Sep 292009

Well. My goodness.

It seems that you ladies had a few feelings about yesterday’s post. I imagine that you are wondering how I’m going to respond.

Remember Jerry McGuire? He got fired because some of his colleagues weren’t sure about a controversial “mission statement” he’d written. When he walked out of his office with all eyes on him, he announced, “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna do what you think I’m gonna do, “Which is just FREAK OUT!”

Don’t worry. I’m not going to freak out either.

There were times during the “debate” yesterday when I wanted to freak out. Several times I wrote passionate comments and responses and then deleted them. And in retrospect, I think that was the right thing to do. Because sometimes, when you’re feeling angry and threatened, it’s good to wait, and think, and pray if you’re so inclined, so that you don’t end up making someone else feel the same way you do. And so that you can be sure, once you do speak, that you are speaking from a place of love.If you don’t, it really is possible to sound “right,” but also sound like that gong Paul mentions in Corinthians.

And here’s the blessing that accompanies waiting to make conclusions and to speak. Yesterday morning, as I wrote that post, I truly believed that it was possible for a group of women to respect each other’s choices without questioning each other’s motives as unworthy or unexamined. And if not that, then I at least believed that a group of women could disagree without hurting each other. But after reading a lot of the comments, I started to feel a little hopeless. NOT because of the debate. NOT because we disagreed. But because we had such a hard time debating without attacking. And that’s what I teach my children that grown ups are supposed to do. As I fell asleep, I felt foolish for being so Pollyannish and causing so much trouble.

But then I woke up this morning and discovered to my delight that I still have faith in God, and I still have faith in the women He created. I still believe, despite some evidence yesterday to the contrary, that women were meant to lift each other up, that power and peace can be found in solidarity, and that competition and comparison are unnecessary distractions. I still agree with the eloquent reader who, in reference to how sensitive we all are about our success as mothers said,

To know this as a mother myself makes me feel compassion for all other mothers, regardless of whether they work in or out of the home. If only we could see our commonality in this, our greatest vulnerability.”

Like this reader, I still believe that the point of our greatest vulnerability, motherhood, is the point upon which we have the opportunity to connect. To truly understand each other and feel compassion for each other. I really do. And I also believe that a lot of you agree with me. I’m so relieved that I still believe. I feel a little Pollyannish and foolish again this morning, which are my favorite ways to feel. Morning is a hopeful time. It’s so lovely that it happens everyday.

There was a man who stood quietly in front of the White House every single night during the Vietnam War, holding a single candle. When reporters questioned him about this ritual, he didn’t say much. But one night, when a reporter said something like “Why are you wasting your time here? You can’t possibly believe that one candle and one man could change the minds of the powers that be.” The man turned and said “Oh, I don’t do this to change them. I do this so they don’t change me.”

I like this man, and I like what he did. I like that he didn’t give up, stay home, watch the news and become jaded and angry. I like that he didn’t yell and scream and add fuel to the fire. Because I think there’s power in peacefully expressing one’s belief that love and unity are the ultimate realities, even when things appear otherwise. Especially when things appear otherwise. Because that’s what hope is, right? And I’m too hopeful to be angry or afraid.

Tonight I am going to the U2 concert with my husband, sister, and friend. And we’re going to listen to Bono wail about redemption and hope and freedom and the power of love. And that thing is going to happen to us that always happens at good concerts: when you soak up the sea of people who are all so different, but the same, and the music hits your heart and it swells so big that it feels like it’s going to pop out of your throat- and you discover you can’t sing at all, you can only whisper. And I’m probably going to cry the whole darn time, because that’s what I do. And I’m going to melt into that sea of people. And we are still going to have different opinions about God and love and family but you know what? We’re all going to sing and sway together. We are going to be like a million drops of water in one sea.

I’d just like you to know that I respect you. No matter how you weighed in on the debate yesterday, I respect you. Not because I agree or disagree, but because you’re a woman made in God’s image. And because I know firsthand that it can be confusing and tough to be a woman. And because I know how much you love your family and how hard you try.

And because I believe, I still believe, that we are all sisters. That we are a million drops of water in one sea.

Oct 012009

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is
something we tune into.”

– Wayne Dyer

Ever since this interesting day, I’ve been thinking about how lessening the competition among women might better our chances at friendship and personal peace.

I think comparison and competition exist partly because we believe that there is a scarcity of good things in the universe. And that belief makes us kind of small and scared and unable to feel true joy for others or peace for ourselves.

Let’s see.

When a friend, or God forbid, a frenemy, mentions that she’s received a promotion at work, her son won an award at school, she’s just bought her third vacation home, or recently lost ten pounds…how do we feel?I know we say we feel happy for her, but how do we really feel? I think sometimes we really feel a little panicked. Like a determined bride at one of those terrifying Feline’s Basement wedding dress sales, we feel like our friend’s news means that now we have to run a little faster, push a little harder and get more aggressive in general. Because we think if our friend’s family is getting extra money, approval, admiration, and general blessings…that must mean there are fewer of those things less left over for our family. And how do we feel when one friend gossips about another? I know you probably don’t respond this way because you are lovely, but a little secret part of me always thought…“SCORE. Less respect for gossip victim, more respect for me.”

Like an author I love wrote, some of us believe that there is a “cosmic pie” and a bigger piece of goodness for you means a smaller piece for me.

Think about the people in your life who operate under this scarcity principle. You know who they are, right? They’re the people who cannot stand for light to shine on others. Who grab attention back as soon as they feel they’ve lost it in a conversation, who respond to your news with their bigger news. They find little acceptable ways to put people down. They are the ones who make you feel jumpy and nervous in general. And when you leave their company, you feel sort of discombobulated and smaller but you can’t put your finger on why.

A few years ago I got a little overwhelmed and consumed by jealousy so I decided to try believing in abundance. I decided, with the help of my long suffering and eternally patient tutor, Jesus, to quit believing in half empty or half full, and start believing in completely full. And it sort of looked like this: When a friend shared good news, and I started feeling jealous, I told myself, kindly and gently (which is the only acceptable way to tell yourself anything) to cut it out because scarcity is a lie and the truth is that there is ENOUGH to go around. And you guys, somewhere along the way, I think I’ve actually started believing myself. And I’ve been able to relax, enjoy other women a little more and stop grabbing so much. On my stable days, I even understand that not only can I allow other people to keep their good stuff…I can even give my own good stuff away because when I do, more will always be made available to me.

It’s like when my dad takes me out on the Chesapeake bay at dawn to watch the fishermen pour from their nets the thousands of fish they catch every morning. And I always think, MORE? Millions of fishermen have been at this for century upon century and there are still more fish? It’s like magic. Or, you know, God.

What do you think?

Oct 072009

All the talk of water yesterday reminded me of something that happened on my 30th birthday.

We had just returned home from a birthday dinner and Craig had drawn me a bath, lit a few candles, and told the kids that Santa doesn’t visit kids who harass their mommy in the bathtub on her birthday. I soaked in the bathtub feeling grateful that I’d made it another lap around the mommy track without any career threatening injuries. It was a good day.

Of course, a few minutes into my peace there was a knock on the door and Chase waddled in carrying a mug with little Christmas trees all over it. He stood hopefully but tentatively by the door. He was three years old. His baby fat hadn’t abandoned him yet so he held the mug with two dimpled hands as thick as they were long. His smile and cheeks were so huge that I could barely see his Asian eyes. His belly rounded out his footie pajamas as if he were hiding something in there. He looked just like the Buddha.

He hesitated at the door for a moment and then asked sheepishly if he could come in. I said yes. He walked over to the tub and looked longingly at the bubbles. Then he handed me the mug and said “I brought you some water, mommy.” The water was lukewarm, and had a lot of dirt in it. Just like the tub, as a matter of fact. It was perfect, and when I told him so, he smiled even bigger. Then his face got quite serious and he said,

“Mommy, daddy said I had to stay outside, but can I wash your feet before I go?”

After a surprised moment I said something like. “Um, sure, honey.” I handed him the soap and he kneeled down. I propped my feet up on the cold, porcelain tub edge and Chase’s chubby little fingers did their best to scrub my feet. The soap kept slipping out of his hands so we had to keep retrieving it. But he kept at it. I felt a lot like the disciples probably felt when Jesus washed their feet. Shocked and touched, but mostly very ticklish and awkward.

When he finished, he put my feet gently back in the water and asked what I was reading. I told him it was a new book daddy had given me for my birthday. He said “Oh. Well I’m gonna go now, but I’ll be right out there if you need help with any hard words.”And then he walked out.

That night, after we put the kids to bed, I told Craig what had happened in the bathroom. He immediately teared up…he’s such a softie. He told me that at bedtime the night before, he and Chase read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Chase asked Craig why Jesus would do something like that. He thought it was kind of funny and weird.Craig told Chase that Jesus washed his friends’ feet to teach us how to show love, because when you love someone you serve him or her. Even if it feels funny or weird.

Regardless of your faith, isn’t that something?

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