5Dec

Grace as: Role Call

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” ~ John Irving

It all started crumbling at the mention of a playdate. One of our girls is going through some social disconnect at school, and Dan very reasonably suggested that we invite one of her classmates over to spend an afternoon. “You don’t have to do anything,” he added more reasonably still. “In fact, why don’t you take your laptop and go out somewhere to write while I watch the kids?”

At which point I, very unreasonably, began to cry.

~~~

More than a decade has passed since I asked fundamentalism to move out, but I’m still finding his records scattered through my collection. One of them is called Roles, and I don’t mean to play it, not exactly, but its strains are so familiar that my hands move to the needle like a sacrament. One moment of scratchy white noise, then the old refrains start up, pricking at nostalgia as they go.

You are a woman, the record croons in gentle condescension. You were designed to be your husband’s helper, the keeper of his home, and the caretaker of his children. This is your place, the place you were tailor-made for. The music begins to waltz through the corners of the room, brushing across smudged windowpanes and stirring up dust bunnies. The notes touch down heavily on the notebook where I scribble my goals, and I cringe as the song turns sinister.

Shame on you, shame on you, so much shame. Your ambitions are unforgivably selfish. Not only are you neglecting your duties as homemaker, but you ask your husband to give up his valuable time and help you. You ask the family you should be serving to accommodate your dreams. You put your energy and attention into writing instead of hosting play dates, and it is your fault your daughter is struggling in friendship. It is your fault your husband has so little leisure time. It is your fault you have to fight your own mind for confidence. It’s time to give up this charade of individual purpose and passion. You are, after all, a woman.

By the time the melody fades away, my sense of self has faded too. I wonder wearily why I ever asked fundamentalism to leave when he’s the one with the ready answers. I wonder how long I’ll have to channel June Cleaver before my soul stops trying to escape. I wonder what, if any, is the point of me.

~~~

Who I am now is a gift, pure and simple. When fundamentalism moved out, freedom and choice and the unique beauty of personhood moved in, and the one-size-fits-all role of woman was replaced with my very own skin. I can’t express just what it means to learn that I, as myself and no one else, am valuable… though truthfully, it’s such a fantastical notion that it doesn’t always stick. Some days, I dismiss it as too good to be true, and other days, old records dismiss it for me. Even the mention of a responsibility-free playdate can trigger a mental landslide, adding support to my fear that this identity is only a façade.

When Dan mentioned inviting a friend over, he had no idea that my mind would snap first to the disaster zone that is our girls’ room, then to reluctance over cleaning it, then to guilt that it isn’t already clean, then to capital-g Guilt that my housekeeping failure is damaging their friendships, then to capital-everything GUILT that I’ve been following my call to write rather than my role as ‘50s sitcom housewife—compounded by the fact that my vastly superior and male husband was offering to watch the kids for me—and finally to utter despair. (Surprisingly, it did not make me feel any less like a worm when he apologized for the misunderstanding. Does the man have to be so kind?)

This is grace though—that I can listen to the Roles record play like an earthquake in my heart and feel my life discredited from the inside out, that I can spiral down into a trapped, hopeless, and shamed shell of myself, that I can reabsorb the bone-deep lie of inferiority… and then, even with tears still blurring my vision, that I can recognize the prison of old mindsets as the real façade, square my uniquely beautiful shoulders, and march out.

I am, after all, a woman.

~~~

{I’ve always had trouble comprehending the word “grace” as it’s used by religion or defined by Webster, but something in me knows it’s integral to who I am and who I’m becoming. In this Grace as: series, I’m attempting to track it into the wild and record my peripheral glances of it, my brushes with the divine. Come along with me? You can follow along via TwitterRSS, or my piping hot new Facebook page… and as always, I love hearing your thoughts in the comment section!}

Previously:

Grace as: Glitter in the Floorboards

Grace as: Three-Week Smiles

Grace as: Permission to Celebrate

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11 comments

  1. oh honey. {{{capital everything HUGS}}
    have you read RHE’s new womanhood book? omg. you would LOVE.

    <3<3<3

  2. You put the pow in powerful, Bethany. (and that photo of you: KNOCK-OUT)

  3. Dear amazing, wonderful Bethany. I love this more than I can say. If I weren’t sitting in a very public cafe I’d be crying my eyes out. 🙂 That letter I told you about earlier, it was full of these lies, these forcings of square peg me into round hole Fundamentalism. I cringed, I felt sick and smothered, I wondered why the dickens my lovely man loves this weepy mess of a girl, and then glorious joy. I am free, I’m not there anymore, and I am home. We’re so lucky. So, so, so lucky. And I’m so thankful for your words. XO

  4. Reading what you write is almost creepy 😉

    I too ‘struggle with my gender’ as I sense a powerful call on my life, a call that I would have dismissed long ago–but my husband hears it too.
    He has become my biggest cheerleader and the one that gives me ‘permission’ to march forward to be the woman that God not only has called me to be, but CREATED me to be.
    I know your guilt all too well. She is a close companion, one that is always lingering around the nearest corner reminding me of the woman I am not and the mother I am not and the housekeeper I am not and……

    March on sweet friend. Take hold of the dreams that God is spinning in your soul and watch as HE weaves the majestic tapestry of your lives into a full and inspiring masterpiece.

  5. Rain – I WOULD love to! She’s at the top of my list once we get a book budget again… ::fingers crossed:: Capital HUGS to you too.

    Liz – You make me blush, though in the best possible way.

    Krista – I love every single little thing about your comment. It didn’t make it into my blog entry, but I also had plenty of moments yesterday when I wondered why anyone would love “this weepy mess of a girl.” The more time that goes by, though, the more home and freedom seep into our souls, and that is an incredible experience to share with you. <3

    Tiffany – How great that you also have a husband who cheers you on in being fully yourself! These good men of ours are treasures… as are you, absolutely and without a doubt. Wishing you lived close enough to stop by for a mug of something hot and an hour to chat in my spectacularly not-clean kitchen!

  6. well, don’t buy it. “it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas….”

  7. Really excellent post Bethany! I feel like you are writing my soul! I feel the same way. I still struggle with my role in this world and how I was raised to define myself through the lens of wife-dom /mothering (“but jon I am suuuuuuch a terrible wiiiiifffffeeeee”) and my lack of children, my lack of ability to pack Jon his lunch, keep the rug vacuum and not slob around the house in yoga pants whenever given the chance. The energy that is spent lamenting how terrible of a woman I am, and yes, crying too at the kindess of Jon who rejects the notion stronger than I do. I am re-learning what it means to be a Creation first- as a woman- a woman with unique talents and abilities that are God given (yes, shockingly in addition to my uterus). I still hear in my head a home-school mom gasp in horror when I shared my goals to become a medical doctor- she gasped “you don’t plan on getting married and having children are you?!” Yes. I am. And being a physician. Because that is what I was created to do. And every day I too march out. xoxo

  8. Bethany v. 2 (actually, I think I’m the v. 2 in our relationship) – I just love you. And yes to everything in your comment, with accompanying fist-bumps.

  9. I was not raised in a fundamentalist home, but I STILL struggle with this. I just feel like all the home/kid stuff falls under MY responsibilities. EVEN when I am working full time. It is crazy, isn’t it?

  10. Megsie – I can’t fathom working full time and having full home-management responsibilities. Cannot fathom. You rock your bread-winning self!

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