A “Nasty Woman” and the Enneagram

“What a Nasty Woman!”

This is what we get called when our need for truth-telling outweighs our need for approval.  When the anger, passion and injustice flood over the dam of societal convention that dictates women are to be small, quiet, uncomplicated and, above all, pleasant.

Why is that the first insult leveled at a woman who dares to step out in front and call a spade a spade, or, as in the case of a Mayor Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a disaster a disaster?   If the Mayor of San Juan were a man, you know the narrative would be different. Just that one word, nasty, has the power to denigrate both a woman’s character and physicality. It is a uniquely misogynistic insult and an unlikely feminist rallying cry.

But a rallying cry it has become.  Embracing your inner “Nasty woman” has been for a while the preserve of the third-wave feminist. Worn with a pink knitted hat, the nasty woman T-shirt is practically a 21st century feminist uniform, declaring opposition to the patriarchal put down in the most elemental way. But what if we, women who don’t fully identify with all the causes of a secular feminist movement, and yet full of vim and vinegar as many of us are, embrace it too?  What does it mean to let the world fully see us? How much better will the world, and yes, even the church, be served when we use our voices and our gifts to full effect.

This is part of my journey in rediscovering my identity. The inner work of shaking off outer conformity requires me to look full into the face of the nasty woman inside. The woman who is loud, opinionated, and often angry in a culture that idolizes the quiet, submissive and gentle woman.  The woman who comes out as a 7 and 8 on the Enneagram; Types exclusively reserved for my Brothers in Christ.  The woman who is ENTJ on Myers Briggs, and DI on the DISC test.

For almost a decade, I have lived in the heart of Bible Belt society, I have learned the ways, tried to conform (mostly unsuccessfully), have thrown myself into “approved” activities and groups, but at every turn, I find that nasty woman rising up and challenging. Not challenging Jesus, but challenging a culture that many small ways (and some large ways) seems to say;

” A good woman would be quiet. An excellent woman would prefer caring for her family over speaking out over injustice. A woman is for the home, for the family, for her husband.  The men don’t need your voice.  Quiet, dear, the men are talking! Isn’t it enough for you to raise Godly children? Be satisfied with your lot. Don’t complicate it, the system is for your good. Be pleasant, that is how you win influence”

And herein lies the rub, most of those things aren’t inherently bad… and if you are reading this, you don’t need me to point out the egregiously misogynistic ones.  But what those voices say, over and over to me is that I am not good, or excellent, or satisfied!

These voices declare that the very nature of me, which, to quote the Enneagram “exemplifies the desire for freedom and variety and for exploring the many rich experiences that life offers. Thus, they are probably the most enthusiastic, extroverted, and outgoing type of the Enneagram….Eights are assertive and passionate about life, meeting it head on with self-confidence and strength. They have learned to stand up for themselves and have a resourceful, “can-do” attitude. They are determined to be self-reliant and free to pursue their own destiny. ” … is unacceptable, is nasty.

I know I am not alone in this.  I also know that this is not everyone’s experience, but in the interest of being a truth-teller, I will risk the inevitable censure of my peers to offer a hand of solidarity to the younger ones coming after me and to say, “Here I am.”

To you, my sweet younger sisters, I say,

“Come, let’s be whole together. Let’s battle and explore and fight injustice. Let’s discover and share and teach, because the world needs you. The world needs your voice, your passion, your creativity and your compassion.  The world is not served by your shrinking but by your blooming into the fullness of the fierce warrior you are created to be!”

Join me

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1,000 words a day.

“If you want to be a Writer, write.”

It sounds so easy. Like a math problem;

“The average book is between 200 and 400 pages, this equates to between 50,000 and 100,000 words.  If Jimmy is writing a book at a rate of 1,000 words per day, how many days will it take to finish his 200 page book?”

But when it’s your book, your story, it is more complex.  What if the muse abandons, or you get into the habit of over-writing, or simply run out of original or even interesting things to say?  Are you still a writer? Is writer even an identity a person can inhabit?

Writing is a journey, it teaches us as much about ourselves as the finished product will ever teach others.  It exposes our priorities, our hiding places, our coping mechanisms… Take this morning as a case in point, rather than stare at the cursor on this page, I rearranged and tidied our deck! (Please dear reader, remember that I am the least naturally domestic person alive, I loathe housework!)  I even contemplated the dishes rather than face the accusatory stare of that blinking cursor.

However uncomfortable the exposure, the fact remains that I must write, the words will not be denied, and while the blank-page accountability is uncompromising, it is also freeing. There is strange kind of clarity that emerges from the tangled, distracted, mayhem of my mind when I sit down to write.

It turns out that, at this place in my life, writing is self-care. Writing is mind-yoga.  It centers me, reminds me to be present. So, like yoga, and meal prep, and taking my vitamins, and drinking my water, writing needs to become a daily habit.

1,000 words a day.

Like crunches for my soul.

Because, if you are to fully be a Writer, you have to write.

Grace and Peace.

 

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To the women I met at coffee today…

My favourite coffee shop is always busy on Friday mornings. The quiet self-absorbed hum of weekdays is replaced by laptop-toting high-schoolers, mother and toddler pairings and friends catching up over a hot tea or craft coffee.  The upshot, for this writer, being the requirement to sit in the performance space couches, or the communal table and give up the retreat into my mind for something better, for connection.

As I folded myself into the couch in the corner today, next to a pair of women catching up on their love lives, I tried to mind my own business.  I opened my copy of Love Warrior, by the inimitable Glennon Doyle and started to read.  Reading Glennon is like reading the inside of my own head, my reflections upon which will take up another post (or two).  Reading Love Warrior in a crowded Friday-morning coffee shop is not conducive to quiet reflection, or, for that matter, even to dry eyes.

While my eyes were absorbing my inner teenage life narrative laid bare on the page for all to see, the sounds of my companions’ conversations washed over me… “I just want to get married” … “I’m 30, will I ever find someone?” … “Dating is THE WORST”…”Men just want to have sex, they don’t seem to want me!”.  At this point, I am openly weeping, let it be known that I am an ugly crier, no single tear gently coursing down unwrinkled cheek here.  No! I am the full works; swollen eyes, snot, and flushed snuffling frowning… hardly Friday-morning coffee shop material!

I meet my communal table-mate’s eye, and from I know not where, say,

I just can’t sit here and listen to this, you are worth so much more than you think! I know I don’t know you, but please hear me! You don’t want to get married! You want to be seen!  Marriage doesn’t necessarily mean being loved, but it can be the seal placed on a relationship of two who are fully seen and fully loved.

Our conversation was brief. We don’t know each other. We didn’t arrange to meet up again, but the encounter stayed with me. It raised more questions than it answered.  The stories of dates where within minutes, both parties have shuttered themselves up behind their own insecurities, the revelation that life is short following a cancer scare, the fear of being “left on the shelf”, while simultaneously seeing friends become increasingly trapped in controlling marriages, it was all too familiar.  In five minutes of vulnerability, we three strangers connected more deeply than many long-term boyfriends had, so afraid are women to show their true selves for fear of rejection.

I wish I could have had a day to love on these young women, to share how much they are undervaluing themselves, to chip away at the years of hiding and insecurities and let them glimpse the other side of the curtain of expectations that demand we follow the rules, that we be small, quiet and uncomplicated.  The Other Side, where women live large, loud, complex lives of abandon, where they follow their passions, serve their communities and the world is better because of them.

Dear Sisters,

I want for you, lives lived out loud, lives of consuming passion for your world and for people who SEE you, and love you in all your wild, broken complexity. I hope we meet again, but in the meantime, I hope you seek out voices that free you, that give you wings. Voices like Glennon, and the incomparable Brené Brown, wonderful, flawed, gracious women like Jen Hatmaker, and artists with the gift of honesty and self-compassion like Amena Brown and Nichole Nordeman. I hope we meet again and share our stories, to encourage one another to live boldly in a world that wants us small but needs us to be large.

Grace and Peace, 

Your Sister, Ally.