Sunday, September 8, 2013

Searching for Sophia

The other day I read about a thought experiment at Harvard Divinity School in 1973, which was intended to raise male consciousness of how women feel in a world (or a religion) where language reflects only one gender.  The professor asked each student to imagine that he was the lone male in a classroom full of women in a completely feminine institution where he was expected to understand that feminine words apply equally to both men and women.
How would you feel if, "every time a professor says 'womankind' she means, of course, 'all humanity'?  When one enrolls in a seminar on 'The Doctrine of Woman' the professor intends at least to deal with men also.  When one sings of the Motherhood of God and the Sisterhood of Woman, one breathes a prayer that all men as well as women will come to experience true sisterhood."
Sometimes I have conversations in which I feel that I have to convince the person I'm talking to that not having inclusive religious language is harmful to women, that the patriarchy is real and that it gets me down.  After reading about this thought experiment, I see how absurd the situation would be if the roles were flipped.  Men, as they are today, would not stand for this.  They would be up in arms!  And yet women live with it everyday, many of them quietly, not realizing that there could be something else.  Many of them not wanting anything else.  But I do.  I want something else.  There should be an inclusive religious language that allows both men and women to relate to both male and female terms and images of the Divine.  Now, of course the Divine is neither male nor female; so really, what does it matter?  Ask the men in this thought experiment if they thought it mattered.  Amiright?

Now, it is a whole other conversation to talk about the difference between men and women and how much of one there really is.  Obviously, individuals cannot be defined solely by their gender.  But we cannot deny that our historical and cultural realities have been worlds apart.  And we women and our stories have been sadly misrepresented and overlooked.

I grew up learning the sacred stories of men and I believed that they applied to everyone, to "mankind."  I've since felt the loss of the point of view of women in those stories.  Where is the story of how Sarah felt and what she said when Abraham went to sacrifice her only child?  How did she relate to God?  What did she consider holy?  What were her sacred stories?  Where are the female sacred stories?

I want to learn all about Durga, who saved the world from the Buffalo Demon, first by cutting off his head and when that didn't defeat him, finally by piercing him through the heart.  I want to learn about the Shekinah, the female face of God in Jewish mysticism, and how she lead the Israelites through the desert.  I want to know more about Jesus-Sophia, Wisdom in human form.

It's not just women that need these stories.  When our perspective, our innate strengths are lost or dismissed, everyone suffers.  Men who are more relational and less success-oriented suffer.  Women who feel they must become men in order to compete for the things they want suffer.  Children suffer when they learn that linear thinking is the only way to be smart.

This conversation is huge and many wonderful writers have weighed in on it in countless venues and from many perspectives.  I am not capable of, nor do I wish  to tackle every element of this discussion.  I just want to know:

Where are the female sacred stories?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Woman's Journey to God, by Jean Borysenko

You are at my side, dear friends, and God is everywhere.  Yet ultimately, we are alone, making our way home by the candle of the heart.  The light is steady and sure but extends only far enough to see the next step.  That there are steps beyond is a matter of faith.  That we have the faith to endure and walk our own journey - even when we think that we are lost - is a gift of grace, and of friendship.  Many times our light seems to go out.  But another light, one held by a stranger or a friend, a book or a song, a blackbird or a wildflower, comes close enough so that we can see our path by its light.  And in time we realize that the light we have borrowed was always also our own.

Monday, July 8, 2013

You're Welcome

Oh hey, just kicking gender norms to the curb.  What are you doing?

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I didn't check my email this whole vacation week.  Not once!  It was amazing!  And then this evening, standing in my kitchen, making my dinner, I started to get anxious.  My mind began racing through all the things I need to make sure I'm on top of when I go back into work tomorrow.

Oh no!!  The red flashing alarm lights started going off in my head!  Sirens began whirring!

And then, all of a sudden, a golden thought arose.

"I could get all of that stuff done in an hour.  Before class starts, everything that is making me anxious right now could be taken care of."

There could be calamities in my inbox tomorrow morning. I'll take care of them.

There could be dramatic political shit that has developed while I'm gone.  I'll handle it.


And it's not because it's easy stuff, thoughtless, or unimportant.  It's simply because I'm a fucking capable woman, bitch.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Childfree So Far

At this point in my life, I don't want to have children.  Thankfully, my husband is on board with this. Whew!  (I checked it out before we got married.  It's a good idea to know how the other person feels about these things before agreeing to do life together.)  Usually, when asked whether or not Peter and I are going to have kids, I answer with some variant of "Future Lisa and Peter can decide that."  I don't want to rule out the possibility of having kids, but right now I definitely don't want them.  And that may not ever change.

This isn't to say that I think deciding to have kids is a bad idea.  I have a hard time reading child-free blogs where the author spends all his or her (mostly her) time talking about how miserable people who have kids are.  Yes, having kids is stressful and time-consuming and mind-numbing at times, but I know that it can  be rich and joyful and fulfilling too.  I am not anti-kid, nor am I anti-other people having kids.  It's just a different choice.  And not one that I and my husband should feel obligated to make.  

This is where the conversation gets tricky.  I feel like many people will then try to convince me that I will change my mind or tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about.  For those of you who know me, those are some surefire ways to raise my hackles.  How should I know whether or not I will change my mind?  And what would be wrong if I didn't?  

Here are the most common reasons given for why we should decide to have kids:
  1. We'd be great parents.  
  2. We really like kids and get along with kids.  
  3. We don't know what we're missing.  
  4. There are things in life we'll never learn and ways we'll never grow if we don't have kids.
  5. We'll regret it if we don't.
While some of these things are true - Peter and I love kids and are really great with them - I don't think these are good enough reasons to have children.  Here's the bottom line:  Peter and I should not have kids unless we really want to have them.  

I would like to respond in more depth to two of the above points now.  Bear with me.

The argument about regretting it if we don't have kids is, I think, a really dangerous one.  This one in particular should be banned from all conversations with women or men who are deciding whether or not to have children.  Parenting is not something you can try on or test before you buy.  Once you decide to be a parent, you can't quit.  Or rather, you shouldn't quit.  And while you will love your kids, you may discover that you don't enjoy parenting!  There is no way to know what you may or may not regret in life and having kids so that you won't regret not having them is among the worst reasons to have children.

The second dangerous argument is that I don't know what I'm missing.  Of course I don't know what I'm missing!  But that doesn't mean that our choice is bad or that our life will be less rich if we decide not to have kids.  It will be different!  And different does not mean better or worse.  It means different.  And maybe good.  It is possible (and okay!) to live a full, meaningful life without procreating.

This would be good time to mention that while I never get excited about having my own baby, I get ridiculously excited about being a real and adopted aunt.  I love love love the idea of being involved in the lives of the kids of my friends and family.  I am a drama teacher who is around kids of all ages every day.  I love kids.  Liking kids has never been the issue.  (Hint:  liking kids and wanting your own are separate things)

Once again, the bottom line:  unless Future Lisa and Future Peter reach a day where they discover that they want to have children, that they ache for their own kids, then we will remain child-free.  And that will be okay.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Holy Moses

Things that have Recently made me Cry:

1.  A Vampire Diaries episode
2.  Neil Diamond singing "Sweet Caroline" at the Boston Red Sox game
3.  Anything related to the Boston Marathon shooting
4.  A Ted Talk on vulnerability
5.  That girl's dad on The Voice looks like my dad!  and he's crying!

I cry a lot.  I cry driving in my car almost every day.  Not because I'm sad, but because someone said something on the radio that made me cry.

This isn't some tear-welly thing either; this is a good old-fashioned sobbing.  

There are more I could add to the list.  This last month, I thought, "I should keep track of the things that made me cry."  There were too many!  Like I said, I cry everyday.  I'll tell you what ignites the waterworks tomorrow.


Update:  6-10.  Every time a dancer cries on So You Think You Can Dance.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Dear Wonderful Women at NPR,

Karen Grigsby Bates
Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
Nancy Marshall-Genzer
Shereen Marisol Meraji
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Dina Temple-Raston

Your long-ass names make me feel like less of a crazy person.

Lisa Gilham-Luginbill

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wild Sooth-Sayer!

"I need more grace than I thought."  

Today is a common day.  We walked in the sunshine.  I sat on the grass.
The cat sat in my shadow.

I bought some gin and mixed it with lime in a drink and drank it.

We held hands and felt crazy because we think so differently.
     He wanted to poke the rat, 
              I wanted to save it.

I was taught that we know the truth.
         I only feel what I feel.  Don't ask me to defend it.  

A little sunburn and a feeling of fullness of spirit.  It's a Sunny Spring Day.  
Li Po says, 
The birds have vanished down in the sky, 
Now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me, 
until only the mountain remains.

It will be sunny tomorrow.  We'll continue talking of tiny houses.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stop it, Ursula. Just stop.

I love Ursula K. Le Guin.  I've read many of her essays and her speeches, but this is my first time reading her fiction.  It's finding a home right inside me.  I've been devouring the Earthsea series.  And at the end of The Farthest Shore, I've found some of the most beautiful things written about death and life.  A young person is falling into the trap of searching for a way to Immortality.  In fact, the whole book is about people giving up all their art, their luck, their lives for the hope of Immortality.  Only one wise old person is able to withstand that call and it's because he won't listen:
"I, who am old, who have done what I must do, who stand in the daylight facing my own death, the end of all possibility, I know that there is only one power that is real and worth the having.  And that is the power, not to take, but to accept."
The whole book is such a hard and horrible and precious look at what we give up when we seek Immortality and what it takes to ultimately come face to face with death and the truth about the end of life.
"There are two, two that make one: the world and the shadow, the light and dark.  The two poles of the Balance.  Life rises out of death, death rises out of life; in being opposite they yearn to each other, they give birth to each other and are forever reborn.  And with them all is reborn, the flower of the apple tree, the light of the stars.  In life there is death.  In death there is rebirth.  What then is life without death?  Life unchanging, everlasting, eternal? - What is it but death - death without rebirth?"
The following is spoken by the older person to the young person to bring this young person sharply into focus on life, while holding hands "in a hard grasp, so that both by eye and by flesh they touched."
"(Insert your name here), this is.  And thou art.  There is no safety, and there is no end.  The word must be heard in silence; there must be darkness to see the stars.  The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss."
 Now you see why I say, Stop it, Ursula.  Just stop.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Mountains! The Lakes!

This is an excerpt from The Brothers K that I have been carrying around with me for a month or two.  

To clarify - the "hump of energy" is the undulation in a water hose when it is shaken.
"But I do think," Freddy continued, "there might be all sorts of humps of all sorts of energy that go traveling all sorts of directions people can't see.  For instance when a person gets mad at somebody ... Like when you get really mad and maybe slap somebody or jerk their arm or something, like Mama does to us sometimes, I think an invisible hump of energy might go flying all the way up their arm and right into their skeleton or insides or whatever - a hump of mean, witchy energy - and I think it might fly round and round in there like a witch on a broomstick flies round the sky, and go right on hurting invisible parts of the person you don't even know you're hurting, because you can't see all the ways their insides are connected to the mean thing you did to their outside.  And from then on, maybe that hump of mean energy sits inside the hurt person like a coiled-up hose or a rattlesnake, just waiting in there.  And someday, when that person touches somebody else, maybe even way in the future, that rattlesnake energy might come humping up out of them by accident and hurt that next person too, even though they didn't mean to, and even though the person didn't deserve it."  She paused for a moment.  Then, with feeling, concluded, "I think it happens.  I really think it does."
"I think it does too,"  Peter said ... "I think what you said can happen, does happen.  But every witch who ever lived was once just a person like you or me, that's what I think anyway, till somewhere, sometime, they got hit by a big, mean hump of nasty energy themselves, and it shot inside them just like Freddy said, and crashed and smashed around, wrecking things in there, so that a witch was created.  The thing is, though, I don't think that first big jolt is ever the poor witch's fault."  Freddy said nothing.
"Another thing," Peter said, "is that everybody gets jolted.  You, me, before we die we'll all get nailed, lots of times.  But that doesn't mean we'll all get turned into witches.  You can't avoid getting zapped, but you can avoid passing the mean energy on.  That's the interesting thing about witches, the challenge of them - learning not to hit back, or hit somebody else, when they zap you.  You can just bury the zap, for instance, like the gods buried the Titans in the center of the earth.  Or you can be like a river when a forest fire hits it - pshhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Just drown it, drown all the heat and let it wash away ..."  Freddy lay still, watching his face.
And here's the part I've been carrying around like a talisman:
"And the great thing," he said, "the reason you can lay a river in the path of any sort of wildfire is that there's not just rivers inside us, there's a world in there.  Not because I say so.  Christ says so.  And Krishna.  But I feel it sometimes too.  I've felt how there's a world, and rivers, and high mountains, whole ranges of mountains, in there.  And there are lakes in those mountains - beautiful, pure, deep blue lakes.  Thousands of them.  Enough to wash away all the dirt and trouble and witchiness on earth."  
Freddy was still watching Peter's face and still listening with he said, "But to believe in them!  To believe enough to remember them.  That's where we blow it!  Mountain lakes?  In me?  Naw!  Jesus we believe in, long as He stays out of sight.  But the things He said, things like The kingdom of heaven is within you, we believe only by dreaming up a heaven as stupid and boring as our churches.  Something truly heavenly, something with mountains higher than St. Helens or Hood and lakes purer and deeper than any on earth - we never look for such things inside us.  So when the humps of witchiness come at us, we've got nowhere to go, and just get hurt, or get mad, or pass them on and hurt somebody else.  But if you want to stop the witchiness, if you want to put out the fires, you can do it.  You can do it if you just remember to crawl, right while you're burning, to drag yourself if that's what it takes, clear up into those mountains inside you, and on down into those cool, pure lakes."
... quite suddenly and quite loudly, Freddy burst into tears.  "I'm sorry," Freddy sobbed, hiding her face.  "I'm sorry.  But ... but I'm just so glad!"  
"Glad?  About what?"
"The mountains!"  Freddy whispered, eyes closed, tears streaming.  "The lakes."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Sacred in Women

I've started reading this book called The Feminine Face of God.  I'm only two chapters in and I already want everyone I know to read it.  Listen to this:
For until we can speak our truth and know that we have been heard, we don't wholly know it ourselves.
Holy fuck.  Let's just stop for a moment with that one.  There is not much that is more life-giving than feeling that you have been really heard.  How many of us have discovered truth as we spoke it aloud to someone who cared to hear us?

Moving on to this:  What does it mean to be spiritual as a woman?  I do believe that every individual's journey is different, so what I really mean is this - what does it mean for me, as a woman, to be spiritual?  Yes, that is more what I mean.  I am me.  And who am I is a woman.  I'm starting to think that is something that is deeply important, rather than one more fact about who I am.

Here's another thing from this book:
Each woman (that the authors interviewed) decided to stop looking to authority figures outside herself for the truth, and to trust that what she experienced as sacred was indeed sacred.
 All these things have been floating around in my head for a few months now.  What is sacred to me?  How do I encounter and invite the sacred into my life?  What does that mean for me as a woman?  Who will talk with me about these things??

I'm ready to have more conversations about this.

I need to find some women who will sit on couches with wine and get into it with me.  Let's speak truth and be heard.  Sooner, rather than later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dream Gift

I had a dream a few weeks ago.  In the dream I was walking to a tiny house that was situated on the beach right where the water and the sand meet.  This little house was wholly mine for whenever I wanted to go away to it.  Inside was a tiny living room and kitchen that were practically one room.  There were a lot of windows.  A little ladder led to a loft with a bed.  The house was just right for me and I was just right for the house.  When the tide came in the little house would float up in the water.  It was made well though, and no water ever got in, even though the house would sink down slightly if someone was inside.  It just bobbed along, tightly sealed against leaks.  I stepped out of the house and a big gust of wind blew me a hundred feet up in the air.  In my dream this was not frightening.  It surprised me, and I thought, "Who knew?  Apparently it's a true thing in my life now that wind can gust me up this high."  I knew that I wanted to be over water when the wind let me down, so I steered with my body to stay along the coastline as the wind blew me along.  Eventually I landed in a bay.  I crawled out of the bay and met a fisherman.  He was an old man who I instinctively knew would not believe that the wind had dropped me in his bay.  I felt very defensive as I told him that it was true, the wind had brought me there.  When I left the fisherman, I ran back to my little house, which was now floating several feet above the sand in the high tide.  I dove under the water and saw a tether connecting my house to something deep in the sand so it could not float away.

Then I woke up.

This dream came unexpectedly, on a night when I had been reading a horror story and thinking I might have nightmares.  I called a friend to talk about my dream and this is what we discovered:

Houses often symbolize the self in dreams.  My house was just right for me and I felt perfectly fitted there, in both mind and body.

My house was on the beach where the surf and sand meet and the tide comes in and out.  Apparently, "to see the beach in your dream symbolizes the meeting between your two states of mind. The sand is symbolic of the rational and mental processes while the water signifies the irrational, unsteady, and emotional aspects of yourself. It is a place of transition between the physical/material and the spiritual."

This is where my house lived.  

The Wind is a very interesting element of this dream.  Wind can symbolize Spirit, the spirit within us, or sometimes the beginning of a deeper awareness within ourselves.  The Wind tends to have a spiritual element to it, and that is what my friend pointed out.  In my dream, the introduction of this new spiritual element seemed very natural to me.

This is where it gets interesting to me.  After the Wind dropped me in the bay, I felt the need to convince the fisherman that my experience was real.  I have felt the need in my waking life to defend my new spiritual awakening, a journey that feels very natural and real to me, to others who seem distrustful of its legitimacy.  Perhaps that is what was going on with the fisherman.

When I returned to my house, I saw that it was anchored to something deep in the sand.  Anchors represent security and stability.  My house was not going to float away.  It was safe.

My friend told me that this sounded like a blessing of a dream.  As he said that, I felt so strongly the truth of it that tears came to my eyes.  This dream seemed to me to be a reminder that while I am in transition, while my soul is living at this meeting of the physical and the spiritual, I am not going to be swept away.  I am safely tethered.  To what?  I don't know.  And this new and yet wonderfully natural awakening of my spirit is not frightening or overwhelming, but an exciting new truth in my life.

I am exploring so many new places and learning so many new things.  But I am not afraid.  I feel freedom.  I feel that something beautiful is happening in my life and I am prepared to be here, to live in this transition and to find out where this adventure will take me.

Thank you for reading and sharing this with me.  I'm reminded of something I read a few months ago:
Offer your experience as your truth.
This is what I am trying to do.