On Virginia Woolf and Maria Goretti

Combining a [not so] Quick Lit post with a Seven [not so] Quick Takes post . . .

Virginia Woolf image via Wikipedia

1. I just finished Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own, and it gave me so much to think about; I could go on and on.  Primarily, though I was struck by Woolf’s emphasis on writing for its own sake, with no specific telos*.  Toward the end of the essay, Woolf emphasizes “reality” and that women should focus on reality and not people and relationships.  The implied premise is that women before had been confined to the world of relationships–the drawing room and the nursery and their duties therein–and they hadn’t been encouraged to explore the world as it is.

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.

It is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves.

See human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality . . . . Our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women.

In other words . . . Ladies, shake off your concerns for other people and any responsibility you have to help other people through your writing.  Focus on being yourself and writing what you want to write and describing the world as you see it.  In other words . . . prioritize work over relationships . . . like men do.

2. And just after reading Ms. Woolf’s essay, I turned to a shorter one by John Cuddeback, in which he proposes that men should prioritize relationships over their work [like women do?].

We need to do more to reimagine and then reinstate a different model of family life. At the center of this model will be a husband and father whose very success in life is fundamentally, though not solely, seen and judged in terms of what he does in the home. Indeed, a central measure of his manhood will be the quality of his presence in the home.

I tend to agree with Dr. Cuddeback.

3. At the same time,when I start mentally criticizing Virginia Woolf, I catch myself and remember that

My life is better than pretty much any woman’s from any other time period or any other part of the globe. 

If I were a man, I might prefer to live in other times or other parts of the world (a [male] taxi driver once extolled North Africa to me as the best place in the world to live), but as a woman, nope.  I think I have it as good as it gets, and possibly as good as it ever will get.

I don’t know how much credit Virginia Woolf deserves for my enviable position, but . . . .  I can take so much for granted that perhaps it skews my understanding?

4.  Virginia Woolf also makes statements like,

“Chastity … has, even now, a religious importance in a woman’s life, and has so wrapped itself round with nerves and instincts that to cut it free and bring it to the light of day demands courage of the rarest.”

After reading Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and (a few months ago) Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, and of the horrific sexual assaults both women experienced I think . . . maybe we’ve unwrapped those nerves and instincts too much and thrown out the baby with the bath water?  Nerves and instincts are not virtues, but they can be preemptive self-defense measures.

5. Still it bugs me that the Catholic Church hasn’t done enough to unravel “nerves and instincts” from what is actually the virtue of chastity.  (Consent!  Consent is implicit in the definition’s use of the word “gift.”)  I mean . . . if you’d humor for a moment, please picture a Venn diagram: physical virginity and chastity are two separate circles that overlap a great deal, but are not concentric.

So that brings me to Simcha Fisher’s post on Saint Maria Goretti.  (She also uses the baby-with-the-bathwater-cliche but that’s coincidental.)  I’ve mulled over a post on this saint for almost a year, planning to write something around her feast day.  But July 6 came and went.  Probably I was sleeping/eating/gestating and not much else.

As it turns out, my essay was written for me, in various comments to the post.  (Reading the comments to Simcha’s posts is usually a waste of time, but occasionally I slip back into old habits.)

The objection to how St Maria Goretti’s cult is often presented is the notion that she was canonized because she managed to die before her attacker was able to succeed in raping her. Usually in words to the effect of “die rather than lose her chastity.” Which leads to the horrific implication that she would indeed have lost her chastity if he had succeeded in overpowering her against her will before killing her, and that his action carried out against her will would have been a sin on her part, and that anyone who does NOT fight to the death against a rapist is somehow “accepting” and therefore complicit in the attack and committing a mortal sin themselves.

. . . .

Did he say, “Let me rape you, or I’ll kill you,” and she said, “I’d rather you kill me”? That would give the impression that being raped is sinful, which seems confused. Or did he say, “Let’s have sex,” and she said no, and then he got angry and killed her? If the latter, then she was trying to avoid sexual sin (perhaps indeed for his sake as much as for her own), but there’s no reason, in this version of the story, to think there’s any worrisome implication that she was trying to avoid the pseudo-sin of being raped.

. . . .

She was 11. He had a knife and already heard the word “no” many times without impact. If anyone sees the potential for HER to sin in this situation, get thee to a therapist. Consent was not an option.

. . . .

I am sorry but this is trying to paper over an ugly truth in the Catholic Church.. the Church cared more about little Maria Goretti’s purity than it did her life. Maria Goretti was definitely not canonized for her forgiveness but for her purity. Pius XII mentioned as much in his homily at her canonization. It was all about her purity; she was a symbol used to condemn Italian girls who were sleeping with the American GIs.

These ^ are all other people’s words, not mine, but I’ve had the same back and forth in my head.

6. And I ponder why so many (all?) cultures place more weight on women’s physical purity than on consent, or on actual virtue, or on men’s chastity.  Like Dr. Iannis says in Corelli’s Mandolin,

It’s a fact of life that the honour of a family derives from the conduct of its women.  I don’t know why this is, and possibly matters are different elsewhere.

I do, sort of, understand why this is.  In the grand, sordid, scheme of life men generally have to have some assurance that children are their own before they’ll support them.

Simcha’s description of why Saint Maria G. was canonized is a nice idea but it certainly isn’t the story I’ve been told.  In fact, in his homily during her canonization homily, Pope Pius XII stated,  “With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity.”  The Church’s teaching is a lot more nuanced than the crude-if-necessary emphasis on physical purity that so many cultures have.  But you wouldn’t get that impression from Saint Maria Goretti’s story as it’s traditionally been told.

I have no neat, insightful conclusions for you.  Just my thoughts.

7.  Oh phew! I have more links to share, but that’s enough for tonight.

Have a great weekend!

* Telos = secret code word used by conservative-Catholic-liberal-arts majors to identify themselves to one another.

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Grace in a Little White Pill

Grace in a Little White Pill ~ thisfelicitouslife.wordpress.com

I’m sharing some of my experience with postpartum anxiety and depression as part of a Blog Hop sponsored by my friend Katherine at Half-Kindled.  I’ve written a little bit about it before (here and here).  It’s a topic that is still hard for many people to talk about, and I’m convinced the more we remove the shame and the taboo of talking about postpartum (and other forms of) depression and anxiety, the more we can help each other.

After I had my first baby, I didn’t experience the typical symptoms you see in literature about postpartum depression.  I wasn’t sad so much as angry and irritable and frustrated all the time.  I was angry at everyone, and then I felt a lot of self-loathing for being such a (seemingly) terrible person.  Thank God, I never came close to harming my child, but my marriage suffered, as did various items around that house that I kicked during angry outbursts.

It took me eight months to talk to my doctor about it.  He actually recognized warning signs of postpartum depression right after I gave birth: I was sobbing–apparently that’s not normal!  “No, no,” I insisted, “I’m just tired.”

And so it went for months of denial.  Two things in particular kept me from seeking treatment:

1. My symptoms weren’t typical of postpartum depression.  In fact, they were symptoms I had dealt with all my life, on and off, to some degree: anger, frustration, and irritability interspersed with self-loathing.  Before having children, I was always able to push through somehow. The hormonal havoc and sleep deprivation that came having a baby just made the symptoms worse.  I wasn’t able to push through and function normally anymore.

2. The second and biggest roadblock to wellness for me was that I felt I didn’t deserve help.  I was never psychotic.  I never lost my reason.  I always had some degree of control of my actions.  Therefore, I thought, I just needed to try harder. Taking medication was the easy route that I didn’t deserve because I hadn’t tried hard enough on my own.

I attribute this to the Act of Contrition I learned growing up.  There really is such a thing as too much Catholic guilt! The line goes, “I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more . . . .”  My understanding was, as long as there was some possibility that I could improve in the future, my failing was my fault, and I needed to just try harder.  “With the help of Thy grace,” is in there too of course, but I didn’t think much about how God’s grace could help me.  It just served as a reminder that I needed to pray harder.

The game changer was that now I had a family who suffered every time that (surprise!) my white-knuckling failed.  Thank God it became clear to me that I had to take the “easy route,” even if I didn’t deserve it, because they deserved it.

One form of the “help of God’s grace,” for me, is a little white pill.

Eight months after having my first baby, I started taking an anti-depressant, and it helped almost immediately.  At first I worried it would alter my personality, but now I truly feel that the medication helps me be my true self, the person God made me to be but that I couldn’t be under the weight of anxiety.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried going off antidepressants, but it’s never worked.  Unfortunately, whatever condition I have is not solely a postpartum one.  It just took the strain of having a baby to reveal a problem that hovered below the surface.

I don’t like the idea of taking a pill every day.  It has made me gain weight.  It’s made me sluggish.  I’m not the type-A super achiever I used to be.  I’m sure there’s some underlying hormonal imbalance or other health problem that is affecting my mental state, and I’d like eventually to figure that out.  But for now, medication is the only way I can be the loving, patient, happy wife and mother I need to be.

And that’s been the grace of the little white pill for me: it has forced me to focus on what God really wants me to do and the humility to realize that I can’t do it on my own power.

He isn’t calling me to be a super achiever.  He isn’t asking me to keep a squeaky clean house or volunteer on a dozen committees or work full time or even cook delicious meals.  All he asks me to do is love–love my husband, love my children.

To paraphrase a popular slogan, “I have one job.”

Before taking an antidepressant, I had enough nervous energy to do more things, but I was angry, bitter, and irritable most of the time with my husband and children.

Now, I don’t have as much energy and drive, but I have the underlying peace and calm I need to love my family better. It’s humbling to accept that I need medicine to fulfill the most basic requirements of my life.  That humility, too, is a grace.

Antidepressants are not right for everyone, but if you’re really suffering I’d beg you to consider it.

For all of us though, there’s truth in the saying, “Let go and let God.”  I  want to challenge everyone reading this to be open-minded about the ways you can “let God.”

God probably will not supernaturally transfuse you with peace and patience.

He might offer it to you in a pill.  (I think of Lexapro as my “patience in a pill!”)

He might offer you grace in the form of therapy with a psychologist of other professional counselor.

He might offer you grace through your helpful husband, if you would only overlook the way he loads the dishwasher incorrectly and doesn’t separate darks and whites.

He might offer you grace in the form of a friend’s offer to watch your kids, an offer you normally brush aside.

He might offer you grace when you let go of self-imposed standards for how you keep house or how many hours you work or how busy you keep your schedule.

Our calling is not to try hard and do hard things; our calling is to love.  And often we can’t love the way we ought until we stop trying so hard to do it ourselves.

Hope for the Future 2

For more on this topic, hop over to

Katherine at Half Kindled,

Bonnie at A Knotted Life

Jenna at Call Her Happy

Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee, and

Rosie at Check Out That Sunset.

Grace in a Little White Pill ~ thisfelicitouslife.wordpress.com

If I were born 100 years earlier, I would have been a nun.

. . . and what contraception, the vocations crisis, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Fifty Shades of Gray all have to do with each other.  Read all about it at The Mirror.

Actually, I just looked it up and Virginia Woolf was born almost exactly 100 years earlier than I.  You’ll have to read the article to see why that’s significant.  (If at all; I think it is.)

Sometimes I have those bursts of mania brilliance where everything is alll connected.

Lucky for you, this time I wrote it down. 😉

 

Everything I ever needed to know about style I learned from my kindergartener.

Before having kids, I swore to myself I would not let my daughters dress themselves.  My mother did, and I cringe when I look back at photos and see my clothing choices from my youth.  (“How could you let us go out like that?” is a frequent refrain when my siblings and parents and I look at photo albums together.)  Then I met my firstborn, who has had a mind of her own ever since she popped out. . . . Read more at The Mirror.

Guess who?

 

Would you let your daughter enter a pageant?

Mommy, I don’t want to be a ballerina anymore.”

“Okay, sweets, what do you want to be?”

“I want to be a princess.”

“Well then, you’d better marry a prince,” I thought but didn’t say.

Not until a week later did it strike me:

Maybe she means she wants to be a beauty queen.

. . . .

Read my thoughts on the matter at The Mirror and let me know yours.

DUNLAP HAROLD

7 quick takes: all about women

Aristotle’s thoughts (one of them, anyway) on women, blog posts by women, my two little women:

1. I generally think of all those ancient Greek philosophers dudes sort of like I do C.S. Lewis: lots of good ideas about life in general, but sorely lacking in their understanding of women.  So I was surprised to read this post by John Cuddeback:

[E]ven among those who greatly value childbearing, the good health of the mother can slip from the forefront of attention. Where it belongs. . . . Husbands need to make this the special object of our intention, deliberation, and action.

His essay is based on a text by . . . Aristotle.  Hmm.  I didn’t read enough of that guy I guess.

2.  Reading that just made me doubly grateful for my husband, who takes excellent care of my health, physical, mental, and otherwise.  I’m very blessed.

3. Or should I say I’m very lucky?  Obviously I’ve been blessed to have the great husband and children that I have.  But are others not as blessed?  Or are we all equally blessed in different ways?  Simcha has an interesting post on that idea (haven’t even read it all yet, but I will).  Kind of reminds me of Ann Voskamp’s theme in her book, One Thousand Gifts about how we should see even suffering as a gift  Definitely a concept to gnaw on for, like, the rest of my life!

4. Elizabeth Foss just wrote a post on my most recent read, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  I haven’t even read her whole post yet, but I look forward to reading it.  I’m interested to see what another Catholic says of this very secular book.  Part of me, though, wonders if it’ll take the fun out of our book club discussion.  “Aw man, Elizabeth Foss has already thought of everything.”  Nah, there’s always more to talk about.  😉

5. The girls and I had a fun trip to Lowe’s earlier this week.

[Flower] pot heads

[Flower] pot heads

Orchids were half off.  So I bought two.  Natch.

I’ve yet to keep one alive for more than six months but I keep trying.

6. La dee dah.

7. Have I mentioned I’m on Facebook?

Happy weekend!  For more quick takes, click over to Conversion Diary!

I didn’t choose the slug life; the slug life chose me.

A Hormone Story, Part 1: Cortisol Highs and Lows

This has been me lately.

slug

This is an improvement on my past self, which generally was this:

PMS gif

and sometimes this:

Steel Magnolias funeral scene

I chalked it up to postpartum depression, but by 18 months “postpartum,” that didn’t make much sense anymore.

Then I realized that a lot of my symptoms were worse around the last half of my cycle, so calling it PMS made some sense.   But didn’t explain it all.

I went to the doctor’s recently for a med check and the nurse was like, “So, are you taking this for anxiety or depression.”  And I’m like, umm, neither . . . both? . . .  Just . . .

I hate everyone gif

A light began to dawn when I read The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried.  What I experienced lined up almost exactly with the symptoms she listed for high cortisol.  It “fit” like nothing else.  So, I followed her “protocol” for high cortisol, which includes:

I started this at the beginning of March.  Amazing!  I’m more relaxed and patient and calm than I have ever been in my entire life.

I also feel like this:

slug

A slug doesn’t yell at her kids.  A slug isn’t prickly toward her husband.  A slug doesn’t get uptight and stressed out.

Also, a slug doesn’t clean her house.  A slug isn’t too concerned about personal hygiene.  A slug doesn’t cook.  A slug doesn’t exercise.   A slug doesn’t even type blog posts.  A slug mostly sits on the couch and reads.  And eats.  And gains weight.

I’ve always been Type A, so this is a whole new experience for me.  I’m enjoying it for now.  But I’d like to get my arse off the couch eventually.  Also I’d like not to get fat.

I’m wondering if I’ve been running on cortisol and caffeine for so long that my body doesn’t know what else to use for energy anymore?  It certainly isn’t burning all the calories I put into it.

I suspect low thyroid, but I’m also taking supplements that The Hormone Cure recommends for low thyroid, with no noticeable result.  And my TSH was normal last time I had blood work done just 6 months ago.  So what to do next?

Cue the witch doctor.

Witchdoctor gif

She’s actually not a witch doctor.  But Pat and I enjoy calling her that.

IMG_6080

IMG_6081

She’s a chiropractor/ alternative health practitioner person.  I went to her for a consult and now I’m getting more blood work and some hormone testing.

So we’ll see . . . .

In the mean time, if you need me, I’ll be on the couch.

7 Quick Takes About Sugar, Hormones, Laziness, Etc.

1.Thank God for dirty dishes/

they have a tale to tell/

while others may go hungry/

we’re eating very well.

Thank God for dirty dishes

i saw that this week’s theme Thursday was “dishes,” and it reminded me of this little poem. its been on a magnet in my gramma’s kitchen for as long as I can remember.

2.  This book might just hold the solution to every problem I’ve ever had.

image

At the least, it describes just about every problem I’ve ever had. I’ll report back on the results.

(Okay, my problems are not necessarily the exact four issues mentioned on the book cover.  Hormones affect everything and she discusses a lot of issues.  Sheesh.  Get your mind out of the gutter.)

3.  apparently one solution to my problems is to cut out sugar. Surprise surprise.

4. Speaking of sugar, someone in my household had a weak moment at the grocery store and bought this:

image

i also happen to know that certain someone was the only one to consume said product. Yet said product was depleted in five days, meaning someone in my household consumed …1,120 calories of the stuff at the rate of 224 kal per day.

5. Yes, my diet‘s going just fine. . .  .  Whyever would you ask?  Nosy.

6.  Girl 2 selected her outfit yesterday, as per usual.

image

Whereas mine stem from hormones, all of Girl 2’s problems stem from being stuck.  Stuck in her booster seat, stuck with two legs in one pants leg, stuck with her toe in a shoe.  So she often shouts out,

Oh guck!  Guck guck guck.

7.  I’m really enjoying Maia’s series on the “lazy moms guide to reading out loud to your kids.”   inspired in part by this, i started reading Little House In the Big Woods to Girl1. Big success!  The girls also have been listening to audio books a lot lately. More on all this later… once I cut out sugar and get the energy to write something substantial.

Happy weekend!  Linking up with Jen for 7 quick takes and Cari for theme Thursday (a day late).