From Entitlement to Empathy: Closing the Gap (Pt. 1)

There are two attitudes I realized have unfortunately permeated many societies, in particular, U.S society. The first is entitlement, or believing that you are deserving of special privileges or specific treatment. The second is ineligibility of the “other”, or the belief that people only deserve what they earn. These two attitudes, although seemingly mutually exclusive, actually seem to coexist within many U.S. Americans’ belief systems.  

Entitlement is a dangerous attitude to carry. It lets you believe that other human circumstances may be deserved, even though life, for many in this world, is simply trying to overcome the circumstances we were born into. That’s where the second attitude comes in. People often become so engrossed in their attitude of entitlement that they start to view others as less than and; therefore, develop the view that others don’t deserve things they have not “earned”. We see this very clearly in the example of healthcare in the U.S. today. People who have been born into privilege and wealth may start to believe that they “deserve” their health and access to healthcare because they have worked to “earn” that position. But if you are born into privilege and/or wealth how can you say that health and access to healthcare is only something to be earned?.. This is how these two seemingly opposite beliefs come together through a twisted lens of pride.

Both of these attitudes are stemming from the root of pride, and subsequently, are causing a lack of human empathy and the destructive “us” vs “them” dichotomy in society. It is concerning that people who have such indescribable privilege may hold the belief that they actually are deserving of that privilege based upon more than just the mere fact that they were born into it. Let us clear this up right now: we deserve no more and no less than any other human on this earth based solely upon the fact that we are all perfectly flawed human beings. Logically speaking, there is no reason you should deserve more than someone experiencing hardship, poverty, and hunger as a victim of worldwide systematic oppression based especially upon race, sex, religion, and/or financial standing. 

Empathy and grace are stripped away when these pride-filled attitudes take over your life. We are all guilty of it. There is no one who can boast that they have never felt entitled to something. Of course, we all want to believe that we deserve good things in our life when we try so hard to be “good.” But we should know by now that that’s not how life works. Opportunities for access to health, food, education, positions of power, and success are not always “earned.” They are, in fact, often denied to those who in society’s eyes have tried to “earn it” but may never achieve it with so many odds stacked against them.

If we have been born into privilege, we cannot feel guilty for that because ,as I previously stated, we are simply born into the circumstances we are. But in knowing this, we must see that we have done NOTHING to deserve more than our neighbor in need. Let me repeat that… WE HAVE DONE NOTHING TO DESERVE MORE THAN OUR NEIGHBOR IN NEED.

Check your privilege and be aware of it. Never take it for granted and never let it manifest into entitlement. Look at your fellow men and women with empathy and understanding, not with judgment. We all need help. We all need support. We all need to be the someone that we need for others because extending grace is the only thing that can help unify this broken world. 

 

 

Hello… It’s Me. (Again)

Hello dear friends,

It has been a long while since I have written and I must explain to you why…

When I got back from Mexico in July, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know how to make sense of things happening around me, or within me, for that matter either. Everything felt wrong. I would wake up and feel out of place. I would get ready for the day, knowing that I wouldn’t feel at peace no matter what the day would bring.  I would carry on, feeling like nothing was right. I felt angst and discomfort. It’s a very disconcerting feeling to never feel hopeful and to feel consistently out of place wherever you go. Why do things have to be this way?…

I have been angry at the world. Angry that injustice seems to prevail. Angry that politicians don’t seem to understand the realities that people go through day-by-day. Angry that imaginary borders dictate the lives of so many experiencing hardship. Angry at people who just don’t care and don’t see a problem with inherent issues embedded in our societies. And most of all- angry that it didn’t seem like I could do anything to help it all.

This angry, angsty, confused version of myself lasted longer than I had hoped. Here we are in the beginning of 2017- almost six months since my return to the U.S. and that dark cloud above my head is just now dissipating. But it is dissipating. I can finally see light again. And I am more fired-up than ever to be a part of the positive change in this world, especially as this country goes through large and scary changes. My time in Mexico taught me that on just the other side of our lowest lows awaits unimaginable joys and much sowing of strength.

Here we are in the present. Things still don’t make sense, but I know that big things lie ahead as I push onward in my beautifully crooked path.

Here’s to inner peace, finding joy, and new adventures in 2017. All my love to each of you.

Poco a Poco (Little by Little)

One week left. I cannot believe I am typing those words right now. How did time already transport me to the end of my time in Mexico? My heart feels so full from my time here and my head is telling me I think it is ready for me to go back now and apply all the life lessons I have learned.

I was talking with my mom the other day and she mentioned that she could already tell I have changed quite a lot in my time here and part of that includes me not being quite so peppy and a little more bitter toward some things in life. I think it’s very true- I feel a little jaded after this year. After all the things I have learned and witnessed in my time here- it has left my eyes opened to injustices that occur everyday. It breaks my heart and it makes it pretty hard to see everything with rose-colored glasses. I may be coming back a bit more edgy but I am also coming back with a fire in my heart to help work for justice in this world, especially for our Mexican neighbors. 

However bitter about some things, I am coming back with many positive life lessons and an abundance of beautiful memories that have shaped and molded me anew. I want to share with you the most important lesson I have learned through my time here. Poco a poco. Everything is poco a poco, that is, little by little. Everything in life is a process. And you have to take everything little by little. I have struggled with anxiety almost my entire life. Plagued by the curse of wanting to be good at everything and to pave my way with success every step of the way has certainly not helped matters with my anxiety. But everyday here I was reminded to go poco a poco. Have patience- everything will be okay but you have to take things one step at a time.

The best example of that has been my constant task of sorting and cleaning beans and lentils in the comedor. We use 16 kilos of beans and/or lentils everyday, meaning that everyday that amount must be cleaned to prep. I was often put in charge of this task. You can imagine seeing a huge pile of 16 bags of beans (or worse, tiny tiny lentils…) on the counter in front of you and realizing this is about to be a long, tedious process to get to the end. But you take it one bean, one lentil, one step at a time. Sometimes you accidentally let a bad bean or a pebble get in the bin of clean beans but you have to keep moving forward- you can’t obsess over every little bean or control every little thing in life otherwise you will never progress forward. Life is just the same. If you don’t have patience and perseverance to accomplish a task, you will never finish. And if you insist on obsessing over every single detail or decision, you will just drive yourself crazy. It’s that simple. Success in life comes from taking things poco a poco. I was always reminded of that by my host mom Sylvia and others around me when I was feeling stressed, homesick, or anxious about the future; they would utter that simple phrase,…. “Poco a poco, Meli. Todo va estar bien. Primero Dios.” (Little by little, Melissa. Everything is going to be okay. God willing.)

I am forever grateful for the slow and steady process of everything done here in Mexico, whether that was waiting for and using public trans for hours in a day or sorting beans, I learned it will all be okay. I will try to remind myself of this lesson everyday for the rest of my life. So while, yes, I am bringing back not just my physical luggage but also some rather heavy emotional baggage after this year, I am also bringing back a whole new attitude and way of seeing life. I can’t express how lucky I feel to have had this experience. Rest assured it won’t be easy to leave or to adjust to being back home in the U.S. but I am grateful for each new step. Poco a poco. 

Eight Months Later…

You would think that after 8 months here in my new life in Mexico, the struggles would seem lesser and lighter, but it isn’t the case. The truth is that I have dealt with inner-battles with my mental and emotional stability the whole time being here- and this time of my year here is no exception. It is a constant roller coaster of emotions and I go through cycles of moods and feelings daily but they have been heavier at certain times than others.

I am struggling with not feeling myself. I am struggling with not feeling like I have passion and drive working toward something tangible I can identify myself with. The truth is I really like having jobs and classes and assignments. I love feeling like I have purpose and a role and goals to achieve. It is seldom I feel that here because, yes, I do have purpose in being here- but it is such a long-term picture that trying to see that purpose can seem impossible most days. I feel aimless and unidentifiable- an outsider within a huge city where I feel like a number.

I have always had concrete communities and relationships in my life. School, dance, church, family, friends, etc. But now here I am in this weird gray area of community. It’s hard to tell if it has been a lot of my fault for disengagement for self-preservation or if cultural and linguistic differences were just an obstacle that made connection very hard for me here. I am going to assume a bit of both. It was immensely harder than I predicted to be vulnerable and put myself blatantly out there to try and nurture connections and relationships in my different communities. It was so unlike me to feel so timid and unsure of myself with building relationships and now I can’t help but feel I have slightly failed myself and part of my purpose of being here.

It’s a hard place to be in, knowing I have two months left- an awkward amount of time because I still have time left but it seems too short of time to try and deepen or form new relationships. This is a struggle I am trying to overcome. I want to tell myself to just plunge right in and build and strengthen those relationships but it always brings promise of pain and sadness upon leaving so soon. I am having to weigh risk versus benefit. And normally I am one to tell people “just go for it!” but I am finding it harder to tell myself that now. I am hindering myself which is probably adding to my personal angst.

I wouldn’t take back any of my experiences here up to this point but it is hard not to already look back and see what I maybe should have done differently these past 8 months. But the past is in the past. Now I need to look within and outward to see how I can improve my state of being for the last two months of my time here as to not waste it fighting myself.

These are pretty personal thoughts and feelings about this experience but I felt I needed to be real. This journey is not sunflowers and rainbows, although it has had some undoubtedly amazing moments, but it has been a time of so much self-reflection and change that I have felt myself coming apart at the seems some days and can feel myself needing to re-cling to a role and fixed identity. I have learned how important a feeling of belonging can be and how much of a difference it can make in your life and in your motivation. 

As I look within for my self-reflection and seek answers of how to calm my aching and make the most out of this time, I am asking for any prayers, good thoughts, or reassuring words that you may feel inclined to lend me; it would be so appreciated.

As always, my love to you all.

Get Over Yourself. A YAGM lesson.

“Get over yourself.”– A phrase I have repeated to myself many times throughout this year.

I think doing a year of volunteer service is one of the best thing I could’ve done after graduating college.  After graduating I felt like I was pretty hot stuff- intelligent, capable, and deserving. But moving to a different country, speaking a different language, trying to navigate public trans in one of the largest cities in the world, and doing  work that doesn’t require a degree but lots of perseverance and humility to serve others had a way of knocking me onto my butt and off my high, university-degree horse.

It didn’t matter that I had a degree or x, y, or z internship because this was real life. I have had to let go of what I let qualify myself of how “deserving” I was (my education, my professional experiences, etc). I am no more deserving than any other person in this world. The world owes me nothing. But that doesn’t stifle my desire to be here and my passion to try to reach out and serve.

My main work tasks every week are as follows: teach yoga and English, hang out with elderly ladies, peel/cut/chop food, sort beans, hand pull chicken or beef, wash dishes, and serve food. And I have to be totally honest when I say that I catch myself in my head saying, “Why am I here doing this? I have a college degree and I am capable of so much more.” An ugly truth I am not proud of but my ego is human like everyone else’s. But then I look around me at the people I am working with and feel humiliated for thinking that way. People who work so hard for all they have and don’t ever complain about it. They inspire me, they motivate me to be better, and frankly remind me (not verbally, of course) to just get over myself. I am not above doing anything. If I am asked to peel 8 kilos of potatoes- I will do it. That’s why I am here. If I am asked to peel 7 more kilos of potatoes- I’m still gonna do it because guess what, this work is not about me!

Most days I feel like I have done nothing at all. I think to myself “well all you did was teach a few classes to a few people…” and it can get very discouraging looking at it like this when I fall into these funks. But these funks happen when my ego is trying to overcome my servant leadership attitude- when I am telling myself I am not making a big enough difference with what I am doing. This defeating attitude is an immediate motivation crusher so I have learned to try to nip these thoughts in the bud right away.

I have to remind myself each day that living a modest lifestyle and helping out in the ways that I am needed are helping make a change by means of ripple effect. A big part of making a difference is about attitude so I have learned to enforce a sort of “fake it till you make it” type approach, meaning that if I wake up not feeling very chipper about volunteering that day I give myself a pep talk and act out having a good attitude until it manifests genuinely.

Every day is a mental battle and I am learning new combat methods to bring home with me. I have learned from my time here that nothing is just handed to you- you have to earn it and many times you have to fight your own self to get there. My hope is that I may continue to be grounded and rooted in humility, remembering that all I have in life I have been blessed with and I will continue to try to give back.

All my love.

 

Body Image… A tale of fried bananas and losing weight.

Body image…. A topic that spans every culture in every country in some way or another but manifests in many different views.

How would you describe the idea of body image in the U.S?… I would personally describe it as unhealthy. We are so focused on being “healthy” that it is, at times, very unhealthy. I’m not advocating for obesity and unhealthy eating habits, but I am saying our balance has gotten out of whack. I personally think that, besides our ridiculous fast food chain-centered society, our country’s weight problems are also existent because of the ridiculously high standards we place upon men and women and their bodies. We make people feel horrible for not having a perfect body, which doesn’t help self-esteem and can often send people spiraling even more into over-eating to cope with the feelings of guilt and shame for not obtaining perfect body standards.

Being in Mexico has shown me that I can be proud and happy with my normal body. I have never once heard someone make a negative comment about my body or eating habits here. I actually recently had my boyfriend’s mom ask me about body image in the U.S. and I told her about all the pressure that falls upon us, especially women, since childhood to have a perfect body. I explained about the impossible standards set for us to achieve- don’t be too fat but don’t be too skinny but “be yourself”… it’s impossible. And I explained to her how I have had body image issues my whole life- my weight yo-yo’ing and my struggle with loving food but hating food because of my crap metabolism. She looked horrified as I tried to gracefully explain to her my personal struggle that falls within a societal downfall surged by media. I think some of these same pressures exist in Mexico but they are certainly not so severe and I don’t believe they are so strongly evoked by media involvement.

Within my first few months here I definitely put on weight because of wanting to try all the new foods and also not knowing how to say no to new host family that wanted me to eat more of their food. Since then, I have learned how to gracefully (or at times forcefully) say no because I am simply too full and it’s not healthy to eat till your pants want to pop off. I have within the last month and a half or so lost weight and have begun fitting into my clothes even better than before and I feel so much better all-around, mentally and physically.

But I realized something through the experience of gaining what was, for me, an uncomfortable amount of weight; I realized that even when I was uncomfortable with my weight, guilting myself because I had a newly forming double chin and more pudge on my belly and legs, no one here cared, felt the need to tell me or make snide comments that I should shed off a few pounds. So I gave myself some grace because I didn’t feel guilted or judged by other people; this actually encouraged my self-motivation to lose the weight even more.

Within the past few weeks I have received many comments about my weight loss and most of the comments were asking me things like “Why did you lose weight?” or saying “You don’t need to lose anymore weight- you look great!” Wow. What a positive self-esteem boost. People being so encouraging and supportive to me about something I have been self-conscious of practically my entire life. Never seeming to live up to the United State’s standards of a great body was poisoning my mind and it still lurks in my mind all the time, but I am learning how to try and fight off those hurtful thoughts more and more.

I love living a healthier lifestyle- I enjoy exercise and good salads- but I also love fried bananas and churros. I am learning balance. Everything in life is balance and I cannot live a balanced life if I am constantly punishing myself about eating this or that or telling myself horrible things about my body. I know in the future my weight is going to continue to fluctuate despite my will for it not to, but I need to carry with me this new perspective- my value and my beauty do not depend upon my weight. I will not strive to conform to unrealistic societal standards of my body but rather I will strive to meet personal goals and uphold my self-value with or without a few extra pounds on my body.

Panic for New Purpose

Every time I settle in I feel restless again. It’s like I have the thinnest threshold for change versus adaption ever to exist- the sweet spot doesn’t last too long before I am looking for my next purpose. As if my mind has some sort of detector for when I am starting to get comfortable so it can flip a switch for “panic for new purpose” mode. How will I ever settle down anywhere?… Or maybe the point is that I shouldn’t.

Maybe I wasn’t wired for “normality” or “stability” and I am okay with that, but it sure makes personal relationships a whole lot harder; this is quite inconvenient seeing that real, personal connections to other humans seems to be what I thrive on most.

You know how some people grow up feeling like they have one passion and one purpose to direct their life?… Yeah, that’s not me. I am consistently confused and frustrated trying to “discover” my calling. I have decided that maybe my “calling” is to be called many different times and answer each time to a different purpose.

Maybe my purpose is to belong to no one and everyone all in the same.

The future is so hazy right now I can’t even see an outline or silhouette ahead. Literally anything could happen in these three- four months ahead which is both an exciting adventure and horrifying reality. And I don’t want to cling to any fake alluding plans this time. I want to be swept up into the whirlwind of the unknown and trust that at the other side I will land where I need to- and hopefully on my feet, not my ass.

The truth is: I am horrified to live a mediocre life. I just couldn’t live with myself thinking I am just pursuing what I am “supposed” to do or who I am “supposed” to be. Because honestly I have done that. And I am tired of being who I am “supposed” to be. I would rather land on my ass after leaping in hope of a great life, being my genuine self than land on my feet being my supposed self. This year here was my first leap into the life I want to lead and really the first decision I made for myself in hopes of moving forward with more courage. Again, this “being who I am not who I am supposed to be” can cause quite a ruckus in personal relationships. It has been a hard road to manage with others in my life at times.

All the components of myself are still more or less here and the same, but they have been so jumbled and scrambled up that I am trying to make sense of putting myself back together. I want to look at myself in the mirror and say, “yeah you can do this. You can conquer the negativity in your head and be the person you want to be.” I feel like I am still on my path but I have gotten off on a track I am not sure about. Do I keep going forward and see where this other path leads or do I back-track and try to reverse some of the effects that have come over me and try to rebuild my “purpose” that way?… I am not a huge fan of back-tracking, so I think I am gonna go ahead, adelante, into this new beautifully crooked path.

Om Nashi Me

Listen to this song while you read this post, if you feel so inclined. This has been the song I listen to almost everyday since I have been in Mexico; I’ve decided this is the theme song of my year here. “Om nashi me” translated means “infinite nakedness”- I think that is rather fitting for the vulnerability I have felt throughout these months.

This is what I imagine the holy spirit must sound like if he/she were a song. Always moving, twirling around, working throughout and within a whirlwind. Nearly without words and foreign in sound but somehow still communicative to everyone in some shape or form. Emotion-evoking and soul-stirring.

It calms me the way it echoes the chaos I feel in my heart, soul, mind, and spirit. The inner battles I feel going on within myself most days.  Sometimes I can’t tell if these inner battles stem from anxiety or from the holy spirit evoking me to search for more in this world. The way it won’t be quieted or contented… is that my fear of complacency or an ever-present call of change?…

My spirit won’t settle most days. A disconcerting feeling. I feel as though everyone can see my nakedness. My flaws and my fraud open for even strangers to see now that my curtain of “identity” has been ripped away.

I have become very aware of my brokenness. Things of the past that I swept under the rug and haven’t really healed. My dependency on defining myself and clinging tight to an identity that is forever evolving and fleeing from me… Realizing that earthly relationships will never quench that. That’s on me to get over myself and admit I need some help from something much bigger than myself. I can’t let these anxieties go on my own. On my own I only cling tighter in hope of achieving any smidgen of control I can muster. Obsessing over the future. Making myself sick with worry and stress because I won’t let go of what I cannot control….

I need You, Holy Spirit. Work within me to encounter peace. Work within me to want the Lord. Take these burdens off from me and out of me. Give me peace and rest. Most of all- help me believe God’s love for me is real. Let me not turn my back from it because of the fear of my brokenness and inadequacy.

I am stripped away so I may begin to rebuild again. To rediscover my help, my joy, my peace and rest, and my value come from the Love of the Lord. To learn that I am enough. My imperfections do not keep my from the Lord or from love. There is great value in being who I am, learning that is enough, and re-learning it everyday. May I embrace Om Nashi Me, so I may become a more authentic version of myself.

Desert Border Crossing: A Holy Pilgrimage

It’s been a while since I have posted, which is partially because for the first week and a half of February I went on a paseo with my YAGMexico group to Arizona. We were at the border of Douglas, AZ, and Agua Prieta, Mexico for part of our time and we were also able to be in Tuscon for a few days, meeting with organizations working with migrants or immigration issues. I have to be quite honest- this trip wrecked me- emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am still grappling with things seen, heard, and witnessed while there. I am back in Mexico now, trying to make sense of it all and I feel numbed after a week of feeling such intense feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and confusion at the injustices and heartbreaking occurrences taking place at our border and in our country.  This is the first of what I am guessing will probably be a few different posts about this trip. (these posts aren’t meant to raise political argument but rather just to display my own personal experiences and feelings through what I have felt and witnessed.)

One day of our paseo we were taken to the desert on the Agua Prieta side of the U.S./Mexico frontera so we could walk to the border wall separating the countries into two lados (sides). I will never adequately be able to express the intensity and surreal sensation it is to walk among the same desert paths as those literally risking their lives trying to reach the other side of a wall that represents hope for a better life for them. And realizing as you walk these same paths that this path will never mean the same thing to you as it does for them simply because of the side of the wall you were born on: the side of privilege.

As we walked our way through the desert we were accompanied by a few men from a center we visited earlier in the day that bring big jugs of water into the desert for those trying to cross. These men (two about in their 50s/60s, one about in his 30s, and a little boy probably about 6 years old), accompanied by their little dog Paco, were all Mexican citizens, born on the Agua Prieta side of the border wall. We made our journey through the desert with them, which made it an even more special experience being able to share that space with them; but it also made my privilege that much more apparent to me, knowing that I could cross that fence and nothing whatsoever would happen to me but that wall is something else altogether for them. It is a barrier, a blockade, a symbol of discrimination and human fear targeted at them, a challenge against freedom, and a painful reminder of the “us versus them” attitude that has been cultivated between our countries.

I realized while we walked through the rust colored sand and prickly bushes that this journey is a holy pilgrimage of sorts for those who try to cross. A trek through tiring and dangerous terrains with the hope of better things on the other side. A homage to their families and loved ones to try and devote their life to providing more or to seek refuge and peace away from violence experienced in their everyday lives.  This is no criminal act. This is a sacrifice-leaving behind family, friends, and communities they love for a time-period unknown to them; it is a humbling and dangerous pilgrimage that hundreds and thousands are losing their lives for every year. *

When we got to the wall, I was more than unimpressed with its physical structure (can’t believe how much money we are spending on these structures, honestly). But I was overcome with anger touching the tall metal poles as I could see through the slats to the other side in plain sight. The other side looked exactly the same. Exactly the same. I grew even more frustrated as I looked up at the perfectly blue sky above us. The expanse above us and around us within the desert: all of this Holy Nature created by God to unify us as a people. As His beloved children. But I didn’t feel unified. I felt miles away. I felt human fear and sin and discrimination in the form of a metal border wall, hot upon my hands. I felt pissed off.

How did we get to this point as a nation?…

And as I was thinking and feeling all of this, I looked in front of me and I saw Paco, the dog, roaming freely on the U.S side of the wall. He was small enough he could literally just walk between the poles to the other side. There he was, running around blissfully and ignorantly because he could. Then I felt hot tears come to my eyes. This dog, an animal, has more freedom than we have as humans. A dog has more freedom than our Mexican citizen neighbors. We have ruined freedom and unity with human fear of “the other.” (I am aware of other complexities of the situation but for me this is what it boils down to. We can’t just blame this wall on Cartel and drug trafficking or “American job stealing” and “draining our economy” because these aren’t really common realities- I will touch on this in another blog post…)

After being at the wall for a while we opened up into a time of sharing our thoughts and Raul, one of the men with us from Mexico, proceeded to tell us about how he had seen three different walls put up in that location during his lifetime- each time bigger and heavier. He told us he has seen these walls come down and he still prays that there will be a day where they fall down for good like the walls of Babel in biblical times. It just made me think… We, as twenty-first century humans, think we have progressed so much and are in a great modern state of being, but in some ways (like the border wall and the militarization of our border) we are still stuck in ancient times, perpetuating ancient “remedies” for human fear of what is different than ourselves.

We got back to our vans after our trek back and Heidi, the leader of YAGM who accompanied us on our viaje, lead us all in prayer. All of us were altogether- United States citizens, Mexican citizens, young, old, and everything in-between,joined in hands in prayer. All of us beloved children of God. And I began to weep hot tears as Heidi prayed. They wouldn’t stop flowing. Because it hit me that on this side of that stupid wall we could all pray together, in unity, as precious children of God but that wasn’t even a possibility on the other side- on the side of “privilege.” This wall creates hate, death, and misunderstanding among our sisters and brothers in Christ. People among my communities where I live now. Family and friends whom I love.People who have taken me in with great love even though I was a stranger from the United States. People with whom I wish I could casually just invite to visit me when I leave my time here but I know that isn’t even possible for some.

When is “loving your neighbor” no longer enough?I am tired of inactive love of our Mexican neighbors.

I pray these walls will come crumbling down as the product of Godly, active love of our neighbors.

*[We were also walking the desert the day before Ash Wednesday which yielded a whole other significance in itself, thinking about Jesus’ time of 40 days in the desert and also reflecting upon the verses of Ezekiel 27:1-14, The Valley of Dry Bones takes on a whole new meaning…”Then he said to me, ‘Mortal these bones are the whole house of Israel.’ They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord your God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord… “]

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust- we are all children of God. From ashes you have come and to ashes you shall return.

 

La Fuerza: Female Friendship

Female relationships… Everyone has a different thought and feeling when they hear this phrase uttered… Maybe you have had super great experiences with female relationships in your past, or maybe you have experienced (as most of us have) some bullying, teasing, or harshness from your female companions.

In my lifetime I have had a sort of mixed-bag experience with female relationships. I grew up having lots of guy friends for no particular reason, really, but that stuck by habit as I got older. During my adolescence I figured I would start “justifying” all my male friendships by saying things like, “it’s just easier with my personality” or “they just understand me better” as if it was supposed to be some sort of bragging right being a female with more male friends than female friends. And honestly I think that is what society says- if you’re the “cool girl” who likes video games and beer and hangs with the guys and makes dirty jokes then you’re better off than that “feminine” (whatever the heck feminine even means) girl with all the girl friends.  

I bought into this lie for too long. The lie that “too much estrogen” in a room can make you go crazy, right?… That’s what many societies would say, especially if they are strong women or, heaven-forbid, feminists with radical ideas of equality!! The horror.

Now here I am- more or less (mas’o’menos) an adult woman and a self-proclaimed feminist. An adult woman who knows that there is great value in being a woman and that women are equal to men despite what societies might say. But only other females can truly understand the struggle it is in trying to discover this truth. You can deny it all you want but females have  really gotten the short-end of the stick for basically forever. With that being said, there are so many amazing joys as well. And of these joys, I have discovered, is female friendships. The solidarity, intimacy, deep understanding, and support felt within their confines.

I grew to appreciate my female friendships a lot more through my years in college;  I danced with them, I swapped life-stories with them, and most importantly we could empathize with each other- the things only other females can empathize with. College is when this seed of appreciation was planted (likely thanks to my education on feminism and gender studies) but the true understanding of the power of female relationships has come through my time here in Mexico.

My life here in Mexico has been almost purely with women (pura mujer as I would say here). Which at first, I will admit, I was not stoked about because I was still sort of buying into that lie that somehow female’s lives are more enriched by men’s constant presence. (Don’t get me wrong- There can be a very special bond between men and women too and they can definitely enhance certain settings and also add new perspectives- but that’s not what I am speaking about right now.) 

But since I have been here, I have bore witness to some of the strongest women and the immense power that lies within relationships with women like them. It is almost holy. A kindredness. An ever-present support and an unspoken understanding. I have heard and seen stories of women abused, left vulnerable or threatened, left without financial resources, and the list goes on. Most of these women don’t know their rights. They don’t know there are resources, albeit too few, for their situations.

I have seen these women come into the places where I work (both the women’s shelter and even the community kitchen) because they know their voices will be heard and understood by the other women- that they will receive embraces of support even from strangers and staff they have never met before. Because these relationships are holy. They are so powerful they can instill the self-esteem and empowerment needed to leave the man abusing them, stand on their own, and know their immense value as a human and as a woman. These are invaluable relationships.

I can never put it into words the way I wish I could, but I just know that what I have learned and witnessed here in Mexico is that there is nothing in this world like womanly relationships. The strength is unbreakable. The bond is like no other and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Stand beside your fellow sisters with pride and remind each one of their immense value and rights society has so wrongly, and too frequently, robbed them of.

My love to you all as always. And today a little extra love to all the amazing, strong, beautiful women in my life. You all are beautiful warriors.