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Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Shout out to My Non Church Going Friends:Who is Really Doing the Judging?

Indulge me a minute because I am having a moment and I need to vent.  Don't ask me what sparked this mood, because I have no idea---nothing in particular fuels my need to voice these thoughts:

Too often, people who regularly attend church are accused of being too judgmental.  Non church-goers are quick to label someone as a bible thumper, or make snide comments about the person thinking they are better than someone else or holier than thou. Why?  Because they make a casual reference to church?  At least in my experience, that is the only thing you could be basing your thought on.  I don't proseletyze.  Nobody can honestly accuse me of shoving my beliefs down their throat or constantly chastising them for not attending church.  In fact, the ONLY time I have ever said something to someone about going to church was when they were going through a really difficult time---I suggested that going back to church could give them a support, a peace to help them through it.  Other than that, I only make smart comments to defend and deflect my accusers.

Quite frankly, I am sick of it.  "It" being the accusations and snide comments which insinuate I think I am better than somebody else because I go to church.  Why does it make me so angry?  Because I am very self-aware.  I am extremely clued-in to my faults and have no problem in acknowledging the many faults I have.  But I have enough flaws that I don't appreciate it when someone heaps their crap on me undeservedly.

When the average individual tells a story, they put it in context.  So you if you are telling a funny story about something that happened at work, you would mention that you were at your place of employment.  Or if you mention "Joan", your friend from work, you would refer to her as your coworker.  But let me tell you a funny story and explain that it occurred at bible study, or the person involved is my friend from my mission group---a million red flags go off in your head.  Then the first time I say something you disagree with, you automatically pull out the Jesus card and blame it on me thinking I am holier than you.  So in reality, a person who goes to church on a regular basis doesn't get the benefit of expressing an opinion the way others do.  That doesn't seem fair to me.  Common sense would tell you that a person's stories are going to be based on where they spend their time; just because I spend my time doing church-related things doesn't mean I think I am above you.  I don't judge you for your activities, so why do you judge me for mine?

I wish I could scream at the top of my lungs each time I experience a friend or family member's judgment because of the things I choose to spend my time doing.  I don't judge them for what they don't do, but they have no problem judging me for what I do.  And then there's the evaluating of every action I take and every statement I make.  "Well that's not very Christian is it?".  When you do something, I don't ask you to put it through the Jesus-meter; why do you feel perfectly comfortable doing that to me?

So attention, all you who choose to not attend church but are quick on the draw to judge the actions and statements of those who do.  I can't speak for anyone else, but here are my thoughts:  I don't judge you because you don't go to church; stop judging me because I do!  Stop acting like because I go to church means I have to be perfect in your presence, and if I gossip or giggle at something someone did, I am a heathen.  My saying I am a Christian doesn't mean I am perfect, it means IKNOW I AM NOT, BUT I KNOW I NEED JESUS!  And here's a newsflash....I don't assume you are not a Christian just because you don't go to church!  I know that there are Christians who choose not to visit church regularly, and I also know that there are people who attend church every Sunday and don't know Jesus Christ. 

Final newsflash----my feelings about you aren't any different if you don't know Jesus Christ.  I love God, and I love His people (meaning all people).  I can be friends with Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc.  (actually, I have friends in all of these categories).  Of course, what we do together will differ depedning on our beliefs---but the relationships aren't deal breakers because of differing beliefs. 

So next time you want to criticize me and call my behavior into question, ask yourself what gives you the right?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Feel Bad About My Neck

Nora Ephron wrote a collection of essays and entitled them "I feel bad about my neck".  After reading the essay which corresponded with the title, I was spurred to do a self examination of my own neck.  I actually feel good about my neck...it's quite lovely in fact.  It's everything south that gives me pause.

Let's begin with my breasts.  Yes, I know we don't use that word in polite company but I know I am among friends here.  In a perfect world, I would be a cup size larger with ample cleavage ---not so much that I stop traffic but a few head turns on a regular basis would be nice.  Moving right along, there's the abdomen----the core of my problems (core---get it??).  My belly is the bane of my existence----I am tired of being shaped like an inverted light bulb.  And my thighs run a distant second in problematic body parts.

Speaking of running, the other day I was with my 12 year old nephew (great nephew actually).  He challenged me to see who could make it to the car first.  Knowing I am the most out of shape I have ever been in my life should have made me promptly respectfully decline the invitation, but pride (or stupidity) caused me to take the bait.  As I ran, I noticed that I was being cheered on with a very quiet but noticeable applause.  "Gee, that's nice" I thought, as I kept running.  I figured it was someone with an adolescent twerp in their own family that always wanted to show them up.   I didn't stop to look, though, because I didn't want to lose any ground.  I make it to the car (almost simultaneous with my nephew, thank you very much).  I noticed that the applause I was hearing stopped immediately when I stopped moving, as if it were in sync with my body.  I run a couple of more car lengths to test a theory I was formulating in my mind.  Sure enough, I move----applause.  I stop, applause stops.  What I thought was a kindred spirit sympathizing with me was actually my belly flopping up and down and my thighs slapping together side by side! OMG---this is what life has come to---I have unwittingly become my own cheering squad.

So, I repeat:  I don't feel bad about my neck, but the things below it give me pause.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"oh my gosh, I'm so fat!"

Even though I struggle with self esteem issues, I was surprised to make the realization that my weight is not a source of my insecurity.  I am overweight; have been since childhood.  Yet my weight only bothers me because of its impact on my health---I really don't care about a particular dress size, but I do recognize that I am winded far too soon and the least bit of movement knocks me for a loop.  HOWEVER, in the past few weeks I have found myself feeling more self-conscious about my size.  Why?  because my coworkers have launched an incessant barrage of conversation about their bodies and their weight.  OK, freedom of speech---I get it.  But I have reached my threshold---I have had it with women sizes eight and ten going on and on about how fat they are, how big their thighs are, how fat their behinds are, etc. etc.etc.  I don't care to hear another self-deprecating reference to being a fat cow or fat pig.  If that is how you view yourself, how are you judging me?  If you believe your size eight body is that of a fat cow, how do you describe my size twenty frame?

Shutup already.  Spare me your complaints about your thighs rubbing together and your "oh, I hate my [insert body part]".  If there was any hint of sincerity in your whines, I would be sympathetic.  But there isn't a glint of any real feelings of insecurity; just mindless chatter to elicit a response from some good natured person who will say "oh you look great, you're not fat!".  Mission accomplished, right?  The next time you refer to some well toned woman as a skinny bitch, look in the mirror!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vulernability

I've been reflecting on a conversation that occurred some time ago.  During a moment of weakness, I broke down, crying, and shared with someone a personal crisis I was experiencing.  I gave this person insight into my personal life that revealed quite a bit of pain and was quite a contradiction to the put-together image I had managed to display for so long.  (When I say put together, I mean psychologically---my attire could NEVER be described as put together). 

ANYWAY, there's that awkward moment when you come to realize that you have taken off your mask and exposed yourself to someone that you don't typically let see you in your underwear (metaphorically speaking, of course).  So I cleaned my face, hoped my "ugly cry" wasn't too hideous a sight, and tried to regain some semblance of composure by giving a lighthearted chuckle and saying something like "I guess my secret's out; now you know how messed up I am".  The person was reassuring, and said "you have never seemed more real to me than you are right now". 

The comment immediately felt like a kick in the gut and I REALLY regretted my moment of weakness.  But over time, this has troubled me more and more.  What the heck!?  (I want to say something else, but I am trying to keep things PG).  So my seeming a hot mess makes you feel better?  My typing these words can't capture the tone; a dreamy, etheral sounding voice. 

I'm not saying that the person was happy that I was in pain.  But I AM saying that the words reveal a whole lot.   #1 - Up until now I seemed fake to you?  I couldn't possibly have my stuff together, there must be SOMETHING wrong with me? And from that moment on, something was lost.  Not my dignity, not my self respect... I lost that person's image of me as a strong, successful woman.

I won't even begin to analyze the ramifications of that.  I will simply say this.  Everybody has chinks in their armour. We all need people with whom we can completely be ourselves, no pretenses and no "masks".  BUT we must be careful of whom we choose to reveal our real selves.  Tough lesson to learn.  Vulnerability comes with a price.

Friday, March 2, 2012

... Know When to Fold 'Em

     A couple of weeks ago I sat around a table in a conference room with my coworkers for our weekly staff meeting.  With two new employees and changes underway, I listened intently as our newbies were welcomed into the fold.  It caught my attention that the newcomers were called "the future of ...[the agency I work for].  I also noticed that for myself and the other office "veteran", there was no eye contact, no mention, no acknowledgment that we even existed.  It was at that moment that I fully accepted something that I already had a nagging suspicion of:  far as our manager is concerned, we have become irrelevant. If they are the future, we are the past---workhorses waiting to be put out to pasture.  This realization would be hard for anyone to take, but since I have a good 20+ years left in the workforce, being irrelevant really sucks. 
     So where does one go with that?  Here's the reality....I should have gotten' my hat a long time ago.  Once eager and ambitious, I had dreams of leadership.  As overtures were made to suggest I would have a place in management someday, I held on.  But then the tides shifted.  And that's OK, because sometimes people change their goals and direction, and that can effect people underneath them---so be it, they have that right.  Yet as times changed, so did respectful treatment.  Appreciation and value gives way to condescension.  You become shut out of decisions you once were invited to weigh in on.  Kenny Rogers gave good advice as to how to handle this:  you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run....
     Unfortunately, I can be a bit slow---the writing can be on the wall but I still pine for some alternative outcome.  I cling to things returning to what was instead of "folding" and moving on.  How many of us do this---hanging on when we are long past the point where we should let go?  Maybe it is a friendship that is past its season, no longer reciprocal.  Or maybe it is a relationship that should have been taken off life support years ago.  Or the job that no longer creates opportunity for growth.  For some of us it may be all of these.  It is important to learn and to understand that dead things rot, and they stink.  When we hold on to something that no longer serves us, we slowly kill our souls.  In order to maintain our dignity, self respect, and self worth, we must do like The Gambler and know when to fold 'em.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What about Men?

I really am tired of society's putting so much responsibility on women to improve male-female relationships.  Let me start with church.  Since my experiences are pretty much in the Black church, specifically Baptists, that's who I am specifically critiquing.  I am so sick of sermons telling women to be submissive, chiding us that our husbands need r-e-s-p-e-c-t and that if they were getting it, they would be better men, better husbands, better fathers, yadda yadda yadda.  I'm not saying I don't agree that men should be respected by their wives, but it seems there is far too much imbalance in the messages.  Black preachers would have you believe that if a woman would simply learn to speak sweetly and bat her eyelashes, everything else will fall into place.  Doesn't matter how he behaves or what he does, just SUBMIT and OBEY.  The rhetoric can be so harsh and guilt provoking that it is ridiculous.  But when is the last time you heard a sermon taking a man to task for failing to love his wife as Christ loves the church?  When is the last time a minister raked men over the coals for speaking harshly to their wives and/or children and failing to live up to their God given responsibilities? 

I might come off as a raving, anti-God, male-bashing feminist, but this couldn't be further from the truth.  I love God with all my heart.  I am actually pretty old-fashioned and conservative.  I do believe in the concept of submission.  But I also believe it has been so distorted that it is simply a tool to oppress women and not God's original intent.  In the world as it should be, a man is obedient and submissive to God and loves his wife so much that he would lay down his life for her, always putting her needs above his own.  That's not me, that's the bible.  If a man were truly loving a woman on these standards, what woman would have a problem submitting to this?  But too often men want to run around like cavemen, thumping their chests and demanding to be put first without holding up their end of the bargain.  And too often, in my humble opinion, the church tacitly approves such barbaric behavior by preaching one-sided sermons OR if they are adventurous enough to address the male role, it is a watered down version of the fire and brimstone launched at the woman.

Then there's the media.  Why is there article after article telling women how to keep things "fresh" and sexy, but nothing for the men?  OK, maybe I am missing it since I don't read men's magazines, but in "netural" mags like Ebony, the articles are geared toward helping women "keep" their man.  Well why not help my man learn how to keep me?  I think this rant started because I saw an article "helping" women prepare for Valentine's Day, urging us to "keep it fresh and sexy".  So often the message is that our men will stray because we don't stay thin, perfectly manicured with perfectly coiffed hair day in day out.  But does anybody challenge them to drop the love handles?  Who chides the men about the spare tire they have put on?  Again, too much responsibility is given to the woman for all that occurs in a relationship.

Women shouldn't be left to keep love alive by themselves.  Men need to be reminded far more often that what they did to catch a woman, they need to do twice as much to keep her.  A little less chiding for women to submit and a lot more urging men to be legit....maybe then families could truly prosper. 
There are two sides to every story--tell them both.  I'm just sayin'----

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ohhhh...., so it is "tchotchke"

Back in December I posted that I was going to be "cha chee"---explore my inner diva and express a whole new persona.  I wanted to move away from the boring, frumpy person that I have spent my whole life being and ramp it up a bit.  Cha chee was something I heard a woman on television say.  Well, tonight I learned the correct spelling a real definition of the word.  It is t-c-h-o-t-c-h-k-e.  Now, I have seen this word before, but always to mean little knick knacky type collecitbles, like glass figurines.  So, while I am embarrassed that I was so off on the spelling, I had the right spirit of the word---a second definition of tchotchke is an attractive, unconventional woman.

So, in 2012 I think I will figure out which of my frumpy, old lady ways I will abandon to find the tchotchke that I have been smothering within me.