Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Daughter is Watching Me

I think I may be ready to fight again. As I wash dishes, I listen to my eleven year old daughter telling me her plans for changing the world. She wants to be an organic farmer raising her animals humanely so that even her vegan mother will feel comfortable drinking the milk. She wants to be an environmentalist, a feminist, an artist. She raises funds in our family to give to people in need and can tell us how much it costs to immunize 50 children against polio. As I run hot water over the plates she tells me about how far our small amount of money can go if we share it with people with greater needs than our own. She wants to give to PBS, to UNICEF, to wildlife protection and she plans to give all of her birthday money away. So much like me when I was a child, she is full of fight and idealism. She can be moralistic and judgmental but she is also relentlessly compassionate. She is champion of the underdog everywhere. Even when she was a tiny thing, her face would grow fierce when she heard about an injustice. She hangs on my words and devours the books I give her about social justice, environmentalism, and peace.

I don't want to be the one who tells her the world can't be changed. I don't want her to see me broken.

So I'm going to keep fighting. I'm going to give each speech and walk into each class like a prize fighter. Justice. Equality. Peace. Compassion. I will teach these things. I will sing about them, shout about them. I will whisper them into my students' ears and write them on my children's hearts. I will not let my daughter see me break.

I am small. I am female. I am poor. I am neurotic too with more phobias than I can list in a blog, but it doesn't matter because I am going to uphold my own promise to Integrity. I will speak the truth. I will not apologize for my knowledge. I did not go to college to get rich. I got my doctorate so that I could learn to tell the stories of those who dared and thereby infect others with courage. I cannot promise that I will not feel frustrated. Money is tight, opportunities are scarce, and acknowledgment is rare, but I will not let these be my excuses for a failure to do what I am called to do. I educated myself so that I could serve the world not myself.

I will never be famous. No one will remember my name when I am gone. I will never be rich and I may never escape my debt but I am not here to be rich or famous. I educated myself so that I could be useful. And dammit, I will be useful. I will make each day an act of faith and use all that I am to magnify the Light I find in every heart I encounter. I will sing, and laugh, and dance, and write with everything I have. As long as there is Good in the world, let me serve it. It is true. I've been sad and tired. I've felt bitter, misused, and discouraged, but it is time to lift my head. Yes, I think I'm ready to go out fighting again. Look at me square my shoulders. Hear me raise my voice. My daughter is watching me. I cannot fail.


Lin said...

Wow, when you make a promise, Hystery, you do not mince words. And as much as it was to your daughter, it was to yourself and to the Divine as well.
I usually have better-quality comments than this, but all I've got to say here is, "Wow."

Lin said...

I was quite impressed by the sincerity of your pledge. The Great Mother is probably quite happy with you right now, as this wasn't just mothering, it was meta-mothering. Congratulations.

Daniel Wilcox said...


Thank you to your daughter.
thank you for your "stand up" post!

I could make mention of a certain point about children in the NT...

I feel renewed:-)

In the Light,

Thurman said...

Great words. As we celebrate my son's ninth birthday this weekend, your words strike a chord within my soul. Thanks for continuing to inspire not only your own child, but your readers as well

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

You know, I'm coming to believe that it is in living into our visions of justice and compassion and joy that, whether or not we change the world in ways that are immediately visible, we DO live "in the Kingdom of Heaven."

I'm really starting to buy into the idea of a Kingdom of Heaven--and that it is an inward, this-life experience, rather than a gold star awarded in an afterlife. We live in the Kingdom by living "in the power that takes away the occasion for all wars" NOW--this minute, and the next, and the next.

When we fight the Lamb's war--and I know you know I'm not a Christian, and that I know how strange such a formulaic wording sounds on my tongue--but never mind, it's been the phrase of Quakers time out of mind, and I'm invoking it for that reason, and because I think I grok at least a little what it means-- When we fight in that war, we are not alone, ever.

I'm standing right beside you, sister. You, me, hundreds and hundreds of other people whose names we'll never know, and who will never be famous either. But, you know, sometimes, the ones who've been at it for a while? They get something in their eyes. (Pete Seeger has it, for instance. Several older Quakers I know have it, too.)

The only war I know about where fighting really does bring real, meaningful peace.

Coolness... See ya on the front lines, friend!

Lone Star Ma said...

Than you, Hystery.

Diane said...

Hi Hystery,

Your daughter sounds like a person may not change the world but who will make a difference, and that's both a small thing and no small thing. I applaud your determination to keep on. I appreciated your line " I got my doctorate so that I could learn to tell the stories of those who dared and thereby infect others with courage." I have been reading Jeremiah lately and you remind me of him: No matter how discouraged or ridiculed, he kept on speaking his truth to power. I've been thinking much lately about the ways society tries to silence us--there's shame, there's physical threat and there's wearing us down with relentless discouragement. Thanks for standing tall--and thanks for all your dear and supportive comments on my blog. You do more than you know, and even though we have never met, I see you as a friend and an inspiration.

Hystery said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. It is this kind of support that makes such promises easier to keep.

Morgaine said...

Atta girl! :)

Bright Crow (Mike Shell) said...

Yes, yes, yes!

And yes to Cat, too!

Thank you,
Michael Bright Crow

Hystery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alice said...

Fierce mama! You are doing it. xx

George said...

Thanks for much-needed inspiration.

Shawna said...

The world CAN be changed. But only when we foolishly refuse to admit that it cannot be.

This was beautifully written. Thank you.

kevin roberts said...

Never give up.

Never. Never. Never.

Mary Ellen said...

I loved this post, Hystery. I love that your daughter is so incredible and hopeful and right-on. I love that seeing her light has strengthened your own, as I'm sure your passion and conviction has been mother's milk to your daughter. Your students and your children are blessed by your unwavering convictions and courage.

Hystery said...

Thanks, Mary Ellen. :-)

It is interesting that you chose the term "mother's milk to your daughter". I have a lot of guilt about that. I nursed my daughter for a much shorter time than I nursed her brothers. After only a year, I weaned her to go on depression medications which turned out to be the worst decision of my life. In fact, they almost killed me. When she was very little, after a traumatic birth (lots of unnecessary medical intervention) I became depressed. Looking for help from the very doctors whose arrogance precipitated my depression, I was placed on a long list of anti-depressants. Until I finally refused doctors' care and chemicals, I lived in a nightmare fog that both intensified my depression and anxiety and robbed me of my voice. I know the doctors thought they were helping me. They thought I was too emotionally engaged in the world and so they tried to dull that impulse. I think maybe the intensity of my energy with my daughter in the direction of developing a passion for the world is that after she was born, other people told me my passion for the world was inconvenient and dysfunctional. I don't want her to ever sacrifice as much of herself as I sacrificed when she was little.

kevin roberts said...

Come on, it's been a month. Write something.

Your audience is waitng, already.