It is a a good day in the neighbourhood. I believe so although I have yet to set a foot out the front door. I look through my sheer curtains to a world bustling beyond me. There are trash cans waiting to be taken into backyards, sitting out on the curbside. Some of the trees have begun their wardrobe change into autumnal hues. There are mothers, and yes fathers too, walking their little ones to school up the street. Some are on their morning run; others sip their double tall soy lattes or green teas while holding on to inquisitive dogs on a leash.

These are the days. Days when I am reminded grace still surrounds me. Sure, I can’t walk out the door, but I can walk up to the window and still see a slice of this world. I can still hold my cup of coffee without dropping it. I can now paint to my heart’s desire all because I can hold a paintbrush again. Most of all, I am no longer afraid of the images I want to emote. Just as I am not longer a woman you can put into  a box.

The word ‘authenticity’ has been thrown around a lot lately. It is almost the bling word for the seeker, the road-less-travelled walker and the spiritual-gotta-let-the-world-know blogger. But, really. How many truly want to be authentic while allowing the other to do so too? Aunthenticity is messy as says Dr. Brene Brown. Are we willing and allowing ‘messy’? Are we ready to witness ‘messy’. I was not.

In the last twenty odd months, I’ve pendulumed between anger, angst, confusion, clarity, depression, hurt, joy, sorrow, solace, pain and hope. Yes, a lot of swinging to various points. The most difficult though was the act of putting on a mask of blankness and a supposed composed demeanor right after my father’s passing. I wanted to share my pain, my broken heart. Look, my friend. See, my heart is in pieces; will you not help me pick them up? Do you see how much the painful act of mourning the death of my Papa has converged into a mourning of the who I think I am supposed to be? The who I think I have lost? The who I want to bury? Will you not tell me I am still okay?

I want, nay, need you to know how heavy a burden it is when I feel I have let the man who always held my hand through all my childhood, and some adult, fears down. I let him down by being sick. Oh, cursed Addison’s Disease!! At the time of his burial, I was over-replacing my steroid dose at such a high level and for such a prolonged time that I could barely stand up to deliver Papa’s eulogy. I was also at the heighest weight I’ve ever been. So the whispers and rumors began and spread even as we lay him into the ground. It compounded the shame of not being able to bear a child after ten years of marriage. I am still unable to look at the photos of that day. I cannot because I do not recognise myself. I do not want to recognise myself. That. is. not. me. That is not the girl Papa was always proud of. That is not the girl who was always put together. I let him down.

O, so messy. Despite doctor’s warnings of making yet another flight back to Malaysia for fear of near fatality, I went anyway, with Brett firmly holding my hand. I thought I could handle the sorrow. I could handle the logistics, keep my chin up and keep things moving with the help of friends. Truth, in all it’s awesome glory, rendered me hapless as they shut and  sealed the coffin for the final time. Truth also exposed those willing to stand by me in harsh, ugly moments just as steadfastly as during the joyful, light-filled happy times. Authenticity.

The edge of despair became the cusp of self-identification. I did not know who I was because of what I perceived to be a failure on my part to look and behave the part. Countless moments of soul-searching later, I realise there is no ‘part’. This life is not a screenplay and I am no Natalie Portman. I need to acknowledge to myself who I am.

I am not what another person needs or perceives me to be. I am not their creation of the self I am meant to be. I am no superwoman; I am no poineer woman; I am no career woman; I am no mother woman. I am just ‘woman’.  A woman lovingly created by God in His image. Imago Dei. I am complex, creative, passionate, scared, loud, vulnerable, I cry the ugly cry; sometimes freaky, mostly geeky, and I love big. Authenticity.

As I approach my forty first year, I softly thread upon those stepping stones laid before me by my forerunners. I am learning I only need to keep my eyes wide open to the clues they have left me. These saints and sinners, mothers and daughters, loved feverishly and unapologetically. They embraced passion while living compassionately. I have discovered these clues in writings, in art, in scripture and in little nooks of great cathedrals. I have discovered them in the embrace of a friend. I have been torn open by ancient hymns and restored by the words in a rap song. The truth of that old Irish hymn rings true: ‘riches I need not, nor man’s empty praise”.

Heaven only knows I am no where near arrived; I am on my journey. I am also learning it is okay to keep my eyes wide shut every now and then, to revel in my imagination and dreams while I dance abandonly to the rhythm of love the Hound of Heaven has surrounded me with – in the forte of my husband’s unfailing love; in the persistent grace of a handful of true friends; in the laughter that heals the soul and in the simple power of a hand reached out when I stumble.

Happy trails, dear Gina!

“To choose joy over the fear and vulnerability of being different or weird or ridiculed is a tremendous act of courage – one that touches all of us.” ~ Dr. Brene Brown.

2 thoughts on “The perfect protest

  1. Donna Walters says:

    Gina, what an honest, brave, uplifting statement on your epiphany. No, not an epiphany. This wasn’t a burst of understanding of your existence, was it. It was, as you stated, a journey to understanding and finding peace with your place on the road travelled and your acceptance of the pace of the journey. I should say “is.” Right?! A journey. I have used that word so many times to describe my new relationship with my mother since the emergence of her dementia. A journey that began upon the death of my father seven years ago. Along the way, I have changed my view of my life and those around me. I have evolved into a more patient and less judgmental person. The evolution was not without pain and still, of course, contains set backs.

    But, enough about me. I want you to know that I appreciate what you have said and feel so blessed to have met you. You are a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed our few days together and reading your blog has given me great pleasure. It brought to mind the word “re-birth,” but again I know that isn’t the correct word, because where you are today is filled with all the experiences, pain and joy, and hopes and dreams of the future, not just waking up one day a new person. Keep “walking” on the path. You are one of a kind and your voice should be heard by many.

    Happy birthday. I’m so glad you are feeling better.

    1. ginabentley says:

      Thank you, Donna! Your words are kind and they encourage. Yes, it is more an acceptance of the pace of the journey and the detours and crossroads I find myself at.

      Did your Mum’s dementia only come about due to your father’s passing? I think although life is without death, each of us mourn differently and the experience of losing someone can affect us to become more human ourselves as we here continue to live.

      I too, am blessed to have gotten to know you. I still think of your beautiful face and quips with a smile. Thank you again, dear, for leaving me your thoughts on the post. Blessings always!

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