The title of this post is meant to reflect where I am in the semester, temporally speaking: halfway. Actually, the idea that I am halfway is a bit of a shock to me, considering I feel like I just started! I have a goddess oracle card sitting on my desk that reads: “Blossoming: You are just getting started,” reminding me to be patient with myself as my work takes shape this semester. But seven of fifteen weeks in, I think its time to pull a new card.
When the word “halfway” popped into my head, though, I realized this is also a struggle I am having right now. I feel halfway—I answer “yes and no” to every emotional question. I sleep halfway, working even in my dreams. I am halfway okay: one week I am very down and the next, I feel just fine. And sitting on my patio this weekend, unable to sleep, I thought to myself: you are less than halfway full; and realized I that didn’t know what to do to fill myself up.
I think the work we do as feminists, survivors and justice-workers is sometimes very, very hard. On rare occasions, I miss—or perhaps it would be better to say, I entertain missing the purpose and definition given to me by my patriarchal god. I was good at patriarchal religion. I was a “good girl,” and in some ways, service to this deity was far easier than the work I do now. I knew who I was “supposed to” be. Of course, this was only true when I ignored the fact that the cost of my service was my own spirit. I don’t really miss patriarchal religion.
Recently, I have started saying of myself, “I am not a person of faith.” “I am not a person of faith,” I say to my religious colleague, “I don’t know what I can contribute to this conversation.” But I think this is untrue. I am simply not a person of his faith, which sometimes leaves me feeling a little lost and confused at the religious school where I teach. I had to turn down an offer to participate in a friend’s project, reminding her that, “I didn’t stay in any tradition, so I don’t think I can speak in the dialogue you have planned.” The well-meaning woman who gave me this gracious invitation apologized, but no emotion of mine was her fault—her question reminded me of a question I have been asking myself: what do I have to say about faith now? I have half of an idea about god/dess, holiness, ritual and spirit… and right now, it does not feel like enough.
I read a really powerful book last year called The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. The title of this book is a little misleading, as my title may be above. “Drama,” is not a pejorative label and “gifted child,” is not meant to suggest a child with a high IQ or who excelled in school. The book is about survivors of abuse and the skills they learn to cope with violence. One of the skills Miller discusses, in my interpretation of her work, is an ability to assimilate other people’s standards. The “gifted child,” gets good at doing what he, she or they is told to do, acting as a mirror for whomever he, she or they is “supposed to” mirror. One problem with this, like the abusive, patriarchal religion I used to practice, is that the cost of service is one’s spirit and identity.
I have been asked, “What would happen if you didn’t try your hardest?” Was anyone else told their whole lives that they should always try their hardest—that they always had to try their hardest? I am sure many of you are answering yes… so, what would happen if you didn’t try your hardest? If your survival now depends upon this effort, what would happen if you didn’t have to try your hardest? What would happen if we weren’t or didn’t have to be perfect? Maybe, we could be human for day. Maybe, nothing would happen because I am/ we are already human. Maybe, it would be okay to be halfway between here and there, because we are always somewhere in-between.
Sometimes I try to mirror a standard that exists; and sometimes, I try to live to standards that I only think exist. I am still working on figuring out when I am actually looking in my own mirror: I have been working on thriving. I believe—or I entertain the belief that it is far easier for me to survive than to thrive…And for me, this is only true when I believe that my spirit only needs to be half full.
A friend once told me that reclaimed parts of our histories and ourselves are like precious pearls that are easily crushed by fear. I’ve found some of these pearls, but I am afraid—I I think, because I feel like I am only halfway.
But what this blog reminds me of, what my feminist work reminds me of, what the research that I love reminds me of, what process theology reminds me of, what my sisters remind me of, what my husband reminds me of and what my friend who literally gave me hope—a physical statue of the word hope—reminds me of, is that perhaps, halfway can be celebrated too.