Saturday, July 11, 2020

"a God for the daughters..."

"pose like a trophy
on a shelf;

dream for everyone,
but not yourself;

i've heard of God the Son
and God the Father;
I'm still looking for a God
for the daughters..."

Two weeks ago, one of our daughters sent me the link to Little Big Town's video for, "The Daughters." I watched it and wept. It had me at hello. And I know I couldn't write this post until I could watch it without putting my head in my arms and falling apart - again.

I'm still not able to watch it without tears burning, and my chest hurting, but that will come...

I don't know why this touches me so deeply. Perhaps it is because the daughter that sent it to me knows me so well. And perhaps it is because I feel, deeply, the pang of sadness for lives lived - including most of my own - within a false narrative of what it means to be a "good girl."

I remember posture lessons in high school. Walking  across the room with a book on my head, under the stern coaching of our home economics teacher. She seemed to believe that a woman with perfect posture was somehow going to make a better wife. Sitting with your knees pressed together and your ankles crossed would make you more desirable - not to a boy - but to his parents. Lipstick made you kissable. Hair that was tidy and free of split ends would actually "say" something about you -- what? I still don't know.

I was a good girl. I loved my family. I loved my school, my church, my friends. But it wasn't enough. I didn't have a perfect nose. My teeth weren't straight. I put on weight between my junior and senior years and learned to starve myself to take it off. I went further and did more than I wanted - to be wanted.

This didn't stop when I rediscovered a God who I was taught loved me as his daughter. I still ached to be "enough." I still took on rejection as "my fault." And turned myself upside-down and inside out to pretend it was all okay - just so no one would think that the not-good-enough girl, hadn't become the not-good-enough woman, wife, mother. Mostly wife.

So what changed? Because something must have changed - right? I can now watch this video and feel the pain as distant. I no longer feel it as an indictment, but now accept it as a reminder of a long ago chapter in my life. A chapter I would title, "not enough, never enough."

I am not proud of the years of bending over backwards to make people like, admire, and want me. I am sad about them. I am sad for the example of frustrated eagerness-to-please that I modeled for my daughters and their friends. And it wasn't really about pleasing a man. More often it was about giving the impression, to other women, that I really wasn't "not enough." That I would be a wise, evolved, fun friend. When in reality, I was sad, insecure, and self-deprecating.

So, what changed? I am not really sure. Other than to identify a momentary shift, a turn of the aperture, a widening of the limiting lens through which I saw myself as a self-identifying female in a very male-dominated world. A world in which women were not kind to one another - in an effort to jockey for attention, admiration, and achievement based on comparisons with one another.

I was sitting in a hotel conference room with about 50 amazing women. In my mind's eye, they had "arrived." I was there because - well, to be honest, at that moment I wasn't really sure. Was I there to support them? Was I there because I needed to hear the message in order to clarify it later for them? Was I there to take notes? It couldn't possibly be, because I deserved to be in the company of these other - more intelligent, enlightened, interesting - women. They must know something more of God's love than I did. Because I felt like a loser and was on the verge of tears.

It was a session on the history of the women's rights movement. The presenter was one of the most motherly, kind-eyed, gentle, fiercely loving women I had ever been in the presence of. I so wanted to ask her a million questions. Not about the historic thought-leader and reformers she was telling us about, but about herself. How was it that she was white-haired, soft, round, bespectacled, and brilliantly kind? And at the same time, she was smart, funny, compassionate, and wise.

The women I had been hanging out with were constantly encouraging one another to invest in the right suit, pumps, hair color/style, presentation. And I had been part of it. Coaching my colleagues on how to present themselves, as much as their message. But this lovely creature at the front of the room, was the opposite of what I had been asked to encourage in my colleagues. I was confused.

During the morning break, I stayed back in the conference room while everyone else went to grab a snack, powder their noses, or stretch their legs. I just couldn't. I knew if I joined them I would either burst into tears, or stand in a corner comparing myself to each of them. So I sat in the back, looking over my notes. Copious notes.

About five minutes later, the presenter came back into the room. She came right over and sat down next to me. She didn't say anything at first, she just put her soft, warm hand on my forearm and smiled a sad, knowing smile. I felt her sisterhood. In that moment, I knew that she had her own struggle with how to be a woman - among women. It was as clear to me as the tears streaming down my face, that I was not alone.

I don't remember what she said to me -- it wasn't a lot. But when the session resumed, her message was all about the historic struggle to understand the "God of the daughters." She shared insight into the lives of women like Mathilda Jocelyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Mary Baker Eddy. Women who knew that knowing, and claiming, God as equally female, was more important than the fight for suffrage or a place at the table of commerce or legislation.

In her kindness, I had found my own path towards "being enough." I would - from that day forward - strive to be more kind, more collaborative, more supportive of those around me. I would seek not hard-won achievements, but softness of soul. I would work every day to model a gentle-heart, a fierce love, a sisterhood where one woman doesn't stand out alone, but one in which no woman wins the floor, until all women are heard.

I discovered that there was, in deed, a God for the daughters.

offered with Love,


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