Monday, November 19, 2012

Standing In My Truth

The bluegrass jam I go to on Thursday night started the way it often starts, with  a bowl of chili and conversation with a couple of friends that brightened my day. Then the night took a dark turn. Out of nowhere, someone I called a friend unleashed a barrage of offensive and sexist remarks. During a break in the music Richard told a rude story about what he wanted from a woman.  I cringed inwardly and dismissed it as a good man being momentarily stupid. When he told me that my singing sounded like Willie Nelson I said something, and big surprise the remarks got worse. When the guy who was leading the jam asked me what I wanted to sing I barely got the words out when Richard yelled, “THAT’S NOT BLUEGRASS. IF YOU WANT TO SING THAT SONG FORM A BAND!” I’d had enough and packed up to leave, but Richard wasn't done yet. “I love you, but it’s tough love. You need to hear this.”  Before I could respond to that he said, “I’m tired of people not giving me respect. Some people need to put on their big girl panties.”  I asked him if he was talking about me, “No, but you need to talk less and listen more! I’m telling you this for your own good.”  He stormed out ahead of me leaving me wondering what the hell had just happened.  When I reached the door he was with a group of men talking about blow jobs.

I left shaking and peeling rubber.  When I calmed down I emailed Richard and told him that I had always respected and admired him and that I was both shocked and surprised by what he said. I told him that there were no circumstances that made what he said acceptable, none. It was rude, mean and offensive.  It didn't take long for him to respond, “Right, see you next week.”  Those 5 little words told me how exactly where I stood.  It ripped the mask off the ugly truth and I didn't like it, not one bit.  I went to work shaken, angry as much as sad.

A woman I work with said that if I didn't go back he would win and I considered that…for about half a minute.  Her logic was that if I didn't go back he wouldn't care. He would call me what men always call women in that situation and continue on his merry way while I would be depriving myself of a source of joy. "Go back," she advised, "teach him that he can't control you."  The value of being older is that I know  a few things she doesn't,  like the fact that Richard has no power in my life and never did.  The value of living a few decades past twenty is experience. I've  had experience with men like Richard and groups like TRL and unfortunately, with sexism. I know how sexism works   Once that viper is out, it’s out for good and it only gets worse.  If I went back it wouldn't matter what I said or did, I would be  giving him and the group permission to participate in behavior that was toxic and damaging to all of us, him most of all because what he said took nothing from me.

None the less, what I wanted most was for things to be the way they were before I knew the truth. I wanted to go back to when I looked at Richard with loving eyes. I wanted to go back to when I looked at that group with rose colored glasses and told myself candy coated lies. I called Florie and we had a long talk about what happened. I tried to make excuses and put a pretty label called understanding on what happened so that I could stay in the group.  Florie called it for what it was and told me to admit that I wrong about him.  “NOOOOOOO! Not that.”  We laughed and she added, “Admit that you were wrong, that you were holding on to a tarnished thing and calling it gold. Admit that you were wrong so you can create a space for something better.”
 Florie was right, as awful as it may be, the truth will set you free. I admitted the painful truth and cried. I admitted where I had been blind and cried. I admitted that as much as I didn't like it that TRL was no longer a group that I could be part of and I cried some more.  Then I stood my truth and named the behavior publicly because that’s what a woman does. 

A woman stands in her truth, not because it’s easy or she even particularly wants to, but because she knows that it takes the power of  truth to affect the change we need if we are to thrive. A woman stands in her truth and names what is crippling so that she and those she loves can heal. A woman stands in her truth because she has a moral obligation to and doing anything less will rob her soul of it's life force. Standing in your truth even when you don’t want to, that’s love. Staying in a situation that diminishes any person for any reason, well you know what that is, and it’s not love.  It’s either fear or love, baby. What are you standing for?

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