November 11, 2011
Yesterday one of my students, I'll call her “C”, cornered me at the end of class, as she does nearly every class, to tell me her tales of woe. Usually I want to run away. Yesterday, I stayed and listened as C told me the last time she was beat up. She had gone to pick up her son from his father's house, had rang the doorbell and the father's sister answered the door, casually talking on her cell phone, or “making it seem like she was talking on her cell phone,” as C said. She put the cell phone down, asked C how she was and then “bam” punched her right in the face. Before C knew it, she was on the ground being kicked and punched by the sister. The father of her son stood near by, egging his sister on, “Get 'er, get 'er.” C caught sight of her son in the corner watching his mother get beat up and screamed, “Not in front of my son! Not in front of my son!”
“I don't want my son to know that violence,” she told me, “but I'm doing a miserable job of keeping it from him.”
I have to say here that C is quite a character. Yesterday she came to class in a white t-shirt; you could see the pink bra underneath that matched the pink hat on her head. She is pretty, has long hair, a model face and body. She desperately wants to pass my class as she desperately wants to escape the violence in her life and the mistakes she's made. She used to fight all the time and she knew how to be ready for it: tie the hair back so it can't be pulled; don't wear long dangling earrings so they can't be ripped from your ear lobes. But now she said, she has softened with the birth of her son. She's no longer out to get people, to thrash out at them, kicking, punching and screaming to survive. She put a restraining order on the boy's father (who had also beat her up) in hopes of keeping his violent, drug trafficking lifestyle away from her son and then lifted it because he pleaded and cried. And now this, caught off guard and attacked by his pit bull sister.
While I felt compassion for C, I couldn't help but want her to find that warrior spirit of hers, get off the ground and beat the shit out of the sister. I wasn't clear on how the fight ended up; there were some threatening words and she eventually scrambled away with her son. Whatever. I guess my point is, the warrior spirit in me recognized, was awakened by, the warrior spirit in her.
Years ago a friend took a picture of me at the beginning of a trail in the woods. I was wearing a down vest that was too small for me and carrying a long stick that resembled a staff. The tight vest looked more like a corset and reminded me of the armored corset the goddess Athena is often shown wearing. I always hated that picture because by fleshy thighs were quite elephant-like and unbecoming in gray sweat pants. But I think back to that picture now and see why my friend had complimented me on it: I may have not looked pretty, but I looked confident.
Now in the throes of pregnancy, still feeling nauseous and exhausted- wasted really- nearly all the time, I need to find that warrior spirit to face my physical and mental challenges. When you're pregnant at 41, when you're pregnant at any age nowadays, the onslaught of tests and worst case what-if scenarios are enough to bring you to your knees never mind the physical discomforts. My mother tells my sister and I when we worry, to pray, pray, pray, but praying feels too much like begging and I'm not particularly clear to whom I am prostrating myself. As I said in another posting, God isn't Santa Claus.
It feels more right to meditate on the god inside me, particularly the warrior-goddess, the one with the courage, the strength, the faith, yes, and the cunning. Maybe it is not a violent strength, maybe it is a more a self-possessed, confident strength, founded on compassion for oneself and one's children; the warrior guided by awareness and compelled to make the right decisions at all costs. I wish that strength for C as well.