I have recently reunited with a few much beloved friends from my college years. People I love and value for our shared history and all that they brought to my life. The playfulness, aliveness and abandon I so love. But what is also true for me is that this coming together has forced me to see, feel and accept the pain I have associated with being around a certain mindset, a certain way of being that I thought I could just leave behind. So I find myself again in college. Hearing sexist jokes, seeing pictures of powerful women judged on their beauty (or lack of), not their conviction or intelligence, seeing posts of women's breasts adorning tight T-shirts bearing the college logo, and watching some women respond who think it is funny.
For years I have worked on myself, trying to understand, acknowledge and accept this part of my experience. Many tears were shed, but truthfully what I really did was leave. I left those who behaved like that. By surrounding myself with those who do not talk and think this way I thought I could protect myself and abandon a culture that was so searingly painful and destructive to my sense of self as a woman. Who was I kidding? How could I leave a level of disrespect that is so embedded in our belief and value systems that it is not even seen? Not even seen.
Unlike in college, I raised my voice this time from my heart (first), and then from my outrage (second), and I was still disregarded. To have my request acknowledged but not taken to heart brought me again to the wounding that found a place in my throat, making it difficult to speak, my heart, making it difficult to breathe, and my stomach, which literally drove me to my knees. I know I will not be silenced. I know I can no longer attack. Neither work, but I utterly do not know how to do it... or what to do.
I do know I have a responsibility for this grief and rage. It is mine. I cannot blame anyone else. I am part of this culture, and this is my experience. I cannot reject it, and I have to also accept that this is the place from which many of us live, that I am not special and cannot remove myself from the reality of our current level of awareness in this culture. Forgiveness, acceptance and compassion are all options, but only if they are real for me, and right now the only thing that feels real is this anguish.
And I love them. They are in my heart. I mostly enjoy their company. I cannot reject, I cannot judge or make them see or ask them to change. I can only in this moment hold this most uncomfortable place inside. Knowing I do not know where to go.
I am certain I stayed away until I was ready... until the universe said it was time for me to stand, tell myself the truth and take the heat. So here is my first public attempt. As I write, as I try to steady myself on wobbly legs and from my broken heart, I open.
P.S. My special thanks to Facebook, a true revolutionary tool, for without you... none of this could have happened.
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