Monday, November 27, 2006

The Male Voice

If I were still 20 or even a couple years more I would have told you about how sensitive I was to men's stronger expressions. When they raised their voice or spoke harshly I was overcome with a bit of fear. As for whomever I met I was hoping that they might soon realize that they could save all their roughness for someone else and put to good use their special gentle attentions for me. Because that is what I needed. I needed a peaceful voice so that I could concentrate on becoming normal.

Having another six years of completely normal exposure to men in their strength, that sensitivity is all forgotten. That's thanks to a husband who is indeed good and gentle and the way that goodness has allowed me to heal over all things.

Now, things are developing into a new direction. I started to sense this within me two summers ago when I started blogging, but had no way till after all this time, to articulate it. My tastes for exposure are changing. Now I see and hear aggression and anger and impetuousness and other less civilized sounds and language (not bad things, I'm not saying though), and I am impressed. I don't think men realize how neat and special it is for them to have that freedom to be rough in the way they express themselves, and are received by the world.

When I was a child I listened to pop music. I had the chance to hear hard rock, with all the almost uncontrolled guitars and the high-pitched, screaming voices. These sounds struck me then as ludicrous, absurd. It made no sense. It had no relevance in terms of expressing anything worthwhile. But my tastes are changing; when I listen to people like "Petra" or others I haven't learned the name of yet, I... like it.

It seems fair that I ought to consider all the ways men are, not just the ones that are palatable. Still, it's almost always challenging to behold these rougher, more macho ways men deal with the world, and I still have some secret preference to see a man be able to honor women as the weaker ones who need a filter for many things. But my desire to not peek around that filtered veil is less and less satisfactory. I'm ready to hear and to see the rough way of expressing humanity.

Give me no longer grassy knoll toga Jesus. Give me Revelation Lord of the Swords Jesus.

I still can't explain what seems useful and relevant to me about that male voice. I don't want to become rough or angry or any other aspect, myself. I don't think that will ever change even if I am assertive. I guess I like the confidence, the arrogance they operate out of. I still am not quite sure what it is. But, it's fascinating to listen to.

And with good timing, I might add. For here comes more of it as I have a boy and everything will change.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Hate My Naivete

Because of the negativity I reaped.

I was in seventh grade cooking class and there was a boy who was nice. We would laugh as we were making stuff and so one day I wrote him a note. I told him with some basic language what I was beginning to experience at home. I think I used the word 'hitting.'

I said in the note, "Can you help me?"
"No," he sent it back.
I wrote back and passed it again, "Why not?"
He slid it back and it said, "I'm sorry about that, but it's your problem, not mine."

(I started to wonder if others understood that on the day they said no and on every day following while they were treating me with uninvolvement, I was going home to misery.)

What did I need help for?

On a fluxuating basis, things could have been good or bad. Maybe one day I needed a place to feel safe, on another I needed someone to share a meal with me. But what I really needed more than anything tangible that passes away quickly, was a way to understand what was happening to me. Was it right? Was it wrong? Was it something I ought to be tolerant about? Should I trust my parents? Things like this, was what I really wanted to know. You see, perspective can mean everything for the sake of going through something difficult. If only someone could say to me how I should think about it in a fair way, then I could go on going on.

The truth of the matter was that people my own age were, while remaining uninvolved, simotaneously angry and surprised with me that I was so sheltered. Now I don't remember all of my former life; I have a patchy memory for some reason but I tell you that the most common and annoying and hurtful question I heard throughout till I was about 21 was, "What?? You seriously don't know what ____ is??" I can't remember any examples, I don't know why. Some of them were obscene things, so eventually I learned that when girls raised eyebrows and boys were snickering, I shouldn't try to understand what a conversation was about.

It is well known by my closest friends things like, for instance, that I didn't know that Santa Claus wasn't real until I was 14; my parents decided to break the myth and it took me a couple of days to believe it. I had only been to a restaurant once, till I moved out at 20, to a movie theater or the zoo or a museum or the carnival once, as well, until I moved out. I had been in the mall maybe three times, before 20, never crossed at a crosswalk and thought to observe until ten minutes of standing there, that the light would not change for me to walk until I pressed the button.

Once I went on a bike ride when I was 19 and used my limited mental map to explore the streets that connected around the housing development I lived at. I was gone 15 minutes and I went inside to tell my dad how excited I was to explore things for myself and he told me that that wasn't appropriate, and that I could only ride my bike in sight of the windows of our house.

I was furious (but hid it well out of fear). I couldn't understand what was so upsetting to me at the time. It's just that I couldn't give an answer for what exactly seemed to be wrong with what my dad had told me to do. Here are some other upsetting questions that rocked my normally sheltered way of life:

"Can I take you out to dinner?" -boy-friend-type, to me in 9th grade
"No, my dad would never say yes."
"I don't know."

The neighbor's daughter was my sister's best friend and also my friend too. One day she asked when I was 17 or 18,
"My parents were talking about it and they were suspecting your father has been sexually abusing you and your sister."
"What? No!"
"Well then how come you two are always washing his cars and doing yardwork, and cleaning the house all day long?"
"I don't know."
(I still don't understand this connection.)

"What? What do you mean, you can't go out for the afternoon? We planned it with your dad and put it down on his calendar, like two months ago! You did all your work."
"He said it wasn't a good day for him, that since he was tired that I should do it another day."
"Don't you think that's selfish of him?"
"I don't know."

"You've been talking about this field trip and how you were ready to go, for a couple months, Michele, why now this morning as we leave you're saying you can't go?"
"Well, I mentioned it again to my dad and now he says I can't go."
"I... don't know." That's when I was 18, for a Japanese class field trip, a discussion with my teacher.

"Why are you wearing your glasses today, Michele?" "Why are you washing your hair in the sink in the school bathroom?"
"Because my dad told me that as punishment I couldn't have my contacts or take a bath for a month."
"Why do you let him tell you what to do?"
"I don't know."

There are worse examples, describing worse and more disturbing things I experienced and my friend's reactions, than this, but I just can't handle discussing them publically. I found myself, in the beginning of my conversations, telling my friends about how my dad explained it all: what I had done wrong, what his reasoning on the matter was. They would get angry and eventually say their reasons why he was more than just wrong, but maybe even abusive, or at least that suspicion was always there with pretty much anyone I ever talked with. By the end of me listening to my friends tell me about how their parents did things or why they thought that something was wrong, I saw things from their point of view and walked back into my day-to-day life a little more dissatisfied.

There was a common theme developing of my own discomfort and dred whenever I found those words "I don't know" coming out of my mouth.

It was all very confusing for me. Of course, I wanted to do these things, desperately. It already hurt to be told, especially with as often as my dad did not follow through with his word, that I couldn't do them. But I just wondered, am I being selfish myself, to listen to my friends, and start believing that something was wrong with my parents just because it's something I'd like to have? I always gave the benefit of doubt over my own strong desires to my parents.

Along with the fear of punishment or losing whatever I did have, there were these subtle promises that my father made in his lectures and punishing conversations, that it was better that I lived different than the rest of the world, because I didn't waste my time on things that didn't matter. That by following through his higher vision for my life, that by following and trusting his parenting with all its difference, I would be a person with better character. I would be a person who was better than everyone else, I would be more educated and more prepared to live a better life. For instance, PhD. students don't stoop to marry college students, and PhD. students are given all sorts of privileges no one else will get. I saw every reason why he was right. I thought I really was going to end up better than everyone else if I just kept on doing what he said. As I approached adulthood this slowly was beginning to erode.

I began to hate his aspiration of wealth and education. I began to see that there were things to obtain that were just as important as money and knowledge. It must be true, I began to reason, that others were just as capable growing up morally sound, having perhaps no parents at all. Others were just as capable of obtaining money for college and succeeding at it, without having to give up every kind of friendship that came their way. Others were just as comfortable to be friends with people of minority or low education, even though they came from a different or "higher-class" background. I didn't have to be this way. I just simply... was. I was this way, but, I wasn't happy.

If only someone would show me any reasonably working way to live and achieve life's good goals. I needed to see another lifestyle, another life pattern. I began to desire this more than anything in the world. I wanted to see how someone else was becoming a good person, how someone else was loving their family and making friends and making money and getting educated with roughly similar success. I just wanted to see something else, anything else. Then I could compare and contrast what my father was doing, and feel right about staying in it or getting out of it. Another words, I could begin to be responsible for my own life.

I have been on a mission ever since my teenage years, to eliminate my naivete. There still are important things that I don't know much about. The other day my friend and Ben and I were having a long conversation and it turned to home loans and taxes, and for those five minutes I had nothing to say. It made me feel really bad. I just wondered like I did when I was growing up, "Am I just living life through rose-colored glasses, having no appreciation or understanding of these kinds of decisions, taking things for granted?" It upset me to think that it could be true.

Of course there are exceptions. There is a time and place for being innocent. As a woman, it is good to understand what the world is doing, but it isn't good to ponder or participate in all of it for the sake of preserving my morality. Childhood also should be innocent in proportion to age and responsibility. I've been thinking for a few years now, that if I am going to do adulthood right, if I am going to give the very best a mother can give to her children, I have to keep on ridding myself of ignorance. I have to be smart. I have to be aware. I have to be experienced.

I hated that sheltering. That portion of it that was way too much for my age and ability.

I learned to hate my ignorance rather than letting it be as it was for my father, a mark of the elite. I found everything unfamiliar, fascinating. I ate it up.

I saw my salvation, my sense of hope, my strength for survival, in being introduced to another way of living life. To think that someone would teach it to me or show it to me, well, that was all the more comforting, but even in the case that there was no guide or helper I knew that it would help me to be exposed by my own immersion nonetheless.

I long for introduction into the contrary, the unlikely, the unthought parts. I long to be able to understand and experience these things enough to be able to advocate them to the rest of the common world in the same way that I originally tried to explain to my father how I wasn't choosing to do things his way. He needed to know that I was going to be different than he desired and yet be okay, and the whole world needs to know that there are those who are different but are still just as valuable. It's just as beneficial for me, as it is for him. It's beneficial for my kids... for everything that I do and everyone who sees me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Am I different now

I mentioned how I was beginning to relax about life in general. So, now I am trying to understand how this is appropriate in relation to what I've always been. I shared that photo and that story from my past to give a little background of why I am so thorough to battle confusion in my life.

The most important thing that I gained and intend to keep from those years is my lack of sureness about why... why I have to be this that or anything else, to own each and every facet of who I choose to identify myself as. Most people's reaction is probably, "That's dumb. A miserable life of endless introspection." But the benefits I have always reaped speak a better word to me. The benefit is, I am versatile in relating to others. The benefit is, I approach humility more readily. The benefit is, I will excel in living with a more realized purpose and meaning, at least I hope.

It's always been a handy thing to be able to explain the hope that is within me. I don't know... show me the bad in that.

And, I am so proud in the Lord for the way in which He has made me conscientious through those hard circumstances. He just so wanted me to be blessed with this kind of skill in His body which works in the world.

I have to explain that the most important change for me has been my circumstances. Before, I lived in uncontrollably fluxuating threat to my health, my hunger, my lodging, my self-confidence, even my life, because the truth is, I didn't know how far the hitting would go, since it wasn't based on me but on him, and I didn't know whether or not I would eat that day because it wasn't dependent on me as much as him, and so on and so forth.

Still, you may be wondering... do I own it? You have to understand, this happened over *years.* From 12 till I was 22, beginning with interrupting my bath at 6:30 in the morning grabbing me by my hair in the dark and breathing hatred over my spending time hanging out after school instead of walking straight home, to, being pregnant with my first child and he was, still, threatening to walk across the room and smack me because he didn't like the meekly-delivered answers I gave to his questions.

Now God has moved me into a territory of protection and deep blessing. There is a little white picket fence in front of the windows of my house, and that is my spiritual symbol of what God has done for me at this age. There is complete security about my health, my protection, my heritage received and being bestowed, my provision, my sense of worry for life. I almost could say that I live in a dream. No longer am I worried about what lurks around the corner, there is no trepidation for what anyone will do to me. I do not live under any threat.

So what happens to someone who is trained to expect danger but isn't experiencing it anymore?

People have warned me that I would begin to create problems where there are none. That I would make for myself controversies or struggles in my white-picket-fence life because that's all I know. But the point is, I don't think that this is taking place with me. I am happy, period. I am honored by my 1300 square feet and my marriage and my children and my car; period. I don't spend a lot of time thinking there's something unsatisfactory with anything outside of me, with a few exceptions of things here and there but I think that these are either normal, or maybe even sub-normal compared to others and what I hear of them openly complaining about this that or the other thing. I think I somehow came out, by God's grace, with a pretty good perspective on what I have been given. I hope I have a fair estimate of myself about this.

There is one way in which my sense of danger is allowed by me to live on in me....

And here is what I want to say: even though I am living in blessing and security now, I don't want to waste it. What I have right now, I know is a gift, and I could lose some or all of it someday, if God was permitting. That is why I still pull to hard topics, to take hard circumstances around me deep into my heart for the sake of raising myself to action. I am attracted to difficult things because I see what they could do for me & others, and, I even permit them to ravage my mind or heart kind of in the same way that I unwillingly experienced that tearing-down when I was younger.

The truth is, not everyone lives a life behind a picket fence. There are horrible things going on in the world. Unfortunate. Unpublished. Misunderstood. Because of my past, I perpetually do not see myself any different than them. I don't want to forget them. I want to stand side-by-side with them, for I was them, and could be again. Do unto others what you want done for yourself. Can I really help someone else if I am unwilling to be ravaged in my heart like they also are? People appreciate a friendship that is more real, and that's my business.

So there are small ways in which I fight even right now. It is not like before, because today, most are by my choice to participate in. Summed up they are no where close in intensity with what happened before, but I intend to keep emotionally fit, I guess, in case things would ever change for me. I'll be ready. I am still ready, at least I'm hoping.

Still, I admit I see myself being a wimp about the new kinds of sufferings being made real for my life here, the ones I am not choosing. Suffering in the way of less-than-realized relationships, where people can't see what I intend, or where I can't seem to express who I am, things are still bumpy for me, you know, I still find these frustrating even though I am making progress. And the most unfamiliar and new challenge of learning to relax, learning to be okay with finding myself not able to control or direct my sense of confusion back out, well, this is very hard to learn to surrender to.

I am glad that I know that I don't need someone else to rescue me from tough stuff. I want to learn strength the hard way in agreeing to be lonely through things that will teach me something beneficial. It's a lesson-learned that needs balance, though. For while I realize that if something around me is broken, the first place things ought to be changing is within myself, I also cannot ever agree to a feminist point of view. I know I need others. I know that God made me weak in a way that requires or plans for others to come to my aide. Some of these things are not gender-defined, some are.

It's nice to know that someone is there to catch you when you fall... I rarely expect it even though I always want it.

I said above that I let the feeling of danger live on in me in this way. As I ease into this new stage of "letting go" and "relaxing" I think this is good, and I am ready to go. But: I have to give credit where credit is due. And I have to remember to not let go of what I know I should never forget. That's why I think things like La Femme Nikita pasted onto my myspace page. I feel like anyone who goes there thinks I am insane. What am I doing in life that is remotely relatable to a tv show like that? I'm pregnant, caring for little babies and children all day long all week long for years now. You know what I am trying to say? I couldn't have a more different appearing life than this. And it is, truly the opposite. I know, I know.

I need to recognize that reservior of potential from which I largely do not draw but when I do, it gives me great benefit even now. So, I hope I make more sense, as a personality, with this explanation of my past and what I took from it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Uterine Communiques

On Monday I bought a turkey but since it's a little early I had to pay $.58 per pound, so it was 14 dollars when, if I had waited a little longer closer to the holidays I could have gotten it for as cheap as four dollars total. I was excited to make a thanksgiving meal early, and planned to make it Thursday (yesterday). Well, between AWANA on Wednesday night till about 9:30 and my new bible study (worthy of it's own post) starting at nine in the morning, I changed my plan and decided to make everything but the turkey on Thursday. Since it is 24 pounds it needs 8.333333 hours to cook and I was watching an infant and a seven year old so I decided even if I started it after the study no one would be awake enough to enjoy it out of the oven. I'll save it for Saturday....

So here I am writing in the aftermath. My house still smells good and my hair and hands still smell like onions even though I took a shower. But most importantly I am unexpectedly tired.

When people ask me how the pregnancy is going I have always said "inconspicuous," because apart from having a lump-tummy that occasionally fluttered and feeling strain occasionally for long periods of time standing, I was completely and utterly normal. In fact, I'm not sure if I mentioned this way back in some blog post, but, for a long, long time it's felt most like 'the twilight zone,' you know, if some person walked up to *you* right now and told you, "You're four months pregnant," you'd be like "Are you crazy? How could I be? Could it possibly be true?" especially, if you are male. :) That's what it's been like.

I think I've finally entered into a new phase. My bones are spreading, and most everything feels bothered with a little ache. It takes me twice as long to do anything because I can't focus and I'm tired. If you looked at me you'd see the difference now, too. No more that decent photo of me here in my profile, taken at 17 weeks. My eyes are sunken and dark, my hair is confused, and my acne is back, and by saying "back" I mean that it's gotten substantially more noticeable since I've had acne from when I was eight.

Okay, I know where this is going. I'm out of the running in terms of attempting a decent appearance and physical ability, for the next year.

Time to cut stuff from the schedule. Or to quit thinking so ambitiously for myself.

Baby, too, has entered into a new phase. No more swishing flutters. When I lay down, that's when baby takes the stage. He dance, kicks, and stretches out my insides, proving to me that he can and will use all ten inches of his length if necessary. "Knock it off, mom; you need to quit running around."

Okay. Words of wisdom from the utero-one.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The End of the Beginning

I realized that my camera phone was able to take ok-enough pictures that I wasn't waiting for us to get a scanner anymore.

From my sister's senior year graduation photo shoot, which I had no intention of being a part of:

This photo of the four of us I always remembered as expressive of my personality. It's a good body-language picture that says a lot about who I am. I look at this photo and I think "determination." No one was going to stop me from finding out what I was meant for, even if it was right to be patient and faithful in finding it. I see all my idealism, in this picture. Notice how everyone was smiling, and I wasn't treating the moment as casual as they. I was consumed and fueled by idealism almost exclusively. My sister also suffered under intensely negative circumstances, but her way of processing it was generally different than mine. Hers was denial. Mine was defiance.

I remember the events during this moment of my life.

It was taken eight years ago when I was 20 in that tenuous time right before I moved out. My schedule had monotonously been the same every day of my life for the two last years.... Commute to college, attend classes all day, go home, work for my father. As for time spent at school, I was surrounded by people my age who were living life. They were all having fun, growing together, exploring life's potential. But for some reason I never became a participant with them. No one ever talked to me, man and woman alike. It was like some mysterious forcefield kept me and everyone else separate. I resented that, even though I didn't know who to blame. So, I quit talking, pretty much altogether. I even made it a mission to let no man rub shoulders against me no matter where I was, and if a man swore in my presence I scowled at them for his lack of respect for me.

Try to see it through my eyes: I had all the feelings and desires as those who shared space with me did. I was just as mature and adult as they. I was just as capable of laughing and loving but... it somehow wasn't for me? Why not, I wondered.

The only logic I could make out of it was that I was being held separate by some principle, or devotion, or obligation. Maybe it was all my father's fault. Maybe it was God's plan. Maybe there was something wrong with me. I was made absolutely loyal to a confusing purpose, one I didn't see very much good for. If you asked me how I felt about being lonely and isolated, I would have shown you my anger. However I was always willing to reserve final judgment in the hope that some good was going to result out of it that I just didn't grasp at this time.

At home I had learned to endure in a holding pattern, by my ideals. I was being told in half-day long angry lectures that no one would ever want to marry me because of my average grades, and interrogated as to why I would sink to such an aspiration. I was related to criminals who cycle through the jails because I couldn't seem to anticipate that it was damaging to the fabric of the couch when I temporarily left the freshly washed clothes there, while doing other chores at the same time. I talked to my one friend (who put up with my weird situation) on the phone once every four months, and saw her even less frequently, because I had not "earned it." When I wasn't at school I was doing housework, and being punished by being spanked, standing in the corner, difficult yard work, reading news articles and giving reports on their content, and then it was also my job to read my dad's novel on a daily basis and give feedback on it.

But in those same two years there was this thing I had learned about believing in Jesus that when a person had faith they became something called "a new creation." I didn't understand it very well but I sensed that forgiveness was probably closely tied into the concept. So these new truths contradicted the "plan" and the purpose of the pattern I was holding. This contradiction said to me "Go... when the timing is right."

So, I turned in my money and an application to live in university housing starting in March. My grandma had given me money as a Christmas present because otherwise I had no way of getting any since my dad controlled all the finances. I would secretly thumb through that brochure for on-campus living, every once in awhile, completely scared that I maybe never would get to do it.

I lacked confidence. I really wished someone would walk into my life and give me assurance that I was going to be supported by them in this transition. But since for two straight years no man talked to me, I figured out that I first had to change my circumstances before anyone would be able to have that chance to care for me like that. As a test I got this idea around January of that year to make an entry in an online dating thing. I didn't post a picture, but just wrote a brief bit, and here is something like what I wrote:

-name, age, my interests are anthropology, blah blah blah.- "Even though I am interested in these things I love to learn about that which I don't know very much of. I especially think that I am rather naive about many things, but I want that to change. I am looking for someone who wants to show me what their world is like. Teach me."

The next morning I popped quickly into the university computer lab almost forgetting about the ad, and noticed I had 150 emails in my inbox. By the end of the week I had 1400. Almost every one of them started off saying, "Wow! You sound...." I can't really remember their different opinions to finish that quote. But I decided to print off the first email from every individual, most of them were early or mid twenties. I had a pile of printed emails that were about an inch and a half-thick, and I alphabetized and highlighted in yellow key concepts for them so that I could remember them to reply. I was going to reply to each and every one, I thought, to be fair. So for about three weeks that's what I did in my spare time at school. I told some of them eventually about my dad and how I wanted to move out. They liked me. They wanted to get to know me. I was pretty stunned. They thought that moving out was a good idea, and that I could do it and not die.

Okay, so my latest assessment was probably the most correct. This forcefield of inexperience required nothing more than my initiative to break out of.

And it was at this point that the photo was taken. I was ready to go; I finally had my determination. I didn't do anything to let my behavior worsen for my father to provoke him. Just magically, one day I confessed that I had turned in my application to housing and a room was waiting for me there, and after 24 hours of him being angry, hitting me and giving me the ultimatum that I was no longer his daughter, that I could never come home again and I had swallowed the hurt and overcame my doubt and found the most logical and respectful and meek way to accept those conditions, I shook all over as I packed the car up with my room's belongings in about 45 minutes and drove away without being allowed to say goodbye.


It took about four years for me to gain a full and balanced view of the difference my own initiative and passions could make for my life. And after that was accomplished I began to learn the newer lesson of what my passions could do perhaps for the good of others.

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