Still With the Staying...
Several weeks ago, a spiritual director friend asked me, “So what is with the staying?” I have appreciated the question, in multiple situations in which it seems to be resonant. For a wide variety of reasons–sacred, stubborn, pragmatic–I have shown capacity (surprising even myself) to stay within relationships/communities in which I experience some ultimate value and in which I have serious questions: seminary, church, marriage*, now even a CrossFit gym. “What is with the staying?”
This question has caught me recently because I consider myself a progressive, on many fronts, yet I may no longer qualify as a progressive in my actions, perceived by other progressives (whom I love, respect, etc.) i.e. my refusals to leave…said institution, said relationship…on principle? For sake of integrity? Or to be honest? Or to be…(name your adjective)...as viewed by “progressives” today.
A most recent example that has been percolating within me (with as many details omitted/obscured, as to protect those involved):
I have relatively recently joined a new community of practice in which I’m not an easy fit with the overarching culture. I value what I’m learning there and I often still don’t feel a fit. So I remain a less constant but persistent member of another community of practice, whose culture and way of practicing is more me: less competitive, more nourishing, different kind of disciplined, more holistic help in life.
I then found myself in a supportive role with a beloved friend, while learning about an all-too-familiar, enraging dynamic in the newer community. My friend (also progressive) had an immediate recourse to show her outrage. I sat with my own outrage, considering my options. I’m a writer, so I opened an email-frame to see if any writing would flow to mirror, teach, relate directly to a focal point-person in the dynamic. That is often a discernment for me–if it flows, gently, I feel more inclined to participate, get involved with “whatever;” if it doesn’t, then I don’t get involved. It flowed. I pushed ‘send.’ Which spurred an actual conversation with someone willing to listen, to learn. So I stay...
Does it necessarily lack integrity to stay? I have been asking. Is the action to depart the act of integrity? Which one could be cowardice, acquiescence to power-dynamics I abhor? Do I stay to be a pain-in-the-ass for what/who I believe in, so to encourage greater consciousness? Do I shake the sand off my feet, relieved at being-right and no longer having to remotely consider any other challenge/gift this conflict could be?
I’m coming to the conclusion that my capacity to stay is a gift, when resources in me are sufficient to do consciousness-raising work for women in the world. If I left every sometimes-toxic-masculine community that wounded women, I’d have nowhere to speak to the dynamic, to mirror and wonder with all who will listen and learn. Nothing would change.
So that’s what’s with the staying, for now. If progressives can’t see the value of learning with those who will listen with all of us, then maybe I want to invite progressives to stay in it all, with me.
*And just to be clear for readers close-in (Brian), the questions re: marriage were in the heat of my own feminine awakening, healing, and ultimately have led to being happier than I have known I/we could be, married… LOVE the questions...(Rilke)