Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: Perception

  1. Grey Area

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    Life is easier, in some ways, when things are neatly divided into them/us, bad/good, never/always boxes.

    When those boxes crumble, when the lines between certainties blur, our assumptions and givens shake. Things get trickier and more interesting.

    A few box-crumbling events have happened in my world over the past few years:

    • a friend’s husband was accused of molesting their granddaughter. I believe that he did not do it.
    • another friend was attacked in her home and brutally beaten. She found her way to deep forgiveness.
    • a trusted employee was arrested for domestic violence. I decided to pay for his bail.

    In an either/or world, I believe in accusers/victims no matter what; I want my friend’s attacker to go to prison for as long as the law allows; I draw a hard line and fire the batterer.

    In the grey zone, I can be open to the possibilities of believing in the accused, marveling at forgiveness, and hoping for the batterer’s change.

    My bias remains toward accusers and victims. I believe there is no justification, ever, for emotional or physical violence and also that it is very, very difficult to stop learned behaviors like battering.

    Living a little bit more in the grey helps me better understand my own story. Living in the grey is expansive.  Challenging my assumptions makes my ultimate conclusions–or what will be my interim conclusions–more nuanced, more complex, more allowing of further refined understanding.

    Living in the grey allows the possibility of telling and hearing all the stories.

     

  2. Handbagged

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    This morning I happened to be reading Deborah Tannen’s Talking from 9 to 5, the chapter on women bosses.

    Tannen critiques a Newsweek review of Margaret Thatcher’s memoir for its handbag image:  “The image of Thatcher ‘clobbering them with her metaphorical handbag’ undercuts the force of her actions, even as it gives her credit for attacking her opponents. A woman clobbering men with her handbag is an object of laughter, not fear or admiration.”

    Thatcher died today, and this afternoon’s  New York Times article about her life references the handbag metaphor, too: “Brisk and argumentative, she was rarely willing to concede a point and loath to compromise. Colleagues who disagreed with her were often deluged in a sea of facts, or what many referred to as being ‘handbagged.'”

    Regardless of any reservations I might have about Thatcher’s policies, and these are subject to revision based on this piece by Andrew Sullivan, I have to admit that I admire her force, her commitment, her political will. I think for a moment that I wouldn’t mind having it said about me that I “handbagged” someone. I like a good handbag as much as anyone, and I have been known to resist conceding when my convictions are at stake.

    But I’m thinking again. In between this morning’s coincidental reading of Tannen on handbagging and this afternoon’s reading of the Times on Thatcher, I had an intense conversation with a man about another man’s use of the word “rape” to suggest “plunder” in casual conversation. I believe with Tannen that words matter, and that “rape” is a very specific kind of sexualized violence and a word that should not be used lightly. The man I was talking with invoked dictionary definitions and said that I have a chip on my shoulder.

    He’s right: I do have a chip on my shoulder about rape.

    Or maybe it’s a shoulderbag.

  3. Swear to Stay

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    This was the plan when we started this sell-the-house thing:

    Sign goes in yard.

    Potential buyer makes offer.

    Price is agreed upon and contract is signed.

    Rental house  is found to fit Max’s requirements of one story and easy access to the yard (no steps).

    Move everything and sign the papers.

    There.

    All of this would happen before I had time to feel too much about it. For goodness sake, I had felt enough about it already, hadn’t I?

    I wanted to leave this house for years.  Too many bad memories; too many broken dreams.

    But while plenty of potential buyers have looked, and the feedback to the realtors has been generally positive, we have not yet gotten to Step 2–offer making.

    Today this house felt good to me, felt like home, but maybe it’s not the house itself. Maybe it’s something else.

    I picked a book off the shelf: Thin Places by Amy Armbrecht. Here is the final sentence of her preface:

    And I discovered that the ability to discover the sacred at home–living life as a pilgrimage–is what can turn any place into a home where it is worth swearing to stay.

    I think that’s what I’d like to feel that I have: a place worth swearing to stay.

     

  4. From the Fridge

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    I’ve thought about food a lot for as long as I can remember, in ways sometimes more, and sometimes less, healthy and sane.

    This month in my Wednesday night workshops, “food” will be our theme.

    I’ve been appreciating a blog lately called Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty, (I share all three of those traits with the blog’s co-writers) and I’m  thinking today about their posts against tracking and in favor of tracking what one eats.

    I’ve counted Weight Watchers points. I’ve counted grams of carbs, protein and fat depending on the conventional food wisdom of the moment. I’ve counted the non-nutritive calories in sugar-free Cool Whip and Jell-O pudding.

    For the past nine months or so, I’ve been tracking what I eat, both macronutrients and calories.

    Confession: I like to track.

    I don’t see it as unkindly restrictive or self-flagellating; it gives me a framework within which to eat, just as I have frameworks and goals for writing and working out and anything else that I don’t necessarily do well or consistently without planning. I agree with Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty’s Sam B when she writes, “my food log often serves as a way to remind me that what I eat matters. For me, it’s much more about making sure I take care of myself.”

    At a few points in my past, I’ve taken more care with Max’s food than I have with my own, and tracking keeps me focused on eating well, eating enough, eating not too much.  I appreciate my food more when I pay attention to its quality and pleasure and the nourishment it provides for my body.

    If I’m hungry for chocolate (or whatever), I eat chocolate, savoring every bite. And then I write it down.

    Am I talking about mindfulness? Paying attention? Self-care? All of the above.

     

     

  5. Aurora

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    This morning when I heard the news of the Aurora shooting. I immediately thought of Jeanne, whose son lives in Denver, and who wrote a beautiful post today that weaves a whirlwind of reactions into a reminder to love each other.

    I keep thinking about the story of one of the people who was killed. Jessica Ghawi was in Toronto just last month at the Eaton Center, where another shooting took place. She blogged about her experience here.

    Jessica wrote,

    I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

    I hope she lived the past 45 days with those words in mind. I hope all of us can live with those words in mind.

    In Walden, Thoreau wrote, “All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.”

    May we all be children of Aurora today.

     

     

     

  6. Freedom From::Freedom To

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    I’m thinking about freedom–

    thinking about it so much that I put this cardboard cutout of the Statue of Liberty on the wall of my study (yes, just under the Christmas lights that stay up all year).

    Freedom From::Freedom To will take me through a July exploration of freedom with photos, prompts, playlists, poems, ponderings.

    What are you free from::free to?

  7. On Fire

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    April:

    Month of rebirth,

     month of two anniversaries.

    Good Friday, 2002: a beating, an interim separation.

    April 11, 2007: another assault, an arrest, the first night of a final separation.

    Easter weekend 2012: time for a fire.

    Tonight two Adrienne Rich poems:

    “Burning Oneself Out,”

    its last lines:

    “or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire
    of my mind, burning as if it could go on
    burning itself, burning down

    feeding on everything
    till there is nothing in life
    that has not fed that fire”

    and

    “Power,”

    about Marie Curie,

    “[who] died a famous woman denying
    her wounds
    denying
    her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

    ::

    What has fed your fire?

    Can you see that your wounds and your power come from the same source?

  8. Happy Birthday, April

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    You may know April as the mother of Hunter and Colton, Mr. Z’s grandsons.

    Today is her twenty-seventh birthday.

    She is generous, wise, funny, loving, comfortable in her own skin.

    Yesterday she said, taking Colton from me, watching him fall instantly to sleep on her shoulder, “He just needed to smell me so that he could go to sleep.”

    I didn’t know that babies connected with their mothers through smell. But she was telling me something more, something deeper that I can’t quite understand and can’t stop thinking about.

    She teaches me every time I am with her, and I’m never sure whether she knows it or not.

    She doesn’t seem to worry. She is.

    I wish for her not to change.

    And while I’m wishing, I wish for Hunter and Colton what Adrienne Rich wished for her sons:

    “If I could have one wish for my own sons, it is that they should have the courage of women. I mean by this something very concrete and precise: the courage I have seen in women who, in their private and public lives, both in the interior world of their dreaming, thinking, and creating, and the outer world of patriarchy, are taking greater and greater risks, both psychic and physical, in the evolution of a new vision.”
    — Of Woman Born

    Happy birthday, courageous April.

     

  9. Nest-Making Retrospective

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    On March 1, I had an idea so clear and bright that before I knew it, I was sending out this email:

    I’m putting together a month of blog posts for National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is Women’s Education–Women’s Empowerment. Women’s stories are near and dear to my heart, and I believe they are important to you, too.  I admire your writing, and I would be honored if you would be willing to share a story and/or photos in a guest blog post at www.angelakelsey.com.  I’d love to read your stories of women who’ve contributed to your education and/or your empowerment, in whatever way(s) you choose to define the words and convey your stories. Poetry, prose, and photos are welcome.”

    After the initial email,  I exercised no more control over this series than I did over the hydrangea pictured here, and the pieces worked together just as beautifully, just as organically. With the exception of knowing that I wanted to contain the posts within the supportive bookends of Jeanne and Julie, I posted them in the order I received them, and if you read them in order, I think you will see that a whole, greater than the sum of its parts, was formed.

    Part of me, not wanting to impinge upon the nest that’s been created of its own accord, wants to post an awestruck retrospective that simply says, “Wow.”

    Wow to the synergy and the dance of the posts with each other. Wow to the openness and the willingness of the writers. Wow to the women they honor, the personal journeys they share. Wow to those who continued the conversation through their comments.

    Another part wants to acknowledge the generosity of each woman who gave of herself and her life and her stories. Another part wants to highlight some of the themes that emerged.

    So, in awe mixed with gratitude, I do a little of each, although these pieces are so tightly interwoven that they touch each other in many more ways than I can show here.

    Wow–to Jeanne and Josie and Ann and Sally and Cheryl and Liz and D., who celebrated collective feminine power in  Fran and Marcia and The Fierce Feminine and Hey Girls, We Slipped Up and A (Wonderfully) Mixed Relationship and Her and This Little Light of Mine and Loving women comes easily.

    Wow–to Shannon and Alana, who wrote about their grandmothers in Happy Birthday Viola Sylvestra and Her Unseen Hand on My Back.

    Wow–Julie and Bindu and Teresa and Kelly and Streetlights, who wrote about mothers and mothering in Empowerment and The Birth of Compassion and The Body as Nest and Lesson Plan and A Transforming Force.

    Wow to Illuminary and Megan, who described solace and comfort in Auntie Jaquie and Someone Makes a Nest For Me Today.

    Wow to Meredith and Bridget, who celebrated women teachers in  Short But Sweet and Wonder Woman Hilda Raz.

    See what I mean? Just–Wow.

    Now: how can we continue the spirit of nest-making every day, with every breath and step?

     

     

     

  10. A Transforming Force

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    Today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month is by Julie Daley.  Since I first met Julie, a “transforming force” herself, on Twitter, I’ve been drawn to her and to her  truly unabashed love of the feminine and the Feminine.   Enjoy.

    ::

    “The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.”
    Adrienne Rich

     

    My mother taught me many things: independence, tenacity, artistry, the joy of finding one’s passion and embracing it. She also taught me to fear: intimacy, being abandoned, being alone in the world with huge responsibilities. And, she taught me to keep going even though the fear was here. She taught me both to not trust myself and to deeply trust myself. Of course, she wasn’t the only one who taught me these things. But, as women, what we learn from our mothers is deeply meaningful because of the nature of relationship and connection between mother and daughter; it also holds deep transformational possibilities, for the same reasons.

     

    My mother was an amazing woman, I mean truly amazing. Back when it was unheard of to be a divorced single mother, back when that carried a huge stigma and caused other women to fear her singleness, my mother walked this path with dignity. It wasn’t her choice; she was left for another.

     

    Before she died, she remarked to me that raising her three daughters was the gift of her life.

     

    Adrienne Rich also wrote, “The Mother I needed to have was silenced before I was born.”

    This isn’t a diatribe against my mother. It is the opposite. Our relationship was problematic, yet over the years as she moved towards death, and the years since her passing, as I have become a more conscious, compassionate woman, I have come to know the huge potential for transformation our relationship held.

     

    A few years back, I discovered something rich and deep and painful, something that ignited a love so profound that it has altered the arc of my life, like an explosion changes the course forever of the thing exploded.

     

    I was just beginning a three-day dance workshop in the 5Rhythms, a dance practice I’ve now been engaged in for the past ten years. During this particular weekend, we began the workshop on Friday dancing solely with others of the same gender – women with women, men with men. This was the first opportunity I had ever had to dance solely with women.

     

    As I entered the church where we were to dance, and took to the wooden sprung floor in my bare feet, I noticed something vastly different than what I had experienced before: there was no male energy anywhere. While I’ve been in all-women gatherings before, never had I been immersed in a moment when there were only women dancing deep from within their bodies, deep from the heart.

     

    As I danced, I first felt a kind of freedom in this women-only place. It felt lighter, yet grounded, gentler, yet more sensual. I could feel a part of me emerge that I’d never encountered on the dance floor. It was this sensual, grounded, erotic playfulness, a part that needed a bit of safety to come out and explore. The woman-only space invited this out.

     

    But as I continued to dance, I became aware of an ever-so subtle, barely palpable, fear that I was feeling. At first, I couldn’t quite feel it, yet I knew it was there in my body. I continued to dance, to dance the fear, to invite it out, to make itself known. As it did, it began to dance me. It began to speak. It had been muzzled all my life, and now, in this room full of women dancing together, without whatever layers come when men are present, it offered its gift.

     

    This fear was a fear of women. It was a fear of being intimate with other women. It was a fear, even distrust, of the nature of women, of my own nature as a woman.

     

    As the fear continued to dance me, tears began to fall, tears of rejection, separation and abandonment. I could feel this fear that had kept me from trusting my own mother, other women, and my own womanhood. I could also begin to sense a longing, a longing to know my own womanhood, to know these women who surrounded me with their dance, and to know my mother in her own womanliness.

     

    This part of my mother had been hidden from me…by her. She didn’t trust this. She feared this. She didn’t know how to reach out from this place of womanhood, mother to daughter, woman to woman.

     

    My mother taught me to fear; yet she also taught me to inquire. She taught me to distrust, yet also to hold fast to what I instinctively knew was true in my heart.
    She taught me to be the kind of person that doggedly pursues the path of knowing self, the path that had taken me to this moment of dance and unfolding.

     

    My mother had been silenced before I was born; as was her mother, as was her mother’s mother…and so on. And yet, what never had left the women I’ve come from is the deep instinctive knowing that lies at the heart and soul of being a woman.

     

    As I danced, as the tears flowed, as I moved the fear and the fear moved me, something deeper began to emerge: an old-as-the-ages love for women and womanhood. Over the course of those hours of dance, and into the next many years of my life, what began as just an inkling in my field of body awareness, blossomed into a deep knowing and understanding of the power and nature of ‘the connections and between and among women’.

     

    The web of women, and the love inherent in this web, is one of the most powerful, and feared, forces in life. Its nature has been repressed and silenced for thousands of years. Yet we know these connections, and the love within them, deep in our cells and in the marrow of our bones.

     

    My mother taught me this. Now, in my wiser place, I can see how much she loved her daughters, how she would, and did, do anything, absolutely anything she could to love us, to care for us. And in this wiser place, I can see how hamstrung she was by the silencing, by the conditioning that had caused her to fear her own love, to fear intimacy, to fear her womanhood.

     

    This understanding has brought a deep compassion for her, for women, and for the painful tension within myself between the fear of knowing my nature and the yearning to know this nature.

     

    This tension is the creative tipping point. It is the doorway into an organically unfolding remembering of our nature as women. This nature is unlike that of men. It is not a compliment to man. It is a nature unto itself and when it stands in right relationship to the nature of man it will begin to transform our relationship to the sacredness of life.

    :::

    A dancer at heart, Julie would love nothing more than to live her life and do her work from the dance floor. Ten years in the practice of 5Rhythms has opened her to the joy and wildness that is at the heart of women’s creativity. A writer, teacher, coach, and yes, dancer, Julie savors life playing with her wee grandchildren and serving the women and men who are called to work with her.  Julie is happiest when she is breathing through her feet.

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    Looking for the rest of the Nest-Making series? It’s here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.