"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."


~C.S. Lewis




Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On paradox: the feminine tomboy and the warrior princess

Paradox is amazing and frustrating. It seems to come from another place, one where rules don’t quite mean what you thought and new worlds lie just around the corner. When there is paradox, there is adventure. Adventure. It is funny that that would come up. That is the one place in my life where there is a paradox that intrigues and confuses and frustrates me: It is like I am two different people, yet one person, and yet, most people are just one. Or are they?

That doesn’t make sense. I don’t make sense.

As I was growing up, I found that I seemed to have two personalities. On one hand, I could truly relate to the quite feminine girls who loved flowery dresses and romantic movies and artistic hairstyles. That was me, certainly—I loved collecting music box carousels and having a purple room and even—sometimes—enjoyed shopping. But then, there was an entirely different place in my heart that was not happy unless I was crawling through fences or wearing torn jeans or climbing trees or getting filthy dirty or wielding a knife or stomping around in my mud boots.

I was—I am—like a feminine tomboy. What was that? What is that?

I truly believe that much of it, wonderfully, had to do with how I was raised. My parents let me flower in exactly the way the Lord planted me. My father, especially, showed me how wonderful it could be to live a life of adventure and even risk, opening to me a land to which girls don’t often go and revealing the amazing pure potential of the Lord’s world—a potential that was just waiting for me to discover it.

“If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space,” he would say. I loved that. I still do. It epitomizes this deep draw within me to find the edge, to keep on pushing aside the vines and peering through the trees and seeing where this windy Road goes. Because wouldn’t you wonder, if you never went down that Road, where it led?

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say.
"You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.
~J.R.R. Tolkien

In a sense, I have learned to enjoy being a paradox to myself. If I don’t quite understand myself, that makes me my very own adventure. Suddenly the whole world opens up to me. I can be entirely “airy fairy” (as my wonderful grandmother calls it) or just completely tomboy, and both of those people are me. I am free. Actually, it is amusing to surprise myself that way and even shock others. Some people need to be shocked.

But then I want to know—what is that? Really? Why me? Is anyone else like that? Usually I love it, but then sometimes my heart rebels. How do I fulfill both of these longings in my soul? Is it a good thing to move toward, what femininity should be—a balance between being a woman and being a warrior? Or is it… I don’t know. Something else.

It’s then that, for once, I become frustrated. I draw back, I want to commit 100% to whatever tomboyish adventure appeals to me, to be taught how to shoot and learn how to fight, but then, most girls don’t do that, so if I happen to find a like mind, generally it is a guy—but then I pull back and I’m alone in it again, for I’m afraid that it will be taken as flirting. It’s not. It’s not. I just want to live. Or, I want to give 100% but know  that with my limitations in who I am as a girl, I feel inadequate around the guys and do not want to just try to brazenly push my way in, and I draw back again. Or then that solidly relates to when at the most inopportune moments that feminine side clicks in and whatever tomboyish thing I was doing is abruptly short-circuited, leaving me a little dazed, like I had just experienced time travel.

Or, then, there is something I truly desire to do—say, travel. I want to travel and travel and travel until my money runs out and my legs give out and even then, I know could find a way to continue. I want to see the world and all of its history and beauty and I want to learn from believers in different countries and see what the Lord has revealed to people in other lands, and I want to live. But I can’t. I can’t. Not as a girl, I can’t. Because what is that—a young woman, alone, traipsing across the country, traveling to little out-of-the way secret places? It is a broken world, and that is not something I could do. But I want to! And I can’t. If I were not a girl, I could. There are so many things I could do, then.

Between what men can do and women can do is a gap that is closing every day. But there is a distance that will never quite close. And that is good, that is the way it should be, I love that, I would want it no other way.

But sometimes—very rarely—but it’s there—I wish I could jump the gap.