Monthly Archives: March 2016

It’s Not About Me

There’s a scene at the end of Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade where Indy is attempting to save his way-too-skinny-Nazi girlfriend from certain death, holding her by one sweaty hand as she dangles above a seemingly bottomless crevice that has opened in the floor of the tomb from where they have discovered Chirst’s Holy Grail. The fabled cup is sitting on a ledge within her grasp. As she fearlessly reaches for it – and the immortality it’s told to bring – our hero can, alas, no longer hold on.

She falls to her death, kicking and screaming as her dreams die with her. The movie almost instantly forgets her.

I think of her sometimes as I struggle to live a truly Catholic life. Her story, albeit sans the blonde-hair-blue-eyes and romance with Harrison Ford, seems familiar to me. 

I grew up on the ’70s and ’80s, when the women’s movement was at its peak (IMHO), giving us the “see, we told you you could have it all!” Few women had climbed high enough to fall yet. I still remember my favorite advertising for Enjoili perfume. “I can bring home the bacon, ba-da-da, fry it up n a pan…..” And so forth.

In so many ways, my friends and I were the promise of the future. The young ladies who would finally have the great education, the great job, the perfect husband, family. The life every woman wanted to live, complete with the availability of abortion should we find ourselves slowed on the path to greatness as CEOs, entrepreneurs, presidents, heads of state, etc.

It was discovered that I was smarter than the average bear somehow, and I was encouraged to be anything I wanted career wise. I spent grade school and high school thinking I was going to be a psychiatrist. Now, I need one. You see, the world led me on. Not one specific person; my parents pushed only gently. Teachers gave me grades I earned. Friends achieved and achieved alongside of me. It was how you did things.

There were awards. I found writing was my talent, and I pushed out of pre-med and never looked back. There was the college newspaper, a free-ride to grad school I earned on my own. Internships, accolades, and the job that would lead me anywhere I wanted to go. It should have, according to some.

I fell in love, got married. I had worked hard, stayed out of trouble for the most part. I earned the privlege to have children, earn a lucrative living and grab the golden ring. “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Right? 

I didn’t land where I expected to. And I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. The cheerleaders had been quieted. Life had become more like a trapeze act, where the artist accidentally looked down, saw everyone gaping at her feats, and realized she was scared. Maybe I really wasn’t as great as people told me I was going to be someday.

I should have started “dying to self” as Jesus asks us to a long time ago. Nothing comes easy in this life, but when your on a roll, with so little in your way, nothing comes too hard either. Sometimes, you start to believe your own hype. And then, if you’re lucky,  God steps in and starts working in your life.

I got that great little family I wanted. I also got post-partum depression, lots of therapy, and for the first time ever, hit what could be called a glass ceiling. The work-life balance thing wasn’t popular with my co-workers when I tried working again. I tried consulting from home. I used technology to my best advantage. But God was trying to show me something I wasn’t seeing.

For other people my kids weren’t the number one priority. My work wasn’t the issue – my schedule was. Eventually, employers lost interest in me. I cared more about what was really important and less about the machinations of the system. I silently implore the young “I-can-have-it-all” women I see. Don’t let the world tell you what femininity is. You can’t have it all – not because you aren’t able, but because real living gets in the way.

Being a stay-at-home mom has taught me a lot about myself. And about my own self-centeredness. “Dying to self” to one steep hill to climb. Transitioning to domesticity and parenthood has been difficult for me, the girl who almost always succeeded. Who was sure to set the world on fire with something. It’s hard to let that go – that “I could have been a contender” feeling. 

Lately, I’m struggling with the lack of motivation in my two daughters. They’re in the 5th and 4th grades – that’s 11 and 9 years old. They aren’t bad students, but they have little desire to be the very best. They study, they do homework, and there are topics they excel at. But they aren’t about getting an A every time. This is hard for me to understand. Yet again, my children are my true teachers.

They know me only as mommy, home doing laundry, picking them up at school to take them to their activities. The lady who has a mental breakdown over uncleaned rooms, too much screen time and unfinished spelling homework. Not as the me who planned public relations programs and smoothed public crises for a living. They aren’t real sure why excelling is so important to me, and why I stand by biting my tongue as they learn the right way – at their own pace, as the individuals they are, not as MY daughters.

Our conventional wisdom about what makes a person – particularly a woman – successful is horribly wrong. I find that brilliance everyone is looking for in parenting. I never once found it in a board room. I’ve found life is better when you live for others. But that “me, me, me” is still out there, making me feel like my life will never mean much if I don’t achieve what society says I should. Wrestling with ME makes for stress, bitterness and distraction. She makes me wonder if I would have kept reaching for the Grail even in the sight of the Angel of death.

I pray God will let me finally out grow her.

Femi-not

A little over a week ago, retailer Lands End published a catalog that highlighted the legacy of feminist Gloria Steinem. That old wrinkly lady in the “I had an abortion” t-shirt.

I found this more than a little off putting. After all, I – and lots of others – have been purchasing their products for years to outfit children with uniforms for Catholic school. Lands End, which has been experiencing financial issues on and off for many years now, has in part been kept alive through scooter skirts, Oxford shirts, khakis and Peter Pan collars approved by priests and nuns across the country.

In the best light, this catalog was a publication of a struggling company that does not know or understand a large portion of its customer base. (In case Lands End didn’t know, most Catholics and Christians are pro-life.) In the worst, it was yet another attempt from a business leader trying to use unrelated products to push an agenda people would rather not discuss.  (The collision of social issues and business is starting too get out of hand on all sides of all issues – I’m talking to you Pepsi, Coke, Chik-Fil-A, Starbucks, Honey Maid, Campells Soup, Red Lobster, Burger King, etc., etc. )

Later that same week, after angry customers took to social media in droves to tell Lands End they wouldn’t be buying their button downs and dungarees anymore, someone in marketing had the sense to pull the campaign and catalog, and issue the all-too-familiar “Oops!” apology. 

Last night, I saw some of my more liberal feminist friends lamenting this move online. They say it’s bad for women’s issues and rights. I say it’s wrong to glorify a woman who’s life has been about making sure women can kill their babies legally.

As you might imagine, they probably think I’m anti-women’s health, anti-equality, anti-working woman and so on and so forth. They chastised me for benefitting from Ms. Steinem’s “work” while I criticized her ethics. 

I’ve never had an abortion. I also never enjoyed equal pay for equal work. But I have been forced from a job by childless, unmarried career women who don’t appreciate working mothers. I have had my personal health issues – infertility, post-partum depression, and heart disease (the biggest killer of women by the way) – belittled by other women. I once had a young female gynecologist tell me if I wanted to have a child so desperately, I should hang an Anne Gedes calendar in my office for motivation.

That’s not how empowering other women is supposed to work.

As women, God has given us the ultimate superpower. We, and only we, have the privilege and anatomy to create and grow life inside of us. To nurture humanity – to make our world better by building and educating generations of more complete and loving human beings through motherhood. Pro-life Catholics are not anti-woman. One of the most important figures of our faith is a woman. Mary, Jesus’s mother. Other honored women include Mary Magdelene (a prostitute), Mary and Martha (old maids) Ruth, Sarah and Eve. And don’t forget Joan of Arc, Maria Goretti, Mother Teresa, Bernadette, and St. Gianna.

I’m a diabetic – having children for me was a miracle. As a high-risk, doctors monitored my pregnancies almost ad nauseum for the entire nine months. I was alerted to every developmental milestone to keep my babies healthy. I knew when the spinal column was closing, about brain growth, shoulder and skeletal development. We monitored heart rates almost weekly, and I had more sonograms than I could count. If I could care for my baby before it was born, there is no doubt in my mind that from conception babies deserve the right to live.

Great power we often say, comes with great responsibility. If we women are the vehicle that sustains the human race, we should treat that ability accordingly. When are we more powerful than when we are bringing a new life into the world? Certainly not when we forsake that life to selfishly nurture our careers, bank accounts, dreams or sex lives instead. Life is the greatest contribution we can make to society. Those of us who choose to are indeed rich and blessed.

Gloria Steinem is not a role model. The modern feminist movement she helped to create aims to make women irresponsible to their greatest God-given gift while blaming everything they don’t like on men and religion.

Honoring someone who would encourage women to disrespect that which makes them special, powerful and beautiful so they can instead be more like men is just bad business in my opinion.