September 20, 2011

Contributed by guest writer, Natasha

Stress: it's a killer.   It causes heart disease, diabetes, addiction, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, auto-immune disorders, mental illness, ulcers and countless other conditions of both mind and body. It has become epidemic in our modern day life.  Yet, curiously, it has also become synonymous with modern life in the guise of achievement.  How often do we converse with someone who declares they are ‘stressed out’ with no little pride?  To be a ‘multitasker’ is to be a goddess.  The more we pile on, the more obligations and commitments we have, the higher up the ladder we climb - be it the ladder of success or the ladder of esteem. 
Stress is so common a condition that doctors rarely if ever quiz their patients about lifestyle stressors unless or until their patients develop life threatening conditions.  Layer by layer, traffic jam by traffic jam, mobile device by mobile device, stress has become our constant companion.  Its threat to us and our health has been reduced in our psyche to little if any consequence.  We are the proverbial frog being slowly stewed to death.  Stress is everywhere, but we refuse to acknowledge it for we know not how to deal with it. 

Give me an example, you say?  Very well: consider if you will our great grandmothers.  They, most of them, did not have the modern luxury of automated washing machines.  They did their laundry the arduous and time consuming way of boiling them and scrubbing them with brushes and beating them and wringing them - a back breaking enterprise.  Most of them, however, also did this communally.  Monday was washing day and most women shared the labour.  And if they did not, Monday was washing day, period.  She wasn't expected to do her washing, attend six meetings, rush her children to _______ practice, answer a thousand phone calls, return emails, all while being perfectly coiffed, toned, and emotionally and intellectually enlightened.  She didn't experience noise pollution, light pollution or live in a home that was toxic with electronic smog.  Her food came from her local farmer; her neighbours knew who she was; she wasn't crippled with anxiety whilst attempting to choose the perfect toothpaste as her choice was simply Brand A or Brand B; her bread wasn't going to kill her since she made it fresh that morning; she wasn't likely to develop diabetes because white sugar was a luxury, not a staple, and she worked hard during her day, actually requiring the energy from the food she ate. 
She knew what her role was in society.  She knew what was expected of her.  She knew from an early age what her life would look like when she was grown. She expected trials, struggle and a certain amount of suffering.  She accepted duty as an honour and as her due, and she asked for very little in return.  Pleasures were simple and were precious.  Gratitude was practiced daily as scarcity was frequent and the tenuous hold on life understood.  Her life was an act of service and she didn't look for more than was her lot.  To be married to a man who was kind and a good provider was seen as a blessing indeed.  To have children who grew up strong and healthy with good Christian morals, ready and willing to take their place in society was seen as success in parenting.  Parents were parents, not psychotherapists, not playmates and certainly not best friends to their children.  A belief in God was accepted as the norm.  There was a purpose to life and all its struggles.  Her personal life was just that: personal, not an open book for all to rootle through.  Modesty and decorum were esteemed traits in her day.  Life had more real stresses than our own: illness was frightening, death was a breath away, there were fewer social safety nets when disaster struck.  But stress came in bits and pieces; it was not a constant part of her daily life. 

In comparison, her great-granddaughter’s life is fully automated and almost completely isolated.  How she runs her household will barely resemble how any other woman runs hers.   (Liberated mothers didn’t consider home economics important, hence the proliferation of household manuals and ‘how to’ books.)  What woman getting married today has much idea at all about what is expected of her after the wedding?  What man, for that matter, has any idea what he will wake up to that first wedded morning? 

I had strong ideals about being a stay at home wife when I was first engaged and married, yet I couldn't get a straight answer out of my intended as to his desires on that front.  He was not going to make the mistake of trying to tell a modern woman whether he wanted a woman who would stay home or a woman who would go out to work.  On the surface, that may seem very enlightened of him. In reality, it was mostly a stress reaction.  The subject and what underlined it was too big to tackle and so it was avoided instead.  He was content to simply deal with what befell him, which left me confused and anxious.  If I chose to stay home, as I truly desired to do, would he secretly be wanting me to go out and earn an additional income as most other families were doing?  It was an issue that plagued us for many years.  I didn't feel fully supported and he felt threatened and damned if he did and damned if he didn't.  Whenever money problems presented themselves or the realization that a certain material thing was out of our reach due to lack of a second income, the hint of a suggestion was made that perhaps I could take on just a little work on the side?  This left me feeling inadequate, confused, anxious, and angry.  What was my role?  What was expected of me?  I was a conundrum wherever I went. As a modern woman I was expected to be out working, even if this work was merely slogging away at the grocery store for little pay and no personal satisfaction, simply to bring home a pay cheque. 
To this I was also expected to be raising children, maintaining a household and volunteering my time on any and every committee going.  Surely my home would be immaculate, my meals culinary perfections, my children perfect in manner and deed, my kitchen stocked with freshly baked cookies.  I had, after all, so much time to spare! I was trapped between a rock and a hard place and was quickly forgetting to breathe.  Add to all this the fact that I was a Christian stay at home mother and suddenly the spectre of home-schooling loomed before me, for surely, as a Woman of God, I would not subject my children to the evils of the school system.  My children were supposed to grow up pure and unspoilt in any way, ready to enter the world as serene and shocking holy saints armed to save the world single handed.  Well, no pressure there!  Never mind that the mere thought of taking on this tremendous task was enough to make me feel physically ill. Never mind the ongoing stress of the lack of job stability that has become the norm in our society, or the physical and mental stress placed on my husband by the inhumane expectations placed on him in his job.

All of this we learned to navigate on our own.  We realized that the mission of the modern man is to define himself.  Once upon a time, a man knew who he was at birth. His faith in God was handed down to him by his parents and family, by the community around him.  Not so in today’s world.  One’s beliefs are open ended.  We are given the luxury of figuring out for our self whether or not there is a purpose to this life, if any Being at all is in charge.  Our life can take any path it chooses.  How daunting is that?  If people regularly feel stress standing in the grocery aisles over which tomato sauce to purchase, what stress is there in having little direction, if any, for one’s very life?  Believe what you want.  Be whatever you want.  Live however you want.  Every man for himself.  No one is allowed to pass judgement on any other.  Everyone is expected to reach for the stars, to fulfill every dream, to feel no emotional or physical pain, and to be enlightened. 

The entire world is at our feet, and with its possibilities and riches come its poor, its sick, its suffering.  We know everything instantly, “Millions dying in _____ today.”  What can we do about it?  This dichotomy of knowledge and actual ability is debilitating.  Life in the modern world is, in a nutshell, overwhelming.  There are too many ideals, too many philosophies and little practicality, few boundaries.  Nothing is defined, nothing is certain, everything is possible, all is knowable. 
It was the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that made Adam and Eve unfit for paradise.  If all things are like a seed, beginning small but containing the whole of the universe within them, then I think that our modern life is reaching towards the fullness of the seed of this Fruit.  Our knowledge is too great for our capacities.  We are plundering the depths of the secrets of the universe, of the human being, but we do so at our great peril because we do so without limitations, without a guiding hand.  We have laid ourselves out bare upon the rock and we will shrivel up and die in the full force of the light.  We have lost our restraint.  We have become gluttonous on every level.  We consume endlessly, but we are old wine skins.  We are, as a society, like a gut that no longer functions properly.  We cannot extract life giving nutrients from what we consume and so we are constantly starving.  We are barren.  We are lost. 
In our pursuit of enlightenment and advancement (things not in and of themselves evil) we have jettisoned God and so we have lost our ability to properly digest that which we take into ourselves.  In trying to free ourselves of ignorance and limitation, we ran straight into the binds of slavery because we did not remember to humble ourselves before God first and foremost.  We forgot the lessons learned from our ancestors who attempted to build a tower that would take them to the Heavens.  When we try to outstrip God's revelation, when we attempt to use knowledge for our own selfish gains, we suffer cruelly.  Our society rejected God and His laws and slowly we slipped into chaos.  That which we thought was burdensome (societal roles, rules, expectations, norms, etc.) was actually wisdom.  Knowing who we are, what is expected of us, where our boundaries are, is not an evil that necessarily limits our possibilities.  They are safety nets that keep us sane and whole.
 This series will continue in part two.


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What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!


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