Tag Archives: Self love

“The Wonder”: Self-love not self-sacrifice

There’s something about me that shies away from popular fiction: if others are reading it, I din’t want to get involved. Elitism, arrogance, fear of bad writing, or the fact that I hate waiting months on hold at the library! When The Wonder by Emma Donoghue finally got to me, I was excited to read it. My book club read it as a book back in January, so three month later I dove in.

wonder

Source: http://www.harpercollins.ca/9781443450027/the-wonder

I found this book extremely challenging. I was upset and angry and I was totally entranced by Donoghue’s writing. The story revolves around a young girl in Ireland, Anna, who hasn’t eaten in the four months since her eleventh birthday and first communion. The village thinks it is a miracle that she is still alive and a committee hires two nurses–one a nun and one trained by Miss Nightingale on the battlefield–to constantly watch the child to see if she is indeed a miracle. We get the story from Lib Wright’s point of view, the battlefield nurse.

A death watch. For eight hours at a time, both the Sister and Lib watch Anna starve. How can this not make you uncomfortable as a reader? At first, Donoghue draws her readers in through Lib: Lib isn’t certain how the child is still alive and there is an energy of excitement and possibility as people from all over make a pilgrimage to the lowly Irish cottage. Yet as facts are learned and the watch comes close to two weeks, thinks unravel.

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Source: http://www.markfisherauthor.com/2016/07/mysterious-bog-roads-ancient-ireland-part-ii/

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you haven’t read the book, best not to read any further. Some major spoilers are below, yet are things that I can’t not write about when I think of this novel.

SPOILERS BEGIN!

Near the end of the watch two thing become apparent: 1.) The mother was feeding Anna in a bizarre way, through a holy kiss with what the mom called manna; 2.) Anna was fasting and giving her own life as a sacrifice to get her brother out of purgatory, or even hell.

What we don’t learn until the end is that Anna’s brother sexually assaulted Anna and he even called their relationship a marriage. It was sacred because they were both brother and sister and husband and wife. So here she is, eleven-year-old Anna, having learned that incest is an evil sin, fasting and praying daily to save her brother from hell. She is willing to give up her life to save her brother’s. When lib finds out about the sexual abuse, she learns that the mother, father, and priest all knew about their secret marriage and are doing nothing to stop Anna from sacrificing her life to save his.

Lib feels the same anger and disgust as the readers: Anna is made to feel that her assault is her responsibility and so the adults in her life allow her to believe that it is her duty to save her brother through fasting and prayer. After learning of Anna’s sexual assault, here are Lib’s thoughts: “Even if the fact could be proved, what lib saw as incestuous rape, others would call seduction. Wasn’t it so often the girl–no matter how young–who got blamed for having incited her molester with a look?” (Pg 262-62).

Earlier in the book, Lib is disturbed by the words of Dr. McBrearty, the old village doctor: “‘They mean to put down the flesh and raise up the spirit,’ he explained. But why does it have to be one or the other? Lib wondered. Aren’t we both?” (Pg 195). 

I’m with Lib: we can’t separate our spirit from our body and what are the dangers and the consequences when that happens.

Mind Body Spirit

Source: http://angeliasartjournals.blogspot.ca/2010/09/mind-body-spirit.html

Anna’s story is troubling for so many reasons. How many women have reported sexual abuse and have had their experience dismissed? I think the the Bill Cosby and the Jian Gomeshi cases as examples. Even the RCMP is realizing that they have a problem with how they treat sexual assault allegations and are moving to reopen some cases. The Globe and Mail reports that 1 in 5 cases are dismissed. What message is that sending? What are the physical and spiritual consequences of so many people being ignored and shamed for what was done to them? In the article, reporter Robyn Doolittle writes,

Every year, an average of 5,500 people are reporting sexual violence to Canadian police, but their cases are dropping out of the system as unfounded long before a Crown prosecutor, judge or jury has a chance to weigh in.

The result is a game of chance for Canadian sex-assault complainants, whose odds of justice are determined not only by the facts of their case, but by where the crime took place, which police force picks up their file, and what officer shows up at their door.

This is not acceptable. In the 1850s, when this book is set, this is not acceptable. In 2017, this is not acceptable. Yet why does it continue to happen? Teaching consent is something that needs to happen at home and at school.

That’s why I love this video about consent. Really, it’s simple. Anything that denies consent is assault. Until society changes how it views consent and sex, nothing will really change.

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Source: http://affinitymagazine.us/2017/02/25/the-phrase-consent-is-sexy-is-dangerously-flawed/

Because this is the spoiler section, I have to say that I loved the ending of this book. Lib, the nurse, kidnaps Anna with Anna’s consent. Anna dies, as Lib stages a fire. In reality, Nan is rescued and taken to Australia to begin her life over again with adults who will hopefully listen to her and teach her to love herself again.

love

Source: https://8tracks.com/gasps/i-love-myself-today-a-girl-almighty-playlist

 

“The Secret Life of Bees”: I am enough

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was recommended to me by my Dad’s co-worker, a Catholic chaplain at a federal prison. At a Christmas party, we were chatting about authors who wrote on spirituality (like Thomas Moore, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Henri Nouwen) and he suggested that I might like The Secret Life of Bees.

bees

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Bees-Monk-Kidd/dp/0142001740

I’ve never spent much time contemplating Mary, the mother of Jesus. Growing up, Mary was part of the Christmas story and didn’t show up the other 11 months of the year. Yet in Catholic traditions, she is part of everyday life. I think I like that: having a spiritual woman part of my everyday life. Reading The Secret Life of Bees truly made me grateful that I am a woman, and that doesn’t happen too often. The love, joy, forgiveness, and genuineness that Sue Monk Kidd creates within and between her characters had me mesmerized. Lily, a young teen with a dead mother and an abusive father, saves her housekeeper from jail and they run away together and into the lives of three extraordinary women: May, June, and August. These three sisters keep bees and sell honey, yet they have also created a community around the tradition of a black Mary. These women support each other and have true friendships that uplift and challenge each other to love more.

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Source: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/secretlifeofbees/

Monk Kidd’s novel tackles racism, abuse, sexism, and depression. She does not shy away from issues that most people like to ignore. In the novel, she creates situations that seem so outrageous, yet most likely happened. Situations of black women being beaten in prison by their white male accusers. White people standing in the way of black people registering to vote. Black teens being arrested for throwing a coke bottle at white men. Yet the three sisters–May, June, and August–are strong and they gather other women around them to encourage them and support them. Lily, who has run away from home, is treated with kindness and love, and with a patience that seems unworldly. As she works with the bees, she learns more about herself and about reality:

“The sting shot pain all the way to my elbow, causing me to marvel at how much punishment a minuscule creature can inflict. I’m prideful enough to say I didn’t complain. After you get stung, you can’t get unstung no matter how much you whine about it. I just dived back into the riptide of saving bees”  (pg 167)

I love Lily’s attitude. Stung, yet dove back into the work and didn’t get angry or upset at the bees. August keeps reminding her to send love to the bees and to remain calm and observe. Life lesson!

Lily isn’t always calm and patient, and has some fantastic moments of rage and pain about how life has treated her. We follow Lily’s progression from an angry, confused girl, into a young woman who is learning that the most subversive thing a woman can do is love herself. As Lily helps the sisters care for the bees, she learns a lot of about herself:

 

Her hands stayed where they were but released their pressure. “And whatever it is that keeps widening your heart, that’s Mary, too, not only the power inside you but the love. And when you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love–but to persist in love.”

She paused. Bees drummed their sound into the air. August retrieved her hands from the pile on my chest, but I left mine there.

“This Mary I’m talking about sits in your heart all day long, saying, ‘Lily, you are my everlasting home. Don’t you ever be afraid. I am enough. We are enough.'”

I closed my eyes, and in the coolness of the morning, there among the bees, I felt for one clear instant what she was talking about. (Pg 289)

Lily learns something that most people struggle, not only to say, but to believe: I am enough. The three sisters have a statue of Mary that was inspirational to many black slaves in the area and they continue to draw strength from this statue. Yet in this conversation with August, Lily tries to find strength from outside of herself and August reminds her that Mary is there to draw out the best: Mary’s power doesn’t come from her statue, but instead comes from empowering others to see the beauty and love in themselves.

mary

Source: http://beesbeesbees.weebly.com/the-daughters-and-son-of-mary.html

I found this book refreshing: looking at spirituality, Christianity, from a female perspective. And a wonderful reminder in Lent that yes, I am enough!

enough

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/i-am-enough/

“Our Lady is not some magical being out there somewhere, like a fairy godmother. She’s not the statue in the parlor. She’s something inside of you. … You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.” (Sue Monk Kidd)

“Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you.” (From the “Hail Mary” prayer)

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary. 2010 Stephen B. Whatley

Source: http://www.stephenbwhatley.com/1_the-immaculate-heart-of-mary-2010-30-x-24in-by-stephen-b-whatley-copy-jpg

“Milk and Honey”: loving yourself

I love that a book of poetry is a best seller.  I love that a book of poetry that is so empowering to women is a best seller.  Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is the best birthday gifts I got this year.  For a moment at my family birthday party it got a bit awkward because my two-year-old nephew kept flipping through the pages.  He liked that it had pictures and black pages (too funny!).  I’m grateful that no one else really tried to flip through it because sometimes there’s a time and a place for conversations about sexuality.

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Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Milk-Honey-rupi-kaur/dp/1502784270

I quickly realized that Kaur’s collection was not a one-time read; I knew that I would need to read this a few times in order to let the honesty and the power of the words sink in.  I applaud Rupi Kaur for her bravery and honesty, yet I also understand her compulsion to write the collection, as written in her foreword:

my heart woke me crying last night

how can i help i begged

my heart said

write the book

This foreword set the tone for the entire collection.  It’s about revealing and healing from past hurt.  It’s about finding and regaining control and power over heart and body.  It is a journey of realization and surviving.  Mostly, it is about healing.

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Source: http://femmagazine.com/2015/02/24/rupi-kaur-the-poetess-behind-milk-honey/

One of the things I loved most about this poetry collection is her overall positive message about being women.  Women are constantly being stripped of power and dignity through media and through patriarchal systems, yet she reminds her readers that women are strong and resilient:  “collectively, we’ve seen the worst of humankind and lived.  we have a piece of god in us… we are soft even when the roughness comes and breaks our skin–we live.  we fall and get up and keep living. we live through it all.  so every part of us is worth celebrating.” (From “Rupi Kaur: The Poetess Behind Milk & Honey” by Sabrina Estrella from “UCLA Feminist Magazine“)  I love that line, “every part of us is worth celebrating,” because it is one thing to say this/ write this, but is an entirely different to believe it and honour it.

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Source: https://thebookwars.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/review-milk-and-honey-by-rupi-kaur/

Having just broken up with my boyfriend, I think that my sister, who gifted me this book, knew that I needed it.  I needed to see my relationship as a gift, as moments to treasure and moments to learn from.  I needed to feel confident in myself again, to love myself first.  I do see my past relationship as a gift, and I always did.  Yet now I needed a reminder that I am enough.  I needed to remember that I am beautiful the way I am.  I needed to remember that I am a whole person and I don’t need someone to complete me.  I can find a partner, yet if I can’t love myself I will never be truly happy.

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Source: http://rebloggy.com/post/relationships-poetry-poem-living-relatable-milk-and-honey-rupi-kaur-woc-writers/138170724635

Ever since my grade 13 English class, I have known that poetry is powerful.  Poetry can heal.  I am so grateful for Rupi Kaur for writing Milk and Honey and the healing it has allowed me to find.

rupi kaur

Source: http://www.hercampus.com/school/cincinnati/book-changed-my-life

“if you were born with /  the weakness to fall / you were born with / the strength to rise” (Kaur, Pg 156)

“So God created humans in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

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Source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-rupi-kaur-quotes-girl-read