All of us are formed by institutions. All of us inherit ways of perceiving, being and doing from family, culture, religion, etc. What we do with that formation and inheritance determines the content of our ethics. Because our early formative years and the inheritance we receive are purely chance, we are not responsible for how we are formed or what we inherit. We are only responsible for what we do with that formation and inheritance once we become cognitively competent enough to ethically reflect on and reform them. In my opinion it is the ethical duty of all humans to sift through, wrestle with and transform (for the individual & common good) the legacies they've inherited.
I am still working on healing parts of my being that are deeply rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy and rampant ableism. These personality and behavioral struggles show up most viciously and seductively in the "Protestant Work Ethic" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_work_ethic) which i've inherited from several key spheres of influence in my life, most notably the church and my/the nuclear family. In a nutshell: I over do it, to my detriment. I try to escape my limits and vulnerability by exerting extreme effort, thereby proving that I am strong (not weak). This is also shadow behavior typical of Enneagram 8 types (http://theenneagram.blogspot.com/2007/09/type-8.html).
I need to write about this detrimental tendency for several reasons. A) It's humbling to notice it, B) faithful to confess it and C) transformational to open the doors for others to witness this struggle in hopes that they too can relate, confess, transform and heal alongside me. I know there are other humans out there of all kinds, particularly Enneagram 8s, who struggle with internalized & externalized white supremacy, patriarchy and ableism. This is for all of us, in the hopes of healing.
My due date is tomorrow, March 19th. I am currently at the very end stages of pregnancy. I could have a baby at any time. Ever since I started thinking about maternity leave, I made the commitment to "working right up until I have the baby." Where the hell did that commitment come from?
Well, for one I wanted/want to have as much time at home with my baby as possible and there's only an 8 week window. So if I left before the kid was born, that'd be one less day to spend time with her at the end. Totally legit. Secondly, women's reproductive lives are often sites of incredible prejudice and hostility in the work place and I live in fear of that, perhaps live with internalizd sexism as a result of that. God forbid I took a few days off before labor and someone thought I was lazy. To deepen that fear/internalized-sexism, I am working in a place where my predecessor received considerable pushback (from the congregation) for taking too much maternity leave. She apparently had pretty intense post-partum depression which members of the church, particularly the boomer women, had/have TONS of judgment about. But instead of being in solidarity with her (which I have been dialogically with congregants, to my partial credit) as a feminist and person who seeks to challenge the oppression of people struggling with mental/physical "health," I became hyper-vigilant about not confirming stereotypes about pregnant women in the work-place and not repeating dynamics of the institutional past. Like how much power do I really think I have? Good Lord. All of these things combined, I found myself more and more trying/struggling to 'hang on' to 'muscle through' as these last weeks unfolded.
But I've been tired and heavy and slower and in need of more rest in the last couple of weeks, which has problematized that ole protestant work ethic. In the last 3 days I've had spotting and more pelvis pressure than usual. My hormones are going crazy and I'm sleepy/weepy/hungry all the time. When I called my colleagues to tell them I wouldn't officiate worship this morning because I just couldn't do it, everything at my core shook with guilt and shame. Hi, my name is Emily Joye and I'm a work-a-holic.
Dude: my baby is trying to make her way into the world. The least I can do is take it easy and give her the energy/down-time/support she needs in that process. Here is the ultimate irony in all this: I am about to do the strongest thing a woman can do, but instead of resting in order to optimize my birthing strength, I have been opting to appear strong by working working working and thereby weakening my physical self. Insane.
Everything I know about nature tells me that there must be dormancy before blossoming, must be long periods of quiet and stillness before the bounty of Spring's beauty can flourish. The least I can do is hibernate now, take long naps now, walk slowly now, eat intentionally now, pay attention to the rhythms of my/our body. My daughter deserves this. I deserve this. We deserve to begin this way together. And yet, it is not my first instinct. This is what I'm saying. Look at how insidious these inheritances can be! The protestant work ethic, the never-ending soul-devouring beast inside is equally strong as the natural, divine maternal ethic within me.
Thank God my own mother is here, nurturing me to nurture myself and her granddaughter. Thank God I read women authors who have gone through this mess and have something prophetic to say to my spirit. Thank God I have feminist male colleagues who are supportive and affirming when I lay down self-preserving boundaries. Harmful cultural conditioning may be strong, but we can move through/beyond it if we 1) learn how to self reflect and spot our shadow tendencies when they arise 2) surround ourselves with people and resources that call us back/into the way of life.