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Entries in Women (49)


Does Anne Shirley give us unreasonable expectations?

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley declares her intention to be Diana Barry's "bosom friend" forever. And in the context of all of the books, that happens. Even in the volume Anne's House of Dreams, we see Diana and Anne as adults chatting as Anne prepares to marry. Diana has called her newborn "small Anne Cordelia." Later, Anne calls her twin daughters "Anne and Diana." There is no record of a squabble or misunderstanding between the two women.

Even in all of Anne's other friendships with women, she is the perfect friend. Everyone loves Anne. In the book Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne has to win over a crusty colleague, and of course, she does. She is able to win the love of everyone she meets.

Growing up, I read those volumes over and over again. I expected that I, too, would find a "bosom friend." And of course, that has really never happened. Montgomery, herself, was well-liked. She was charming and winsome, and people liked to talk to her. But she did not have perfect relationships. The woman she was closest to, her cousin Frederica, died in 1919 of the flu. And her journals are filled with words expressing her feeling if isolation and loneliness.

Christian women are encouraged to have those "bosom friend" situations; to have close sisters in Christ. That has really not been the case for me. One of the most toxic friendships I have ever had was with a fellow Christian woman. There are women I've gone to church with for more than twent years who are good friends to everyone, but I share no close connection with any one woman in particular. I came into the church when many friendships had long been established, and I was a bit of an outsider.

To be completely honest, the only woman I feel like I can be completely myself with and trust with personal details is my daughter. And in recent months, I have come to see that I have not given my trust to many people. Instances when I have opened up a little only to have the individual freeze me out later have made me even more reluctant. One friend has become cool toward me since I began seminary. Asking what I have done wrong is met with a painfully polite, "Nothing at all." And yet the coolness remains. My mind thinks "You are not a safe person." And I let it go.

The reality is that friendships are not perfect. We are not perfect with one another. It takes forgiveness and a willingness to be offended. We have to overlook things. And we have to put an effort into the friendship. If I sense that I'm doing all of the initiating, I do ask myself if the friendships is actually what I believed it to be. And it's okay if we're not best friends with everyone. It's not necessary to have a "best friend." If we do, we should consider it a gift. God has his reasons for establishing us in his circumstances. Sometimes, we need reminders that our sufficiency is in Christ, not in human relationships. Even the best relationships are no substitute for what we have in Christ. He does not let us down, cool toward us, or betray us.

While the existence of perfect friendships is engaging in a book, the truth is that relationships are not easy, and if we are not Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, we're not the only ones.


This is not a post for men

I really enjoyed an article I saw on Twitter over the weekend.It was called The Gift of Menopause. As a woman in that phase of life, I was, of course interested. I really enjoyed it, and identified with much of it. Especially the puppy part. I highly recommend a puppy in menopause. Just be careful when puppy is at your feet; it could result in a dislocated and broken ankle.

Concurrent with reading this article, I am reading a book about the history of childbirth in Canada. It is fascinating. The way surgery and the science of medicine changed childbirth practices and prenatal care is really interesting to me. It is also interesting that even in the early 1900's, there was very little understanding of how conception even happened. In one particlarly distrubing section, the author discussed how doctors speculated why some acts of intercourse resulted in pregnancy and others did not. It was proposed that if a woman was aroused, conception was more likely to take place. From this conclusion, it was decided that in situations when rape resulted in pregnancy, it was because the woman enjoyed the act. Make of that what you will.

The process of becoming fertile, followed by child bearing years, and culminating in menopause is indeed that: a process. And just as it takes many of us thirteen or more years to become fertile, it can take a while for our bodies to forget all of that stuff. It isn't always enjoyable. As I was looking at my Facebook memories, I saw yet again, a comment from 2011 that I had woken with a headache. I also see frequent complaints from that time about not sleeping well, and I can see that my moods were more changeable. Thank goodness for Facebook; I was able to preserve my whining and complaining.

Menopause can be a gift, but I have always wondered why they call menstruation the curse when it's actually the process of menopause that feels like a curse. When I was 40, I was very arrogant about how I was not going to let the process affect me. *Cue the uproarious sound of laughter.*

It did. And it does. Yes, I have gained weight. And no, I did't have a problem keeping it off before. Yes, I exercise regularly. And sometimes, if I lose a few pounds, it doesn't come from my waistline, but my face, so I look like I have an illness but no waist.

The headaches are mostly gone, for which I am thankful. But I still struggle on occasion with waking up several times a night. And it's not just the "vaguely aware of being awake kind" of waking. It's the "hello, it's morning!" kind of waking up. If I start to hear the same song over and over again in my head, I know I'll be awake for more than a few minutes. When my son was still at home, and preparing for his piano exams, I would often hear the songs he'd been practicing. One particularly bad night, I happened to have the song "Why Can't We Be Friends?" foisted upon my slumber. I won't mention whose book I read before turning off the light. 

My doctor speculates that menopause is largely the reason why my anxiety spiralled out of control. I have also known women whose depression got worse when they hit menopause. That estrogen: we need it. It's our lifeblood in many ways, even when we're not fertile. It helps us. And because it likes fat tissue once our ovaries have stopped working as they once did, a little belly fat may not be a bad thing. 

Menopause can be a gift, but it's not always pleasant, and it's a complete mystery how we will each experience it. And whether it's a gift or not depends on other factors in life such as whether or not we have marital troubles, aging parents, unruly children. But I continue to find it fascinating how God has designed our bodies. They really are a wonderful work. And part of the aging process is indeed finding what other people think of us less and less enticing. And that's a good thing; especially if you have to go bathing suit shopping.


But what if his judgment is bad?

Recently, it was announced that a literary award named for Laura Ingalls Wilder was going to be changed because of allegations of her being racist. I read Wilder's books as a child, but I didn't read them enough to remember if that is right or wrong. I was curious about Wilder, so I started reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love to read about pioneering woman, and I had never really read much about her.

Both Wilder and her mother, Caroline Ingalls, as wives, dealt with crushing poverty. It continues to amaze me the vagaries and hardships these women endured in order to keep body and soul together. Wilder, despite the way she grew up (and the way her life continued after marriage for many years) found beauty in the plains, and wrote with love about her family, especially her father.

What I have found noteworthy is the fact that things were not as rosy as depicted in the television show, and the real Charles Ingalls was not always so virtuous as Michael Landon may have portrayed him. Ingalls, at one point, left Iowa in the middle of the night to escape unpaid debts. The family was often on the move, always looking for better pastures, better opportunities. And his wife simply had to go along for the ride. Ingalls's dream was to make a living on the land; that dream never came true, and the numerous attempts he made before finally giving up were the source of a lot of suffering for his family. Was his wife ever frustrated with her husband? Did she have a say in those decisions? When Laura married Almanzo Wilder, he made decisions made with regard to their farming efforts which could only be described as bad. He kept their precarious financial position a secret from his wife, yet when it came back to hit them hard, she had to bear the consequences of his bad decision. At one point, Wilder even comments that it was her husband's business, not hers. 

Frontier life was hard, and trying to make a go of it in the Dakotas was not an easy task. Most people actually left in the end. What I wonder is how did these women cope when their husbands demonstrated bad judgment? There was no question that a woman should submit to her husband, and at this time in history, any semblance of equality was simply a dream. They had no real rights of ownership. Even though they did just as much work on their homesteads, when it came to census time, the records did not include them as being equal to their husbands. So, how did they deal with this?

My husband is not a rash decision maker. He is not a risk taker. The only real "risk" I can remember being concerned about was a job decision he made when I was about to have our third child. I was not happy with it, but in the end he was right. I'm thankful that he's never made a decision that ultiimately left us in a financially precarious position. But what about Christian women whose husbands do just that? How does a pastor or counselor answer a woman who must face submitting to a really bad decision? Does the pastor counsel the husband to think twice? This is especially a concern when the woman has no income of her own. Perhaps those of us who stay at home, dependent upon our husband's for financial support are the real risk takers.

These are just questions rolling around in my head. It is a complicated issue, and certainly not one that can be answered sufficiently in a blog post; or a few blog posts, for that matter. I continue to be amazed at these strong women who withstood hardship and moved forward in their lives despite the challenges. It makes me feel guilty about the petty complaints I often have.


Women, tell your stories

My brother did one of those DNA tests to learn more about his genetic background. His results are kept in a database, and those who have done the test can contact one another if there is a possibility that they are related. Someone contacted my brother saying that she is related to him. Over the past few weeks, my brother and I have become acquainted with a woman who was adopted and is doing research into her biological father's family. Her biological father was my maternal grandmother's brother. She is a cousin to my mother and to us. And as we have been introduced to this woman, and joined her research group on Facebook, we are learning more about our background. It has been really great seeing the extent of our family's roots.

My great-grandmother, Agnes has always been someone I've been curious about. My mother always talked very fondly about her as did my great-aunt. My grandmother rarely said a thing about her, and I found that curious. The woman had 11 children, and many of them had secrets that were not revealed (at least to my mother's generation) until well after they were dead. My grandmother was a very bitter, unhappy woman. I've wondered what brought this woman to that place considering her own mother seemed to have been so beloved. That she was well-loved was confirmed to me by a man who is her great-nephew. His words to me were that she was "a saint."

We have also learned more about the Indigenous roots of my mother's family. I thought it was only Agnes who was Indigenous but there are connections on her husband's side of the family. It is much more than what I ever knew growing up. I suspect it was hidden because of shame, especially on my grandmother's part. And that shame was embraced to some extent by my mother, who doesn't seem nearly as interested in all this as my brother and his kids or me and my mine.

There is a group on Facebook for those of us interested in hearing about the various branches of the family, and through that group, I have connected with a woman who remembers Agnes; her grandmother was Agnes's sister, Mary. She is willing to talke to me either in person or on the phone (we live only about 3 hours away from one another) about Agnes whom she remembers very well. And they say Facebook doesn't have a good use!

If you are at all interested in the history of women, start with your own family. Famous women are interesting, but within our own families, there are likely a myriad of connections and stories that are just as fascinating. Those stories are what tell us what life was like for them. Birthdates, census records, grave markers, and employment records do not tell the story of ordinary life. And for the most part, there is nothing left behind by the women because they simply did not have the time to record stories, even assuming they were literate enough to write. Those of us who like to write need to get busy. And the ones who have the stories but don't want to write, they can always dictate those stories to someone who does. Published history is full of stories about everyone else but ordinary women, especially if they were a minority or were marginalized somehow. Those ordinary stories are worth hearing.

And as for women my age and younger: write what you remember about your family. Keep records of what your life is like now. Ordinary life is important. It is after all, the majority of life. And you never know who may be interested in those stories.


Why are we mean girls?

I find it discouraging that as adult women we often behave no differently than when we did as teenage girls. We give each other the cold shoulder when we're angry rather than talking about it; we gather in groups and ostracize others who don't fit into our mold, or reprimand them with our rejection when they say something we don't like; we judge each other over petty matters. I don't know why I am surprised by this, considering our nature, but when it happens among Christian women and on social media no less, it does surprise me. It happened to me recently. It's like 1978 all over again. 

Why are women catty? Why are we competitive, judgmental, and petty? Why are we threatened by someone who does not think exactly like we do? And how can I become one of those women who never give these matters a second thought? I admire those women.

What it is about women, in our very natures, which contributes to this kind of thing? We can find a whole host of explanations, but I think we have to go back to the beginning; back to the garden, and Eve. When she confronted the serpent (Gen. 2:1-5), she was challenged by his words. When she (incorrectly) told him that she could not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden because they would surely die, the serpent said, "No, you won't." And then he told her she was being deprived of something: being like God.

Human beings have the capacity to do many things. Yet we are not like God no matter how much we accomplish. But it's okay to not be like God, because he gives us everything we need. Is that at the heart of our tendency to be unkind to one another? We perceive that someone else is getting what we think we deserve?

I have two Beagles; Luna is six and Bear is almost two years old. Bear is fairly obnoxious; and jealous. If I sit down with Luna and show her affection, even if he is preoccupied with something else at the moment, he will leave his activity and stick his face in my time with Luna. If my husband sits with me and tries to keep Bear's attention away from me cuddling with Luna, he will not be content that I am taking attention from him.  Is that at the heart of our woes with female relationships? That we feel we deserve more?

I don't claim to have any answers, and in reality, I want not to care about these matters. My husband is right when he says I don't need to let other people live in my head. It's a distraction. I am beginning to wonder if the only way to disconnect myself from this is to avoid social media altogether.

In the meantime, I will remember that the Lord gives me everything I need. What matters more for eternity? I am reminded that God gives me everything I need:

The Lord sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
And you give them their food in due time.
You open your hand
Satisfy every living thing. (Ps. 145:14-16)

May I find satisfaction in the Lord every day.