Dee's Blog
www.takecourage.org
Tue 03/18/2008
Rising Above the Story
Topic: spirituality

More and more of you, dear readers, seem to be choosing to embrace the journey of struggle in order to rise above the story. A place where we find new meaning for divine promises and test the promises that may not be God's, actually, but got attributed to God by people who were themselves struggling to either write or translate. We are all writers and translators, as I see it, of what we have experienced within ourselves, what we continue to test because of a mature faith that does not need all of the answers that fundamentalism teaches us we HAVE to have.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 03/17/2008
Take Up That Bed!
Topic: spirituality

One of the beauties of social activism, a beauty that I see as both spiritual and social, is that over time people find the means and the anger required to speak out about injustice. When our voices are loud enough and persistent, which I hope is shown in How Little We Knew, though I really had so much to learn when I wrote that (and still do)....when our voices are loud enough and persistent enough, we no longer have to see the institutional church or anyone else taking any action in order for us to be whole and more alive than we've ever been. This is the "take up thy bed and walk" part that doesn't need the church to find restoration and resurrection for us to move to higher ground. We learn to find it without the institutional church, in most instances. Or in spite of it. In outer space. Ironically, when we find the resurrection in outer space (in other words, with new eyes that act creatively because we are uniquely made in the image of God), ONLY then do we find resurrection in the inner spaces!


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:49 AM CDT
Fri 03/14/2008
Acting
Topic: spirituality

It just dawned on me that the secret for changing the world is for each of us to learn to be good actors.  That sounds a bit flaky, coming from someone who espouses good health and abhors hypocrisy.

Yet it is not hypocrisy to act in loving, caring ways, even when we are struggling with our own inner turmoil.  Not unless we are neglecting to also act in loving and caring ways toward ourselves so that we can grow and become more mature and healthy.

Finding the balance of caring and loving people far away that we may never have even met, caring and loving for people in our communities, and doing the same in our families and toward those in our direct care, all while not forgetting to care and love ourselves first.   Yes, I said FIRST. 

It sounds SO uncaring and unloving.   Yet it's the most Christian thing, I'm convinced, and the healthiest things that we are called to do. 

For many people, it's the most difficult of all. 

Go love and care deeply this weekend as you think on these things.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:13 AM CDT
Thu 03/13/2008
The Tragic Gap
Topic: spirituality

Parker Palmer, on NPR's Word to Word yesterday, touched something so deep within me that I spent half the night tossing and turning as I did some positive wrestling with it's message. 

 He invited me and others to dare trying to stand in what he calls "the tragic gap," which he says is not at all tragic.  Yet definitely daunting, a place from which I believe most people would prefer to run.

I'm deferring to that program today.  Please, if you can find time at all, listen to this program today:  http://download.publicradio.org/podcast/wordforword/2008/03/07/wordforword_64.mp3

It will probably be the subject of this blog for at least a day or two.

 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:33 AM CDT
Wed 03/12/2008
Rising Again and Again
Topic: Power

Whenever my husband Ron sees a challenge coming, something that might entail some sort of suffering for a stand that he wishes to take, I"ve frequently seen him find the courage through saying:  "I figure you can only be crucified once, and I've already been crucified."  He is correct so far as being emotionally crucified and spiritually decimated by the status quo camps of the institutional church.  Like so many others we've seen in the last twenty years, people much too afraid of being crucified by sexual predators and their friends to hold them all accountable.

Yesterday I added a sentence to Ron's well-stated thought.  "However, you can RISE again and again!"  

The message of the crucifixion is multi-faceted.  Some interpret it much different than others.  To me, it represents REAL sacrifices that can only be made by people seeking to reach toward a greater maturity, very unlike what I hear many saying they are "giving up for Lent."  Sometimes they are sacrifices that I find difficult, though they are for the greater good. 

As always when Easter approaches, I consider that it's more important to focus on the meaning of resurrection.  That's really what the season is most about to me.  It is, by recognizing the power within me that has, at times,  allowed me to overcome many obstacles and to walk where "angels fear to tread" by choice.  When I forget about that power, that's when I take the "safer" road sometimes instead of the wiser one.  That's when I fail to focus on possibilities, averting my eyes, and being blinded by the things I fear. 

When I focus on the resurrection, I find the courage to sort out what sacrifices are REALLY required for the greater good--mine and everyone else's.

 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Tue 03/11/2008
Confronting Collusion with Gender Inequity
Topic: Making Changes

One of the many things my brilliant friend Olga is good at:  teaching me to see things through a wider lens.   She and I both love to think beyond the individual to the system or extended family, though we share a love for personality studies too.

A few days ago she reminded me of how often we women COLLUDE with gender inequity by not letting men take on the responsibility for their own actions.  Not just with addicts or perpetrators.  Just in our day-to-day relationships. 

My acronym of DIM thinking (Denial, Ignorance and Minimization) applies in far more areas, of course, than just collusion with abuse and addictions, even though that's where it started out.  

It's important that we recognizing that, without a very serious handicap,  people are old enough and smart enough, whatever the gender, to make good decisions and take care of themselves far more than we allow them to.  In fact, that's why I sometimes seem to be apathetic when I don't get terribly involved in doing what I believe should be "the work of the church" (ie. educating itself and facing it's internal problems that create problems for everyone else).  I have long believed that when the heart is in a healthy place, the healthy actions will abound.  When it's not, I'm probably wasting my time trying to reason with people who are afraid of seeing beyond their own culture or sub-culture to view the world from a different angle.

Thanks, Olga, for enlarging my understanding of collusion and DIM thinking further than I've ever seen it before.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Fri 03/07/2008 8:34 AM CST
Mon 03/10/2008

Topic: music

Music is the universal language, we say.  And it is.  When you are listening to it or creating it, at least.

Everyone can enjoy music.  Believe it or not, everyone has within them the capacity to create it, too--though it may be a lot more work for some than others.

Yet if you want to really understand it, that's a lifetime's work.  Very quickly I can start using words and terms or concepts that I understand or that I may just be realizing as I try to figure out for myself and my students just why something fits together and how it all works to sometimes make music.  While at other times a student or a teacher have the equal dilemma of producing unintended, unwelcome noise. 

In my case, as a piano teacher, it's about learning how to touch the keys "just right" to develop what takes the player and the listeners into a sense of ecstasy--that's the art of it. 

Just as in living, sometimes I achieve it.  Sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I succeed in communicating in a language that is on the level of my student.  Sometimes I'm still working to understand the language myself, while learning from my students.

Or readers, when it comes to this site.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Sun 03/09/2008
The Challenge of Understanding One Another
Topic: Making Changes

You may have seen an example of the work that my poet-friend Olga does "across the Big Pond," as we often say.  http://www.takecourage.org/lessons.htm  It doesn't matter that Olga is in England and I'm here in Iowa.  Nor that we sometimes have to explain some colloquial expression we use in private e-mails, only to discover that the words didn't communicate at all.

Like good friends, we both are quick to point out to one another that something doesn't translate.

Olga is quite fluent in other European langauge. I'm almost fluent in Chichewa, a Bantu tongue.   Yet to try to to communicate in any of those languages would be impossible.  Simply because we don't share the experience of having learned the same second languages (in Olga's case Dutch is her first).

It's like that with a lot of experiences in life.  We fail to grasp what another is saying because they may have been through a totally "foreign" experience, possibly with a whole vocabulary that communicates well for some, just not for every person in our complex world that we have declared to be civilized.

 


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Fri 03/07/2008
The Hippo
Topic: Making Decisions

One of my long-term male survivor friends (pseudonym Bob) is a chaplain who happens to also be a musician and a poet.  While we have even stronger connections than those, I cannot say more without breaking his need to maintain a great deal of confidentiality.  Bob is one of the strongest guys, with one of the most tender hearts I know.  Maybe he sees the latter in himself.  I'm doubtful on the first.   I can unload on Bob anytime I feel the need, and his work has ministered to more people than he probably will ever know.  Perhaps more to me than to anyone.

Years ago, not long after he'd revealed his own childhood sexual abuse to some co-workers and family members,  he handed me a copy of a long poem without a title, Let's just call it "The Hippo."  It so eloquently described the fear and courage that it takes to confront what many call "the elephant" --the primal emotions some of us encountered years ago.  While some of you reading this may have just started on the journey of attempting "wake the dead" while keeping your own sanity about abuse, collusion, or a myriad of other issues that trouble you.

"Use this or anything else that I write if you think it will be helpful to others," Bob frequently tells me, true to his generous self.  So here you are:

There’s a hippo in the corner of my room.

Strange, I hadn’t seen it there before.

But once I had bumped into it, I swear

I find it quite impossible to ignore.

I’ve noticed others manage to avoid it,

But now aware,

It’s like a magnet to my mind;

I’ve a penchant just to stare.

How strange, but now I know it,

It’s enormity is clear;

And I can’t deny the mess it’s made

Or how long it has been there.

There’s a hippo that is growing in my room.

But, when I try to speak of it I find

That everyone just stares at me so funny

And treats me as if I had lost my mind….

And though maintaining some concern about my mental health,

My family and friends conspire to save me from myself.

How dare I be so selfish, so inconsiderate, as to bring it up.

Hippos are so inconvenient.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Fri 03/07/2008 7:58 AM CST
Thu 03/06/2008
Thoughts on Gender Issues
Topic: Making Decisions

While the majority of my readers are female, I probably learn as much from the limited number of male survivors and advocates who come my way as I do from the majority.  This is not a reflection on any supposition that these guys are smarter than my own gender.  Please do not misunderstand me there. 

It has everything to do with the differences I see in the responses to abuse that I see between the two genders.  Those responses are not entirely gender specific, just like a lot of other issues.  At this moment, I'm not inclined to write in depth on this topic, though I may assign it to myself at a later date.

Long ago, I would have assumed that it is so much easier for male survivors to speak because society makes it easier for men to be heard on most issues.   I really thought they had an advantage.  I no longer believe that.

To admit to sexual or domestic abuse or to talk about the betrayal one has experienced as a spouse, father, or even as a professional advocate is to risk being emasculated by one's own gender.  For to be the underdog is considered by the traditional male, who has internalized the myths of tradition, to be a loser.  Or it's equivalent (ie. a woman). 

By staying "safe," men are able to preserve the personal advantage of having a place of privilege.  Every time they speak out, it seems there is a double battle to be fought.  In the same way that gay men have experienced.  One must overcome the inertia created by blowing the minds of people who don't want their minds blown.  So the struggles are even more likely to be turned inward. 

Even if one HAS confronted the myth and integrated it well into his psyche, the risk is still there.  Male survivors sometimes are able to overcome a good deal of this fear of being emasculated.  I don't think it ever goes away entirely.

No matter what precipitates their speaking, men who speak up on issues that so many prefer to see as "women's issues," no matter how personal those issues may be, are going to experience the attitude:  "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

After all, Muslim men may be the only group that voices it so clearly, but I'm convinced that Christian men are just as likely to say to themselves and one another:  "Thank God I wasn't born a woman!"


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:12 AM CST

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