Fight or Flight

I’m sitting down to write this blog post after an emotionally draining week, and I have to admit that I don’t know entirely what it’s about. And then I think, exactly. The truth is I don’t know what it’s all about.

For those of us who were lucky enough to have teenage love in all its fiery downfall, we experienced a sureness, a confidence, a blind and damning hope beyond all odds that love was what it was all about. Of course, life progressed and our naivety, at best, faded, and at worst, crashed and burned into oblivion. We then spend most of our lives searching for that utter confidence in someone, something, anything. Something that we will hold to in every circumstance, something that will not fail us, something that we see in every projection of our future, but that is something illusive and impossible. In this world there is no constant, no promise that things will remain the same. In fact, the mere seasons, ushered in by angry winds, guarantee us change. Loved ones leave, or worse, are taken from us, dreams fail, plans collapse, even relying on our own physical being condemns us. We live in a chaotic, ever-changing world.

This is where I must remind myself that my God is bigger than the chaos of this world. And that I do believe with all my might that no minute detail of our pain is lost or meaningless, but is instead, somehow, working for God’s glory. I say that I believe that with all my might because that is what it takes. It takes a physical and mental strength to put my hope and trust in God. And tonight I’m not feeling as strong.

When faced with a new and potentially dangerous situation, it is said that our body has two mechanical responses: fight or flight. I have come to find that my instinctual response is flight. In fact, my brain has convinced itself that in “flighting” I am actually fighting for myself, protecting myself. I don’t think I believe that anymore. As a declaration of my shift from flight to fight I’d like to tell you just what it is I plan on fighting for.

I want a quiet, confident, clarity and a swollen heart.

Friends are like flowers.. Buds.

I was thinking again of how blessed I am by the friendships I share around the globe. Each one is different, special, and often, specifically designed for a particular period in my life. However, a recent event made me ponder what exactly friendship is. And while it is not a composite definition, I have two analogies that encompass much of what I believe to be the definition of true friendship.

1. Happy Despite
I watched, this past, brisk Saturday morning, as the community youth soccer league held its kindergarten game. A stampede of miniatures clumped from this end of the field to that. There was a point, however, when one little girl broke away from the pack, and ran full force to the opposing goal. Living in this small town, I happened to know the little girl and the goalie that she was coming up against. They are the best of friends. Hannah, we’ll call her, was running, unopposed, toward her best friend Emily in goal. This is one of those difficult situations for young friends. I’ve seen numerous parents giving pep talks and coaching lessons to tear streaked faces after situations just like this. How do you handle being on opposing teams gracefully and fairly? But I believe that these two girls have a wisdom and a bond beyond their years. As Hannah sprinted toward Emily in the goal, Emily was overcome with happiness for her dear friend. Elated, she stepped out of the goalie box and yelled, “Go, Hannah! Go!” Her hands moving from her cheeks to her knees and back again. She watched, overjoyed, as her friend scored against not just her team, but herself. Friendship is being happy for your friend, despite any penalty to self.

2. Loving in Sadness.
The second is a personal example, and comes with a bit of a spoiler alert. This past fall I went to see the Mockingjay movie, the second installment of The Hunger Games novels. I am an extreme fan of the novels, and have read each book at least twice. My friend, Kristen, had not read the books, but had seen the first movie. Here is where the spoiler alert comes in. If you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, uh, go, read, see, and also stop reading this point in the blog, bookmark, and don’t come back until you do. But really, this is my, both hands waving above head frantically, warning that I’m giving away some of the storyline. Kristen and I, having seen the first movie together, both had our favorite characters, and hers was Cinna, Katniss’ designer. Going into the Mockingjay movie, I did not want to spoil anything for Kristen, but knew the time was coming when Cinna would be beaten to death. At that point I reached over and gently squeezed my friend’s hand. From the corner of my eye I saw her glance over at me and whisper, “No.” I had already faced the sadness that was coming, and knew there was nothing I could do to stop it from reaching my friend. Instead, I sat quietly in the dark, hand in hand with my friend, and confronted the sadness with her.

While these examples are not ground breaking, earth shattering, life changing tales. They are, I believe, beautiful analogies of what selfless friendship can be. And I am thankful to bare witness to these accounts and many more.

The time that one guy thought it was funny to pick me up and set me in a trash can.

I hate it when boys shove you or grab you or put you in a head lock and try to act like it’s some sort of joke. If you need to portray physical dominance over me, let me say first of all that you probably have an inferiority complex. But secondly, don’t expect me to accept it kindly, and don’t you dare call me a “bitch” for standing up for myself. Physical dominance is a weak man’s crutch. And it is time for women to recognize and discourage such behavior, and men, to hold themselves to higher standards of how they treat all people.

Parts of Me

I sleep curled up in a ball.
Mostly on my left side.
In the perfect place for someone to wrap their arms around me.

I watch tv like I watch sports.
Always yelling at this character or that.
But I would be quiet if you told me it was your favorite part.

I listen to music really loud.
I get ready and dance through the morning.
But I would turn it down for you on all of your days off.

I cook big portions.
And always something to dip in hot sauce.
If it’s too spicy for you I might call you a baby, but I’m sorry. I don’t mean it.

I watch people dance.
And I can’t help but stretch to help them move.
But I would be still if you were beside me; you probably like to concentrate.

I get stressed.
And I worry a lot.
I was made for someone who will remind me of how beautiful life is.

I like to be clever.
Challenge me with words and you’ll probably lose.
But sometimes I’ll let you win because you smile and I’ll forget what I was so cleverly trying to say.

I have long hair.
It’s usually a mess.
But some days it is perfect for someone to run their fingers through.

I like parties.
I like to go out and enjoy people.
But sometimes can we stay in, build a pillow fort, and watch Friends?

I sing in the car.
And in the shower, kitchen, bedroom, work, and public.
Even if it bothers you, I hope you’ll just smile let me keep on singing.

I love the idea of being yours one day.
I’ll blush when you wink at me across the room.
And no one will write you a funnier birthday card than me.

I know who I am.
And I like who I’m becoming.
But I know there are parts of me just made for another.

 

Cold water and gentle cycle, lay flat to dry.

I think I’ve learned more life lessons since graduating college in May than I did throughout the past four years in school. Maybe not more lessons, but harder ones. For example, how do you deal with being alone when everyone around you seems to be pairing off? How do you move home and form new friendships, a new job, a new life? How do you reform into family living after being on your own for so long?

All these things and more have been pounding on my chest and trying to make me feel them more deeply and to, finally, deal with them. I’ve been trying to learn from a distance. To stand quietly in the corner and slowly slip in gracefully to this new space I’ve acquired. However the realization that is coming over me says that this is just about as possible as getting used to the cold, cold water by standing beside, in your winter coat, with just a pinky toe in the pool. The most frightening life lesson that I’m finding I must one day jump into, is this:

People cannot always love you the way you need to be loved. 

Even now as I try to write this blog post, I am struggling for words to explain this lesson that I still cannot fully understand.

I’ve said before that I believe one of man’s main desires and vital needs is to be understood. Why was language created? Yes, to communicate in order to complete tasks more easily, but also to express oneself. Why poetry? Why theatre? Why lyrics and song? Why music itself for that matter, but to convey a specific emotion. We yearn to express ourselves and to be understood. The next part of that desire is to then, of course, be accepted as we are.

As we go through seasons in life, we will need different things from those closest to us. Sympathy, gentleness, a helping hand, encouragement, tough love, criticism, etc. Different seasons call for different forms of love from those around us. But sometimes, even those closest to you will be unable to love you the way you need.

I’m learning that there are many reasons that people cannot always love us how we long to be loved. Whether that be misunderstanding, disagreeing, ignoring, or simply being ignorant to the fact that we indeed do need to be loved, people fail. And it’s painful. I find that familiar heaviness on my chest when I think of the people I might have been unable to love the way they needed me to.

The truth is, I don’t understand why someone like a mother, a father, a friend or brother cannot look at you and see through your bones to understand at those depths what you really need. I can’t understand why, even when you speak plain English (or whatever you speak) and tell them exactly what you need, they can’t deliver. Why they misunderstand you, or ignore you, or are deaf to the fact that you’re calling out to them.

Truth be told, most of the time these days I feel like this gray, wool sweater I own. One that needs to be washed with cold water, on the gentle cycle, and then be laid flat to dry. One that is almost not worth the work to keep it.

It’s something that my heavy boots are trudging through, and I long to make it to the other side.

I’ll hold a picnic when I find the answers. I’ll bring the crackers and you bring the watermelon?

Not taking the shame.

As a female in today’s society, I will not even begin to list the outrageous standards (often in the form of double) we are held to. The list is too long and too complex to discuss in one blog post. And those who think otherwise are simply choosing to be ignorant to much of the reality around them. 

In my life, I like to think that I challenge these standards. I do not agree with gender norms or stereotypes. I seek to bring attention to injustices based upon gender (and race, and economic standing, etc). The goal in living this way and voicing my objections, is to ultimately create change in a culture that so desperately needs it. Lately, however, I have found myself adhering to one of the practices I pride myself in speaking out against. 

The situation is a common one today, and it includes two aspects that I dislike greatly. Cell phones and gender stereotypes. In the following paragraphs I will be speaking from a female perspective because, well, I am a female, and this is an account of my experiences. However please do not count me as ignorant to the fact that some (possibly many) males have been through many circumstances just like this. 

1) The use of cellphones and implications of text messaging. 

It is common knowledge today that cell phones are to be at your side, on the ready, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I, like many others, even sleep with my phone on in case of emergency. This has lead to the belief that people should be available and at your disposal any minute or hour of the day. Texting specifically has enforced this newly found theory. Even when at work, in a meeting, in class, and let’s be honest, in the movie theater even after all of those annoying commercials, people expect you to get back to them within the hour if not within minutes! 

My friends will readily tell you that I am the worst “texter” in the world. I do not always reply to messages within the hour, day, or even week. Sometimes I do not reply to texts at all. Usually when faced with the accusation of being a bad “texter”, I quickly apologize, and sometimes even promise to do better next time. 

Through some reflection on recent experiences, I have found that I however, am not sorry in the least. In fact, I am angry. I am angry that people expect me to heed their every beck and call. I am angry that I am expected to stop whatever I am doing at any moment to respond to someone’s purposeless “what’s up” or even more unoriginal “hey”. I am angry that my life is considered so unimportant, that it does not matter what I have been going through or doing. What is important is that I spend my day glued to a screen, conversing through wavelengths, and apologizing if I do not do so timely or at all. I am angry that I am shamed and have let myself feel ashamed for a norm that I disagree with and even loath. This standard which many hold so dear, is one that I refuse to hold myself to any longer. Can I get an ‘Amen’? (And no, I do not expect you to get back to me on that today, or tomorrow, or ever. Do yo thang, honey!)

2) The gender stereotype that men are the pursuers and women are to agreeably be pursued. 

While more and more people find the gender stereotype that males should be the one to pursue women archaic and outdated, there are many who still cling tightly to this belief. Whether you agree with the former or the latter, there is an even greater issue in the method of pursual of a relationship. 

As a female (again, because I am one), I have experienced attention from a boy or two. (Please note the use of ‘boy’ instead of ‘man’. Also please note the box marked as ‘single’ on my tax forms. Actually no, don’t notice that one. Put down those papers and get out of my house, crazy!) While I have never received flowers, I have received ice cream (which is better), or the request for a date, etc. I have also received… text messages, which is another blog post in itself. In short, boys, call her! Get off your keister and visit her! Have a real life conversation! *Steps off soap box*. 

The attention from men and their pursual of women is not at all where the issue lies. The issue is in the expectation that women owe you something in return for your hard work in pursuing her. I hate to break it to ya, boys, but just because you took her on a nice, fun date, does not mean she has to schedule a second. Just because you planned a romantic, or even expensive, evening for the two of you, does not mean that she has to like you. (Nor does it mean that you should expect ANYTHING from her at the end of the night. *folds piece of red hot paper and puts in her pocket for another post*) Just because you sent her flowers, does not mean she has to return your interest. And finally, just because you took a whole 10 seconds out of your day to text her, does not in any way mean she has to reply. 

One of the many standards placed on women that I do not think men or women themselves realize, is that we are expected to give attention back to anyone that pays any mind to us. Think about how difficult and heart wrenching it is to turn anyone down. It physically hurts! And yes, some of that is human sympathy and the knowledge and experience that rejection hurts. However, the other part of the dificulty in that process is engrained in us from our culture. 

A few months ago, a friend who I thought was just a friend told me he was interested in me. My reply was a bit shaky, as I had not expected this from him at all. However, after a few times of hanging out in groups, I felt it became increasingly clear that we would never work as a couple. Then, to confirm that, I traveled outside of the country and then to other places away from home, and did not see him for two months. A mutual friend recently contacted me and asked if I had spoken to him. I replied that I hadn’t. And with that, I was instantly shamed for not replying to this man. I was accused of being “rude”, “inconsiderate”, and even “leading him on”. I was accused of being all these things when really all I was, was uninterested

These hasty words, however, made me feel as if I had been doing something wrong. As if I was a bad person for not contacting him. As if I should feel guilty for not returning the attention of my pursuer… Sound familiar, ladies? (And gentlemen, apologies.)

Excuse my language, but there are some things worth getting passionate about, and I’m calling bull shit on the whole thing. There is not any instance in which a woman (or man) should feel compelled to give someone attention, just because they first showed you attention. There is no scenario where others should ridicule females for not getting giddy at the favors displayed from a man. There is no circumstance when a female should feel ashamed that she did not give a man the time he “deserved” for pursuing her. 

People, women, are not at men’s disposal. Women are not, and should not be posted, at the ready by their cell phones just in case they receive a hint of attention from a man. Women are not readily available 24/7, and even if they somehow, impossibly are, they are in no way shape or form obligated to respond in a favorable way, or at all. 

I have decided to stop accepting shame for not having my thumbs superglued to my iPhone in order to get back to someone within the culturally appropriate timeframe. I have decided to stop accepting and shaming myself for not being the objectionless pursuee of men’s affection. The shame game stops here.