I’m really not very good at experiencing joy. Happiness, sometimes, and yes to occasional satisfaction. But Joy? Today is an exception. Things have fallen into place for a couple of people I love and I am excited! It’s not my business to tell you who or what, but it is my business to tell you I love this almost indescribable experience.
If I were a good Minnesotan, I’d be claiming that my prayers were answered. Whatever the case, I am very grateful. And in the meantime, I’m enjoying some fun plans for myself! I hope these words may help to spread that feeling to some of you.
Did you happen to see the last scene of the latest episode of “The Good Wife?” It was a perfect example of using pseudo forgiveness as a hurtful weapon. Her mother-in-law, lying in her hospital bed, calls her over with a “sweet” smile, gesturing for her to bend down to hear, and says “I forgive you.” The problem with that? There was nothing obvious to forgive, so those words constituted an accusation to which there is no easy response.
It’s a lot like the memory I re-tell of the fight my best friend and I were having when we were somewhere around 11 years old. I mean, a knock Mona’s glasses off her face fist fight. When her mother approached us with the potential for a scolding, my friend bent down, picked up my glasses, and said to me, “I forgive you,” thereby making me the guilty party. I don’t know that she was smart enough to know what she was doing, but I remembered it for years, and understood it only when I was working on “When to Forgive
I heard Gloria Steinem last evening, one person in a snaky line of probably a thousand folks, female and male, old and young, waiting for the doors to open, griping some as we stood in the dampening cold. Then all discomfort was forgotten as she did her thing – inspiring probably a thousand different energizing reactions in her listeners. These are mine – no effort to summarize what she said, but eagerness to talk about what it did to me.
Something has been stirring even before last evening. A couple of months ago I resurrected the key chain my brother had given me, “Certified Crazy Person.” Then a friend of mine urged me to do my “A Healthy Woman is a Crazy Person” talks again. My friend? A very effective professor and equally effective leader of laughter workshops who has people rolling in the aisles. My reaction? The conversation went something like this.
Joyce: I loved your talks, your humor, the laughter.
Mona: But there’s nothing funny about it now.
Joyce: There was nothing funny about it then, but you made people laugh.
Mona: But it’s old fashioned now. Look at the progress.
• Back then women’s earnings were 58% of men’s for jobs of equal value. Now it’s something like 72%.
• There were no women executives unless they came into it through family inheritance. Now it’s common for women to be in that position, though I’ll admit they still have trouble making it to the top, or even into men’s golf clubs (no pun intended) when they do hit the peak.
• In the mid seventies, a divorcing husband explained to me that no man wants to be married to an executive/professional, and certainly not one who earns more than he does. The other day public radio reported than women are now outnumbering men as heads of households and the evidence is that a majority of husbands are OK with that.
• Remember the athletic leader at SCSU who said no one would ever want to watch a women’s athletic team? It wasn’t long afterwards that the women Huskies led the way.
• Oh, and the discussions of the ridiculous possibility that women might be effective firefighters. “I certainly wouldn’t want a woman to show up to rescue me.” And now?
• Women’s voices aren’t strong enough to deliver the news effectively. ‘Nuff said? How about women anchors on TV news? Reporters in war zones? And speaking of war zones, what about the rise of women admitted into the military? Granted, many still suffer hazing, and even rape, but ..
• Women police? Why, on the evening shows they are often in the highest positions of authority. Sure, I’ll grant you people laughed at “Fargo.” I never did understand what was funny about that – something about a pregnant woman leading a bunch of cops and talking Minnesotan.
• Women bankers, mail carriers, lawyers — .
• Oh, and women doctors. When my daughter was 13 she wanted to move on from her pediatrician to a female physician – none available – not admitted into hospital residencies. Now – well, need I say more?
Joyce: So we should be satisfied with half-way progress? Or even three-fourths?
Mona: So, there’s still more to be done, but I lost my effectiveness way back in 1995 when I bombed in Fridley.
Joyce: Bombed in Fridley?
Mona: Yup! I was new to Minnesota. Something in me knew I shouldn’t take the job, but I needed the money. The results were awful, most of the comments in the vein of “This was the worst talk I ever attended,” or “This woman shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public.” Or, in a kinder vein, “Maybe you should change your title. ‘A Healthy Woman is a crazy person’ just makes no sense.”
Joyce: You’re kidding.
Mona: Nope. It took me months of therapy with the best no-extra-fees provider I could find – me. I know lots of the mistakes I made, but I concluded the material was just too old fashioned.
Joyce: You’re kidding.
Mona: I’m not. That stuff about women and men being expected to be opposites, developing different abilities, like men being strong in math and science and women not, for example.
Joyce: You’re kidding.
Mona: OK, the truth is I just don’t have it in me to be funny about what’s going on now.
Joyce: Send me your material. I’ll make it funny.
Mona: But the humor lay in the spontaneity. I really didn’t plan the funny stuff ahead of time. It just came from the feeling of confidence that my audience liked me, and I could pretend that the other 99% really did.
Joyce: OK. Just promise me you’ll think about it.
Mona: OK. I’ll think about it.
Then I heard Gloria last night and “CLICK.” Remember the clicks of the 70s? Well, we might, but I’ll bet the young men and women there last night don’t know what a “click” is – that feeling of “Wow! The pieces just fell into place.”
I get it! Another stage in my Fridley therapy. I was afraid. I blocked my own creativity out of fear they wouldn’t like me. What that left in the talk was a pile of dusty dull facts and observations with no energy behind them.
Wait! It’s more than that. It’s fear of power. The power of letting all that good stuff in our personalities/souls demonstrate our authenticity. Just like the women in my women’s groups of the 70s and 80s who didn’t want to admit they had personal power. Why? Because of our negative definition of power – power over rather than power to …
Yup! It’s power. Power defined as control and violence. Power vs. its opposite – weakness. If I let go of my power over, I may be destroyed. If I exercise my power over, I may cause damage, or at the very least be disliked.
Ah-ha! Too bad I can’t afford to pay myself, but I can choose to say it out loud. What a world this would be if we all unleashed our positive power. What we could accomplish in the way of social justice, personal health – physical and mental – creative solutions to the world’s problems. If we could just redefine power as “power to …” instead of “power over …” Now I’m getting carried away. I think I like it.
Thanks, Joyce. I told you I’d be thinking. Thanks, Gloria Steinem. I’ll bet that snaky line turned into lots of activated people.
I Chose to change to this blogging service because I found it easier to comment on other people’s blogs who were using WordPress, but I’m not hearing from anyone, so I think I’m just blowing into the wind. Am I right? Is there something I can do to rectify it?
What I’m being is vulnerable, I guess. Which brings me to a great presentation of authenticity, shame, and vulnerability. Well, really about lots more. It’s thanks to Pastor Beth Warpmaeker who posted it on Facebook. I know I’m “not normal” as one complimentary friend said, so maybe I’m just weird to think it’s great. To me, though, it taps into so much about forgiveness. When I tried to explain to myself why it seems that folks can forgive terrible crimes, but the little things cause long term resentment, I arrived eventually at shame. That one is called stupid, or has one’s boyfriend stolen, or finds one’s children ignored, for example, suggests a deficit in oneself. Murder, on the other hand, is clearly the fault of the perpetrator. Shame doesn’t get in the way of deciding whether to forgive.
So now, I’ll be vulnerable and try to attach the link here. If you do choose to watch it, be prepared to spend some time. It’s not a quickie.
Big smile for the day. Log on to Leelah’s blog, The impossible is always possible, and click on “Building Out of Joy.”
A recent conversation reminded me of something I learned from a client a long time ago. She, preferring tidiness in the home, described the stress of living with a husband who preferred to drop mail and clothes wherever they landed, and leave dishes in the sink to “soak.” I, being a neatnik, said something like “That’s not very considerate of him.” Her reply? “Or maybe it’s not considerate of me to lobby for tidiness which makes him uncomfortable.”
The lesson? Just because I prefer tidiness doesn’t mean it’s the more virtuous living style. For my client, it did require finding a way to live together with her spouse, somehow satisfying the needs of both. Not an easy task, I’ll grant you. But best resolved with respecting each person’s viewpoint as legitimate. Just as we appreciate the ‘good enough’ parent, life may require us to value the ‘good enough’ relationship.
It’s a lesson that can generalize to things close and distant, individual and group, even politics. As far as I know, she and her husband are still together, continually searching for the balance, but finding peace and love worth the effort.