For the Ladies and the not-so-ladylike Ladies

Someone recently suggested that I stop "airing my dirty laundry" in public. I'm grateful for that encounter because it made me want to dump the whole basket of laundry out. It also reminded me that I speak for those who can't. 

Suffering in silence isn't noble and can impede spiritual growth. 

My job is to be the best version of myself. I already tried not speaking. I hid stories and tried to suffocate them by not breathing. It made me sick. Writing the truth, even when it's not palatable, fills my lungs and banishes mental gremlins.

I don't view what I do as putting my problems on display. Writing is therapeutic because you can hold your thoughts in your hands. You can read them over with fresh eyes another day. You can light them on fire. You can even stash them in a locked drawer. The point is you have acknowledged something. They are less powerful that way.

Ever since I was a headstrong twenty-something, I have been overwhelmed by what my female ancestors have offered me in this lifetime. I remember saying to one of my favorite aunts when she asked me what I might write about years ago: "It always comes back to the women for me."

No disrespect to the men. I simply have a sacred duty to tell the women's stories. I find myself drawn again and again to the polarities of women - the heaviness and lightness they embody.

The heaviness is the kind that you feel when gathering clay in your hands and kneading it - earthy, watery, muddy. It's the life-giving creative force from which we're born. The lightness is the belief in things unseen that we use to endure the endless cycles of waiting, wounding, and forgiving ourselves.   

We all have stories passed down in our families of amazing people that came before us. They lived the kinds of strenuous lives that make our problems seem insignificant. My grandmother baked bread from scratch for her Mennonite family in an outdoor oven every day as a girl. She gathered the fuel from the fields, burned it down to just the right temperature, and baked the loaves she would feed to her parents and eight brothers and sisters.

I'm not going to lie. Older people used to irritate me when they tried to put their limits around what I said and did. It felt suffocating and frankly, it flew in the face of my unhealthy need to please and comfort people around me. In those cases, I couldn't be true to myself and abide by their rules.

At some point, though, I recognized that their journeys started long before mine and I couldn't possibly know all that they knew. They had different limitations to destroy and different scandals to incite - no less important than my own. 

My compromise was this: I heard them, accepted them, and respected them. Then I still went ahead and did whatever it was that seemed so scandalous.

Because my generation's job is to not wear pantyhose. (That was the first thing I knew for sure.)

Our next job is just to say it. 

Say it out of a loving place with impeccably chosen words, but say it nonetheless. If we don't say it, the next generation will have to.

             So, here goes:

            "No, I will not participate in ever-higher expectations for kids. Yes, I am going to hold dinnertime as an untouchable event, and no sports or school presentations or anything else will interfere with it."

             "No, I will not calm down. My anger, grief, sadness, and ebullience are natural emotions and won't stuff them into a tiny box."

             "No, I will not blindly accept society's labels.  Yes, I define myself. My worth is what I say it is."

             "No, I will not stop talking."


  1. I hope you will continue to speak your truth, because you have the right to speak without being censored. And because there are many who need to hear it, to be lifted up and encouraged to speak their own truths. Those who don't like it don't have to read it.

    1. So true. The time for keeping to myself or whispering things is over.


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