Voyeurism & Dignity

This is not my first experience with putting it all out there for the world — friends, enemies and strangers alike. This is the first time that I’ve done so at the disregard of others, namely my husband and my infant son.

A lot has changed within the past thirty days. I’m not sure what exactly to contribute it to, but my instinct says that it is a highly layered combination of divine grace and finally letting go of my antidepressants. The resources that have been provided in this short and highly impressionable amount of time cannot be attributed to simple coincidence. I genuinely believe that I have strived to accomplish God’s will in my life; wherever He asked has asked me to follow, I have done my utmost to not only follow but to do so without doubt, complaint, or asking why. I’ve decided that information does not have to make perfect sense in my highest intellect to be true. Take intuition, for example. You can’t justify or explain why something is pulling on your heart, but you know that you should listen to it.

To try to explain all of the beautiful things that are being revealed to me has been an overwhelming thought. Where do I even begin? I feel like a completely different person.

Maybe I should begin with where I felt like my antidepressants were keeping me: in this altered state of constant “up”. High energy, heightened happy moods, high optimism. You would think at first glance that this is a positive. Who doesn’t want to be constantly happy? But in hindsight this not only kept me from growing as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend… but it kept me from truly experiencing and participating in reality.

In Beyonce’s new album there is a song called “Daddy Lessons”. As I was meditating on some of the lyrics I realized that for the past however long I didn’t perceive real threats. Every stranger was automatically a friend. To make things worse I believe people at their word and I am a very literal person. When someone says they love me, I believe them in all of what “loving someone” entails.  If someone says I’m “like family” to them, I expect to not be abandoned, to have a special place in their lives, at their table, in their hearts, no matter what foolish mistakes I make. It never occurred to me that people throw these phrases around so casually and don’t actually mean what they’re saying. Or maybe they do, but they don’t actually know the implications of what they’re saying. 

I was even on the arguing side of protecting home intruders because they were just poor lost souls and didn’t mean to do anyone harm. But the problem with this thinking is two fold: one, they absolutely do mean to do harm. And two, I am a guardian of my house, my family and my heart. With letting just anybody in I left myself and the people I love most in a very vulnerable predicament. My antidepressants and/or my worldview kept me naive and gullible. Beyonce’s father, as she explains in this song, called a spade a spade. He points out when his daughter is being played. He says when bad men come around, don’t ponder their intentions, don’t wait and see what might happen, he said shoot.

Naivety is frowned upon in the Bible, by the way, lest you think I’m being harsh. We are called toward sensibility and prudence. Naivety is “foolishness”, and prudence is “knowledge”. No matter how much we wish there wasn’t death, destruction and enemies in the world, the fact is they do exist. We are told to put away childish things once we are adults, and to fully embrace Truth. I have enjoyed keeping my mind childlike and simple. I have lived off of the protection, care and support of those around me for too long. I am a twenty-six-year-old woman, mother and wife. It’s time I grow up and see the world for what it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel bitterness or resentment or cynicism. This isn’t like a neurotic “coming to awareness” thing. I see that it might look like I have swung from one side of the pendulum — unabashed exposure of myself, my family and my life, including my thoughts, moods, emotions, and growth experiences to sudden hermit-like privacy and silence — but it is not out of fear. These decisions are coming from a place of strength, in knowing myself and what I want for my family. Also, as a wife, I have placed the longings of my husband on the back burner for far too long. Every time he would cringe when someone would say “Oh, I know you from Facebook!” I would laugh sheepishly instead of correcting the problem. I am called to protect, love and serve him, not entertain the others in my life with the content of my personal life.

Let’s talk about the misleading words used on social media platforms like Facebook, for example. I have 800-someodd “friends”. These people are people of good will. I know them from many different walks of life: professionally, socially, from business conferences, from family vacations, from very intimate friend circles and church, to random internet people whose public photos I enjoyed. They are all suddenly classified as the same status: friend. I am a very literal person and haven’t ever given much consideration to who merits the descriptions of “friend”. I am a lover of all people, and welcome anyone with open arms, even people who wish me ill. You could call this a form of recklessness. As a couple of women and I discussed this during Bible study today, my spiritual guide who I have talked about many times in this blog, Allie, said “Ohhh! This is in today’s reading! Hold on, I must read it to you!”

Sidenote: The Catholic Church has daily scriptural readings. Which is kind of funny, because I hear we’re often painted by those that don’t know us as people who never read the Bible and unthinkingly just follow along with weird cultish religious rites. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every Mass is inundated with Scripture, not to mention the first reading (usually Old Testament), the psalm, the second reading (usually New Testament) and then the Gospel, straight from Christ’s teaching. We revere these words to the point that we have specific gestures, such as standing, kneeling, praying, genuflecting, speaking in unison, etc. to outwardly show their inward significance. The greatest thing about having daily readings is that the Church is universal. It’s not my specific priest, or my daily devotional that I picked up at Hobby Lobby that makes these verses only applicable to me or my parish alone. It’s the entire universal Church, worldwide, reading, meditating and praying together in unison over these specific passages. If only we could calibrate how much global energy is surging when we unite together in this way!

Back to friendship. Here is what Sirach 6:5-17 says (which, by the way, if you’ve never heard of Sirach, that is because Martin Luther removed it from the Bible when he separated from the Catholic Church way back when. So if you are a practicing Protestant, your Bible won’t have this amazing passage within it):

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Is this not just the most appropriate Bible passage of the year for me?! It has come at such a beautiful, impressionable time! When I decided to end my Facebook Live saga, the decision began with frustration. I just couldn’t seem to articulate the profound, powerful ideas and emotions and experiences that had recently come into my life. There was just no way to convey what it all meant to me, and how absolutely precious it was. The last video I did, before making this decision, was fraught with frazzled, frantic energy as I grappled with words and apologized for my in-articulation. But it has turned into something so much more than the culmination of my frustration. It has really given me a lot to ponder and helped me make difficult decisions about why I have put myself out there the way I have. 

As these things go, a friend gave me a book about something seemingly completely unrelated that perfectly expressed the inarticulation I felt. Here’s the short story: I was going to chop off all of my hair. I felt like I needed something outwardly to express the inner everything — we’ll call it growth — I was experiencing. Except the last time I did that, when I dyed my hair red, I was left completely dissatisfied. I thought that it would convey the passion I felt internally, that red seemed so much more electrified and energetic than my boring, sleepy blonde. But surprise, it ended up just being hair. Blonde hair, red hair, blah blah hair. It was just hair. So when I talked to a good friend of mine who is from Venezuela and very to the point, she suggested that I might be cutting my hair all off because I wanted to be more masculine. Her husband suggested that I was in crisis with my true feminine nature… and when he said that, lest all of you feminists be appalled, my soul jumped for joy and I said “THAT SENTENCE! REPEAT IT, I NEED TO WRITE IT DOWN!”. And then we had a thirty minute discussion about why that may be. Why did that resonate with me? Where’s the crisis? What really needs to be solved? Because, let’s be honest, a haircut — no matter how dramatic — wasn’t the solution. And my husband had already voiced his opinion on the matter, that, to him, long hair represented beauty and femininity. It was his quiet way of screaming at me “PLEASE DON’T DO IT!” which incited anger and rebellion in me. I was ready to literally grab his electric razor that night and shave it all off. Be done with it. That would be the third time in my life I’d had a Britney Spears moment. But this time I knew better. I stopped and questioned that thinking, those emotions. I recognized them as impulsive and primal. What does my deeper self need? My Venezuelan friend’s husband, a historian buff, said “You know, back in the olden days women who were disgraced would have their hair publicly cut off… so why do you want to disgrace yourself?”

There are many layers, so I’m not saying it’s as cut and dry as a woman wanting to cut her hair short is a woman yearning to disgrace herself publicly. Life’s situations are too complicated to paint with one big, broad brush. But for me these questions really hit home.

To make the matter more complicated, this haircut came under the guise of self-improvement and power. I wanted to come off powerful. I wanted to convey my feminine strength. I wanted to honor my mother, who wore her hair short when she was inducted in to the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame. I wanted to reclaim my natural hair color that I had abandoned to pretend to be a redhead. This came as everything our culture would stand behind. “GET IT GIRL!” I hear my contemporaries yell. But when I unpacked it, it was a facade. I was small, weak, wanting to flex and pretend my vulnerabilities didn’t exist. That I wasn’t defenseless. I’ve got this. I’m strong, I’ve got muscles, don’t fuck with me. Look at this hair. This is “don’t fuck with me” hair. That’s not being true to myself, y’all. Thank God for my friends who helped me find what was really happening at the core… and thank God for temperance, for the self-control to not act on my impulses like I have previously always done.

E1singer8
“Wanting to pay homage to my beautiful, influential mother” sounds good, but wasn’t my real motive.

And, although this may be countercultural, my body does belong to my husband. And his body belongs to mine. Together, we make decisions. Together we moved forward in life. To make myself beautiful and desirable to him is written on my heart. To move away from him and intentionally make myself undesirable is a red flag. This has little to do with subordination or patriarchal dominance and brainwashing. This is my personal longing, my heart singing her heart song. I want to please him. I want to love him the best I can. I want to respect him. When I do something he has blatantly told me he does not like, I am not respecting him. I am following my own will, my own selfishness… and in the words of Beyonce “when you hurt me, you hurt yourself. Don’t hurt yourself.” We are one.

But back to the book. My Venezuelan friend gave me this book to get me through this winding, changing, uncharted territory in my life:

nature-dignity-mission-of-women-800x800

It really astounds me that it was written from the talks made to a girls school during a three-day spiritual retreat, meant to challenge them to reflect on the meaning of their lives, and on questions about character formation and the development of the personal talents. I picture 15- to 17-year-old girls reading this heady, weighty, existential book, internalizing it and applying it to their worldview. I imagine that strength they derive from being reaffirmed in their mission and purpose, in who they were created to be. How much more could I have been if I had this in my hands during my teenage years?

Ha, just kidding. I would’ve totally thrown this book out the window because I was ignorant and self-righteous and angry and angsty. These girls must be cut from some pretty fantastic spiritual, or genetic material. I just was not on their level at that age.

Anyway, lest you think this book told me not to cut my hair because that’s not what women do, I haven’t gotten to that part yet. It just equips you to make your own decisions. Every woman will derive something different from the eternal truths that are presented in this book. It came to me exactly when I needed it. And if I ever have a daughter, my mission will be to instill these truths in her heart before the world has a chance to whisper any lies to her. Because that’s what mama’s are called to do: we are protecters of the most sacred, of future generations, of our children’s hearts, of chivalry and morality.

Let’s get back to “friends” and my decision to reclaim my privacy. As I was scrolling through ten months of posts to change any picture of my husband and/or son to “private”, I couldn’t believe what precious moments I had put out there for anyone and everyone to appreciate. These moments just didn’t belong to them. Not that it cheapened the moment itself to share — although, it does, because suddenly you’re taking a picture of your beautiful child specifically for the purpose to post on Facebook, for a faceless audience that uses emoji buttons to tell you how much they approve of whatever you have posted — but it just wasn’t right to share it in the first place. I saw the face of my weeks-old baby staring confused into a phone camera. “What is this thing, and why is my mama showing it to me? It must be something good because she would never give me something bad.” My heart broke. Because now, at ten months, he is well conditioned about what to do when a phone camera turns his way. He smiles at the faceless audience. Mama applauds him when he does so. This is what I’ve taught my child. Instead of protecting him or teaching him to protect himself — to guard what is most precious for those who truly deserve it — I have given in to our culture that says “Go ahead! There’s no risk! What’s yours is everyone’s.” What a shame.

I didn’t have parents that taught me to be guarded. My mom was busy running a corporation. My father left when I was nine. That’s not to say I am ungrateful for the amazing time and talents they did bestow upon me. I look back on weekends at horseshows with fond memories of both of my parents teaching me the importance of winning, of trying hard, of believing in myself. There are just some key life lessons I kind of missed out on; many of us in this generation have because of the sky-high divorce rates. I don’t want my son to go on believing what I did, that every stranger, every waitress, every online audience is a “friend”. That is a truly precious word. He deserves to know the truth.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure I will. This conversation is not over. But said ten-month-old is now awake and intent on rummaging through every single thing in this office, so I have to retire the keyboard for now. My true vocation calls (in such a real, unglamorous way)!

 

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