Monthly Archives: March 2017

84. Misogynist (Empathy, Lent 25)

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As a feminist, I believe that men and women are equal, and should have equal rights and equal opportunities. As a Christian, I believe that there is no male or female in Christ. I believe in these egalitarian values so strongly that I wrote a handbook on Christian feminism called Positive Sisterhood. But how do those I feel are dinosaurs come to think the way they do?

Boys and girls are separated all the time, even more so when I was growing up, and for good reasons. Myself and my sisters were taught different things about what to expect from life. For girls, it was all about domesticity and compliance. For me the sky was the limit. I was talked to about becoming a lawyer, a doctor, an MP, even an astronaut. There were no boundaries set around my potential or the life I might have. My younger sister was once denied a Meccano set, on the grounds that it was pointless for a girl, who could never become an engineer. In fact, we laughed quite a lot about that and never let her forget it. She is an aeronautics designer now but thankfully has given all that up to bring up her family. Father and mother were treated very differently by “the system” as well. Mother had to give up work when she got married. It was proper for her to bring up her children. Proper too, for my father to bring home the bacon. It is just how it is. If you change all that, you run the risk of the building blocks of society crumbling. Women are made for having babies. Men do the work. That’s how it’s always been.

Photo from Pixabay, text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

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83. Comfortable Christian (Empathy, Lent 24)

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Now this really is a toughie for me. I am an all or nothing person, and God is the reason I do anything, even breathe, and yet looking back over my life I can see that he had to woo me to this point. I did not arrive here easily. It is understandable that this richest of all relationships takes time to develop. It’s not that I struggle with, but rather, those who stall at a certain point, where they convince themselves (or are convinced by a comfortable Church) that Christianity is a coffee club – a lunching union, a convenient crèche, and that God is going to make their life easy. This is a mind set I’m not even sure I want to visit, but I feel I should, to try to understand.

Church is great. I sing songs and feel loved, and put my hands in the air like I see other people doing, and my heart feels warmed when I’ve been worshipping. The music is really good here and we’re free to release our giftings, speaking in tongues and waving banners and dancing. All the children run around and feel loved. For an hour and a half in my week no-one is scowling or making me feel like I don’t belong. My spouse and kids are all dressed up nice and behaving. God is good. I have all I need, friends and fellowship. I try to be good in the rest of my life, I tithe. It’s the least I can do to repay that love. I am given so much, food for thought, a family around me, a centre I can hold onto.

Photo from Pixabay, text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

82. Skydiver (Empathy, Lent 23)

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My idea of risk is to try getting out of the bath unaided, so extreme sports aren’t really something on my radar. Even if I were well, I am very emotionally attached to terra firma, so there simply isn’t enough money in the world to get me to get on an aeroplane and then launch myself from it. But I would like to understand the people this appeals to…

I always dream of being a bird, the swooping and diving, the control, the feel of air underneath wings, this catches at something deep in my soul. So to feel something akin to that fantasy by falling safely to earth from heaven, to be so high up that you are passing through cloud, seeing the ground for miles and miles, the air so clear and exhilarating, this is really out of this world. That’s it really, that it is a cosmic experience. It is not the thrill of the danger, though that also appeals, but the fact that I am feeling the way an eagle does when it hovers high above its prey, or like meteor fragments hurtling towards earth. It is indescribably amazing. I can’t understand anyone who doesn’t want to experience that!

Photo from Pixabay, text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

81. Soldier (Empathy, Lent 22)

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My ideas of what constitutes a good military are probably laughable to most people. I would defend others but am a pacifist at heart. Of course, that’s a lot easier to say in an untested situation. Writing a blog isn’t usually too dangerous (though you might be surprised!). My heroes are of the peace movement and non-violent protest, so soldiering isn’t something I think of much apart from in the sense of spiritual warfare. So today I want to think of it from a different side.

It’s not really about Queen and country for me, though I do think our values are worth protecting. It’s really about freedom. That might sound odd, but I believe democracy, the right to do what you want to with your life, and say what you want to, and indeed fight for what you believe in, are precious things. I consider it a self-sacrificial role in some ways, and in others, a pragmatic one, as it was a career cut out for my particular skillsets.

Defending the realm and the interests of stability both here and abroad, countering terrorism, these things are noble aims. I don’t pretend that I’m happy about everything I’ve ever done on a tour of duty. But I believe it all balances out for the good, and some things are worth paying a price for. No-one can ever say I didn’t stick my life where my mouth was.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

80. Earth Mother (Empathy, Lent 21)

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I have realised a painful thing about these posts. Whilst it’s true that I am trying to look at points of view that are difficult for me, with a few of them I think I might be choosing people I secretly want to take the rise out of. I think a little of that is coming out in the writing. Maybe that’s understandable up to a point, but real empathy wouldn’t do that. So, I need to watch myself. Interesting, isn’t it, that in compassion for others the person we need to be judging is our self?

We had Mother’s Day in the UK yesterday. It’s a tough day for lots of people, for a myriad of reasons. I won’t bore you with mine. But when I think about mothers, and what I don’t understand about some of them, it is that whole “my amazing experience of this is superior to anything you could possibly grasp” attitude. It’s fairly rare in that form, thank goodness, but I find it hard to stomach. So, here’s my (hopefully rise free) attempt to “borrow” that sight.

I feel like I’ve had this incredible experience that is right at the heart of the world’s meaning, and nobody talks about it. Giving birth was not just a physical thing for me, it felt like a spiritual release as well. It opened up something in my heart and mind and centre that I am struggling to quantify or articulate. It was so life-changing. So much joy and wonder and pain all at the same time. Like an epiphany. And it has made me different. And that’s why I talk about it so much. You know how some religious people go on and on about their conversion? It’s really like that. I can’t help myself. I feel like someone let me in on the deep secrets of the cosmos, and I try to tell people about it, and they mostly just roll their eyes. It would be so great if I could process this into language or art, and get others to understand. But all I get is, “Get over yourself,” or “You’re not the only woman who ever gave birth, you know!” As though I didn’t know that! Women’s wisdom and insight is so unappreciated, and this is a source of grief that dampens this incredible joy in my soul.

 

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

79. Loudmouth (Empathy, Lent 20)

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Due to energy issues, I speak even more quietly than I used to when I was younger, and have often had to resort to whispering. I even lost my voice for a whole six months during a bad stage of the illness. For me, people who shout everything, INCLUDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA WHERE THEY CONSTANTLY USE CAPITAL LETTERS as though everything they have to say is much too important for the lower case, are tough to understand. I will try, today, though….

IF I DON’T SHOUT NO-ONE WILL TAKE ANY NOTICE. THERE IS NO POINT WITTERING ON QUIETLY IN OUR HOUSE, YOU WILL BE IGNORED. A FEW CHOICE WORDS WILL DO VERY WELL, AND THE LOUDER YOU ARE, THE MORE LIKELY YOU WILL BE HEARD OVER THE DIN. I DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. I’M NOT LOUD,OTHER PEOPLE ARE QUIET. I STAND IN THE STREET AND TALK, I DON’T THINK ABOUT WHO CAN HEAR ME. I’VE GOT NOTHING TO HIDE. WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET. MAYBE I’M LONGING TO EXPRESS THOUGHTS THAT WON’T COME QUIETLY. MAYBE I NEED AS MUCH ATTENTION AS I CAN GET BECAUSE WHEN I WAS SMALL THERE WAS NONE TO BE HAD AND I DON’T WANT TO RISK BEING IGNORED ANY MORE. IF I CAN SAY IT FIRST AND LOUD ENOUGH, MAYBE I’M TOP DOG. MAYBE I’M THE LEADER NOW INSTEAD OF THE RUNT. MAYBE THIS WAY I CAN GET IT THROUGH TO PEOPLE THAT I MATTER.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

78. Telltale (Empathy, 19)

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Okay, I admit, as someone who was a goody-two-shoes at school I do have a little empathy already on this one. Being faultless at school was all about fear, I was terrified of being told off. But I don’t recall ever “dobbing” anyone in, as we called it then. Well, only myself. I was always saying everything was my fault. But what moves someone, particularly an adult, to be a “grass?”

Got to help the system work properly, and it can’t do that whilst people are continually breaking the rules. Cruel to be kind really. Plus why should I slog away and burn myself out trying to make ends meet as an honest, hardworking citizen, when other people are just lazing around and living on handouts? Course I’m going to let someone know. That’s what the authorities are for. It’s the same as saying about a dodgy bloke who lives in your road. You suspect he’s dealing drugs, you tell the police. It’s obvious, isn’t it? And if someone at work is fiddling, I’ll have a quiet word with the management. Can’t be doing with that. Rules are there for a reason, to keep us all safe, to keep the world bang to rights. I’ve lost friends of course, colleagues don’t talk to me much, my neighbours are polite, but cold. It’s a price worth paying, to keep the cogs of society turning as they should. I’m doing my bit.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

77. Scrounger (Empathy, Lent 18)

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As a long-term receiver of benefits, I am deeply grateful. In so many other countries in the world I would simply not have survived. It makes me sad when people judge the sick or the disabled, who so want to be useful, or the unemployed who are desperate for work, thinking that we are taking the easy road. It is anything but. There are people in our society who live ungraciously off the backs of others, and I want to try to understand how they justify that to themselves…..

I claim everything I’m entitled to, of course. Wouldn’t you? Everyone does it, after all. I have an extremely well paid job (actually several, if you count the directorships and the quorums), but the expenses and the second house allowance and even the family credit and so on are there to be used. If I don’t take the money someone else will. It would never be shared out with the poor, it’s too well protected for that, so I may as well take my share and keep my loved ones in the luxury to which they are now accustomed. You wouldn’t believe how much private schools cost these days! So much more than when I was at Eton. One must keep up appearances, that’s the name of the game. If I gave any of it up, or didn’t claim it, it would just sit there in the accounts making interest for someone else. One is charitable of course, but it is really the system that is at fault if any of it is unfair. And for those on the bottom rung, there are plenty of benefits. They can have what they are entitled to, and I will claim my rights too. That’s how it all stays afloat.

Photo (from the cover of The Magic City by E Nesbit) and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

76. Chancer (Empathy, Lent 17)

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Much like gamblers, people who chance their arms at things, tell wild fibs or exaggerate, are beyond my understanding. I am painfully trusting and naïve most of the time, and chancers, bounders and charmers find me an easy target. I AM learning, but I’m slow. But where does all that bravado come from?

The thing is, most of the world is a fabric of lies or hyperbole anyway. Nothing is really what it seems. So, adding a few twists here and there isn’t really going to hurt anyone. If it helps me get what I want, so much the better. If people believe I’m rich or clever, educated or confident, when I’m none of those things, they’ll treat me far better than if they knew the truth. Sometimes I even believe my own hokum, and the small, insignificant person at the centre disappears and I can really be free to live a fantasy of success. And often enough, that success comes. No-one is interested in you if you are depressed or needy or you aren’t already on the up. Chance your arm a bit and you’ll be surprised what falls in your lap. You don’t win them all, but you win enough. The truth is a very pliable thing, what’s the harm in moulding it a little?

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

75. Cold Fish (Empathy, Lent 16)

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This is a horrid thing to call someone, isn’t it? It’s not a phrase I use very often, but as a highly sensitive person who feels deep and complex emotions about pretty much everything, people who aren’t moved easily are really hard for me to understand or connect with. If I hadn’t been poor and ill after my degree, I might have gone on to academia, but looking back I am glad I didn’t. I have learnt to develop emotional freedom, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and passion does not often translate well to such fields. Today I’m wondering what it might be like to have let logic override wholeness.

If I got worked up about things, it would affect my results horribly and I’d be accused of letting my hormones get in the way. So, I keep all my feelings at bay and just look at the words as though I were looking at germs through a microscope. I was brought up at an emotional distance and it suited me just fine. Histrionics are an anathema to me. First sign of Mediterranean passion or a temper tantrum and you are in danger of losing the plot, and me.

It’s not that I don’t feel things, but it’s better to train yourself to hide what you feel, and to minimise it where possible. For instance, I love my kids hugely, you wouldn’t believe how much, but I know that to bring them up well, great demonstrative gestures are not a good example to set them. If you fling it all out there, people can hurt you. If you lay your heart before someone, sooner or later they will trample on it. Best to stay cool, calm, collected, and let everything else out in my tae kwon do. Control is everything. Focus is undistracted and sharp, like steel.

 

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017