dusting off ye ol’ blog

so it’s been about a year since I last posted, and really the only clicks I get on this webpage anymore are a sweaty-handed troll or the occasional bot looking to break into my code to plant some advertising. And yet, she persists.

News on me: Still working. Still mama-ing. Yesterday I submitted the first part of my application to get into a PhD program. Still persisting.

Today is Election Day back home — it’s the midterms, and for most of the day I’ll be obsessing over the direction that my home country is heading in. Tonight, I’ll watch John King play with all his fancy graphics and crush over Van Jones’ commentary (and tie choice).

Two years ago on Election Day I was so confident that a certain reality TV star had NO CHANCE of getting elected, and was devastated when he did. This time around, I’m not nearly as confident in the voting masses.

walking with a limp

I finished Brené Brown’s latest, and not surprisingly, I loved it. With each of her books, I find that her writing voice and arguments are getting stronger. She’s the only author whose books I want in all forms — audio, electronic, and hard copy. I love listening to her read, because her Texas accent and expression makes it sound like she’s in the middle of a conversation.

There are SO MANY parts of the book that stood out, but here’s a favourite passage that’s mean a lot to me, especially lately. This segment comes from an interview she did with a minister who went against church doctrine, and stood up and supported the LGBTQ community:

I suspect the wilderness is a permanent home for me, which is both happy and hard. A dear friend sent me a text during those harsh first steps out, having broken party lines irreversibly after publicly wrestling through a fragile doctrinal interpretation.

There is this wonderful and strange story in Genesis 32 about Jacob physically wrestling with God all night in the literal wilderness, and upon realizing that Jacob was positively not giving up and in fact hollered, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!,” he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of socket, a permanent reminder of the struggle of a determined, stubborn, dogged man with God; an absurd and ballsy move, as outrageous as it was impressive.

My friend texted me: “You are like Jacob. You refused to let go of God until He blessed you in this space. And He will. You will indeed find new land. But you’ll always walk with a limp.”

So I’ve chosen the wilderness, because it is where I can tell the truth and lead with the most courage and gather with my fellow outsiders, but this limp will remind me of the cost, what lies behind me, what will always feel a little sad and a little bruised.

Was it worth it? Unquestionably. And I hope the limp shows my fellow wilderness dwellers that I’m acquainted with pain and didn’t make it out here unscathed either. Outliers, I suspect it won’t hinder our wilderness dance party in the slightest.

I love this passage, so much. I know exactly what it feels like to metaphorically “walk with a limp.” My body and heart are indelibly marked with these wounding occasions, and I won’t ever be the same because of them. But — I don’t regret the times I’ve had to wrestle, and I don’t resent the injuries that have resulted. And yet, I do feel a little sad about them.

Lately I’ve had some really difficult days where I’ve felt like I’m in “the wilderness,” and I’ve added a couple more bruises to my heart.  It can be a lonely place when you stand up for yourself, and you’re not understood. It feels especially heartbreaking when you’re not understood by people who you love.

I like reclaiming the story of Jacob and his wrestling angel, in terms of my own struggles. I’m no longer going to think about difficult experiences as a means to build up my internal calluses and “get tougher” when it comes to numbing my wounds.

Instead, I want to have that “strong back, soft front, wise heart” and recognize that having a limp won’t stop me from moving forward. Or from occasionally dancing.

“we are creatures of the underworld – we can’t afford to love”

sing to me, Ewan

Last night was our weekly family movie night, and I got to introduce Emma to one of my very favourite films, Moulin Rouge. When this movie first came out (16 years ago?!), I saw it multiple times in the theatres. While I own the DVD, I don’t think I’ve seen it since Emma has been born. It’s been a while, but I still remember pretty much EVERY WORD (and lyric!) of it.

It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside — particularly when you watch something you’ve loved in past, but now have different eyes to process what you see.

While there’s much about the movie I still love (the songs! the colours! Nicole’s hair!), I don’t think I love it quite as much as I did before. For one, it’s not the classic love story I once considered it to be — now when I watch it, all I see is two jealous men fighting to selfishly possess a dying woman who’s drowning in her emotional labour responsibilities.

Both Christian (the sensitive/dashing beau) and the Duke (the creepy gazillionaire) feel like they are entitled to own Satine. Added to that, she’s also carrying the responsibilities of making sure the Moulin Rouge doesn’t financially fail, which means Zidler (the singsongy fat pimp) also makes a point of controlling her. She’s always in a dance of making these men happy, by meeting their needs — when very few are actually looking out for what she needs (as she’s dying of tuberculosis). The story is hardly the moving and romantic tale I thought it was.

I love the caged-bird metaphors and references that were made throughout the film. And the most moving scene isn’t the final one when she dies in Christian’s arms, but when Satine resigns herself to accept her fate of being trapped:

Last night, after we finished watching the movie, Emma (the wise 10 year old), made a point of saying how much she didn’t like Ewan McGregor’s character: “even though he was in love, he was so jealous! And he should have let her do what she needed to do to help her friends. If he’s going to be so upset, it’s just not going to work out.

I was a little floored how she was able to see through the plot as quickly as she did, and how much of her observations echoed what I was thinking.

As her mama, I’m also proud of my little girl — and I hope she’ll carry this relational savvy with her. Because if she does, she’ll be many steps ahead of her mama.

 

of ‘odd women’

So, I’m reading again.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to have the luxury of time and mental energy to dedicate to personal reading. And while much of my interests of late have turned to self-help-y type books, I’m also finding time to read some fiction and biographical books. One such book I picked up last week was The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick.

I’m not sure where this book was first recommended to me — but I’m so happy I took the time to read it. It’s a memoir of Gornick’s life in NYC, and reads like the perfect introvert’s memoir: a combination of people-watching/observing and navel-gazing. There were so many good parts to the book that I found myself having to stop and bookmark! Here’s some of what I decided to read (and reread):

In college, the girls who were my friends were literary. Every one of us identified with either George Eliot’s Dorothea Brooke, who mistakes a pedant for a man of intellect, or with Henry James’s Isabel Archer, who sees the evil-hearted Osmond as a man of cultivation. Those who identified with Dorothea were impressed by her prideful devotion to ‘standards’; those who didn’t thought her a provincial prig. Those who identified with Isabel admired her for the largeness of her emotional ambition; those who didn’t thought her dangerously naive. Either way, my friends and I saw ourselves as potential variations of one or the other. The seriousness of our concerns lay in our preoccupation with these two fictional women.

The problem, both in Middlemarch and Portrait of a Lady, was that of the protagonist — beautiful, intelligent, sensitive — mistaking the wrong man for the right man. As a problem the situation seemed entirely reasonable to all of us … Among us were young women of grace, talent, and good looks attached, or becoming attached, to men dull in mind or spirit who were bound to drag us down. The prospect of such a fate haunted all of us. We each shuddered to think that we might become such women.

Not me, I determined. If I couldn’t find the right man, I swore boldly, I’d do without.

Later on in the book Gornick talks about meeting a man where the relational arraignment was suddenly reversed, and she became “the interesting, conflicted personage and he the intelligent, responsive wife.”

BOOM! How many times, I wonder, have I found myself in that latter role of being the responsive one in a relationship? (answer: ALL my relationships)  For once, *I* want to be the one who takes the role of the interesting, conflicted personage, and NOT the one who’s carrying all the emotional labor of conversations and care taking and relationship maintaining.

As I read on I found out that, for Gornick, the reversal of roles didn’t last long for her in that relationship. She later writes:

It was then that I understood the fairy tale about the princess and the pea. She wasn’t after the prince, she was after the pea. That moment when she feels the pea beneath the twenty mattresses, that is her moment of definition. It is the very meaning of her journey, why she has traveled so far, what she has come to confirm: the unholy dissatisfaction that will keep life permanently at bay.

… We were in thrall to neurotic longing, all of us — Dorothea and Isabel, my mother and I, the fairy-tale princess. Longing was what attracted us, what compelled our deepest attraction. The essence, indeed, of a Chekhovian life.Think of all those Natashas sighing through three long acts for what is not, and can never be. While one (wrong) man after another listens sympathetically to the recital of a dilemma for which there is no solution.

Maybe that’s the gist of why I’m more happy being on my own than in a relationship. This “neurotic longing” of mine for someone who understands me and can meet me where I’m at — to be honest, I don’t think this person exists.

And by being honest enough to admit that, and starting from that point, maybe that’s the healthiest way for me to move forward and grow up and embrace who I’m meant to be.