Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I had an odd lesson in coping today, courtesy of my children. Today, the older two children had dentist appointments. It was the first time for my two year old daughter. This week, I have been observing her interactions with other children and people outside of our family: she is quiet and reserved. She speaks to other adults about the things she knows: her mom, her brothers, and how her older brother is her only friend. Then today, she ran up to every child she saw in the waiting room and introduced herself and her brothers: the very picture of an extrovert.

My oldest son never stops talking. He understands the concept of doctor and dental check ups, and that it means he usually ends up with a prize for behaving. He made the office staff laugh as he counted his seventy teeth, and told them all how he will have a loose tooth soon, and the Tooth Fairy will bring him a Hot Wheel. Nothing seems to make him nervous. When he is scared, he talks to reassure himself or to gain more information.

When it was my daughter's turn, they called her over. Her head went down, and she obeyed every instruction. She was silent. No smiles, no laughing: stoicism at its finest. When she was done, she got down and ran over to play, laughing and giggling as though she had flipped a switch. It was painful for me to see her that nervous, and to react the way that I do.

I know that she is only two, and that it very well could have been yet another character in her on-going comedic tragedy. The girl has some mad drama skills. But I saw a look in her eyes that told me otherwise. She was incredibly nervous, but wanted no one to detect a weakness.

My children reacted very differently to the same, harmless situation today. Imagine for a moment, the varied reactions humans are capable of when the stakes are higher, say in a situation of abuse.

My time as an advocate proved this same thing time and again. Some women were stoic and just wanted to get back to work or to something that made sense. Some women laughed and joked to cover pain. And still others fell apart, and needed real time to grieve and plan their next move. Some drank heavily, some ate heavily, some were angry and abusive in turn. Some covered their emotions, some were eager to please and some were set off by the slightest sense of injustice.

We ask why women in abusive situations stay with their partners. We ask why sexual assault survivors were wearing a skirt or out late at night or at a party drinking. We blame women for the violence and then we blame them for trying to find a familiar way of coping with that pain and grief when they are coping alone. We encourage abortion and rage against women for "allowing children to be born into a situation" but we do nothing to end the violence or support them in coping if they do not cope in a pleasing manner.

What if my daughter had cried and thrashed while having her teeth cleaned? She would have certainly been less pleasing to the staff. We wouldn't have faulted her for being scared though. So why do we fault women when they are scared and seeking healthy ways of coping with trauma instead of supporting them and standing up to the violence?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Long Loneliness: A Review of Sorts

To be honest, I am not much one for book reviews. I tend to assume I can figure out if I will like a book or not, and I am usually right. I can only think of one exception, so I am not going to rave or wave on this book, but I did want to share a few "Aha!" moments that I felt while reading Dorothy Day's autobiography, because wow. I am still thinking about them. 

This passage just grabs me. Often, I find myself struggling in my faith: not understanding, trying to understand, forgetting what I thought I understood. Reading this and being reminded that we humans are not just "one dimension" is refreshing. We have bodies and minds and souls. So often our society focuses just on the physical and yet there is so much more to our existence. 


Day's incredibly brave and difficult decision to choose Catholicism over the love of her life RIPS ME UP.  She says, "To become Catholic meant for me to give up a mate with whom I was much in love. It got to the point where it was a simple question of whether I chose God or man." Wow. Not going to lie. I teared up thinking about whether or not I could have made that decision. Sure, I made the decision time and time again while dating, but what if I would have had to make that choice when it was THE man? 


Day beautifully described the ambivalence a Catholic like me sometimes feels about the human Church when she wrote about her feelings on the Church during her conversion. "'The worst enemies would be those of our own household.'" To hear that the struggle of loving the faith and being frustrated with how we practice our faith is so timeless gives me some hope. 


Dorothy Day also describes a peculiar, yet familiar scene under a section she titled, "Community." 
One of the great German Protestant theologians said after the end of the last war that what the world needed was community and liturgy.
The desire for liturgy, and I suppose he meant sacrifice, worship, a sense of reverence, is being awakened in great masses of people throughout the world by the new revolutionary leaders. A sense of individual worth and dignity is the first result of the call made on them to enlist their physical and spiritual capacities in the struggle for a life more in keeping with the dignity of man. One might also say that the need to worship grows in them with the sense of reverence, so the sad result is giant-sized posters of Lenin and Stalin, Tito and Mao. The dictator becomes divine.
 Does history repeat itself? Do we acknowledge it is repeating itself while it is happening? I am struck by the similarities between what Day describes and our current political climate and affiliations. Large posters of our President and other candidates. Social media clamoring with a near worship-level of allegiance to parties instead of the needs of our fellow men and women.


"Every Catholic faced with great need starts a novena."


I am so glad that I read this book. My interest in all things Catholic and feminist is growing, and to read about Dorothy Day's life in her own words was refreshing and motivating. Because she fits today's definition of feminist, but she really just believes in the equal and inherent dignity with which ALL humans are created. So, go add it to your list. Or at least read a bunch of quotes from her or look her up on Wikipedia. She pretty much is amazing.

Also, if you haven't joined the party on Facebook, come join.