Wednesday, May 20, 2009


In many ways, I am attracted to controversy. I liked to rock the boat in high school with my teachers--for instance, when given a ceiling tile to paint in health class I wanted to do one about safe sex and they said "NO!" I snuck it outside and painted a big, red picture of a Trojan condom wrapper and installed it back into the ceiling. I like to surprise people in their perception of me--maybe have a certain look, but then say something unexpected when I opened my mouth. In college, this was with a very punk rock bible study. And the obvious, my choice to bring home a man tattooed and pierced from top to bottom to my family...and then marry him and have lots of babies.

The thing is, once you do something that is considered "fringe" or "alternative" and it picks up steam, it becomes mainstream. And once it is mainstream, I feel the need to question it all over again with a more critical eye. My biggest blessing/curse is that I am a natural diplomat--given any circumstance, I can see both sides. (This can be very frustrating to my husband who alwasy wants me to have his back;) The blessing part aspect of this is that, even if I find a way that suits me, I can (usually) easily get to a place where I can respect the choice of someone who does things the opposite way. I can hear and understand a theory behind a certain type of lifestyle or choice and not feel threatened by it. On the flip side, this can many times put me on the fence. I especially feel this way about politics, beacuse the choices made do not just affect the individual but a whole population. Often times, when those ballot measure booklets come in the mail, I read them and think "Well, that makes sense..." and then "Of course, this side makes a good point, too...." Most of the time I can't make up my mind and toss my ballot into the recycle bin.

Sometimes on the fence is a lonely place to be. Its natural for groups and friendships to form around common ideals. This is certainly true of mothering tribes, who in the past decade seem to have become so polarized between "the natural way" (which somehow leaks over into more areas than just things like birth and breastfeeding, but also commonalities like politics and parenting) and the "mainstream"...which is funny, and maybe this is because I live in the bubble that is the Republic of Portland, but it seems that "natural" IS mainstream now. And as said before, once something becomes mainstream, I feel the need to question it, to challenge it. Suddenly, I feel outside of the circle that I'd been so inside of. I do find it a challenge to only focus my new found scrutiny on only my own life with having it spill over into other relationships, but I find it doable because of my diplomatic tendancies. I can say, "this isn't working for me anymore, but respect that it might still be working for you". Making a move like this makes me search deeper for those relationships that are not merely built on "doing things alike" but on mutual respect and trust and openness. Sometimes I find that the easiest people to talk to about parenting are non-parents, or to talk about politics to people who are less-informed--their ideas are not so cemented, so they are receptive.

But I wonder where this "need to be different" stems from for me. Relationships are importnat to me, and sometimes I feel that this boat rocking puts them in jeopardy. I don't think I do this on a purposeful (albeit unconscious) level. Does this make me seem wishy-washy? I mean, to abandon ones ideals seems like something a very unstable person might do. I don't feel unstable...yet I am often teetering on a fence:) Maybe I am just impressionable. I was at the library the other day and I picked up a book, that seems to at first glance be in line with "the way I do things." But on further inspection, I could see the author was challenging them instead. Not one to be close-minded, I took it home and found that many of her arguments not only made sense, but I could see examples in my own life. Suddenly, my world-in-my-head was set aspin (I think I just made that word up--it's like afloat, but more spin-y than float-y)--theories about attachment, education, and society that were banging against previously popular views. Some of these opposing views I could reconcile, somehow finding a way for both to live in harmony in my brain. Others that may at one time been so unwelcome in the circle...looking very, very sensible to me now.

It maybe that I was looking for something new and fresh. Or that I am continuing to search for a place where my true values fit in--or that my values continue to change and mature every year. One thing I have learned about life, whether its parenting or politics or whatever, is that often times something look really great on paper, but turns out very different when put into action. I suppose we all put things into action differently as well, what functions well for one family or one country just doesn't translate the same for another. Right now, besides finding what is right for my family, I am also trying to find how my constant questioning can be a strength for me and not a weakness--and to explore what relationships make me feel safe enough to question without being judged, and who also will not feel judged by my questioning.

Was that vague enough for you? LOL. If you are still following along, do you ever feel this way or have any thoughts??


Nicole said...

Gracious...that was a mouthful, or maybe a brainful?
Leah, I find myself doing the same as you. It is a jack of all trades, master of none mentality. (at least that is how I think of it for me) I am not sure if it is a lack of confidence or intuitive protective measures that make me question authority. I seemingly don't allow myself to become a master or anything, for fear (figuatively) that I might change my view on it. Again, vague, and one might question commitment issues for me, but I do feel confident that commitant isn't my issue here. The best I can tell myself at this moment and time, is that the world doesn't operate in black and white. It is varying degrees of gray, and we all have to determine for ourselves what level of gray issues go to. When it comes to politics, I TOTALLY struggle. My intuitive, nurturing nature, tends towards a communal, socialist stance, where people and communities needs are tantamount ("left"). I, on the other hand, live in a bean counter/financial world for my financial support, and I recognize that there is validity (I say begrudgingly) to issues that the "right" bring sometimes into light. I sit so precariously on the fence sometimes, that it is regularly easier for me, not to discuss politics. theory and practical application are two very different worlds, and regularly yield terrible results. Example: As a feminist, for years I had been petitioning the US government to do something about the atrocious treatment of women(female circumcision) in Arab countries, but yet I was completely against the war in Iraq, when it manifested. I know...I go to very dangerous grounds even by bringing this up. But my point is made...conflicting issues and actions, just on this one issue alone in just MY HEAD (although let it be said, I have never been a proponent for war as a means for change). YIKES!
I guess on a final note...I believe that you should question authority. All authority. Never let them or ourselves become complacent. Constant vigilance. We grow or die. Sounds kinda black and white, huh? (wink, wink)
I love that you are trying to work through this. Growth in progess in front of our very eyes. I applaude you!
sorry for the ramble.

elliesmadre said...

I don't see you as wishy-washy or unstable at all. I see this attribute of yours as a strength. You are open-minded and inquisitive. You are interested in all of the reasonings behind something to come to your own conclusions. And you are secure enough to be able to come to different conclusions if your questioning brings you to a different place at a later date. I remember saying this was one of the things I love about you at your last blessing. Your ability to see both sides of a situation.

I also annoy Jimi with my way of seeing the other side. :) He wants to complain and I'm always pointing out the "bright side". I have a hard time with favorites lists. A favorite song? A favorite movie? It's always changing. Religion or politics are hard as well. I can find bits and pieces that make sense to me at the time. And then as I have more life experience, the things that make sense may not anymore. Or the things I thought made no sense, now all of a sudden do.

With Eleanor, I was surrounded by real mainstream people. No one extended nursed, cloth diapered, non vaxed, etc. It was like I was determined that much more to do all of those things. And I felt guilty for using the disposables that the hospital sent me home with. It's interesting, but being surrounded by different types of parents now makes me feel more comfortable to not have to be so vigilant. I don't have to nurse the next child so long, or I can night wean. I made the best choices at the time. But I'm a different parent now. I don't feel the need to prove my worth as a parent to anyone. I like having friends who have all different parenting styles. I own a stroller and I own a sling. I used a bucket carseat with Eleanor and I'll use one with the baby coming in a few months. Being open-minded and always questioning is a good thing. said...

I think people like you and me can grow old gracefully because we are ever evolving. It is a character trait, thats all, and its how we grow and can let more love into our lives and more knowledge. We both chose husbands with similar black/white traits. Its not about good and/or bad just differant.

Cookie said...

Leah, you truly have stated some profound things. I think that when a person stops thinking and questioning everything, then they are not truly living and growing. I also can see both sides of an issue or argument. I did not want to make a decision or have to decide anything. Thanks to my relationship with George, I have, over the years, changed (for the better I feel). In my youth, I did not speak my thoughts or idea. I never questioned anything or anyone. Now, I feel I am a part of the living. Now that I can voice my thoughts and not feel anyone will judge me for them. And if they judge me, tuff!! Each person's ideas are as important and someone elses. Keep evolving and questioning. (It also keeps people on their toes. Keeps them thinking, too.) You are a very intelligent person. Very grounded. Love ya lots, Gigi

Anonymous said...

I definitely understand your stance on the ever evolving life that we are all living. Touche for being mature enough to say it so gracefully (or at least the way I would) my dear.

Miss you

LittleYogini said...

A yoga teacher once asked the class to consider "what is it that I need in this moment?"

One day I might do Warrior pose and I feel strong and empowered. My body might feel steady and relaxed. The next day the same posture could be a mess. My job is to figure out what works for me in that moment. I think that applies to every part of life.

Maybe sometimes going against the grain works for you, maybe sometimes it doesn't. It's good to have ideals and stick with them, but can you also evaluate them moment to moment? For example I am a strong believer in reducing waste, but if I've forgotten my own reusable water bottle should I go thirsty just to hold that ideal? I can meet my needs in that moment and if then go back to my ideal if and when it works for me.

Questioning is positive. It is a good attribute to be able to see things from all sides because once we get fixated then we no longer have the ability to flow with each moment.

I agree that having friendships that allow for us to be different and truly be who we are in each moment is super important. Those friendships are rare, I've found. A lot of times others can't see us from all angles and expect us to be a certain way.

Mrs. G. said...

I am similarly open to many different points of view, and one of the biggest things that can cause me to ease out of a group (and, occasionally, friendship)is that strident my way or the highway mentality. I know I can be wishy washy and indecisive, but I think it is because I am always trying to examine my choices and whether they are reasonable and loving. That said, I have a huge variety of diffent kinds of friends and I know part of that is because I try to be respectful of all points of view even if I don't embrace them in my own life. Breastfeed, don't breastfeed. Homeschool, don't homeschool...whatever works for your family, right? I do have issues with strident Republicans but I am even mellowing with that in my middle age. Appreciate yourself and give yourself the freedom to change your mind or pick and choose.

Bill & Savannah said...

I think when we stop questioning and living from our guts, we are just buying into someone else's version of truth. I for one don't plan on giving the old Deutscher Gruß anytime soon.

remember this post?


Amy said...

I'm with Cookie here in my my marriage I wasn't really given the option of making many decisions, I didn't really know I could. And I don't think I could, in THAT relationship. Doing so now takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude because it's not second nature...and as a result I second guess everything I decide, go back and forth and find my place on the fence, almost always.

I do struggle to find peace with that, and accept where I am right now....

That said, I absolutley adore who you are, you are someone I always feel safe being completely honest and open with, and I know you won't judge me OR hesitate to be honest with me when I ask for honesty. I love that.

Thank you for being YOU!

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