Tag: power

While Sweeping Leaves

Leaves

The leaves pile up in clusters,
and after a while their size
becomes impressive
and strong.

Together, they have the power
to rot the boards on which they rest.
Or to keep plants alive through the winter.

As I sweep them across the deck,
they cling to each other tightly
forming what sure feels like a boulder
to my weary arms.

Occasionally a wind comes along
whispering in the opposite direction
we’re going, the leaves and I,
and I notice that it’s only the
leaves who aren’t connected to other leaves,
the ones who aren’t committed
that blow backwards from whence they came.

some things never change, others will by golly

Peas2

As they left the church, the preacher shook their hands and surprised them by announcing his decision to join them at their house for lunch. Said he’d change clothes and be right over. The mother hadn’t prepared enough food for an extra hungry mouth, and of course there was no time to increase the quantities, so when the preacher arrived, threw back his shoulders, patted his paunch, and announced how very hungry he was, the three girls did the only thing they knew to do. They passed the platter of fried chicken to him, and when he asked “Aren’t you having some?” as he heaped three pieces on his own plate, they said “We don’t eat chicken on Sunday.” And when they passed the peas without taking any for themselves, they said “We don’t eat peas on Sunday.” And there was enough for him to have three refills of sweet tea because – you guessed it – they professed to not drinking tea on Sunday.

These were my great aunts, and my heart cries a little bit every time I think about this true story, and whether it’s slaving over a hot stove then heaping the food onto the plates of men waiting at the table with napkins tied around their necks or insisting that men ride in the front seat of the car they bought and paid for, or any number of other things that my tired brain can’t think of right now, I realize how many women have taught me well when it comes to handing over my power.

Why beat a dead horse, you might ask. This is old news. Can’t we move on?

Where’s the line between good manners and handing over your power, anyway? How can you tell the difference between the two?

Then comes my personal favorite, always asked with eyes closed to the point of slits: Are you trying to make all these women be like you instead of allowing them to be themselves?

Good questions that I ask myself (frequently) along with a side of these:

Where did this come from, this handing over of our female power? Was it after World War II when the women stepped aside from the jobs they did so well to let the resume working? Was when the men returned after the Revolutionary War and the War Between the States when woman after woman not only increased the income from the farms but found new crops and markets for those new crops?

More than anything (except for world peace, of course) I want to move past this, but obviously it’s something that remains stuck in my craw. For the record, no, I absolutely am not trying to change women who defer to men. That’s their choice to do or stop doing as they see fit. I recognize the deep and constant conditioning and imprinting on me, and I know that I’m an adult woman, perfectly capable of making my own decisions, cognitively aware of what’s going on. But regardless of years gone under my bridge, regardless of what my brain knows, I still feel the imprinting, and I feel it strongly . . . usually in the form of guilt for refusing to give my food to any man who is rude enough and pompous enough to expect me to; shame that I can’t be as nice and as generous as the women who preceded me in this family; and concern that I embarrass them with my repeated outbursts about handing over our power in ways large and small.

Two days ago, Angela Kelsey wrote about provenance – such a lovely word referring to the chain of ownership of a work of art. She notes her own provenance (because let’s face it: life is art) and closes with her hope that the final entry of her provenance will be herself. Her own name. Her post is the spark that got me pondering this . . . again . . . but this time by stitching the two plates of peas, I stayed with this agitation long enough to realize that at the heart of my continued agitation is the aforementioned guilt and shame and embarrassment. I, too, want to add my name to my life’s provenance, and I want to do it resolutely without a trace of doubt or sticky residue. Now I know what to work on, that I’m certain that I’m really not continuing to flog a dead horse, I’ll set about plucking out the guilt, embarrassment, and shame – and I will do it, too, then I’ll complete my provenance by adding my own name: Wholly Jeanne.

And frame it. The whole damn thing.

by the power invested in me, i now pronounce . . .

Becomingwhole

a rash
on my back.
pain
excruciating pain
intermittently,
thank goodness.
burning
itching
feeling of
general malaise.
headache
fever
tiredness
pain –
did i mention pain?

i read a book –
totally unrelated –
and note a sentence
about how this man
had endured a
bout of shingles.
i think nothing of it.
days pass.

can’t sleep.
spend hours
trying to isolate
and define
the source of
the cause of
the pain.
does it hurt
when i press here?
how bout here?
does it hurt
more when i push my arm
against some immovable object?
does it make a difference
when my palm faces up?
when i twist this way?
on and on it goes,
this inquiry.

then
one night
i wake at
3 a.m.
knowing
that this is
shingles.

my family,
concerned about me
and not wanting
to see me in
pain,
demands
i go see a doctor.

surely there’s a pill
or a shot
that will make this
all go away,
they say.

let’s be clear about this:
they care about me.
they don’t want to see me suffer.
i get that.
i appreciate that.
but i know my body.
i haven’t always,
but i do now.

for far too long,
my body only existed
to carry my head around,
the head being the royal chambers
of my brain,
the canvas
for any beauty
i might have: my face.

it might take up
more space
than i’d like,
this body of mine,
but oh
the wisdom
i carry
in my bones
in my cells
in my blood.

i know my body
better than any
doctor
knows my body,
regardless
of how many
letters trail
after our
respective
names.

don’t get me wrong:
there are times
i will seek
information
and remedy
from doctors,
but today
i ask my body
and it says
just rest.
move slower.
slather on
the anti-itch ointments and lotions.
take over the counter analgesics.
heed my whispers
and this will eventually pass.

if i don’t
visit a doctor,
the only one
with the authority
to declare me
ill
or healthy,
i must keep going
and i must not
complain.
ever.
those are the house rules.

rather
those have been the house rules.

there’s change
brewing here
as i recognize
and honor
the wisdom,
the knowledge,
the authority
that clatters
in my bones,
that emanates
from my cells,
that flows
throughout
this frame.
my head
becomes
part of my body
and the
wholeness
feels like a
homecoming.

i’ve handed over, now i’m taking back

xinthesky.jpg

over at her place, my darling julie daley asks: “I wonder, when did I put someone else in charge of me? When did I give someone else the key to my feral self, my wild unfettered creativity? When did I hand over the rights of my body, my soul, my power?”

if i had a nickel for every time i’ve asked myself that question . . .

i’ve handed over my body, my soul, my power in a million ways – some small and insidious, some of epic proportions. i once handed over my body (that’s one of the epic proportion episodes i mention), and that handing over saved my life. it saved it and it wrecked it. if you know what i mean.

and once i handed over my soul. at least that’s what being in an abusive relationships felt like, even though i was too young know it was such a dangerous, soul-sucking place until i’d been isolated and brainwashed and threatened into a mute paralysis. it was a long time ago, but there’s still sticky residue in the deep, dark crevices. some things you just don’t forget. for example, on occasion i can still see his lips curled back over his teeth and hear him hissing things like “you are the ugliest, stupidest girl i know.” and “if you break up with me, who on earth do you think will date you?” just your every day run-of-the-mill confidence-building terms of endearment – at least from guys like him – punctuated with the occasional slap or punch.

and my power? oh my goodness. how many times, in how many ways have i handed over my power? there’s simply not enough bandwidth to do this question justice. from being reprimanded for asking too many questions and consequently ceasing to question, to being scolded for getting too uppity and consequently becoming fluent in making my ideas become somebody else’s ideas so they would be accepted. the ideas, i mean.

julie also mentions that i have authority issues. (she knows me well). i do have authority issues, and it’s something i own flat-out and without apology. it’s big, and so we’ll come back to that later.

what i’m working on right now is finding the balancing – placing the fulcrum, if you will. on one side is accepting the fact that things happened to me without my consent. on the other side is acknowledging and accepting that i was too young and not strong enough to prevent, change, or avoid them.

for the longest time, i shoved all these things onto the highest shelf in my closet and like miz scarlett, stuffed my fingers in my ears and sang “fiddle-dee-dee.” but now i’m dusting them off, weaving them into the cloth that is my life, and taking back my power. all of it. in all it’s “nature that is wild, unfettered, feral, and unpredictability.” (yep, julie daley again)

and how am i doing that?

what’s really working for me is making time in my daylight hours for writing, stitching, and walking – doing these important creative things without great fanfare or apologizing because something else has to wait for my attention.

and

no longer allowing other people to measure my worth. (in other words, i’ve finally left junior high.)

and, most importantly of all:

asking this one simple question: “what would the feminine jeanne do?” there are parts of me that have been obviously waiting to hear those words because without exception, once the question is asked, the answers come immediately, succinctly, and assuredly.

and they always make me smile in their simplicity and rightness.