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Restored Femininity

Updated: Feb 14, 2019


I see you, sixth grade Bekah.


For many years, the pre-teen version of me haunted the deepest places of my heart. She was desperate to be seen, to be heard. And I shoved her in the trunk of my car hoping to stifle her cries.


You see, in fourth grade, my perception of myself shattered. A mean kid + a rumor + a few other not-quite-as-mean-but-still-complicit kids and BAM!

Enter: A 10 year old with body image issues and fragile self worth.


Resiliency is a learned skill. Yeah, kids need to learn to cope with hurtful situations. Absolutely! Ideally that happens in the context of a loving home environment with support and attention. You venture out into the world, take risks, succeed a few times, and fall most of the others. Then you come home and are safe. Spread your wings by day, return to the nest for safety and rest by night.


For whatever reason, be it fear from an abusive encounter as a young child or simply an oldest daughter “I can and should handle my problems by myself” outlook on life, I did not respond to the pain at school with an openness at home. I told no one about it. What could have been a lesson in resiliency instead became a pivotal moment of learning to take situation and direct it inward, cover it with shame, and use it to affirm core {destructive} beliefs about my dignity.


This grew in to addiction to rejection. If I simply expected rejection, no one could hurt me. I learned to numb uncomfortable feelings.

By 24, I had mastered finding my worth in accomplishments. Regent scholar, Vice President of a sorority, Employee of the Year. I could do all the things, and I‘d wear a kickass pair of stilettos in the process.


Note: Femininity is not girliness. The glittery stilettos of my 20s gave me killer calves and decades of bunions. But not femininity.


By 30, I’d managed to become a competent pediatric nurse, and I was married with three beautiful boys. Wife and mom! That’s the finish line for Catholic femininity, right?! {Just to be clear, that statement is seething with sarcasm}


Maternity is a piece of femininity, and it was not coming naturally to me with my newborn baby. Months passed, then years. I waited, and the maternal instincts, those loving feelings, never came. l knew what mothers were supposed to do, and I acted accordingly. The lack of movement in my heart, though, was devastating.

This was the first time the broken state of my feminine identity became clear to me.

As I moved through years of therapy, spiritual direction, obsessive reading and podcast listening during nap times, I discovered the depth of my wounds. Additionally, I was confronted with an alarming truth: 6th grade Bekah was not locked in the trunk. For many years, she’d actually been driving the car. 😱 I‘d spent decades living out of woundedness, shame, and fear. Addicted to control and rejection. Since I was hell bent on shoving my wounded inner child in to the trunk, I couldn’t see this reality: brokenness was controlling most of my life.


I‘ve made peace with 6th grade Bekah.

She isn’t driving the car anymore. She’s allowed to be there but is safely buckled in the backseat. Adult Bekah gets to call the shots. Most of the time. The backseat driver still tries to give input in stressful moments, but overall we’ve figured out a safe place for her to chill.

This quintessential 1999 Tigger picture frame ornament was found by my children, who triumphantly marched it across the living room and placed it front and center on our tree in December. I promptly removed the ornament and made a beeline for the trash. My mom stopped me. And given her {somewhat justified} fear that I will throw away items she deems important during my monthly minimalist purges, I had to prove I could respect her anti-Marie-Kondo stance on this sentimental keepsake.


A few weeks passed, and I was putting away laundry when I noticed the small frame next to my St. Agnes picture. Agnes of Rome. The patron saint of little girls. Next to St. Catherine of Siena’s quote: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” That little girl is part of me. God will use her story because it is my story. She is seen, she is heard, and I am at peace with her.


Femininity is our unique womanhood individually displayed. I had to get all the other garbage out of the way so I could know myself first. It’s a process, and sometimes it’s pretty flippin’ intense. Trauma therapy, “regular“ therapy, meditation, possibly medication, self care, prayer, spiritual direction, etc.


The restoration, though, can be spectacular. I recently {ahem, this morning. Thanks, Fr. Mike podcast} learned about kintsugi: the art of precious scars.


Think of a beautiful ceramic bowl. Passed down in your family for generations. Very expensive— very valuable— very fragile. And it is dropped. Probably by a defiant 3 year old. #momlife


Broken.


Sure, if the pieces are big enough, you can glue them back together. The piece may function, but it’s not as nice as the original. The repaired piece definitely doesn’t have the same worth as the original.


At times, this is how I’ve viewed my own mended femininity. Yeah, I picked up the pieces and super glued them back together. An “I suppose it’ll have to work because it’s all I’ve got“ attitude. If the original was 100%, I can hope to salvage 80%, and I should just be thankful it’s no longer in pieces scattered across the floor.

Kintsugi takes another step. The cracks are filled with gold. The item that seemed to be worthless with its cracks may now be worth more than the original because of the gold veins. And the beauty! Kintsugi is stunning.


Bad news: Life happens. Things break. Sometimes those things are sacred such as self worth, femininity, or a trusted relationship.


Good news: God heals. He restores. There are many tools in the toolbox of restoration. All aspects of health {physical, emotional, spiritual, relational} with their varying professionals and interventions can be ways He brings the pieces together. And it‘s His grace and divine goodness that fills in the cracks.


Just as Kintsugi is in a broken piece of ceramic, God’s grace in a restored femininity is magnificent.


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