Do you remember Shannon Faulkner? She was the woman who fought to be the first female cadet at the all-male bastion of southern military education, The Citadel. It's been a while--1995, to be exact--so I can't say that I blame you if the incident isn't right there at the edge of the memory pool ready for recollection. Shannon won a lawsuit filed against The Citadel for discrimination when they rejected her application for admission on the basis of her sex. She lasted a week once she was finally enrolled and attending classes, resigning voluntarily. She attributed her decision to extensive emotional and psychological abuse throughout the ordeal that led to illness and total exhaustion.
I remember this little piece of history because the timing of Shannon's very public effort to fight for her cause coincided with a more private battle going on in my own world. I wasn't trying to be the first at anything. What Shannon and I shared was a dedication of energy poured into something in which we believed (I was seeking ordination). In Shannon's case her energy tapped out. In my case, my energy was so singularly focused that there was nothing left for anything or anyone else in my world. Shannon was ridiculed for her departure from The Citadel, those eager to see her go (never having wanted
her there in the first place) citing her decision as evidence of why
she should never have been granted the privilege of attending. I never
saw it that way. I understood that when you are engaged daily in an effort that requires every ounce of energy you have, every moment of every day, eventually that energy will be depleted if it is not renewed. The attacks against Shannon were relentless and public. She had little support, and threats against her required the protection of U.S. Marshals while she was on campus, and security cameras were an attempt at preventing bodily harm. I don't blame her one bit for saying, "enough."
I wish I could say that the experience of energy maintenance was a memory on which to draw for ministerial purposes, or to remind myself that I came out on the other side of a difficult time, evidence of inner gumption and chutzpah. Instead the experience of channeling energy into maintaining an inner equilibrium while the chaos of my world threatens the very same is all too familiar. The gift of that time in 1995 taught me how to navigate this kind of season in life, and in subsequent years I have gotten better at that navigation. I know what things to dismiss and what things to take seriously. I covet the moments when the energy to do more than prepare a meal or do the laundry means that I have created memories or enjoyed something outside of myself. I have learned to hold on to a sense of competence, even if confidence lags.
Not long ago, during a cherished afternoon spent with a friend over coffee laced with conversation, I lamented the loss of my creative mojo. "I used to..." I mourned. Then she covered my hand with hers and assured me that I hadn't lost my creativity. Rather, the energy devoted to putting one foot in front of the other left none for anything else. The core of my being was intact, just obscured by the detritus of the daily grind.
She was right. Is right. And the good news is that there is evidence that my energy is being released from the stranglehold of survival-mode for other, more life-giving expression. Like searching out and deciding on patterns for mug rugs to make for a fellow RevGal. Like following through on Pampered Chef leads, resulting in four--count 'em, four!--shows scheduled for November (until a party I did last weekend, I hadn't had a show since February). Like putting on my extravert face to promote my massage business, and not being discouraged that my calendar isn't filling up with appointments. Like securing a twice-monthly massage gig with a dog!
It has taken a lot of energy to keep my head above the proverbial water over the last few years as the parameters of how my life was understood and defined shifted or disappeared. Now that I am in a groove that positions me to move forward with a new purpose, inner alignment is yielding outer results. I recognize the signs of transformation that I trusted to be at work, and my soul is sighing too deeply for words.
It's not just mojo, it's life, but the two are inextricably related. I'm not so naive as to think it will all be smooth sailing now that there is wind in my sails. After all, wind also churns the sea. But the shift is happening, and the momentum is forward. As Tom Ryan says, "Onward, by all means."
PS. By 2009, The Citadel had graduated 205 women from it ranks. No matter how far we've come, we've still got a long way to go.