This is Why I Love Luke Skywalker!!

When most little girls (and all the older women) were falling in love with Han Solo, I was OBSESSED with Luke Skywalker.  I loved him, I chose to be him when playing “Star Wars” with my cousin Bess, and I was super excited to see him return in The Last Jedi.  And unlike the people who shouted their complaints about Luke’s mischaracterization in that film, I thought it was perfect and I loved him even more at the end of it all.  But I didn’t have the words to explain why.

Here are some words that someone else said in a video review of Return of the Jedi:  “Luke wins by being a stubborn idealistic twerp.  ‘Love will save the day, father!  Love…and friendship!'”

Actually, just watch the whole thing now.  It’s really well done.

Because YES, that is exactly the Luke that I fell in love with: a man defined by his compassion and faith.  It’s worth pointing out that Jill Bearup made that video in 2015 before either film in the newest trilogy had been released, which is why it’s so perfect that I find those words to be perfect descriptions of Luke’s emotional arc in The Last Jedi.

The Luke we meet is a grumpy hermit.  Why?  Because this extremely compassionate man experienced a moment of judgment because he lacked the faith that Ben Solo could resist the allure of the Dark Side.  So he almost killed his nephew, and the consequences of that almost-action were devastating.  Death, destruction, and the loss of his identity.

But in meeting Rey, in being reunited with R2 and Chewie, and in seeing his sister’s famous hologram that once summoned his noblest impulses so long ago, Luke regains his compassion and faith.  He chooses to stop Kylo Ren in a way that will not harm him in the faith that his friends will escape, survive, and win the fight without him.  Which is…exactly the same faith he showed in Return of the Jedi.

Luke has changed when we meet him in The Last Jedi, and like, yeah? But even though he is at his darkest when we reunite with him, he doesn’t stay there.  His emotional journey is one of recovering his truest self, of reclaiming his compassion and faith.  Oh Luke, you stubborn idealistic twerp.   I love you!!

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Try This Thing Podcast

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I was never content to run just one blog, so it should come as no surprise that having discovered the world of podcasting, I wanted to try one of my own (in addition to the fun show I do with Lindsay: She’s Married She’s Single).

Today I launched Try This Thing, a recommendation podcast in which I review some of my favorite books, movies, tv shows, and video games.  I will usually be choosing things that are outside of mainstream appeal, because we don’t really need one more podcast talking about Avengers.

…Although if I someday create an episode about Avengers, well.  I sold out, I don’t care!

Today I released TWO episodes about the things most likely to be on my mind at any given moment:  The Lymond Chronicles and Black Sails.  Next week I will release the first of a mini-series in which I will try to summarize the plot of Final Fantasy 7.  A diversity of interests!

You can subscribe to Try This Thing on Apple podcasts or else listen online at PodBean.

 

The Lymond Chronicles and The Fleeting Fame of Twitter

I spent the first couple months of 2018 reading through The Lymond Chronicles, a six-book series of historical novels written by Dorothy Dunnett in the 1960s.  I picked up the first one, A Game of Kings, because a podcast I follow had recommended it.  When the first 50 pages proved to be VERY Scottish slang heavy, I tweeted the podcaster and asked for encouragement to keep going.  That interaction evolved into me live-tweeting my Intense Emotions and becoming Twitter famous.

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Let me be very honest.  By “Twitter famous,” I mean I gained about 50 followers who do not know me in real life, and I had a regular group of 5-10 people who would interact with me about these books, including a couple people who I started to consider friends.  An unexpected highlight was when the author of Flora Segunda (one of my favorite books, check out this review I wrote in 2013) liked and retweeted me because apparently she also loves Francis Crawford of Lymond.

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…And then I finished the series.  And two or three people stuck around to like my real life thoughts, but mostly it ended.  I no longer woke up to 20 notifications.  My fifteen minutes of fame were over.  And I could SEE how it had become an addiction for me, the likes and retweets firing dopamine hits to my brain that I didn’t know how to do without.

So I worked through it, dealt with my return to obscurity, and am now doing just fine!

HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Just kidding.

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I bought Dorothy Dunnett’s eight-book House of Niccolo series because I feel so empty inside without regular validation from total strangers!!

The end, no personal growth, just the sad but relatable truth.

A Day in the Life

I decided not to post regularly about my time in Vancouver the way I did in Athens, because honestly, it began to feel like a burden as I succombed to my compulsion to impress people.  But I do want to share a little picture of what my life is like, so here’s a snapshot of my work experiences this past month!

I am the program manager of a recovery program for women with addictions who have been sexually exploited, which means that on paper, I’m responsible for making sure the facilitators deliver our classes effectively.  In actuality, every day is a new adventure.  I’m also co-house director of the second stage house, which means I share responsibility for the two women and one child currently in that house.  It is not a lot of responsibility until it is.  But nothing can really capture what a “typical” day looks like unless I give you a moment-by-moment breakdown.  Here’s a random day from a while ago:

I was woken up by my morning facilitator telling me she would be late to work.  When I got to the office, the woman who tested positive for opiates yesterday had solved the mystery by citing numerous examples of people testing positive for opiate use after eating a poppyseed bagel, which she had done.  I went in the bathroom with her to get a second urine test, which came back clean.  I wrote up an incident report, sent it to her social worker, and reiterated that so long as she kept testing clean this would be viewed as a bagel incident.

I led the AA devotionals by myself, then left the office with one participant to go downtown to Victim Services in the courthouse.  She filled out paperwork for a refund for medical expenses incurred when fleeing her pimp and confirmed the court date for her testifying against him.  We drove back to the office, and she made fun of me for not knowing a Justin Bieber song.  When I said I was behind on pop culture because I’d been in Greece for two years, she said the song was three years old.

Three people stopped me as I re-entered the office, and there was a note on my desk saying the women were out of coffee and “coffee whitener,” so I snagged the opportunity to drive to Safeway for a few minutes of peace and for a tea latte from the Starbucks in the grocery store.

Then two of my bosses pulled the participant with daughter problems (who skipped program yesterday without calling) into a meeting.  We all agreed that these temporary visits were more damaging than helpful, and that we would work toward her becoming healthy enough to bring her daughter into full-time care at a later date.  But that meant getting her daughter’s father involved, so we planned for a big meet up at a separate location on Thursday morning.  I was assigned babysitting duty at the house while that happens, thus wiping out my planned Thursday morning.

I went home and saw that my new housemate (who had said she was too sick to come in to program today) wasn’t there.  I texted, asking where she was, but by 10:00 she hadn’t come home or responded.  I conferred with my co-house director and my boss and texted her a final time to tell her we were setting the alarm and would see her tomorrow.  I went to bed worrying she had relapsed and wondering where she was.

It’s all very spontaneous and requires an enormous amount of emotional intuition, but I am loving the challenges.  It’s incredibly draining sometimes, but my housemates respect my need to spend most of every night in my room with my cat, so it hasn’t yet been overwhelming.  However, the effort is more than worth it when I have moments like a woman comes into my office to share an emotional breakthrough she had with a genuine smile covering her face.

I love the women.  They’re so smart and funny and hurt and earnest.  It is INCREDIBLY wonderful to speak the same language and develop relationships that go beyond body language.  I genuinely like them all and enjoy spending my days with them.  Their commitment and their honesty about their failures is incredibly refreshing to me, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to know them the way I do.

So for anyone wondering:  that’s my life!

 

#Confirmed: My Heart is Episcopalian

I wrote this in August 2017 and didn’t post it.  Today I went to an Anglican church in Vancouver, and I sat there with tears in my eyes nearly the whole time because I felt excited about God in a way I haven’t in years.  I feel too raw to talk about today’s experience, but I loved it for many of the same reasons I loved what I wrote below.

To any other progressive old souls wondering if there’s a place for you in a spiritual community, TAKE HEART.


For about a year now, I’ve wanted to attend an Episcopalian church.  A couple of my friends who have been on similar spiritual journeys as myself left Baptist for Episcopalian churches, and they spoke glowingly of the freedom to doubt and discuss.  I wanted to see for myself, but I was scared that reality wouldn’t live up to the vision I’d built in my head.  When I did a Google search of Episcopal churches in the area and went to the first website, the very first thing this church wanted me to see was this:

“We believe that God’s love is always expanding and calling us to love one another in new and deeper ways. The love of Christ welcomes us all to fully participate in the life and leadership of the Church, regardless of gender identity, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstances, family configuration, or difference of ability. Our community is made stronger by your unique presence.”

This was exactly the sort of openness that I was craving, but what if the website was a lie?  Finally, last Sunday, I drew up my courage and went on my own to a new church.

Y’all.  I found my people.

For starters, I’m apparently a medieval monk (no surprise), because the stone floors and wooden benches resonated with my soul.  There were only a few dozen (all elderly) people in the service I attended, singing rich hymns I didn’t know with warbling voices, and my soul ached with joy.  We said communal prayers and recited creeds, and the connection I felt toward Christians around the globe and throughout history was so comforting.  The leaders read Scripture passages from the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the New Testament, and then the reverend (a woman!) stood and TALKED ABOUT CHARLOTTESVILLE.  She spoke about the horror of seeing the continued racism of our nation.  She spoke about how, in every generation from Jesus to today, sin urges us to create hierarchies and divisions.  She preached a combination of Jesus and liberal politics and I WAS WITH MY PEOPLE.

I don’t know if I can explain how important this felt?  It reminded me of how I went to seminary as both a Christian and a feminist, nervously determined to see if at the end of three years I could make them fit together.  How, by the time I graduated, I had studied the topic so much that I could no longer remember how someone could be a Christian and NOT be a feminist, and I’d found a community that felt the same.

My beliefs have grown further away from my Baptist upbringing (three main differences that I see:  I believe in the ordination of women, I’m fine with drinking alcohol, and I support gay marriage), but I’ve always stayed in conservative Christian circles.  This only leads me to doubt whether I’m crazy to hold such seemingly disparate beliefs, even when my heart sings at their beauty.  And then I walked into a different building in the same city and…there were a bunch of people saying, “Uh, yeah, we believe those things too.  Where is the problem?”  I felt FREE.

But back to how an Episcopal service resonates so deeply with me.  The sermon isn’t the main point.  The high point of the service is when the leaders consecrate bread and wine, and then everyone fell to their knees at the altar and waited for the reverend to place bread in our hands, to help us drink from the communal glass of wine.  It was receiving Communion in such a childlike way that there was no possibility of believing I’d earned it.

The whole service was so rich and deep, like diving into the deep end of a pool.  Maybe that’s a little pretentious.  I don’t actually believe that there’s any inherent superiority to an Episcopalian or a Baptist service.  Some people worship through praise music and three point sermons, and some people worship through liturgy and repetition.  There’s nothing wrong with either, but wow does it feel good to be in a place that offers you your soul’s specific fast pass to God.

 

How Black Sails Equipped Me With the Empathy Necessary for My New Job

I am rewatching Black Sails with a coworker, and I’ve been thinking about the similarities between the show’s themes and my work with women recovering from sexual exploitation and addictions.

The overarching question of Black Sails is:  which is worse, piracy or civilization?  History has made pirates into monsters, but the show is determined to make us see that civilization deliberately painted them that way, because civilized people need someone to point to and say: at least I’m not like THEM.  To be fair, the pirates often do monstrous things.  But civilization did monstrous things as well, only they had the resources to cover them up or blame someone else.

I see a lot of similarities in how the world views women who are prostitutes and/or addicts.  It’s unfortunately common to insult or dismiss them, to call them names or use them as examples of The Bad (I’m looking at you, Proverbs).  Adding addiction to the mix just makes it easier to alienate people and make monsters out of them.  At least we’re not like that, we think.

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about fostering.  I had always thought the hardest part of fostering would be knowing the relationship was temporary.  My friend said that the hardest part was that often you were not just saying goodbye to a child, you were sending it back into a bad situation.  I agreed with her, and then on my first day at my new job, I saw the “bad situation” children are sent back to.

On that day, a woman in the program tested positive during our random drug screening.  We had to call in her social worker and determine what was to be done with her child.  The woman was devastated, angry at herself for letting her addiction get the better of her, furious that she had jeopardized her relationship with her child for the sake of a temporary high.  An extraordinary solution was found, and since then I’ve had a lot of one-on-one time with the mother and child.  The thing is, she’s a great mother 90% of the time.  She’s attentive and loving and protective.  And sometimes she gets high and is wholly incapable of caring for her child.  I’m not at all advocating that women with addictions should keep their children no matter what.  But the story became much more complicated.

Perhaps it sounds silly to equate pirates with addicts, but if you think that then I have to assume you haven’t seen Black Sails.  Stories matter, and when we make addicts into monsters, they internalize that role.  Both the pirates in a tv show and the women I work with on a daily basis have done some truly horrific and criminal things.  But that is not all that they are, and when those are the stories we tell, we erase the goodness in them and the potential for recovery.

So we have to ask ourselves: why do we tell these stories?  To hide our worst impulses?  To assure ourselves that even though we lost our temper with our kid, at least we didn’t do this?  To make our sexual decisions seem better because at least we didn’t do that?  To minimize our own selfishness and pettiness and vindictiveness?  The thing that Black Sails tells us over and over again is this:  civilization and pirates are not all that different.  We all have the same dark impulses when pushed into a desperate corner.  And if we haven’t yet been pushed into that desperate corner, the least we can do is thank God for our privilege and practice empathy for those that made a bad decision in a bad situation.

Society spins narratives to make sense of the world and our role within it.  As someone who has always fared well from those narratives, I haven’t had to question them.  But there are women and men who live behind the labels “prostitute” and “addict,” and if we don’t take the time to understand their reality and see them as whole people with stories and contexts and futures, we make them into monsters.  And isn’t that a monstrous thing to do?

She’s Married She’s Single Podcast

My friend Lindsay and I have launched She’s Married She’s Single, a podcast about lifelong friends with drastically different lives and perspectives!

I’m very excited to start this new creative project, both because it will give Lindsay and me a fun reason to regularly keep in touch (the last time I moved to a different country, we wrote letters to each other’s blogs in a project called Letters Between Friends) and because I hope it will create opportunities for married and single people to talk to each other about what they love about their life stage and what they wish they had.

Our first episode, Getting to Know Us, is available on Apple Podcasts.  Check it out today!

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Unless there is a huge announcement, I will not be plugging each new podcast episode on this blog.  However, there are several ways you can keep in touch with us!

Follow us on Twitter:  @SMSSPod
Follow us on Instagram:  @ShesMarriedShesSingle

This is a passion project for us, and we rely upon the generosity of our Patreon donors to fund a better sound for our listeners with professional audio equipment and programs.  A gift of any size is hugely appreciated, and rewards are available at each level of donation!

Finally, we hope to have regular Q&A episodes in which we answer questions about us personally or about marriage/singleness generally.  Email us at shesmarriedshessingle@gmail.com to send in your question!