking her career and reputation cannot be overestimated. Everything was at stake. She did it and I am proud of her and for her, even though she is technically a total stranger.

I highly recommend Lisa’s book and personal presentations, as well.  She can be found on Twitter @girlwalksout. No one asked me to write a review, by the way. I really do love this book.

As for the other stuff, maybe we can help each other along the twisted path if we pay attention, reach out in love and acceptance instead of fear and resistance. What if we aren’t afraid to be curious and ask an honest question or two and then listen to the answers? What’s the worst that could happen?

gwo

 

Feeling Free

A couple of weeks ago I found myself free to do as I pleased for a few hours on a summer afternoon near a beach. What more could a person want? Souls savor stolen moments.

Signage at the top of the steep wooden staircase read:

Clothing optional

No gawking

No cameras

I already knew the beach was clothing optional, but it was breezy and cool, so I had no intention of stripping. Let other people freeze their naked butts off. The last time I had been to a clothing optional beach, a woman who appeared to be a supermodel stretched out beside me with a friendly smile, her perfect breasts pointing to the sky. I just couldn’t join her.

At the bottom of the steps, a string of brightly colored sarongs caught the wind like wanna-be kites reaching for the brilliant sky. Sand and water swept the horizon before me. I put my phone away, took off my shoes and began to walk, toes digging into the soft sand. Happy as the proverbial clam.

The days prior and the days ahead were busy and emotional. Long awaited visits with my adult children behind me and my long awaited second marriage just ahead, brain and body needed the off switch. Worries, plans, and body aches vanished with the first step.  By the tenth step, I was sweating, because the breeze had also vanished and the sun was flexing its muscles. As I wandered down to firmer sand by the waterline, I noticed several naked bodies.  They were tan everywhere. Some of these folks must be hard core beach nudies. Huh. Not a perfect physique in sight.

I walked as far as the beach allowed and doubled back looking for the right driftwood log to lean against, wondering what it would be like to be naked here. The perfect spot appeared, so I plunked down in the sand, squinting and cursing my lack of sunglasses and empty water bottle. Sweat ran down my back into my underwear as the sun blazed hotter. As I scanned the horizon, a middle aged man sauntered past, penis swinging and free, utterly unselfconscious. Huh.

I furtively slipped out of my clothes and spread out my sweatshirt to sit on, unwilling to get sand absolutely everywhere. I glanced around. No one was anywhere near me, no one to see or care, so I settled back to watch the clouds and waves. I noticed that the breeze wasn’t entirely gone; I could feel it gently caress my body in places that had never felt fresh air before. My skin felt grateful and cool.

As the rhythm of the waves lulled my senses and swept out my brain cobwebs, someone with clothes on walked by and glanced quickly away with an awkward jerk of his head. Wonder what his problem is I thought, having already forgotten I didn’t have any clothes on. Oh yeah, I’m naked, I smiled to myself and felt sorry for him in his heavy cotton tee shirt and cargo shorts.

How did I come to be comfortable in my own naked bag of skin in my fifties after a lifetime of excruciating self-loathing? I was taught shame as a fact, that my female body was an offense, dangerous if uncovered, an abomination if fat, a death sentence if used. I carried those judgements like chains, even in my defiance of them. I don’t care anymore. Those chains may have left a few scars, but somewhere along the way they dropped off.

I wonder at the weight we carry sometimes. We can change inner dialogue from defensiveness to openness; allow others to carry their own opinions, their judgements, their perspectives without hefting the load. We can show ourselves compassion, too.

Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I would add, it is the mark of a free mind, as well.

I can’t wait to see if Facebook deems my knee and shoulder inappropriate.

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