What I’m Going to Tell My Daughters About No Man’s Land.

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

I have seen Wonder Woman three times now. Do not adjust your monitors, you read that correctly. Three times. And I am not ashamed.

I thought of myself, how seeing powerful women accomplish great things stirs me to greatness. But then, I thought of my daughters. And No Man’s Land.

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I know it’s just a movie, my loves. It’s only a story at the end of the day. But what we ultimately see in stories, in art, and have since time was new, is ourselves and who we want to be. We are inspired, and so we believe. And when we believe is when great things happen.

And hers was a story worth telling.

If it wasn’t Princess Buttercup, having since cinematically evolved into a ferocious amazon warrior, charging across a beach, bow and arrow in hand, then it was young Diana on horse back, riding through a field of golden flowers, hair in the wind, wildly free.

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It wasn’t just Diana and her lasso of truth, her sword and shield at the ready, it was also her inner compass that guided her to her truth, and her compulsion to always do the right thing. Even when those around her did not deserve her unwavering grace.

I was romanced by all of it. By the women who made things happen.

If it had to be one scene, though, that encapsulated why this film, this story, was so powerful, it was when Diana crossed the field known as No Man’s Land.

Frustrated at being told no at every turn, that she was not the one to help, that today was not the day to intervene, that she could not trust her instincts, that she must look away from the pain, violence and chaos around her, and not feel it when she sees the innocent suffer, she decides that doing nothing is not an option.

Diana decides to climb a ladder from the pits and lead the way.

Even if she had to do it alone.

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I’m not an idiot. I know how this world works.

I know that it can squeeze the life out of you, out of anyone that it perceives as weak. And from what we know, it sometimes views compassion and grace as a form of lacking. As naivete. With cold indifference and smugness, it will tell you that you are not the one.

That today is not the day.

That to win, you must not feel, must not count the costs. At least, not the costs for others.

That it will be every man for themselves.

That you must preserve and steel yourself against loss and sacrifice to survive.

That you must never show grace to those who do not deserve you.

I can’t tell you that it will be easy. I cannot tell you that it will be fair.

To be who you are. And to believe that you can.

But you must believe it anyway. Because what you do is not up to them.

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This is not some fleeting message of girl power.

I can’t tell you how to conquer the world. I can’t tell you how to right every wrong, because we all know that it can’t be entirely fixed. At least, not in this plane of existence.

But in you is so much life, so much goodness. And it is what you choose to do with such things that will reveal what you are, and who are you.

It is in times of joy that we know who we want to be. It is in conflict that we find out the truth of who we are.

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We are at war, every day.

Today is your day. This is the time. And we need you.

Perhaps we don’t have gauntlets. We don’t have shields and swords. We cannot always expect to conquer and restore with brute strength, and must instead prevail with our character and spirit.

With grace.

Such weapons seem far less effectual then we would like. We feel as though we are standing on the battle field unclothed, seen for what we truly are. Meek.

But every inch we move toward grace, toward love, is an inch more toward something greater.

It is with arms outstretched to those around us who hurt and who are broken, cruciform in appearance, that we will welcome grace to enter in.

It is with a heart that seeks to love, understand and give grace that we can actually see the broken around us for what they truly are without begrudging them their pain.

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It is with your will that you can choose today to step out and inspire the people behind you to do the same.

No Man’s Land is the place we cross when all other methods do not work, when we need to make a new way. I believe in a Christ who crossed no man’s land and made a way, so that we can do the same by His hand. Where He tread so shall we. In the dark of the tomb where He turned death to life, so shall we leave darkness behind, giving way to a dawn of a new type justice. One where hope wins.

Empathy knows no usual suspects. Neither do courage and loyalty, honor and strength.

In you, I see these things. Riding freely through a field of gold, arms outstretched without fear. Just as I see it before a field that we are told we cannot cross.

When they fire at you, you can take it. And when you want to throw in the towel is when you will have to fight the hardest.

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Because what you do is not up to them. Because pain makes you stronger. Because you see that what they deserve, you also deserve. But it is not the portion you are given.

Your cup, your portion, is wonder. Beyond logic and reasoning.

And so you give your portion to others who deserve the same as you once did. Because this is what you believe.

 

Walk on, my girls.

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No One Said It Was Going to Be Easy

The walls were lavender. 

The room is hued in a smokey purple as the autumn sun set. And the back of my hand finds my mouth, as the gasps pour out of me. 

I’ve contained them all day. Slowly being worn down under their weight, until I couldn’t contain them any longer. I breathed through them like contractions when sitting at a stop light, hands clutching the steering wheel. I swallowed them when scrolling through my social media feeds. 

Now, finally standing still, undistracted by anything in particular, I had stopped, and they started. 

I’m so scared right now. 

You probably don’t have to search your minds for very long as to what may have happened this week that would leave so many reeling. 

But it’s more than that. 

It’s the reactions after. Such anger. Such pain. 

This is not a place I, or anyone else, thought we would ever find ourselves in. Not a place we want to stay. Or, perhaps it is. Because this will eventually be comfortable. This place won’t challenge us.

But this place, if we linger here too long, will change us. 

My dad died in August. And I know that something so personal can seem so unrelated to all of this mess. But that pain has colored my world for the last nearly three months. It has shaded in areas I didn’t expect; drawn the light out in others that I never before appreciated. 

And I realize that…we all have such bigger things to worry about. 

Because there is something bigger than what’s dominating the news headlines right now. 

Since my dad left me holding his hand, beside a hospital bed, alone in a room for just a few minutes before I had to leave him for the last time, I have tried to decide what I was going to do with this time that I had left. 

Somewhere in there, in this fragmented mind, I made this solemn vow to love people. Wherever I could go. And what that looks like for each person, each situation, might be different.

But if I chose this path wholeheartedly, it might never change anyone else; but it could certainly change me. 

My pain is different than those of the marginalized. Those who are worried about putting food on the table. Those who are worried about whether or not they will have the chance to love the person of their choosing. Those who find themselves in unexpected predicaments, and are faced with hard choices. 

And yet, our pain, our hurt, is the same. Because we feel alone. We feel like it separates us out; makes us different in unpleasant ways. It makes us feel like we are scarred. It makes us feel like we aren’t whole.

Unwanted. Unheard. Under-valued. Unseen. 

I’ve carried this tornado inside of me for almost three months. Every time, I think I have made it through some of the hardest parts, something new tells me that I’m wrong. Like the fact that no one else in my family really cares for cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, except for my dad. And he won’t be here. And there won’t be cranberry sauce. 

It makes me want to give up.

The last two days have been one of those times that it makes me want to give up. Such divides. Such contempt. 

What is the point?

I told my dad, in my secret heart, that I would try to use the days ahead for something good, something better; that wasn’t about me. 

And then I see the vitriol at its angriest, words burning red in my eyes from a screen. And I wonder what the point really even is?

I sat on my stair case today, that sun still meandering its way down the sky. My children knowing something was wrong as my insides turned out again, when I just wanted to tell someone that I hurt so, so bad, about so many things. 

And the words whispered into my ear: no one said this would ever be easy. 

It’s easy to love people when they are lovable.

When it detracts the least possible amount of energy and expenditure on our parts. It’s the times when people are wildly unapproachable that we must seek to love the hardest. Or else…we aren’t really loving them, are we? We wouldn’t be living by a mantra to tolerate and accept others if we back down when it would be really, really easy to. 

We would be giving in to pain. And if we stay here long enough, a single angst ridden track on repeat, the pain won’t ultimately change. But we will. 

There are days to fold up inside of ourselves, and give up. 

But we can’t. We just can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

The words we moms tell ourselves.

Brace yourselves, because I might sound like an Adele song in a few minutes time.

Actually, I’m not even worried about that…because maybe it’s a good thing?

I have exactly two existential crises every day. 

One at about 2 pm, and then one again around my children’s bedtime. 

Around 2 in the afternoon, I realize that my children are going to be home from school shortly.

So I ask myself if I would rather spend the last hour of my day with just a little bit less chaos than normal, thoroughly cleaning every part of my house that I can manage? This way, I don’t have to try to do it while my children lurk behind me, leaving their veggie straw crumbs and smudgey fingerprints all over everything they touch.

Or, do I want to sit on the couch, with a pile of carbohydrates in front of me, watch an episode of something mildly entertaining on Netflix, and actually chill??

It’s the greatest toss up a parent faces: rest or productivity? Both answers are correct. But both answers are also wrong. There’s regret either way, so choose wisely. Who made this game anyway?!

My crisis at nighttime, though, is different. 

I usually fall just shy of lovingly and ceremoniously putting my children to bed. I opt instead for the, “the only reason to be downstairs is an absolute emergency,” speech before I blow a kiss, flick off the bedroom light and close the door.

I turn left after hitting the bottom step, and I see a house in front of me that has somehow imploded in the last three hours despite the large part of the day I spent tidying it. This is around when I have to try not to lose it.

I find the gritty crumbs, and the crumpled pairs of socks left on the floor next to the sneakers that didn’t quite make it back into the shoe basket.

The training in life skills that we are giving our children hasn’t quite reached a level of osmosis yet, the concepts not fully etched into their daily consciousness.  Some do, like the please’s and thank you’s, and those sweet, gentle kisses on my cheek for no reason at all.

Enough to melt the heart of stone.

The rest, though? Not always so much.

Which is why I sometimes step on Legos, and identifiable sticky substances on my way to the kitchen to scrape off flecks of food stuck to the surface of my stove, and to finish cleaning up from dinner.

As a person coping with anxiety right now, the familiar hot flashes start to creep up, the tightness in my chest that I was sure wasn’t there five minutes ago begins to coil itself into a new, but all too familiar hissing knot. 

I wonder why I even bother.

I wonder how I can help my children better understand the lessons we are trying to teach them when so much of their young minds are filled with the knowledge of Pokemon, and the wingspans of the largest bats in the world. Yes, this is a thing we discuss at length around here.

I wonder what other people without small children are doing.

I wonder what I’m even doing.

The freedom to just sit and simply unwind before bed is a luxury I haven’t had in years. Much like privacy in the bathroom. Or the satisfaction of having empty laundry baskets once a batch of clean clothes are put away.

Worst is how the prevailing feeling that I have accomplished something each day is one that I haven’t felt the satisfaction of in quite a while. That novelty that my tasks at hand are finished, or can at least be set aside for the next nine hours to make way for rest. 

I fall into this pit so many times.

The pen of my mind begins its dark, recognizable scrawl as I pick off food stuck to the prongs of each fork in the sink, etching unkind words into my confidence the way a hot prong seers flesh.

I’m not good enough or diligent enough or productive enough or thin enough or joyful enough. I mark myself with each flick of my pen. I name myself with each shortcoming.

And this, friends, is precisely why I occasionally need the positive voices in my subconscious to sound like something like Adele; I need a chorus of confidence and truth to rain down on me when I try to remind myself of how great I am at what I do.

It felt awkward to write that sentence, to think of proclaiming that I actually believe that I am a good mother. How graceless or arrogant it seems when actually, it is a statement that can only be uttered because of profound grace.

These words I whisper to myself, in my own voice, is the poison in my well. Poison I would never want my children to taste or drink. Words I would go to war with to save my children from, and yet I spill them out carelessly all over myself, and then I blame myself for that, too?

Do I let myself feel the rhythm and hum of those words that proclaim me as more than a failure? Do I know that I need the loudest and strongest singular voice to drown out the dozens of pointed accusations hurled my way when I’m alone and lost in my own mind?

I need to follow that voice out of the hazy mist, back to some place where things are upright, where the only meter stick we measure ourselves by is one of love, forgiveness and hope.

The beat that calls us is how we know that we still feel. 

Sometimes, it is that still, unwavering voice that says no, none of this is true. Other times, it is the most soulful vibrato that you could imagine; it is one who roars back. I never know why sometimes it is one or the other, why sometimes it is steady, why sometimes it is thundering.

They alternate almost instinctively and yet cohesively.

I try to let those words wash over me, through me, to save me from myself.

To know that I am okay.

 

And with each listen,

I try again to believe them,

And mark myself anew.