Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: expectations (page 1 of 2)

Beyond a single story

Because I have no brothers, I have no means for comparison. Yet I was raised to believe that with enough hard work, passion and natural skill, there was little I could be turned away from in the world simply because I was born female. My parents never used any of these words; they raised me in a time and place where the common story was one where girls should and could have the same opportunity as the boys.

Even throughout my seminary years, studying in a predominantly white male world, I rarely came up against people who desired to put limitations on aspirations because of the way I was born. (Granted, I made it pretty easy by keeping aspirations low and quiet.) In fact, I came across two guys who legitimized and validated me beyond what was necessary, and I look back now with gratitude.  The primary voice in a place where I was in the minority was welcoming, validating my childhood story.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the story my parents and my educators had told me about what I could and couldn’t do wasn’t the universal story. There was an incident where I was told, outright, my femaleness that took me out of the pool of opportunity. It was in a place that I wanted to help – I could help. I had the hard work, the passion and the gifts. But, apparently, my vagina was a tad intimidating.

The hurt I felt wasn’t only in the rejection. It was also the startling fact that my prior life story wasn’t the only option. Soon, thanks to the world wide web and gutsy bloggers, I found out that I wasn’t alone. There were parts of the world where the hurt I experienced was the norm. This was the life experience of many women. Their mamas and daddies told them different things about their future based on how they were born.

I was appalled.  My friend KLR and I literally said, “Wait. This is still a thing? An issue?”  I had been raised in a time and a place that said, “well, sure, it used to be this way. But we’re better than that now. We know better and we do better. You have nothing to worry about. Now go on and make yourself the best.” But as a country, as a society, I found out as an adult that we’re not better. For many people, it’s not “used to.” It’s “should.”

The people who had validated me all along were also appalled. They hurt for and with me. But I believe they were shaken to realize their efforts of making society better hadn’t reached their full potential.

There is no single story for any gender, race or orientation. Just because you have an uncle, best friend or college professor who shared his or her experience – and came out just fine – doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is giving the same opportunity. Just because you’ve lived a particular life doesn’t mean life happens the same way for people who share the box you check on registration forms. It is so very, very important to listen to people who are quietly and politely trying to explain that what we perceive as normal is not, indeed, standard protocol.

I’ve been silently watching the eruption of reactions to the recent brutalities against both black men and white cops. It’s all terrible. (Please, world, stop believing we need to choose sides.)

A have a variety of friends who are, or will be, raising black or brown babies. I hear the fear in their response to the obvious inequalities. They’re going to have a different conversation with their children than I will with my blond boys. I empathize and agree, it should not be this way. But another thing irks me: somehow these white women saying the same thing that black mamas have been crying for years suddenly validates this experience to the white world.

Why? Why can’t we believe the black mamas when they say, here’s what I’m teaching my kid about how to dress and respond to a traffic stop. Why is the horror and injustice much more palpable to white ears when said by someone who looks like them?

I feel like this is part of the problem. Somehow this illustrates exactly what those crying for racial equality are trying to say.

It shouldn’t take “one of our own” to convince us that the experience of race, gender and orientation may not be the only story. Perhaps it’s our hopeful optimism that keeps us from hearing that our progress hasn’t reached as far was we believe. We want to think that we’ve done better as a society in seeing the divine spark in all human beings. And when stories inform us that we’re a tad disillusioned, we don’t want to hear it. The gap between what we believe to be and what actually is can be hugely disappointing.

But we need to keep listening. We need to allow the differing experiences of others to be more than a possibility and instead admit we need to put our work boots back on.

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When hard things are good things

JJ and I have an amazing opportunity in front of us. We get to move home, close to family, where he can teach in the local schools, as he had hoped those years ago when he decided to change careers into education. We’re excited – only as the stars perfectly aligned did this become a reality. This is a good thing.

Yet, it’s a hard thing.

It’s hard to leave. My friend dropped by with chocolate – and later with cilantro – when she knew I was struggling. I have to leave thoughtful people like this! It’s totally unfair. Our beloved school is only a Troy campus. Our church family. Our small group. My yoga studio. My work.

It’s hard to pack. We’re painting, de-cluttering and staging a house to put on the market with 4 nosy young children. This isn’t just hard, it’s nearly impossible.

It’s hard to find a new home. The size of our family makes us a tad needy in the space department. The size of our income makes us a tad needy in the budget department. And now that I’ve been surrounded with these delightful people who know about beautiful things, I want all of the beautiful things. In fact, I just hung up curtains in my bedroom tonight. DO YOU KNOW HOW FINISHED A ROOM CAN FEEL WITH A SET OF CURTAINS? People, this is valuable information that needs to be shared. Buy all the curtains! Even the cheap ones from IKEA that need hemmed! Hang them on an inexpensive IKEA rod and do a happy dance at the beauty of a properly clothed window!

I digress. Back to the hard things. (Although, cutting in a straight line to hem curtains is HARD for me.)

Part of me, in my early morning festering of woe, wanted to throw in the towel. Should JJ rescind? We could just stay. We can be in a house, with a yard, right here. (WITH BEAUTIFUL CURTAINS, let’s not forget.) Perhaps we made the wrong decision. This is too hard – if it were good, it would be easy, right? Things would happen with rainbows and butterflies and the occasional unicorn. Prices would drop, water softeners would be included in the price and the next 3 months would consist of mimosas with the ladies I love most. That’s how we know when we’re doing the right, the best, the good thing. Right?

Where did we come up with such a philosophy of life? That once a decision starts to cost us something, we’re doing it wrong? If it’s hard, it’s also bad?  These are terrible guides into life. Everything in my life that is worth anything to me has come with a cost. Being married, mothering children, often even my work – they all tend to be hard. But they are good. Beautiful, even. They’re my best offerings to my world. If I took steps away every time it gets a bit challenging, I would be halfway around the world by now, drinking Italian wine and reading old books by the sea. But that’s not good, it’s just easy.

So my mantra now is good things can be hard things. They’re not mutually exclusive. The Easy Button that Staples wants to sell us only rescues us from buying printing supplies. If we start using it with the rest of life, it could end up quite boring. It’s only through engaging challenges that we find out it’s true worth.

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Authentically good

Hi, I’m Michele.

I don’t struggle to keep my house in order. I live a calmer existence when I can see my floor and countertop, so I regularly clean them off.

I’m notoriously organized. I can tell you where to find what and when we’ll be where.

I exercise a great amount of discipline. I go to bed when I’m tired, which often means before 9 and nearly always before 10. I wake early and spend regular mornings of solitude and study the Bible.

I spin a good tale. Whether about fetching a pot of cold soup or finishing a half-marathon, I love the act of bringing people with me into a memory or a story – my own or someone else’s.

I read everything. Currently small slips of paper mark my place in 5 books, one of them being an Old Testament commentary, another on the history of the world according to food and one a fiction novel I might marry someday. I follow and regularly read 108 blogs.

I think existentially about things like screen time, food sources and word choice with my kids, among most everything else. I think, think, think and 90% of the time I make a decision based upon those thoughts. I dig for root causes and prescribe remedies to challenging situations in my life. If I don’t like something, I think about it and change it.

I apologize for these tendencies when they’re revealed. (Even just listing them for the Whole Wide World to read made me want add footnotes of explanation). For some reason, I feel shame about the person I am, even when these things bring about positive results in my life. I don’t desire to change them, yet I don’t desire anyone know about them either.

Image via CC - Grey World.

Image via CC – Grey World.

Now my faults? You know them. I’m not a Pinterest mom. I refuse to cut the peel off my kids’ apples, let alone their sandwiches into cute shapes. If we ate sandwiches, that is. I’m not a floor mom. I don’t get out of my chair to be a part of the adventures of building and exploring and imagining. I encourage from afar and give them siblings for such play. I lack follow through and I’m rarely thoughtful.

These things, I’m quite free with people knowing. I’m fine with such shortcomings. I apologize when they hurt feelings and I own up to them. These things, I’m quite free with people knowing. I’m fine with such shortcomings. I apologize when they hurt feelings and I own up them.

In the name of authenticity, I don’t hide my faults. That’s what we do, right? To be real, we tell people all the ways we fail.

Our veiled attempt at honesty is robbing us the joy of a peaceful existence. These habits aren’t authentic, they’re deprecating. How can we possibly be better off by apologizing for the ways in which we’re trying to make the world, or at least our own lives and homes, a smidge better that we found it yesterday?

Friends, I don’t need more of this. I don’t need people – specifically women – to dwell on their failures in order for me to feel better about my lack of perfection. I need people who are doing their thing, who found their spark and live ablaze. I’ve been on this earth for 34 years now, I’m pretty confident that perfection doesn’t exist. Can’t we just agree to be imperfect and move on? I’m positive we can be honest about our faults without making a slide show out of it.

Sitting in Faultville and comparing maps of the city will get us nowhere. Let’s just agree on our starting point and get in a caravan headed to Bettertown. I promise that each of us knows at least little bits of the path, so together we’ll make it. Unless we all keep lying about the beautiful ways in which we were created for good. If you withhold from me – from us – the gifts of your life, the way in which you reveal the nature and love of God in your very own flesh and soul, we might run out of gas.

The things you do well, the tasks and projects for which you secretly give yourself a gold star, are fuel for the human spirit. If not for all of humanity, let me say they are inspiration for your children, for your family, and me. I don’t need another person to show me how to live in shame, wishing I were better at this or that and in the meantime neglecting who I really am. I want to surround myself with people who don’t apologize for the ways in which they’re living well. I’m fine with my faults – I need folks who will help me accept the best part of me.

Visit me elsewhere:
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