Exposed & Exhausted Part 1
Ok so this might sound weird – but do you ever feel that your nerve endings are kind of raw? That the edges of your body are always tense? That your mind feels like it’s in a vice, and it’s always racing? Do you feel jittery, untethered, or unable to ‘ground’ yourself? Are you always rushing from one thing to the next, stressing about meal-prepping and getting enough exercise, and just trying to keep up? Do you struggle to get to sleep, have panic attacks, or find yourself binge shopping or binge eating to get relief? Perhaps you even feel like you wish you could just leave this life and go to heaven where you can rest and stop worrying about the future. These feelings are surprisingly common among today’s women. And I would suggest that these are symptoms of a common problem facing many women in the church today – stress and anxiety with no place to feel safe.
It’s pretty obvious that millennials push themselves way too far. Although we have more opportunities, more money, more technological support and in some cases less responsibilities than previous generations, there is no doubt that we are also under a crazy amount of stress. This is bad enough when you have a wonderful husband at home who is a shoulder to cry on, or who will at least pay some bills so you can sleep at night, but it’s absolutely terrible when you go home to an empty apartment or share-house, where no one really knows what’s going on for you – or even cares.
There’s a basic psychological construct called ‘containment’ that we all need. It’s basically the idea that when you are out of control, what you need is a safe space to ground yourself and to be able to regulate your emotions. (Or in layman’s terms, you need a hug.) When you see little kids throwing tantrums, or teenagers pushing the boundaries, what is needed is a strong person to hold them (physically and/or metaphorically) and to communicate to them ‘I am here. I’m not moving. You can push against me and I won’t fall down. You can express your emotion here and get it out of your system. You are safe here with me.’ Is there a person in your life who is this strong, safe space for you? We all need one. And technically, this person should be your dad.
Now I know this might sound archaic, patriarchal or anti-feminist. But the links are obvious, and research consistently shows the importance of stable parenting in a child’s life. Mums obviously have an incredibly vital role, but let’s just talk about dads for now. For a daughter, her dad initially represents all men. She sees him as a type of hero, a noble leader and a willing provider. He is her protector and her guide. Now when a woman leaves the ‘covering’ of her dad, for example she moves out of home and becomes independent, she is exposed to the world. She becomes ‘uncovered’. And this is when both her vulnerabilities and her powers become apparent to her. There is one simple reason for this: biology.
I’d have to write a thesis to explain how this all works, but let’s just cover some basics. Don’t hate me for saying this, but the truth is that a woman without the covering of a good man is highly vulnerable. She is completely unprotected from the various advances of random men, everywhere, anywhere, and all the time. She is physically weaker than men (about 50% less brute strength, on average), she is sexually desired and pursued by men, simply because she is a woman, and she is vulnerable to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. And yes, she is also more susceptible to the oppressive patriarchy, which does exist in some environments. She is exposed to the elements.
Back in the day, women who came out from under the covering of their father for whatever reason would usually then move straight under the covering of a chaperone. The chaperone was an older, wiser person who was responsible and obligated to the woman’s family to protect her from the dangers of the world (including her own foolishness). These days, we have dismissed the idea of a formal chaperone as old-fashioned, thinking ‘I can look after myself!’ (Can you, though?) And because women are getting married later and later, I’ve noticed that a dad will kind of opt out of the fatherly role as a woman moves into her mid-20’s. I mean, he’s not going to tell his 30 year old daughter that she can’t go to the movies with her male work colleague. So she is essentially alone. But she is exposed, and she can feel it.
Why do you think single women in the workplace form alliances with the most powerful men in the office? (Or at least the most powerful man whose loyalties they can win.) It’s so they have someone to stand up for them in the lunchroom banter, the staff meetings, and the competition for promotions. And have you ever noticed how the boss’s daughter at work, or the pastor’s daughter at church, seem to get special treatment all the time? It’s interesting that whenever you have an important male in your life, who is seen and known by the community, that you are given a little more dignity, respect and care. At least, this is what I experienced. And this used to really bug me. I thought, Why can’t I just be enough in my own right? Why can’t I be treated properly simply because I’m a human being? Why does being single mean I’m on my own? But no matter what changes in society, biology doesn’t change. A woman alone is uncovered and unsafe. Can you relate to this?