Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Power Behind the Throne


I am almost finished with Sue Monk Kidd's _Dance of the Dissident Daughter_. There is no possible way to sum it up. I am in awe of a woman who would/could make such and arduous journey with no map and no known traveling companion. I see much of myself in this woman's experience and I felt a bit like a see-saw as I read about her journey. I know I have grown spiritually in some of the same ways, but none as dramatic as hers. In fact, it may be that what I used to think were leaps and bounds may actually be baby steps. I have altered my trajectory (or had it altered) spiritually more than once, for which I am grateful. But as I read I kept feeling like her experience was not fully mine.

Until today. A good friend asked to talk to me about what it's like for me to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). At that moment, two things happened in me. First, I saw myself (as if an outside observer) sigh and shrink into my seat in an admission that, yes, this is where you can find me. I used to have more worth than this, but now, I am the primary care giver; I am the one who can decode what is apparently a secret language unique to Hayes and myself; I can interpret the body language of my son, know if he is being silly or rude, find the only pair of his pants without holes in the knees and determine if he really needs to use the potty; I can locate the missing head of cauliflower in the overstuffed refridgerator; I seem to be alone in knowing that a timeout for Hayes is worse than a spanking; I can find the magic blanket at bedtime, understand why it is magical, and know without looking if we are out of laundry detergent. This is what my life has become, in fact, been reduced to. And I realized that I had accepted this without even considering how if would make me feel, but because I felt it was the reasonable choice. And in fact, thousands upon thousands of women seem to be quite happy in their roles as SAHMs and who am I to doubt it? All I know is, the full weight of it hit me at that precise moment and I knew I wouldn't be able to turn back or pretend it was ok.

The second thing, which happened about 2.8 seconds after the first, was that I found myself referred to as "the power behind the throne." These words are causing an almost physical reaction in me. This one phrase has been with me all day rattling around in my head so loudly I can hear nothing else. This could be my defining feminine moment. Sue Monk Kidd describes the moment when she realized something about herself that changed everything. She called herself "Father Sue." She relates how these words were the catalyst for an awakening in her that she would never have guessed was deep within.

When my friend used the phrase "the power behind the throne," all I could think of was the different mirrors woman have within a patriarchal culture with which to see their lives. Kidd mentions these among others: The Many Breasted Woman (takes care of everyone and sometimes herself), The Secondary Partner (always takes the back seat to the more powerful partner), and The Dutiful Daughter (following the rules, not rocking the boat). I have definitely been living these roles to varying degrees. This comment from my friend drove it home like an iron stake through my head (a fantastic feminine image from the old testament). Is this what I am striving to be? Is this it? It's not possible. I have a lot of exploring to do and me without my map. But I do have the experience of many women throughout history and my community to see me through. I had no idea this book would affect me so much.

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