There’s a woman under here

June 29, 2016 § 10 Comments

There’s a woman under here, you know. A real, living, breathing, honest-to-God woman.

I know what the outside looks like. Middle-aged spread has changed the shape of me, although heaven knows I’m working on it. Again; still. My hair is peppered with grey. My skin has lost that youthful spring.

But still. There’s a woman under here.

I have so many labels now, I scarcely know how to carry them all. Daughter, mother, sister, friend, aunt, divorcee, writer, author, songwriter, coach, teacher, editor, employer, homeowner… A million times a day I change my mental clothes to be one or more of those.

And still. There’s a woman under here.

She’s mostly invisible. You have to look past the labels and the gently worn body, but she’s there. She still has dreams and desires, and she has a trick or two she could share. But she needs to be coaxed out. Because she’s been around the block a few times, and her heart is a little bruised and battered by life.

She may look strong, and capable and bold. She may smile, and her laugh is ready, but she’s easily hurt. She cries sometimes – in the car, in the bath, in the dark.

There’s a woman under here. A real, living, breathing, honest-to-God woman with fire in her soul.

And all she really wants is to be seen.

 

 

 

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Losing my religion

June 25, 2016 § 8 Comments

It began in Sunday School. They didn’t like my questions. It was uncomfortable when I asked how a God they’d said loved everyone could exclude people from heaven just because they hadn’t heard about Jesus. That didn’t seem fair.

At university I remember the displeasure on the famous Pentecostal bishop’s face when he put his hand on my forehead to ‘slay me in the spirit’ and I resisted the firm push he was giving me. Or when he told me to open my mouth and just babble anything that came into my head so I could learn to ‘speak in tongues’.

As a young adult I remember a friend leaving the church because week after week he had to sit in the pews and hear about how anyone who wasn’t Christian was doomed to a fiery future – and his wife was Jewish. It didn’t sit well with me; I could only imagine how he felt.

I was raised in the church. I started Sunday School at age two. I’ve been christened, confirmed and baptised by full immersion. I’ve been a Sunday School teacher, and a youth leader. I’ve underlined passages in my Bible, taken notes, sung in choirs and worship bands. I’ve read books and gone to talks and listened to contemporary Christian music. When I was much younger I was comfortable praying out loud and raising my hands in praise. I’ve even preached – once.

But it never felt real. I never even vaguely understood the notion of having a relationship with God. With God, for crying out loud. As if someone you believe created the universe, and who could smite you dead with a look (I do love the word ‘smite’) could be your best buddy.

For me, there’s always been a disconnect.

Because I do believe in a higher power. Mock me if you will, atheists, but when I look at the natural world I see far too much design, too much intricate detail, too much balancing of the ecosystem in a myriad ways to believe it could all happen by chance. For me the world is brimming with evidence of something supernatural. It’s too clever to be the result of a Big Bang. That’s just how I see it.

So I choose to believe in something divine. But the older I get, the less I find my religion plausible or comfortable or a good fit for me.

I still go to church. I find comfort in some of the old familiar hymns. Bowing my head in silent prayer helps me to centre myself and shut out the noise of the world for a while, and it feeds my spirit. But I’m just not buying the whole salvation thing anymore. I have too many questions.

Why create sentient beings and give them free will, and then punish them when they choose to exercise it? Why give them only one way to be in communion with God? What about the people who came before Jesus’s death and resurrection? What about the hermit in outer Albania who never has a missionary arrive at his door to give him the option of accepting Jesus? What about all of the really good people in the world who aren’t Christians, and all the really bad people who are? And that’s just for starters.

None of this feels to me like the work of a God who is love – as we are taught over and over.

This God. This God that Christians believe in – who breathes the world into being, who creates a universe overflowing with abundance and beauty and variety – decides that there is only one way to eternal life, and that’s through the barbaric human sacrifice of his own son? That’s all he could come up with? Is that really the God I want to believe in?

No. If I’m going to believe in a supernatural power; that power better be huge. So enormous that I can’t fathom it at all. And what are religions other than humankind’s attempts to define that which – if you choose to believe in it – ultimately defies definition?

Let’s not kid ourselves – belief in any deity or higher power or divine consciousness or god (you choose your term) – is ultimately a choice. You can’t prove there is a God, and you also can’t prove there isn’t. It is a choice, and it’s ultimately about faith. And so long as your faith isn’t hurting other people, I see no harm in it.

I, for one, have a need for some sort of spiritual practice in my life – possibly because I’ve been conditioned by the church, but the reason doesn’t matter. It comforts me to believe there’s a God in whatever form he/she/it takes. It makes me feel less alone in the world.

And now that I’ve got to this point, I’m not sure what form that spiritual practice will take. I’m not quite sure where I’ll go from here, only that I have a lot more questioning and seeking to do. I’ll probably still go to church – it has its place. I may take up meditation. I may read much broader spiritual literature. I don’t know. I just know that I need to set a new course.

I also know that I have more questions than answers. That I have a deeper need that Christianity just isn’t fulfilling. And that this post is likely to shake those close to me – my parents, for one – as well as other family members. And that my very many Christian friends will be deeply concerned and want to engage in earnest conversations with me and try to bring me back into the fold.

I would respectfully ask that you don’t.

I’m okay, really I am. I’m not having a midlife or existential crisis. I’m fine. I’m still talking to God. I’m just not so sure about your understanding of who God is, or mine, and I’m trying to figure it all out for myself.

If you want to pray for me, feel free. But don’t tell me about it. Don’t give me that well-meaning Christian concerned look. Don’t try to persuade me. Don’t tell me I’m going to hell.

This is my journey, and I will take it. And really, it has nothing to do with you.

 

 

Boobs: give them a sporting chance

June 7, 2016 § 8 Comments

I would like to make my boobs available.

No, not to you, pervert. Sit down.

I would like to offer my boobs for testing on a new, effective form of sports bra for large-breasted women. This is a thing that has not yet been invented. Trust me, I’ve looked.

This never used to be a problem. For much of my life I was a respectable C cup, with the kind of boobs that were just big enough to make fried-egg women look at me with envy. And you know what they say – more than a handful is a waste. They were pretty damn perfect, those C-cups.

And then I fell pregnant twice, and got fat. And when you get fat, your boobs grow, which means I now have a pair of Double Dangs, which are quite lovely when you’re horizontal, if you know what I mean (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) but entirely unsuitable for almost anything sporting.

And the thing is, I no longer want to be fat, and this means having to do things like run, jump, skip or perform star jumps. And every single one of those activities requires boobs that don’t move. Mine move. A lot.

They move so much that if I really tried, I could probably give myself a pair of black eyes. And so a sports bra is required.

The supreme irony of sports bras and sports clothing, is that it’s designed for the sporty. I can understand this, of course. This is the target market. Trim, lithe people who enjoy exercise. (Freaks.) Except, that’s not the whole picture. Some of us weren’t always this fat. We got this fat for various reasons, and now we no longer want to be fat, which means exercising, however odious the idea may be. So we need something comfortable (clothing) and supportive (sports bra) to work out in. Ha! Good luck with that.

I’ve been searching for tracksuit pants to go walking in and all I can find is low-waisted, skinny pants designed for pulling halfway up your leg so you look gangsta. Trust me when I say it is very difficult for a rubenesque middled-aged woman to look gangsta in these pants, or indeed, at all.

Sports bras aren’t designed to look gangsta, but they are designed for people whose ordinary bra size is around a 34A – precisely the sort of person who barely needs a bra at all. The biggest sports bra size I’ve seen in a shop has been a 38B. Either they’re not making them bigger, or gangs of large-breasted women regularly raid the sports shops and make off with the bigger sizes.

They’re also terribly designed. Every sports bra I have ever owned has been less supportive than the over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders I strap these babies into every day. The everyday bras aren’t supportive enough on their own either. So if I want to go for a brisk walk, it’s the normal underwire bra underneath the sports bra. If I want to go running, I have to put a supportive tank top on over that. And then there’s still a fair amount of bouncing, albeit not a lot of breathing, given all of that constriction in the chest area. It’s like running with a self-inflicted asthma attack.

Some years ago I was jogging around the park opposite my flat, and a short, athletic woman came running lightly past me. She ran about 10 metres ahead, then doubled back and jogged beside me, peering at my chest. “How do you run with those?” she asked, no doubt comparing my then C-cups with her own barely-theres. I shrugged, and she cast me a look of great sympathy before speeding off into the distance, nary a bounce to be seen.

It was bad enough before they were Double Dangs; now it’s a disaster. If I want to do a star jump, for example, even with two bras on, I can do the leg movements, but not the arm waving. Because it takes both hands crossed firmly over my chest to keep my fun bags from knocking me out. Ditto any running. In fact, running is best done on a treadmill in the privacy of one’s own home if you have proper knockers. Otherwise, people do wonder why you’re running down the road clutching a cantaloupe in each hand…

We live in a time where computers do the most amazing things, with electric cars and smart phones and the very real possibility that Elon Musk may free us from the evil clutches of Eskom. We’ve put people on the moon, and explored parts of Mars, but we can’t invent something comfortable for women with big boobs to wear while they’re exercising? It beggars belief.

That’s why I am making this very serious offer. My boobs are yours to use, sports clothing manufacturers. I will bounce around (although not on a trampoline as they give me motion sickness) and allow you to prod and poke these babies in the service of big-breasted women everywhere.

One of you must be up to the challenge, surely?

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