Red lipstick. So many shades to choose from. My aunt wore bright red lipstick and looked fabulous. There is something not only bold, but daring and captivating about one who rocks a good red. My mother wore a muted rose color—fair and insecure, until she stopped wearing lipstick all together.
Donning lipstick has a ritualistic, almost suspenseful air or attitude; anticipatory, as if something or someone is to follow. I grew up in the era of after school Leave it to Beaver episodes. I embraced, compared and mused over every move the Cleaver family made, as I ate Pringles dipped in cold milk, lying belly down in my tartan Catholic school skirt and white blouse. June was perfect. My mother was not perfect. The pearls, the dress, all overlaid with a ruffled apron free of flour and chocolate smears, and the lipstick. While the episodes were in black and white, I just knew her lips were painted red.
I have learned something about my not-so-perfect mother, with her muted pink lipstick. After a life of traversing through similar metaphorical caves and circuitous, often harrowing paths that she traveled, I realize my mother wore lipstick because she desperately wanted to appear like everyone else in the school's PTA, or on the ladies tennis team at the local club, desperately trying to be other than who was relentlessly screaming at her, nestled deep inside the shell of her body. Her authentic self, Divinely created, was not "normal" in the privileged world we grew up in. I hide behind lipstick as well, so desperately wanting to be "just right," accepted and loved. I am convinced we all have our own colors we hide behind.
I understand this journey I am on is one of privilege. Lets call that out right away! I grew up in a middle class world in a country where white is both assumed and privileged. But a white, middle class Catholic female also has serious gender roles to adhere to and expectations to maintain. The ramifications of appearing as something other can be quite serious; I would say more painful than the punishments we are told come with sin.
I get to travel to Kenya on the last leg of my 3 1/2 year journey through the rigors of Divinity school to train as a chaplain in various medical settings. Not many get this opportunity, and I am incredibly grateful. Over then next 2 1/2 months, I will experience and work in a culture unknown to me. But all of this is just a ruse; and excuse to travel to a place that no-one knows me. I am escaping. I am on a quest to find "me."
I am a women in her 50's. I have three beautiful and thriving adult children. I have 2 marriages that did not work out so well. I have a father who has died after years of caring for him, a mother who is mentally unwell, and siblings that stick to the same dysfunctional narrative that has kept us apart. limited, and defined for years. I have beautiful and supportive friends who stand by me even when they do not understand me. I was crazy enough to start graduate school because I wanted to understand what/who God is relative to our humanness, and what it all means. And trust me, I am not the only one who does not get me most of the time!
My purple bag is packed. I carry not only clothes, but stories about myself and my life—labels I have placed on myself and labels others have freely placed on me. Unfortunately, the voices that incessantly criticize me, shame me, and remind me daily of my unworthiness jumped in the bag as well, unwelcome in their tenacity. And yes, I carry my red lipstick. It's my security for when I want others to see me differently than I am, see me as "normal," may be even glamorous! Old patterns are hard to break.
The poignant words of poet John Donne echoes for us all, "no man is an island" therefore, I ask you to travel with me—move into a world bigger than ourselves and examine the beauty and the ugliness as it appears. Can we all step out of our comfort zones and question who we are and why we are? I am sure my physical journey will offer many avenues to explore mentally and spiritually. My goal is to write honestly and openly as I unpack my suitcase.
I will arrive at my destination January 13th. I appreciate your company