September 2008


I was sitting at Starbucks this evening doing some work when this young boy walked in with his mother and father. He looked like he was about 6 years old or so and he was wearing a Superman t-shirt with a cape attached to the back of it. His parents paid for their coffee and for his box of milk, which he sipped on while he bounced around the store as his parents waited for their coffee. As I watched him poke around the store, I found myself thinking “I want a cape!!!”

But really, I didn’t actually want a cape.

I’m a 22 year-old young woman, who will hopefully be an attorney in less than two years. Capes just really wouldn’t work in my wardrobe… No, what I really wanted and what my absurd thought was telegraphing was a desire to return to the simplicity and peace of childhood. A time when I could wear a cape if I wanted to. A time with less worries, less gadgets, more connection, clearer thought… I found myself hoping that this cape-wearing six-year-old was really enjoying and treasuring every moment of his childhood…

And then he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and started chatting away on it.

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I left behind a few things in college that I have missed over the past year and a half. Acting was one of them. So in order to remedy that I recently auditioned for and was cast in a play with a local theater company. It’s a small play with a short rehearsal period. I was cast two weeks ago and next Saturday is the performance.

Now it’s time for me to make an admission. I expected to step back into my acting shoes with the same zest and enthusiasm, but I find myself lacking the same heart and passion I used to have for acting when I discovered it. It is most certainly not because I have gotten used to it. It may be impossible to get used to something that changes with every role that one takes on. No, it seems that I have changed. My passions aren’t quite the same anymore. They may not have been for a while now, but I can’t say so with certainty… It all seems to have crept up on me without me noticing it.

And that is the way most of life has been lately on an internal level–a slow metamorphosis. So although someone else may notice a stark difference, to me, this is the way I have always been. It was simply just not on the surface for all to see. Perhaps that is why I am always stunned whenever a dear friend points out to me that I am so different from the way I once was… “You used to be so much more liberal.” And my response is always the same: “I was not as liberal as you thought I was or I appeared to be.”

It seems that we all have a hard time seeing beyond the surface sometimes.

But as with any metamorphosis, the potential is always within and it is only the next natural step to be taken. The layers shed slowly until the true form emerges, but until it does in old, old age, the onus is on us to look deep within the individuals before us–to see their depths as He sees their depths (“Deep calls unto deep at noise of Your waterfalls…”)

It is only now that I have come to understand the purpose of this blog of mine. You, my dear readers, have been watching one girl become the woman she is meant to be (the most cliched and trite of all descriptions but it is the only one that fits right now.) This blog existed for almost a year before it came to WordPress and I took it all down for reasons I can’t recall. Over time I will be re-posting some of the old entries that fell off into an abyss somewhere in order to make the picture more complete.

The journey and the metamorphosis end when I breathe my last, but there have been and will be many plateaus along this journey up the mountain. Hopefully somewhere along this upward climb my value will grow to exceed that of precious rubies. I will acquire clothing of strength and honor. I will only open my mouth with wisdom only and the law of kindness will be on my tongue. I will simply remain nothing less than a God-fearing woman for the rest of my days. I will become a woman with keys.

But I can’t hand it all away right here…

So next Saturday I will step onto that stage and at the end of that performance I will take my final bow. There are still many roles to be filled but they don’t require a stage or a script or lights and curtains…

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

I am not the image you perceive me to be. I am not the sum of all the books I’ve read or the critical theories I’ve learned. I am not simply a collection of experiences had at a small liberal arts college nestled in Pennsylvania. I am not bits and pieces of the characters I’ve played or a composition of the papers I’ve written. I am not an Egyptian diluted by American culture. I am not like all the others you know. I am not your misconception. I am not your idea or vision. You cannot fill in the missing pieces.

I am a God-fearing woman.

I have traded in my armor for a crown.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:4-10).

*******

I have been told before that where the mind goes, the heart will eventually follow, but I think there is something to be said for the power of the heart. Love in all its giving perfection, in its purest form that only seeks to give and wants nothing in return is not a product of the mind. The mind is far too calculating, too fearful, too guarded to fully allow the individual to give all and bare all with no expectations. But the heart, the heart does not know fear, and fear is the final gatekeeper that must be removed before the heart can pour out its love. It is the fear born and bred in the mind, the fear of being hurt, the fear of the perception of others, the fear of lack of reciprocation, fear of so much that cannot be explained, that grips the heart and holds its doors shut. It is fear that blocks love from driving all our actions and our interactions. It is fear for ourselves that stops Love from flooding this world.

But the heart does not know fear. Fear is a foreigner that comes in and takes hold of it; after all, the best writers use the phrase “gripped by fear” to describe the most horrifying moments encountered by their characters.

There is, of course, good reason to follow the wisdom of the mind’s logic and to allow it to lead us in most things, yet there are times (and some things) when it must be kept at bay and the heart is given free reign. The quality of love is one of those things. Love laced with or held back by fear cannot be called love in its true meaning. Love, true love, requires more courage than anything else.

I am a woman with keys

Without a door

My wide angle perfect size

Still I pass through

And the space is made

To fit

 

My spaceship hands

This waterfall of feet

These ship-size eyes

A gun

The very air

It shapes me

Keys jingle

And fish fly protectively

Around my waist

 

I am a woman with keys

And all the doors are nailed

Dented shut with hammers

Unlikely to ever open on their own

But I am a key woman

I come jingling

And there is a ringing in my ear

That is not song

But how I enter

I am quilted down

With eyes and scale

This is jewelry on my belt

From the Living behind us

I enter        then I knock

 

I am a woman with keys

And this long middle sash of sorrow

Stays tightly tied

And is given to the yellow chicken wind

For whipping

Do you hear that jingle

As I go slow

I am a woman with keys

The mother-mother of memory

 

I come to go

As I please

You know I have been here

By the sound of locks

Swinging free

From Zanzibar to Daufuskie to alligator swamp

All along the ocean’s floor

There are attics

And storm cellars of hearts

Castanetting for a key

A Black cobblestone of family

Has never held its breath

 

Tell them I am on my way

 

I am a woman with keys

Unlocking the buildings

That now belong

To me 

 

-Nikky Finney

 

Currently listening to: “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman

The Taming of the Shrew stands out as one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. Although just how funny it really is remains a matter of opinion. To briefly summarize the play, a rich Italian gentleman has two daughters, Katherina (Kate) and Bianca. Bianca is sweet and loved and chased by many suitors but her older sister Kate is entirely shrewish. No man wants to come near her because if she does not blow out his eardrums out with her shouting she will literally beat him. 

As always there has to be some sort of complication. Bianca is not allowed to get married until her older sister is first married, and this stipulation is what spurs the action of the play. One of Bianca’s suitors, Hortensio, convinces his friend Petruchio that Kate is the wife for him because she is beautiful and her dowry is large. Petruchio enters the play as the would-be hero who will capture Kate’s heart and release Bianca. Except he acts far more like a villain than a hero. He is not intent on capturing Kate’s heart but on breaking her will, on taming her (hence the title.) By the very end of the play, Kate and Petruchio are married and Kate has been tamed for lack of a better description. The unruly Katharina seems to have finally met her match. Critics world over have tried to rescue the play from its apparent chauvinistic traits but that is not my concern here.

First I offer the following passage from the second Act of the play in which Kate and Petruchio meet and he informs her that she will be his wife whether she likes it or not. After much witty banter and the exchange of some harsh words, the ever elusive Katherina seems to have finally been trapped as her interaction with Petruchio comes to a close and her father reenters the scene. He ends their interaction in the following manner:

“And therefore, setting all this chat aside,
Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented
That you shall be my wife; your dowry ‘greed on;
And, Will you, nill you, I will marry you.
Now, Kate, I am a husband for your turn;
For, by this light, whereby I see thy beauty,
Thy beauty, that doth make me like thee well,
Thou must be married to no man but me;
For I am he am born to tame you Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates.
Here comes your father: never make denial;
I must and will have Katharina to my wife.”

Petruchio does just as he promises. The wild Kate becomes a domesticated Kate, simply concerned with pleasing her husband and attending to his needs. The world outside Petruchio and away from him no longer exists. And as Kate becomes a “Kate conformable as other household Kates” her spirit and her fire fizzles away. She is simply a changed woman.

Strangely enough, this play and particularly that excerpt bring to mind the following passage from the Bible. “There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34).

And so the Bible presents us with the image of the unmarried or single woman as a free spirit not bound to the cares of this world but entirely focused on the world above. Her life is one focused on entirely on God, she is not bound to anything or anyone. Her will is free, and if she so chooses, she can will her entire being to revolve around her connection with God.

Now Kate is far from the best example of a single woman’s cares focusing on God, but the connection is there. Kate’s life did not revolve around anything of this world or its cares until Petruchio came along and her focus had to alter.

This is not an anti-marriage post by any means though. After all, the church regards a marriage as the formation of a new church within the home. It is one of the paths that lead to salvation. After all, the beauty of a Christian marriage is unparalleled. This is a post meant to extol the beauty of being single and living life on your own. There is something to be said for having your free time to while away on God and His glory.

Many run around in a panic, thinking that singledom is a disease of sorts that must be cured as fast as possible when in actuality it is a blessing meant to be cherished. Take the time you have on your own to grow in His wisdom and in His glory. To expand your capacity for love and humility. To grow into His likeness with every passing day. The time is too short and it will slip by before you realize it.

P.S. – The same thing goes for men too. See 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.

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