service is a strength, love

Thank my littlest love for this story that came to me during my rainy commute.  I was sitting in the traffic thinking about our dinner conversation the night before, and I knew I had something to write about.  Understand the context behind this conversation was the fact that littlest, a skeptical naysayer who never signs up for anything and wants to chase dandelion clocks all day, spoke up and told us how she had volunteered to be the 5th grade class representative for student council because, she said, she wanted to be someone important.  I almost fell over because I’ve been trying to find something for her, some thing she could do to step up and take part in.  Leadership and service are family values we often talk about around the dinner table, and this was so out of character for her!  Imagine a kid who’s got that look perfected every time you make a suggestion, tucked chin knitted eyebrows crossed arms — a look that screams NO! WAY!  Well, she seemed to have slipped a finger under a new leaf and I thought, maybe I could take this opportunity to help her turn it over.  Here’s the conversation we had a few minutes later:

ME: You know, Blythe, Deacon Patrick says if you’re nervous about becoming an altar server we could do it together.  We could both be up there, and I could help you until you got more comfortable.

B: No thanks.

M: But, it looks sort of fun.  You get to wear an alb and use all those special things.  You’re really important.  You get to serve the priest on the altar and help wash his hands and . . .

B: I do not want to serve the priest.  He can get his own things and wash his own hands.  I’m too rebellious for that.

Oh, I just love her.  The quirky attitude and quick wit–how she makes me laugh and smile all the time.  And she’s got it all figured out, doesn’t she.  I mean, doesn’t she have a point?  So many working mothers spend much of our married lives resisting domestic stereotypes and encouraging our daughters to be independent, equal contributors to their community.  I vividly recall telling the man I keep the first week we were married that I would not be ironing his shirts like his mother dutifully does each week for his father. Let’s just get these expectations squared away from day one shall we: there’ll be no freshly pressed shirts hanging from the doorway in the laundry room; oh, and I don’t do dishes.

This is who I am.  This is how I was raised by my father, who encouraged me to keep up with my brothers and never once gave me the idea that because I was a girl, I was confined to any rigid roles.  And I’m still her.  I believe in feminist ideals and know that there’s little in this world I could not do by myself, maybe better, but I know I also have a choice.  Certainly it’s my hope my daughters will be able to change a tire, bait a hook or chase down any bully in a pencil skirt and heels, too.  But there’s another side to me that’s hard to reconcile with this hitch-up-your-skirts and hit-the-road girl sometimes and that I seem to be having an equally hard time cultivating in my sweet sassy thing.  I’m kind of loving, and I love being kind because it makes me happy.  And for me kindness means making sacrifices and being vulnerable and yes, littlest love, sometimes it even means doing the dishes.

 We are all here on earth to help others: what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.

~ W.H. Auden

 


It’s complicated!  But I’m grateful for many who offer wonderful commentary on the status of women in the Catholic Church, like this article via Another Voice.

Pair this thought with a reading of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.

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“Toss Roxane Gay’s collection of witty, thoughtful essays, Bad Feminist into your tote bag. With musings on everything from Sweet Valley High to the color pink, Gay explores the idea of being a feminist, even when you’re full of contradictions.” (Self, “Smart beach-read alert”)

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keep me reasonably gentle o lord

I came across this prayer today, full of self-deprecating wit and wisdom.  Would that I and anyone else in occasional need of gentle reminders toward kindness and humility should print it out and tape it to our foreheads.

Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, you know better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But you know, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask you for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.

Amen

― Margot Benary-Isbert

And when all else fails, there’s always the ever graceful, gentle wit of Ann Landers: “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”

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