The First Day

The first tiny sliver of the crescent moon,
a sign that the dark night is over.
But like most things, darkness has a cycle,
it comes in waves.

The dark night will come again.

But maybe when it does,
there will be a lamp to light my way,
someone to hold me through the night,
keeping me warm with whispered promises
to stay until the end.

And maybe this time, they will.

There was evening,
and there was mo(u)rning.
The first day.

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Number Five

The first thing I did this morning, New Year’s Eve 2012, was schedule an appointment with a new therapist. And that really is the perfect symbolic act to end 2012 and begin 2013.

Those of you who know me probably know something of my therapist saga. This new therapist would be number five. Yeah. Five. The first was an intern in North Carolina; the second a confused 50-something who bailed on her second career and became a life coach, ending our relationship in a way that may not have been so bad for most, but was traumatic for me; the third was a somatic therapist who was a perfect fit for me, except for her undisclosed connection with traumatic therapist number two; the fourth was a psychoanalyst who was a terrible fit and way too expensive; the third take two was, again, a perfect fit, except for the fact that she left to have a baby and has tentative plans to leave Seattle in the next year or two.

And now here we are, at number five. A man. A MAN, y’all. This is bound to be interesting. But as long as he’s a man who can say, with some amount of confidence, that he has no plans of ending his practice or moving away from Seattle in the next, say, five years, then I think we can make it work. And maybe I can finally avoid the now infamous mommy transference and work on some other part of my life for a change.

It has been quite the year, filled with lots of loss, lots of firsts, and lots of changes. Major changes. I decided being a therapist just wasn’t in the cards for me, and switched to the MATC program after three years of counseling training. I went through my first real break-up, quite ungracefully. I let myself fall in love with two men who I knew–either explicitly or intuitively–weren’t going to stick around. I chose to stay with a therapist (Number three part two) who specifically told me that she probably wasn’t the best therapist for me because she was planning on starting a family and there was a good chance she’d be moving out of the area. After a year of replaying this very old [read: young] story of growing attached to people that leave, intentionally searching for a new ending, I’m fed up. I’ve finally reached the end of my patience. So, as cliché as it might sound, 2013 is going to be a year of seeking out a new beginning.

So what better way to start 2013 than by making an appointment with a new therapist?

What better way to start 2013 than by moving into a new apartment with a fully functioning kitchen?

What better way to start 2013 than with a promising first date with the fourth guy in a month, because I’m learning to enjoy my life and refuse to settle for the first guy who shows interest?

What better way to start 2013 than with a job interview at a retail store that feels a bit like a sell-out, but will help me pay the bills while I figure out what exactly it is that I’m going to do with my one wild and precious life?

What better way to start 2013 than without a dose of my anti-depressant because it’s my day off as I wean myself off of the medication, hopefully for good?

What better way to start 2013 than by finally closing the door on the iteration of faith that has left me behind again and again, and choosing to live into a faith that roots me to the earth?  “The Rapture” by Peter Rollins

So now on to my New Year’s Eve tradition: picking my song for 2013. Every year, it seems like a song–a perfect song that either sums up my last year or my hopes for the next (and on rare occasion, both)–presents itself right here at the end of the year. This year, Noah and Abby Gundersen get the privilege of setting the tone for 2013 with their song, “Dying Now,” one of those rare songs that perfectly captures both the last year and the next. Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure:


The lyrics couldn’t be more perfect. I am saying goodbye to this gypsy inside of me, who has spent her whole life wandering around in search of a new ending to an old story, who’s bucket keeps coming up empty and she’s left wondering why. I’ve done a lot of living in that world, but it’s time for that version of myself to die. I am saying so long, everything must go. And truly, I don’t know if I stand a chance, but I’m trying anyhow.

Learning the Difference Between Right and Wrong

Learning the Difference Between Right and Wrong
 
Even tonight, I begin with June,
even though it’s December, almost Christmas,
and I am too young to be writing this.
Too young to know my mind.  Too young to know yours.
Too young to know this:
 
I am the wrong age.
 
And so are you.
You, friend, are too old to be writing this story on me again.
Too old to not have known better… like me.
I knew better, didn’t I?
 
I am never right, always wrong.
Too old when I was young
and now, somehow, too young when I feel so old.
But I am not too young to know my boundaries,
to know when I let you cross them,
to know that I couldn’t hold them on my own and I needed you to help me.
 
But you were too old (or too young, or too naïve, or too selfish).
Too old to not have known better… like me.
I knew better, didn’t I?
I am not too young to have been here before.
And I have been here before.
Here, on the floor of selfish, lonely heartbreak.
I’ve been here before, so sure that I’m unwanted and trying desperately to convince myself I’m wrong, only to find
I’m right.
 
It’s the worst feeling in the world, this being unwanted,
hearing a long line of excuses to soften the blow, hearing everything but
the only words that are right:
 
“You’re wrong (Too young, too old, too naïve, too self-less).”
 
It’s the worst feeling in the word, this knowing I was right,
when I’ve never wanted so desperately to be wrong.

Breaking the Silence

As part of my Master’s program, I will be doing a year-long research project known as the Integrative Project.  The point of the project is to integrate my learning from the past three years into a particular set of questions that I’d like to explore.  So with my growing interest in feminism and sexuality, I’ll be doing my project on The Church and Women’s Sexuality, focusing particularly on the sexual shame handed down to women by the Church.  Feeling a little scattered and unsure of where to begin, I bought a journal and decided to start writing down some of my own experiences around Christianity and sexuality.  As I began writing about one story in particular, I got so angry and fired up that I now cannot HELP but share it publicly.

In High School, I was part of a Christian group called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).  During my junior year, I went on the FCA Girl’s Retreat where we spent a few days at a lake house doing Bible studies, having “quiet time,” and talking about the issues we face as Christian teenage girls.  And of course, part of that conversation centered around dating and sex.  I don’t remember a whole lot about how the conversation began or progressed, but I do remember that part of the conversation centered around modesty.  For a lot of girls in my generation, “modesty” had come to mean that, as a Christian girl, you couldn’t wear anything too “pretty,” or anything that really showed your figure.  With a reputation as “that girl who always wears the Christian t-shirts,” I considered myself a good example of a modest Christian girl.  As part of this retreat, we talked about our struggle between wanting to look nice, but wanting to remain modest.  And so the conversation was couched in the language of freedom, attempting to give us more freedom to dress the way we wanted to without disappointing God, Church, our Parents, or–of course–our future husbands.  In discussing the different rules we had been given around what clothing was acceptable, I remember talking about the rules around tank tops, one of which was the 3-finger-rule, which stipulated that the straps of our shirts needed to be at least three fingers wide in order to be considered “modest.”  In this conversation, this rule was thrown out, and we were given permission to wear spaghetti straps.  I remember being scandalized, but also excited about this new freedom.

But this loosening of the rules did not come without its own set of restraints.  It was explained to us that boys struggle with lust, and that they quite easily fall into the habit of undressing girls “with their eyes.”  Keeping this in mind, I was told that if I wanted to wear tank tops with smaller straps, I should make sure they have built in bras, because if boys were able to see my bra straps, it would be easier for them to undress me in their minds.

In the same conversation, we were told about a Christian couple that wanted to wait until they were married to have sex.  In order to help them resist temptation, the girl wore insanely baggy clothes that kept her figure hidden.  But in the end, even that didn’t work.  They had sex, were filled with shame, and got married out of a sense of obligation.

Though I was grateful at the time for such an illuminating conversation, I now shudder at the demented and harmful messages that were passed on to me.  I can see now that the ENTIRE conversation was centered around male sexual response, which became, quite clearly, the woman’s responsibility to control.  What the fuck?!  In a conversation that was supposedly giving me the freedom to look “pretty” if I wanted to, I was saddled with shame over my own body, the hopeless responsibility of controlling men’s sexual responses, and silence about my own sexual feelings and desires.  And unfortunately, I have many other stories like this.  And even more unfortunately, I don’t think these kinds of stories are unique to me.

Friends, that’s a problem.  That’s THE problem:

SHAME and the SILENCE that comes with it.

It’s time to speak up.  It’s time that we, as the Church, talk about what we have done to women and their bodies.  It’s time for more women like me to tell their stories, to break the silence, and to take back the power that shame has stolen from us.

*  If you are a woman who grew up in the Church and want to tell your story, I am conducting interviews as part of my Integrative Project.  My hope is that the interviews will help guide me in the direction that my project should go to be of the most help to women.  If you’re interested in talking with me, you can send an email to amanda.barbee@theseattleschool.edu.


** Also, check out this retreat for women happening in a couple of weeks.  I’m TOTALLY going!

Inspired by Eve: A 1/2 Day Retreat

For a woman to step into her deepest desire(s) can seem risky, if not downright rebellious.

Eve knows this story.  All-too well.

And she tells a totally different one.

Eve reached for (and took) what she wanted.

Everything changed.

Still, it was good.

A 1/2 day retreat with Ronna Detrick, M. Div.

Saturday November 10, 2012, 9:00am – 1:00pm, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  $35, registration in advance.

http://www.ronnadetrick.com/tsswomen

Poems

Two free association poems I wrote today. Just thought I’d share.

The Smell of Cinnamon

The smell of cinnamon makes me want to write poetry. It has rhythm. The sound of the word and the smell. They sing a song together. They dance in my nose and my ears, bringing tears as it tingles, makes me smile and then sneeze. I feel a cool breeze. It’s fall. The leaves change, sets the sky ablaze with the color. of. cinnamon. Bright red and orange. I see it. I smell it. I feel it, the soft grains. Yes, the smell of cinnamon.

October

Tonight, you are the tears and the ache.
You are the mandolin and violin.
I put your music on,
But you’re not here.

Tonight, you are a scented candle burning.
You are the cool of October.
I put something pretty on,
But you’re not here.

Tonight, you are drizzled honey and three sprinkles of cinnamon.
You are a warm cup of tea.
I put the kettle on,
But you’re not here.

Tonight, you are the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.
You are the memory of you.
I take them all in,
But you’re not here.

Why I’m Just Like a Pigeon

I made a surprising discovery today: I am just like a pigeon.

I know what you’re thinking. A pigeon? Not exactly the most glamorous of birds. Well, unfortunately, I’m not feeling particularly glamorous these days.

While I was out running errands, I decided to stop into Starbucks to satisfy a frappuccino craving. On the sidewalk just outside, there were a couple of pigeons wandering around, looking lost and stupid as usual. Thinking that pigeons are a little skittish, I expected them to scamper out of the way as soon as they saw me coming. But instead, the one closest to me seemed reluctant to move. It bobbed its head in my direction as I got closer and closer, only moving away at the very last second. Now, maybe this pigeon was really just like a lot of Seattlites — too entitled to inconvenience itself for the likes of a Starbucks patron like myself. But my mind imagined something else for this sidewalk pigeon. Putting words in its mouth, I imagined it looking at me heading its direction and frantically repeating its familiar internal mantra–“Friend or foe? Friend or foe? Friend or foe?”–paralyzed until it can discern the answer. If I’m a friend, I might toss some breadcrumbs for it to munch on. If I’m a foe, I might… well, I’m not really sure what it’s afraid I might do. Drop-kick it?

And this, friends, is why I’m just like a pigeon. I spend my life scampering around on the sidewalk, either waiting for whatever crumbs you might be willing to give, or preparing myself to be drop-kicked into next week. I see you coming and the alarms begin to sound. Whether I just met you or I’ve known you for years, when you start to get close, I begin to frantically question–friend or foe? Friend or foe? Friend or foe? So desperate for connection, but terrified of it too, I drive myself insane with the question before scooting away at the very last second, too afraid to stay long enough to find out the answer.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a pleasant way to live out my life. Does it have to be, once a sidewalk pigeon, always a sidewalk pigeon? Or is there the possibility of promotion? Could I move up to the status of rooftop pigeon? Here, at least I would be out of the dirt and away from roaming feet indifferent to my existence. But my perch would be borrowed, and I would have to fight for my place among the crows and seagulls.

Or do I have the strength, courage, and patience to move up to the ranks of the carrier pigeon?  Is it possible that somewhere, someone, or some community could make me feel safe, give me a place to call home?  Is it possible that I could feel secure enough to fly out into the world with the message I’m meant to bring, whatever that message might be, because I know that I will always be able to find my way home, and that I will always be welcomed back there with open arms?

Maybe then, being a pigeon wouldn’t be so bad.

A Villain in Hero’s Clothing

I had a dream the other night that is haunting me.  So I made a poem out of it.  Enjoy!

A Villain in Hero’s Clothing


He finds me–the Villain in Hero’s clothing–
naked and hiding.
He takes me captive with the rest.
We fight and struggle, but he always returns,
comes to,
with knife in hand,
drawing our blood.
Corre! Corre!
Run, little ones!
Run to the guns that are meant to protect you.
But when you let down your guard,
they turn on you.
Traitors, following orders,
spineless women turning on their own,
the precious survivors.
Consigue! Get! Obtain!
Achieve! Attain!
Manage! Manage to save your soul.
Corre! Corre!
No familiar face can be trusted.
She is a Villain in Hero’s clothing.
She will lead you to your childhood,
to that tender place,
to dollhouses and barbies.
Don’t go quietly!
Destroy the houses!
Shatter them…if you can.
Make your voice heard!
She will try to win you over,
to knead you into her image.
Consigue! Manage to hold on to yourself!
Destroy the house you were born in,
if you have to.
She cannot win.
She cannot have you.
Don’t go quietly.

Daughters of Israel

I am Tamar, daughter of the King,
trapped in the house of my brother,
tricked and made the object of desire.
Taken, degraded, penetrated, and tossed aside.
Even as I cry out, “Rape!”
even as I make the disgraceful act known
in dust and ashes and sackcloth,
I am silenced, secluded,
sentenced to the life of a “ruined woman.”
For me, there is no vindication.
The rest of my story is never told.

I am Bathsheba, wife of Uriah,
trapped in the house of the King,
sent for and made the object of desire.
Taken, degraded, penetrated, and tossed aside.
Even as I send word, “I am pregnant,”
I am silenced, widowed,
sentenced to the life of a royal wife,
made the mother of a dead child.
For me, there is no vindication.
I pay the price for the sins of men.

I am the concubine from Bethlehem in Judah,
the lesser wife of the Levite,
trapped in the house of the Eprhaimite,
traded by my husband and made the object of disgrace.
Taken, degraded, penetrated until dawn.
Even as I cry out, “Rape!”
even as I fall at the entrance to the house,
my cries are no better than silence,
sentenced to death with the rising of the sun.
For me, there is no vindication.
My story only brings more disgrace,
my body cut into twelve pieces,
used to incite civil war among the tribes of Israel,
bringing death to men, women, and children alike,
the bodies of four hundred virgins given in marriage to the brothers of my oppressors,
two hundred more virgins, daughters of Israel,
captured and raped to satisfy men’s lust,
and to continue the name of Benjamin.

I am Eve, the mother of all,
trapped by the silence of Adam,
tricked by the serpent and made the object of disgrace.
Taken, degraded, penetrated by the words of men:
“You are the Devil’s gateway.”
Even as I cry out, “My husband was with me!”
I am silenced, secluded,
sentenced to a life of subordination,
my daughters forever the lesser beings,
though we are made of the same flesh as our oppressors.
For me, there is no vindication.
My story, my beauty, is tainted forever.

Daughters of Israel, I am you.
You are me.
We are one in the same.
Together we are every woman,
all who have been trapped, sent for,
tricked, traded, made into objects of desire and disgrace,
taken, degraded, penetrated, and tossed aside.
We are every woman who has cried out
and been silenced, secluded,
sentenced to a life that was never meant to be ours.

Daughters of Israel, I weep with you.
In the presence of my peers,
I make a spectacle.
In grief and mourning,
I cover my head with dust and my body with your ashes.
See what they have done to us, my sisters?
Such should never be done in Israel.

In the end, will there be vindication?
Will our story ever be told?

OT Feminist: Home

Week 4 Journal

“I was hoping to somehow move into a better understanding of God in this class.  Instead, I’m slowly losing my belief in God altogether.”  I wrote these words in my class notes last week.  I was tired, exhausted from fighting, overwhelmed by story after story that only made God seem more confusing and less just.  As I listened to my classmates’ retelling of one of the biblical stories, these words rang out in my ears:

“His name is God.”

His name is God.  His name.  His.  And I remembered Mary Daly: “If God is Male, then Male is God.”  If God is male, then I, as a woman, have no place.  With my recent awakening to the status of my sex, my gender, these words that I have heard all of my life begin to weigh on me.  They taunt me.  They violate me.  They break me.  “His name is God.”

During the class, in the midst of my grief, we were given playdough as part of one of the groups’ presentations.  As an exploration of the words of Jeremiah 29, we were asked to consider the concept of “home.”  As I thought about God calling the Israelites to make their home in exile, to make themselves comfortable in a place and among a people that they detested, I thought about women and their bodies.  I thought about myself as a woman, and about my body.  Women’s bodies have been detested.  Women’s bodies have been made the enemy.  Women’s bodies have been the sites of exile.  But I hear God calling us to make ourselves at home in our bodies.  God is calling us to make ourselves comfortable in these bodies that have been detested, these bodies that men have exiled us to.  God is calling us to come home, because She is going to bring salvation.  In response to that call, I made breasts and a vagina out of my playdough.  It was uncomfortable.  I felt dirty.  I felt wrong.  Because women’s bodies, my body, have been labeled “wrong.”  But in the words of June Jordan, “I am not wrong.  Wrong is not my name.”  And so, in the midst of my discomfort, I shared my creation and my thoughts with the class.  And much to my surprise, I was met with applause.  Apparently, I am not the only woman in the room who thinks we need a new story.