Friday, June 14, 2013
All Is Gift
It took me some years to trust myself, to learn that the way I saw events and circumstances was as valid as the way others saw them. I used to trust everyone else's judgement over my own. My self-confidence has grown a lot since then. Every so often though, just when I think my old ways of thinking are behind me, I have a day where it seems like I am back to square one, and everything others say gets to me. Maybe it has something to do with boundaries. A person with healthy boundaries does not give others what doesn't belong to them. She doesn't ascribe motives to others and she doesn't transgress physical boundaries. A person with healthy boundaries also does not receive what isn't hers. If someone says something about her that isn't true, she doesn't take it all in. I'm much better now at recognizing that much of what people say is more about them than about me, but permeable is the best word to describe how I feel some days. I let everything in. I forget the things I've learned and I let other people's perceptions color what I think and feel.
I recently had a few days of such permeability. I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman. I don't really know exactly what they were talking about. She was trying to explain how she felt about something and his reply was, "Too bad for you. You're a woman." Then the next day some random man on Twitter said something to the effect that if women can't handle a little humor in the workplace they should just stay home and raise children. Obviously, he doesn't hold such work in very high esteem.
I shouldn't have let these statements in, but I couldn't let them go. That sentence kept running through my mind. Too bad for you. You're a woman. Right now in my marriage, the household duties are pretty much divided along traditional gender roles. My husband earns our sole income, and I spend the majority of my days preparing meals, cleaning, and taking care of our children. Luckily my husband values the work I do very much. He used to be our children's primary caregiver and I worked outside the home. He tells me that he now has the easier job. I knew one woman who was a stay-at-home mom because she couldn't find work with the bad economy but her husband complained that she "wasn't contributing."
Even so, as I went about the mundane tasks that fill much of my day - doing the dishes by hand because we don't have a dishwasher, I thought, Too bad for you. You're a woman. As I did the two loads of laundry that I do nearly every single day - Too bad for you. You're a woman. As I picked up the toys that were scattered across the living room floor, changed the baby's poopy diaper, and made the evening meal, all I could think was: Too bad for you. You're a woman. A woman burdened with all these tasks instead of being able to do something worthwhile.
Eventually I snapped out of it, and began questioning such a perception. I began listening to my own estimation of the value of my work, instead of someone else's. Normally I value my work very much, and I find a lot of fulfillment in the work that I do. But it got me thinking. How much do women listen to what others say about us and our value instead of listening to what we ourselves think? It makes me think of the Judeo-Christian creation story. God has created the world in love, has given man and woman everything they need, and talks with them face-to-face. They should be confident in the goodness of God. But then the cunning snake makes a statement, "God didn't really tell you not to eat the fruit from the trees in the garden, did he?" And by this statement he insinuates that God can't be trusted, that maybe God isn't as good as Adam and Eve think he is, and all their peace and contentment is ruined. But Satan is a liar; so maybe they shouldn't have listened to him.
After a few days of seeing everything as a burden, unfairly foisted upon me because of my sex, I began again to listen to what I, myself thought of my work and my worth. I believe that people are eternal, created to live forever with God in heaven. I think everything one does in the service of people is really the only thing that lasts forever. I can spend my time earning lots of money or buying lots of possessions, but those things won't last. Quite a lot of people feel an immense isolation these days, and I think a lot of this stems from the breakdown of the family. Husbands and wives are isolated from each other, children from their parents, and maybe even siblings from one another. It surprises me sometimes, when I take my children to the park, how I see other children treating their little sisters and brothers, and I wonder how the child feels, wonder if he thinks the people he loves so much don't love him in return. I see people who are supposedly friends act catty and snide to one another. I wonder how many people feel like they are essentially alone, having no one who really knows them and loves them. Because of this, everything I do in the service of my family, even the seemingly mundane, I see as extremely valuable. Creating an environment that is welcoming and peaceful is important to me, and this includes all that goes into creating such an environment - cleaning the house, preparing nutritious food, and facilitating warm relationships.
I believe my feminine body has given me many privileges. I value immensely the epic journey of self-discovery that came when I became pregnant, gave birth, and nursed my children. I'm so grateful for the empowerment that I felt upon learning that I am life-giving and good. I'm grateful for my feminine cycle, its seasons of rest and reflection, of energy and creativity, and return to reevaluation. I wish all women could cherish the goodness inherent in who they are. Instead, so many internalize the perception of society: Too bad for you. You're a woman. What a pity that you are unfairly burdened in such a way. No wonder so many choose to just medicate it all away with birth control. But I'm not listening anymore. Some falsely insinuate that life as I experience it is nothing but a burden and a curse, but it's not. It's gift. It's all gift.