An Open Letter to Humanity {about humor and prayer}

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Dear Humanity,

Have you heard the stories about how good friends or spouses can sit in silence and never say a word?  I say it’s because they are boring stiffs, but others say it’s because their peace and love for each other is so vast and their comfort with being still is so strong there is no need for words.

I’m not one of those people. 

I’m a person who fills up empty spaces.  I talk about the wild feelings of middle age and I comment on the way cars look as they whiz by on the highway.  I ask questions and I’m not one to just sit silently with my hands folded.  Being a writer means being a storyteller and one who notices little things.  And being a lawyer means you think of alternate arguments and put together thoughts in your mind in logical patterns.  My best friends may even motion to their spouse when they are on the phone with me something like “here she goes again” or write on a sticky note “it’s Amanda on the line so I’ll see you at Christmas.” There may be some eye rolling and “oh no! I’m late for the dentist!” when in fact they are just tired of hearing me talk.  I get this.  When I start, I really get going. But being creative means that I paint with words and phrases and sound. Basically, I’m not built for silence.

So it’s odd that lately, I’ve been silent.  Silent in this house, thinking. Silent about some true thoughts and silent about some opinions on things.  I’ve been drinking coffee and drinking wine and drinking in all the silence.  I use humor to mask things, to play with things, to connect with people while I’m doing the hard work of silence.  Sometimes, humor is the only thing that works to relieve the pressure, to laugh with each other, to find common ground.  It’s the only words that come out.  Please understand that it’s a lifeline for me, and an important part of who I am.

We desperately need common ground on which we can walk forward.  We are growing so polarized that I can only seem to find humor as a talking point.  It’s the light that seems to shine through the rubble, a brightness through the fog.  This is why humor, to me, is so powerful, and why I use it as a means to survive.  It’s why as the world grows dimmer the humor grows darker, but it still works.

I haven’t talked to God in a while.  I have assumed he’s cool with it, giving me space as one does with an unruly teenager.  I’ve been overwhelmed with all the tragedy and loss and sadness in our world.  Honestly, I don’t know what to say.  It feels so disingenuous to say “I’ll pray for you,” when what I really am thinking is simply “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry you are facing this death, this fire, this flood, this loss.  I am so terribly sorry you have cancer. Sometimes I get the reference in the Bible, about how people fell to their knees and tore their clothes, a sign of being overwhelmed by all the sadness.  Although I am not going to tear at my Burberry coat, no matter how much you throw at me.  Even I have limits.  And yet despite this, I am concurrently very happy with my life.  I am married to an amazing man, I have strong and healthy children, I live in a wonderful community. It’s an odd dichotomy.

I’m in a few prayer groups.  I say the prayers that I have committed to saying, but my heart hasn’t been in it.  I care about people.  It’s just that I haven’t felt that these prayers are making any difference.   I’ve just been looking down onto my own world, doing my own thing, hiding. I think part of it is simply guilt.  Guilt that I have so much, have been blessed with abundance, guilt that I am happy while others are not. I don’t deserve this husband or these children or this home or this life.  And yet that is not what God wants for us, to throw away the blessings we have been given.  To feel guilty about happiness.

So my prayer life has also been silent.  Because I haven’t had the right words to say.  When our President says “my prayers are with you” my blood boils.  What do these words mean, from an unrighteous man? Go back to the tanning bed, 45.  Your prayers are empty and meaningless.

It’s not the words we say that make some great difference in the world. Whether it’s a set of lyrics or a Dr. Seuss poem or a Shakespeare play, they are all just letters strewn together. They can all be typed and burned with a match and tossed in the garbage. This very blog will be forgotten, lost in internet space, years from now failed to be maintained.  No one will read these words a generation from now.

Words themselves have little power. What is powerful is the interaction between us and God, the portal to God himself, whereby you can humbly submit yourself before God and boldly, bravely, confidently ask for direction, healing, hope, strength.  Using words is the means to this end, and is what we refer to as prayer. It’s really just about talking to God.  The Bible instructs us that God listens to our hearts, our words, our guttural cries.  He hears even the smallest, throatiest, dumbest sounding words.  As you hear the words of your children when they say “I love you” or “you’re the best” or “I farted.” Thanks a lot, kiddo.  At least you could have given me some advance warning.

This Weinstein story has made me abundantly sad. There are stories like this every day that should no longer surprise us. But for some reason this particular story of yet another predator against young girls broke my heart.  Because it brings up images of young women, my own daughters, injured and broken, scrubbing their skin until it’s raw in order to feel clean.  Images of girls feeling used and dirty, when they are instead wonderful and pure, filled my head.  You women are beautiful in all ways.  Can’t you see?  It’s a world of broken things, and I am standing in the rubble.  Mostly pissed off because no one seems to be cleaning it up.

But last night in the shower I allowed myself to form words to God.  To ask God to forgive me, to forgive our nation, to forgive all the terrible things.  Also, despite me being in the shower for a very long time, I didn’t shave, because I feel that being filled with the awesomeness of God is a solid excuse for the new husband so I should get a pass.

I did feel a bit strange praying for women en masse, without each of them being named, but I did it anyway.  I figured God could sort it out.  So I prayed for all the women who were violated, hurt, felt less than.  I prayed that they would rise up today and feel whole, healed, loved.  I prayed for our nation and its people.  I am just one person, talking to God about an entire group of other women.  How does this help?  And yet are these women, every single one of them, not worth fighting for? They are.  That is what I felt as I prayed.  That God holds them all in his precious hands.  As if he was saying “I hear you, girl.  I hear every word that you speak. Even the sarcastic ones.”

Humor as a connection between people is powerful.  Prayer as a means of connection to God is even more powerful.  Prayer allows us to put others ahead of ourselves and see ourselves as we are –  broken, dependent, and sinful.  People who need grace and forgiveness.  People who need to stop using social media to cut each other down, but find a way to building bridges between each other, in order to find peace.  If you need a release, find humor.  If you need a lifeline, find God.

Will you pray? For our nation, our women, our hearts?  And will you please stop saying “I’ll pray for you” as an empty platitude?  Because, like crop tops and hashtags and everything Taylor Swift, I’m kinda over it.

Most sincerely yours,

Amanda

 

photo:

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Battle of the Sexes: A movie review

You guys know that I like to write funny things.  I like to write heartfelt things about love and God and butterflies. Okay maybe butterflies are a bit dull.  I rarely get on a soapbox.  But today, I feel like delving into something that I just can’t shake.

Last night I watched “Battle of the Sexes.”  I took my 14-year-old bonus daughter.  I am all about women’s empowerment, showcasing how a woman in a man’s world broke barriers and succeeded. I am a lawyer, and have had to face my own gender barriers working my way up the ladder.  I understand the frustration of being paid less, considered less, working harder and under-appreciated.  And I love tennis.  I was prepared to watch Billy Jean kick ass and take names.

And as an aside, although I am a heterosexual woman, I do understand that people are attracted to different people than I am, and in the era of the 1970’s it was not as understood or accepted to be gay.  I can understand and have sympathy for how hard it would be to live in an era where you feel misunderstood and unaccepted, ridiculed for being who you are.

But what I saw in this movie was not just a lesson in women’s empowerment, or how hard women before us worked for equal rights.  What I saw was an attempt by screenwriters/directors/producers to show that infidelity is sometimes, under the right circumstances, when someone is “living their truth,” – okay.  If it’s following your heart and if it’s simply because society won’t accept the person you truly love, we can all just wink and say that it’s fine.  Because love wins.  Our hearts want what they want.  It’s sexy to see illicit and almost irresistible love scenes.

I refuse to accept this narrative. 

The fact is, infidelity is never okay. Despite the excuses and circumstances. Despite the fluttering of the heart. The commitment of marriage is more than just paper. It means something.  There are times marriages end, and new relationships can blossom after that first joining of the flesh has healed.  They can start on solid footing, rooted in shared experience and commitment to each other.  But when a relationship starts in secrecy and lies, usually no good will come about as a result. Why is this lesson not revealed? Are people to experience the hard truth in real life but watch how different it turns out in an imaginary screenplay?

It pained me to see Billy Jean make feeble excuses of “this feels wrong” and “what would my husband think” and then give in to her own desires.  I get that affairs happen, and people make mistakes.  We are all sinful human beings and make some terrible mistakes. But instead of using this narrative, that we are all flawed and have to live with consequences of our own actions, or even showcasing the fallout due to these actions, it was almost glorified.  In real life, kids are hurt.  Hearts are damaged.  Trust is broken.  Baggage is created.  Drinking ensues.  The fact that Billy Jean was having feelings for a woman somehow made this action justified.  It’s not an affair if it’s a woman loving another woman.  Her clothing designer, clearly gay, was basically saying “hang on – someday we will be able to love who we want” and everyone seemed to cover for her as she carried on this extra-marital love affair with the person she was not married to.  And when her lover returned in the end after a short hiatus, it was a romantic gesture.

This is not about gender for me.  It was about how a story is portraying an affair to be acceptable.  How Billy Jean repeated that “her husband was a good man.” And yet she continued to make decisions that hurt him, over and over again. I would be equally as uncomfortable if she had an affair with a man.  Betrayal on any level is simply hard for me to watch.

At one point in the movie, her husband showed up unexpectedly.  The clothing designer gives her a heads up, but her husband discovered what was happening regardless.  This blond, nice-looking, affable man was almost a heroic, angelic figure that didn’t get upset, wasn’t heartbroken, wanted her to still be successful, and at the end smiled at Billy Jean’s lover as if it was all okay.  When Billy Jean was sick, he even offered to call the lover in to make her feel better. He was like an emotionless Ken doll that just smiled through it all as if it were nothing. He continued to stand by Billy’s side, believing in her, standing by her, as if this was just a minor distraction. Not once did he raise his voice, act hurt, scream or yell, act heartbroken.  Despite one scene where he hung his head as he walked out of the room, no major problems resulted.  And at the end of the movie before the credits rolled, it showcased how Billy Jean divorced her husband, married a woman, and everyone was happy. From what it seemed, especially because the movie-goers don’t know that much about Billy Jean in real life, you just assumed she married the woman she had an affair with. It indicated her husband remarried and had a family, Billy Jean was the godmother, and all ended up well.

Billy Jean won the match!  She found true love! Everyone cheered! And the bowl of popcorn was empty.

In real life, away from the allure of Hollywood, affairs rip apart families and marriages.  They tear at people’s egos and self-confidence. They can emasculate and wound.  There is therapy and tears and a complete re-building of the spirit.  This is not an action born from love, but born from selfishness. In real life, the woman that Billy Jean King was with filed a lawsuit over what she considered lost profits, and it publicly outed King as gay, which caused King to lose a massive amount of money in endorsements.  This woman who, in the movie was supportive and “only wanted the best for Billy Jean,” sued King to try and get half her estate, argued she devoted her life to King’s career and got nothing in return.  This was not the beautiful end that the movie displayed.  And the woman that Billy Jean ended up with permanently was not the woman she had an affair with, although that’s the way it appeared in the movie.

I firmly believe that a relationship rooted in secrecy and lies never has the foundation to create a life-giving and stable relationship long term.  It matters not to me if it’s a woman or man, what matters is that the choice was made over and over to ignore vows, eviscerate trust, and continue to disrespect the man she promised to love and honor and obey until death.

Sometimes people make hard decisions, like not walking down a path they might have chosen under different circumstances.  Because making good decisions is not always easy. But it’s necessary to teach our children to stay true to commitments, not believe the lies that Hollywood is telling us about blindly following what we feel at the time to be good.

Despite this, my 14-year-old bonus daughter loved the movie, found it empowering and uplifting, and left with a bounce in her step.

We were quiet as we walked to the car. But I couldn’t sit there and say nothing.  I expressed my pain for the infidelity, the secrets, the allure of what in the movie seems good but in real life can be horrific. I also expressed how being a feminist does not mean men are evil, or that all men are like the men in this movie, and how her father is an amazing feminist and supporter of equal rights and that’s one of many reasons I love him.  And there are times when in fact I defer to him as the head of the family, and this isn’t always wrong in a healthy supportive relationship.  She said nothing in return.  I don’t know if my words had any effect.  I felt like I was just babbling.

There were some good moments in the movie about women being brave and standing up for equality.  Stick it to the man who think’s you’re a pig.  I’m a woman, after all.  But, the infidelity, in my mind, overshadowed this. And for this I was sad.  As a woman, as a professional, as a human being who has seen the pain of this issue.  We have to live in this world, but we don’t have to be hoodwinked by it.  We have an obligation to set the record straight when we see something as clearly off-based and off-kilter as this.

I’m glad women like Billy Jean King fought for equal rights for all of us.  And I think people love who they love, and can have very healthy and strong relationships with anyone they choose if they start off in truth and dignity.  But I’m not glad when films glorify relationships based upon secrecy.  What is in the dark will always at some point find the light, and when it does it can rip apart and ruin lives, souls, and relationships.  This is truth, not a movie script.  In real life, it doesn’t always have a happy ending.

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