Just Married

Feminists everywhere will squirm when I say that it really makes all the difference to know that I have a good man at my back. All that “like a fish needs a bicycle” nonsense is just that: nonsense. There may in fact be nothing that is of greater value to any woman (leastways one who embraces her femininity to any degree) than a good husband.

I played a lot of video games while I was growing up. The ones that had the greatest impact on my development were the classic adventure-RPGs for the Super Nintendo from the mid-90’s: EarthBound, Chrono Trigger, The Secret of Evermore, etc. It’s no surprise to me that these are my all-time favorites, as they are rather “bookish” games, and I was also (and still am) an avid reader of books (Tolkien and C. S. Lewis being a couple of the big ones from childhood). It is within the context of these stories and formats that I tend to draw parallels to my own life.

With all that I’ve been through so far in this crazy quest that is life, I can really only say that being in a solid, healthy marriage to a good man feels like the point in the game where I’ve finally leveled up enough to stop grinding and chasing sidequests for a bit, and to start gearing up to go after the final boss. And I can say this: all those feminists have never come anywhere close to knowing what that feels like.

Who needs a man? I do!

If you’re a woman braving life mostly on her own in the face of crippling fear and anxiety, you probably do too.

Thank You for Your Service

I guess if I’m going to make a play at writing semi-regularly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank our veterans, from all the various branches of our military, for the service they have provided in protecting our liberties and our lives.

My fiancé is a Navy Veteran, and although I didn’t meet him until several years after his retirement, his service is still personally significant to me in many ways. If it weren’t for men like him, I wouldn’t have the privilege to run my mouth all the time like I do. I also chuckle a little at God’s sense of humor when I think about the timing and circumstances of when we met. I was in the middle of writing a poem wherein I more or less prayed for God to save me from the tide of the circumstances I felt myself caught up in: for dry land.

God literally sent me a rescue swimmer.

There are a lot of folks on the internet who like to talk smack about men who rescue women. I’d just say this: there are those women who manipulate and take advantage, and there are those who don’t. I’m the latter. It’s embarrassing how easily I’ve been taken advantage of, frankly. But I’m the kinda gal who is really genuinely grateful for what I’ve got.

It was on Veteran’s Day four years ago that I made my first awkward attempt at flirting with this man by wishing him a Happy Veteran’s Day. Awkward enough that he says he had no idea I was trying to flirt with him at the time. Good thing for me he thought I was cute, I guess! We’ll be married a week from today. I thank God for him every day, and today seems an especially appropriate occasion to mention that. ❤

Kick in the Teeth

I guess I’ve always been stubborn.

Ever since I was probably far too young, people have looked to me for direction and guidance. I’ve never particularly understood it, but I’ve certainly recognized the pattern. I’ve shied away from that role for a lot of reasons, mostly having to do with my own personal comfort. To be honest, most human relationships are somewhat outside of my comfort zone. For a long time, my mantra has been “I don’t know anything about anything.” In other words: don’t ask me! You’ve got the wrong person!

Only… that’s maybe not so true. I know an awful lot about some things. I’ve sure come to know a good deal about the difference between right and wrong, for example; between good and evil. Upgrading from theoretical understanding to experiential knowledge in that regard has required some fairly painful sacrifices. I would say that my most valuable lessons have likely also been my most painful.

Now, something has happened. And I guess if I’m honest, I already saw it coming from a ways back. I don’t want to delve into details, because this isn’t about other people, this is about ME and recognizing MY deficiencies and the areas in which I have been slacking. So to paint it as broadly as I can: a young woman I know who is very dear to me has found herself in some principally similar circumstances to my own when I was around her age: namely that she is coming under the influence of those oh-so-popular and ever-so-insidious “enlightenment ideals” (sexual liberation, et al). She is still a child, in every sense, barely on the cusp of womanhood, and my relation to her has granted me the privilege of insight into a situation that is twisting my stomach in knots.

I just barely got done posting about feeling the beginnings of some vague sense of duty kindling inside me. Consider that fire fueled and stoked.

I also find myself in a fairly powerful position to help protect this girl, and I’m ashamed to say that when I think about that, I’m scared. I’m scared because using my knowledge to offer guidance in this manner requires that I spill my own bag of secrets: namely the things I’ve done that were wrong, which I have learned from. To an extent, being able to do this will require that I go back and unpack and examine some things that I would rather forget about. It will require that I share portions of my history for the purpose of illustration. There can be no mincing words, no extenuation: I did these things, and they were wrong, and this is how I know.”

That will be hard.

But now I must.

 

Don’t Look At Me

Yesterday I became accidentally aware that people actually read this thing occasionally.

Crappity crap crap.

Does that mean people LIKE the garbage I write? Does it mean there’s a handful of angry people out there right now trying to figure out where I live so they can cover me with tar and feathers?

My aversion to attention is somewhat at odds with my tendency to have controversial ideas and opinions. You can think of me kinda like the little “Boo” ghosts from Super Mario Brothers. I’ll run my mouth pretty freely… as long as you’re looking the other way.

But I find that the older I get, the closer I am to not really caring. I’ve always dreamed of being one of those crotchety old ladies who waves her cane around and lectures everyone and tells the kids to get off her lawn. I’m inching closer and closer to realizing that dream; I can feel it in my bones.

How old do I have to be before I really just don’t give a crap anymore? I don’t know. I’m still only APPROACHING my mid-30s, and I definitely don’t need a cane yet. But there are SO MANY PEOPLE who need a good, stern talking-to – and where are all the little old ladies to lecture them?? Near as I can tell, the ones who haven’t been tucked away in nursing homes are all still out there trying to “find themselves,” same as they were when they were in their twenties.

Let me tell you something: if you’ve been trying to find yourself for more than a few minutes with no apparent success, you should probably consider that you might be looking in all the wrong places. Try this instead: go look in a mirror. There you are! Congratulations! Now, what you DO with yourself is up to you, but don’t go around pretending that all of the horrible life choices you’re making are because you don’t know where you are. This is CURRENT YEAR, people. We have the technology for that. If the mirror scares you, you can accomplish the same thing by checking the GPS location on your smartphone.

And let me tell you another thing: what you’re probably going to find, if you have any capacity whatsoever for honest introspection and self-assessment, is that you ARE in fact, whether literally or figuratively, ON MY LAWN. Trampling all over the grass. And the flowers. And anything else I might be trying to grow there.

Because you bought into the preposterous idea that the best way to find yourself was to close your eyes and put on a blindfold and start running around in whatever direction you fancy. If it feels good, keep going. If it doesn’t feel good, change direction – but never, ever stop and open your eyes. I hardly even have the heart to criticize young people for this, because the old people who are supposed to have an obligation to teach them how to navigate life have never demonstrated anything better than this!

All this hippy-dippy new-agey woo-woo is making people useless at best, and mostly destructive and harmful to themselves and others. You really think all those haphazard experiences you’ve had while running around with your blinders on are more important, more socially valuable and constructive, than the root systems I’ve been nurturing in this little patch of dirt for decades?

What all do you have to SHOW for blindly chasing gratification in the name of discovery and growth? Bloody NOTHING, that’s what.

Now GET OFF MY LAWN.

Don’t tell me I’m not fat.

This really grinds my gears:

– *Someone offers me a cookie.*

– “Oh no, thank you,” I politely decline, “I shouldn’t.”

– “WHAAAAAAAAAAT? You’re not on a diet, are you????? Don’t tell me you’re trying to lose weight! You’re tiny!”

Yeah, thanks for the support, jerkface.

I was pretty overweight for most of my young adult life. I’ve been substantially fatter than I am now. In relative terms, I know I’m “not that fat.” In fact, a lot of the women who chastise me for calling myself fat could fit most of me in one of their pant legs.

But you know what? After I had kids, I worked really hard to get in shape and get healthy. No shortcuts – just a diet overhaul and a commitment to regular strenuous activity. I went from 220+ pounds down to 140 over the course of a couple years.

When I started working as a commercial baker a few years ago, I gained about 10-15 pounds of it back (part muscle, part “quality control”), but held steady around the 150 mark. For a fairly muscular woman, that’s not terrible. I like being thinner, but it didn’t make me hate myself. I could still run, and jump, and climb, and even do a few chin-ups.

Then I got sick – all thanks to a single, tiny little bastard by the name of ixodes scapularis; better known as the deer tick, a well-known carrier of the b. burgdorferi bacteria. I was sick for nearly two years. It was debilitating – with my most prominent symptom being crippling nerve pain that would wax and wane and migrate to different areas of my body, along my spine. I struggled to find a doctor who would even believe that I could possibly have the disease – because blood tests didn’t detect the expected antibodies, and because the standard course of antibiotic treatment failed. I found the tick burrowed into the back of my leg, and I developed all of the classic symptoms right away – but I was treated like a hypochondriac; apparently a common occurrence for “Lyme Disease” sufferers.

Thankfully, I finally found a doctor (actually a nurse practitioner) who was open to reading some of the more recent research I’d found, and was willing to prescribe a combination of antibiotics – instead of rolling her eyes and giving me another round of the standard course to make me go away. That seems to have worked. Previous rounds of the standard treatment always left me with lingering symptoms which “grew back” over a few weeks or months; this time around, I’ve been entirely symptom-free for five months and counting.

But I’m still dealing with the fallout of being sick and sedentary for so long. At the height of my illness, I ballooned back up to 195 pounds. I’ve cut myself a lot of slack for this, because I was REALLY sick. Even during the weeks and months where I was feeling relatively well, physical activity (something as simple as walking half a mile) often made my body hurt in ways that were frightening.

Now that I don’t feel sick, the extra weight is wearing on me. The battery in my scale is dead, so I don’t have an exact figure, but I’m probably right around 170 pounds. I’m not huge, but my clothes (the ones that even still fit me) are tight. I can feel the extra padding under my arms, and on my back, and around my hips and midsection when I sit down. I jiggle when I try to run – and it’s harder on my ankles. I couldn’t do a chin-up to save my life. My engagement ring still fits, but it’s harder to get on and off.

I. AM. FAT.

And I. am. sick of it.

And I’m sick of this modern culture which tells me that I should throw in the towel and be happy with my current size – or worse, that losing weight would be UNHEALTHY for me simply because I am not grotesquely obese. People these days are neurotic about food, conditioned to think that they’ll develop some kind of deficiency or die if they’re not constantly shoveling a huge variety of foods and supplements into their faces. The notion of “micronutrition” has eclipsed any sensibility that once existed with regard to proper macronutritional moderation. I, myself, have even fallen prey to the fear that I might suffer some ill-effects if my diet isn’t always sufficiently varied.

Now, I’m not a nutritionist, but I think this is crap. So as of a week or two ago, I’m on a diet that I made up all on my own, with not a doctor in sight to try to tell me that I need to focus on whatever “dietary requirements” they’re shilling these days.

In the morning, I have two small cups of coffee – no sweetener – with a total of five ounces of half and half (200 calories). Around noon, I scramble six eggs in a little butter (~550 calories) and have that with 6 oz of kimchi (90 calories). At dinner time (if I’m hungry, which sometimes I’m not), I let myself have a small-to-moderate portion of meat (I don’t weigh this, but estimate in the ~300 calorie range). If the kids are eating something sweet and I have a serious hankering, I let myself have no more than two bites – or a portion about the size of my index finger.

After about a week on this diet, I can already see results in the mirror – and I feel great (aside from being in the midst of a persistent head cold which is making the rounds in my house). I don’t feel hungry or deprived, and I don’t have uncontrollable cravings.

It’s almost as though my body prefers – even benefits from – a much more limited and routine diet.

It’s almost as though burning through my excess fat stores is *gasp* good for me, even though I in no way resemble a miniature hippopotamus.

It’s almost as though the bulk of modern dietary advice is largely geared toward sabotaging people’s efforts to maintain their health and fitness, and generating profits for the industries that manufacture food and supplement products… and perhaps the “plus size” fashion industry.

Now there’s some food for thought that you can shovel down your gullet.

Change of Heart, Change of Mind

The thing I have longed for more than anything else throughout the duration of my life is solitude (and accompanying silence). When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a nun and living a religious life – wearing a habit and a wimple, taking vows of silence, poverty, etc. I imagined shutting myself away from the noises and influences and attentions of the world to pray and seek communion with God.

I was not born into or raised in any religion – and scarcely exposed to Christianity at all. I was taught a great deal about Vedic religion (via the Hare Krishna movement), but my parents, and by extension myself and my brothers, were never formally counted among the initiated followers. We were perpetually on the outside looking in; semi-permanent visitors, if you will. We observed some of the practices at home, but we were certainly not devout. My spiritual direction was largely left up to me. It was the only religion I knew as a child, but it was never mine. It always felt foreign, alien – even though many of the principles and tenets seemed sensible and right. No wonder, really: I have no roots in that culture or in its place of origin.

Somehow, in spite of my parents’ concerted efforts to shield me from the “backwards” notions and doctrines of Christianity, it is the words of Christ and the structures of Christian faith and religion which have always appealed to me. The inclination toward religious life has always been there. It probably has a lot to do with me being naturally shy and quiet as a girl. I did have the desire to know God – but it was almost certainly equaled by my desire to run and hide away from the world. I suppose if I’d had a Christian upbringing, I very likely WOULD have been a nun. As it was, that path never seemed to be within my reach. I was left to piece together my own ideas about God and religion in the secrecy of my own heart and mind for fear of disappointing my parents with my theological divergence from their teachings.

Even though I never had a suitable template for finding God in my youth, He found ME. And just like my prayers have always been inward and unstructured, even sometimes lacking articulation – so too have His answers come to me as inexplicable snippets of an inward voice, or the flash of a vision, or an abstract sense of urgency, or duty, or purpose.

God told me when I was still quite young that a cloistered religious life was not my path, but that I was called to be a wife and mother instead. I embraced that calling fully, or at least – in my pride and in my fear of the world – I thought I did. See, I thought that I could be a wife and mother in a quiet way. I thought I could fulfill that calling and still – to a degree – hide myself away from the world that threatened to close in around me.

My whole life, people have urged me to stand up, speak up, and speak out; to use my voice, my talents, my face – for this cause or for that purpose. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was too talented and too gifted to hide away and keep quiet the way I do, I could buy myself a really nice pair of boots. But it’s always been pretty easy to ignore them and brush them off in favor of what I want – which is for everyone to just leave me alone in peace and quiet with my family and my thoughts.

It has been much harder to brush off the promptings and admonitions from God – and yet, that is exactly what I’ve done. At this juncture of my life, I have to acknowledge that He didn’t just tell me that I don’t get to be a nun (yet, anyway) – He told me that I don’t get to keep quiet. He tried to tell me that this world is not a peaceful place wherein I may raise my children righteously in a secluded way, free from worldly conflict.

I hate to think that the hardships and struggles I’ve faced in life – and those that now stand before my children – are all my fault; the result of my refusal to step up and obey those inner inklings and promptings – my stubbornness, my insistence that I could do it MY way, without drawing attention to myself, without facing my fears and the scrutiny and criticism of others. But the older I get, the more that seems to be the case.

It doesn’t seem in any way like a punishment handed down by God – but like a natural consequence of inaction. I have chosen in so many ways to hide when I could have and SHOULD HAVE chosen to FIGHT. In hiding myself away from the influences of the world, I have also removed MY influence from the world. I’ve been hiding my light under a bushel, so to speak. Granted, I do have a lot of good and valid reasons to be afraid – but I have no good excuse for not facing that fear and fighting anyway. I have been a coward.

Recently, I went to church with my sister, for the first time in years. I found myself frustrated by the mild-mannered things spoken over the pulpit and in Sunday school. This was on the heels of many long conversations with my sister about the evils in the world and the very real dangers that face our sons. There is so much evil. It becomes more obvious with each passing year of my life. Yet these were sermons and lessons designed to bring peace and comfort to the minds of people who are even now surrounded by the enemy.

I found myself asking inwardly: where is the FIRE? Where is the righteous ANGER? Where is the FIGHT? Who will take a stand? Where are my allies?

The little voice inside me spoke again, like it always does:

The fire is in YOU – and you have hidden it, smothered it. You cannot find your allies here or anywhere because YOU are in hiding. If you want to know who your allies are, and where they are, you must put on your armor, and pick up your weapons, and step into the sunlight from your dungeon of perpetual reticence. Only then will you see who would stand beside you.

My greatest stumbling block in my as-yet-incomplete conversion to Christianity was the fact that for a very long time, I did not believe in Satan. It is doubtless exactly why I have been so easily led astray in the past, and why I have struggled to understand the situations I’ve found myself in, and the error of so many of my choices, and how those choices have hurt me – and how they stand to hurt my children if I continue to shy away from battle.

Now I know my enemy. I cannot see his face, because he does not have one, but I have seen the way he conceals himself in the faces of men, and women; how he hides in their hearts and poisons their minds. I know his name and I recognize his patterns – and if he needs no body to wage war, then I need no sword to defeat him.

It is time to stand and fight.