Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.
~Louisa May Alcott
And a link to an image showing my last visit to Louisa.
A few friends have recently asked me for advice about getting through the tough few initial weeks of a divorce. My advice to them, based on what I did well during my first few weeks separated from my then-spouse:
I wrote this post on June 24th, but never published it. Now that others seem to be facing extreme church discipline and restrictions like Kate Kelly, it seems worth resuscitating this piece from the drafts folder…
All history attests that man has subjected woman to his will, used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort; but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could to debase and enslave her mind; and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought, and say, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior. – Sarah Grimke
When I was in college and could set my own rhythms, I fell naturally into a pattern of staying up until 2 or 3 am to read/study, arising at about 8am, and taking a long after-lunch nap to compensate for the missing nighttime hours of sleep. I followed a somewhat similar pattern during summers when I was a kid, staying up late into the night reading books instead of sleeping. I realized yesterday that I’ve quite naturally fallen into that pattern again, now that for the first time in two decades that caregiving and work responsibilities do not dictate my waking/sleeping hours.
Last night, for example, I stayed up late reading a novel (this one, about The Quaker-abolitionist Grimke sisters) and following the Facebook commentaries about Mormon feminist Kate Kelly’s excommunication. It was well after 2am when I turned out the light. When I did finally snuggle into the covers for sleep, I thought a lot about who I was when I was I college and even way back to my younger years when book-reading about people and places that were far away was such a voracious pleasure, one that compelled me to stay awake to finish a story rather than put the book down for another day. Many of my feelings from those years echoed the sentiments of Sarah Grimke, who I was reading about last night. When I was young I had such strong feelings about the injustices of the world and how I might make a difference by writing and speaking about them. I felt called to that, deep in my soul, so much so that many times I promised my Heavenly Father that I would work hard and pursue every option at my disposal to do good and to promote equality and charity.
Thus, as I was falling asleep it was my younger, idealistic, self that I was soothing as I re-visited the moments after John Remy’s church court five years ago, when I had realized that his excommunication for apostasy also cut me off from the eternities (lone women have no place in the highest levels of heaven, according to LDS doctrine). With one blow to him, I was also removed from God, as were our children, and this action was done without even the slightest apology (or even any acknowledgement of my sorrow, for that matter) from the priesthood leaders.
And it was then that I knew for sure that I was not wanted, or valued, in the LDS church, a feeling that had been brewing for many years. That was the hardest blow of all–all of my devotion and sacrifices for that institution and for my marriage and for my family were moot because I was female and because the loss of the tie to the priesthood (i.e. the patriarchal order) left me estranged from heaven. I scheduled a meeting with my stake president to clarify this issue and he made it quite clear that I had become single (a lone woman in the garden, so to speak) in the eyes of the church when John was ex’d. Knowing that cemented my resolve to find other places besides the Mormon church to devote my energies.
Now, despite my being light years away from caring about Mormon doctrine, the ache of being unwanted and left alone by my church still rears its head occasionally as it did last night. Of course I knew that what happened to Kate was not about me, nor have I been at all involved in the actions or Ordain Women other than submitting a profile for the site when it first launched. But I’d been following the events of OW fairly closely, knowing that if the women organizing the effort had influence and were embraced for their efforts, that the church could right so many wrongs and create a welcoming space for my feminist sisters who still care so much about maintaining their activity in the organization.
Instead, that door of opportunity closed (again), and Kate’s leaders acted without understanding or compassion (and I agree with Kate’s statement that their saying that their discipline was out of love for her, is abusive and cruel). While I will continue to watch the happenings of OW, it will continue to be from a distance, as I move onwards with the rhythm that feels more natural to me now.
Thus far woman has struggled through life with bandaged eyes, accepting the dogma of her weakness and inability to take care of herself not only physically but intellectually. She has held out a trembling hand and received gratefully the proffered aid. She has foregone her right to study, to know the laws and purposes of government to which she is subject. But there is now awakened in her a consciousness that she is defrauded of her legitimate Rights and that she never can fulfill her mission until she is placed in that position to which she feels herself called by the divinity within. Hitherto she has surrendered her person and her individuality to man, but she can no longer do this and not feel that she is outraging her nature and her God.
This morning I spoke on a Panel at the American Historical Association Conference about working in “alt-ac” (or more specifically, non tenure-track DH-related) career paths. In that panel I shared some of my own experiences with following a nontraditional career path that led to my working as an Administrator in Academic Technology for Chapman University. Additionally, I spoke about the training that I give to the graduate students in my “Intro to DH” course to prepare them for jobs outside of a traditional faculty position.
But there was one thing that I didn’t mention while I sat in that room, but that’s been on my mind ever since. And that is this: I am where I am because I liked to have fun and play on the internet. It is not because I ever followed anyone’s advice about what I “ought” to do.
The allure of the internet became apparent to me in 1996 when I was taking an undergrad class on feminist literature and I created a website called “The Bluestocking Bookshelf” that was a hyperlinked portal to the writings of my favorite female writers. Back then there were only a few dozen webpages devoted to the likes of Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, and I aimed to create an well-curated list of them as a resource for myself and for my classmates. Of course there were very few of my colleagues who had an internet connection (and I had to print out a copy of the website for my teacher), but by then I was already hooked in by the rich possibilities of the online medium.
In the intervening years rarely have I ever ventured into an online foray with the specific intention of increasing my employability, so it’s hard for me to advocate that graduate students and/or early-career scholars should follow my example. Instead, I think they should find that fun thing outside of their coursework that they love doing (whatever it is) and they should just do it. Even if it’s not yet clear how it will impact their career possibilities in the future.
1) I’m out of the habit:
The reality is that blogging was a regular daily (sometimes twice-daily) habit for me for many years. Once that began to taper off, so many other things began to fill its space. That said, I still post links and photos regularly on FB and on IG, so I still have a fairly broad social media presence despite not blogging.
2) I’m an empty-nester:
Oddly, although I would have thought that having the kiddos out of the house would mean oodles of writing time for me, it simply hasn’t been the case. Being solo means that I have to do everything (from taking out the trash to grocery shopping to cleaning the litterbox) on my own. Not having the kids around to help with many of those tasks means less time for me to pursue writing (and other hobbies). I suspect that that will change a bit as soon as I get truly settled into my new house and have fewer organizing/furniture-moving/lightbulb-changing activities to perform.
3) I’ve got a huge front porch:
I probably spend at least on a hour a day sitting on my porch doing not much of anything (maybe eating or reading or chatting with a neighbor). I always wanted a broad front porch where I could sit and watch the world pass by. It’s a constant magnet that tugs at me and tempts me to close the lid of my laptop and get outside again already.
4) My in-real-life relationships have become more important to me than my cyber-ones:
I suspect that this has been a gradual but purposeful change for me. I want friends to eat with, to giggle with, to take walks at the beach with. It’s really hard to do that with friends that you only know over the internet or that you only see every 3 or 4 years. While I still value those of you who I feel close to who live far away, hanging out with local friends is incredibly satisfying and means that I don’t feel such a strong need to broadcast my daily thoughts out the audience of the internet. Because I can tell that story to a friend tonite over dinner, instead.
5) I have a pen and a beautiful German diary, and I know how to use them:
For a long time, my blog was a space where I could work out the difficult things that were swirling around in my head–I would post a quotation or a photo as an attempt to strengthen my spine a bit to endure the challenges that I had in my daily life. And while I still have challenges, I generally grapple with those on the pages of my journal, instead of posting online. It feels good to be discovering penmanship again, and to let my thoughts fly in a space where I don’t need to censor them. It seems a better space than this one, for getting perspective on whatever problem-of-the-day is disrupting my peace.
As a result of my lack-of-blogging, I’ve felt writing to be a bit harder than it used to be. The words just aren’t flowing as freely as before. I might start writing here more often again as an exercise in creativity, but I’m not yet sure…
I became an avid user of email pretty early on, in 1993. Back then most people had interesting ASCII signatures under their names. I did not have ASCII art skillz, so I decided on something simple (let’s call it ‘minimalist’) for my signature. Nearly every email message I signed as:
And I still do that, with the exception of my professional correspondence, which generally ends in a:
I don’t remember why I chose a tilde as my defining signature character, but I suppose it was because it seemed to give my signature a bit more of a flourish than a dash.
What I’m reading right now*:
I loved the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, so I picked this one up a few months ago. But I’ve not found it nearly as engaging as I’d hoped–I’m having to push my way pretty hard through to the end. The characters of this one just aren’t grabbing me and keeping me interested.
Jared Farmer’s recent SoCal lecture about Trees was one of the best that I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve been dipping in and out of his book and find it to be one of the best-written history books that I’ve encountered this year. And, the landscape around the OC looks so different to me after reading Jared’s tome.
My officemate recommended this book to me after she learned of my interest in western history. It’s about the Indian Wars, which is an era of history that’s not easy to digest. The writing is accessible (i.e. not for a historian-audience) and breezy. If you enjoy western history, I’d recommend that you add this one to your nightstand.
*Click on the book images to visit the amazon pages for these books.