What Are We Putting Down?

Last week I wrote to you about “The Importance of Not This.” In it, I shared the unearthing of our way of life that the pandemic brought, at least to my friend group and I. After reading this piece you might be asking yourself, “what are they putting down?” “What is it in fact that they are saying they don’t want? I could keep this blog short and sweet and tell you the answer is everything. I would feel fully satisfied with this answer because my integrity says, “yep, that feels right.” However, if you are a mama, papa, or singleton who is still pushing your humanity down like my friends and I on the walks with our strollers I thought, perhaps, you might want a few examples.

Putting Down Toxic Familiar Structures

On a very broad scale what my friends, family, and I are putting down, among the greats like Glennon Doyle, are our gender roles and what society wants for us. Prior to the pandemic, the majority of us were subconsciously following the script both our extended family and society wanted for us. My script looked a little like this, “good girls get good grades, they do not party, they are obedient without question, maintain their purity for their husband, and will find a good man to lead their family as God leads us.” I shit you not, this was the script.

During my childhood, a battle raged between, “this does not make any sense, hard no for me,” and “I want to fit in and belong in my extended family.” As I got older I found out that my girlfriends were all fed their own similar script, give or take the virgin bride. I also found the men, though I admittedly have few close male friends, were given the script of, “be a provider, have no feelings, and man up.” Quite unfortunately, I have memories of my extended family ridiculing my father because he was not assuming his dominant roost in our home. When I filed for divorce one uncle literally wanted to schedule an exorcism for my dad because he was siding with his daughter. A demon must have been talking to him if a woman was being believed; in 2020…

In my own life, my divorce and the pandemic created a drastic unearthing that was necessary for my survival. I do not wish my experience on anyone and yet I am grateful to daily be putting down what and who does not honor my humanity. Unfortunately, I have a few very close friends who were also putting down toxic family roles and some who were also leaving intergenerational trauma. The unfortunate part is that they and their family lived through generations of trauma and the incredible part is my friends (and I) are breaking the cycle of trauma in our own families. We’re putting down abusive behavior that spanned generations and saying loudly, clearly, and firmly, “this is not the way.” A few weeks ago I took a five-mile hike with one of my brave friends. Hot teas in hand we walked against the earth with pride and love for each other.

Shedding Norms, Feeding Our Souls

In many other of my friend’s homes their experiences were not as extreme and yet they were no less true or hard. Several of my friends realized that in their marriage, somewhere along the way, it became a team of the kids and mom versus dad. Dad existed as his own, breadwinning entity, and they were living separate lives. That separation stripped my beautiful friends and their husbands of emotional intimacy among other things. These friends bravely said, “no, not anymore, I’m not running this house or raising these children by myself.” They put down the role of the wife as a selfless caregiver and the man as the heroic provider. Instead, they chose day by day to rebuild connections in their homes instead of filling the roles that were robbing them of intimacy.

Another friend realized after years as a stay-at-home mom her heart wanted to build a business and build one she did. She’s still in her early years of building it and when I walk into her winery my heart beams with pride over what her mind created and body built for herself. I’m sure, as a business owner myself, the first years of running the business brought challenges of their own. But she’s putting down the narrative that she can’t have financial freedom as a woman and she is building it for herself one wine pour at a time.

Individually each of our experiences is different and yet collectively we are all saying the same thing. I will not conform to the roles assigned to me above connection with my own soul. I will stop any gendered role, male or female if it is not serving my highest good. If something looks, smells, or acts like a cage it is most definitely in fact a cage. If connection and humanity are stripped away from us individually or collectively this is a sign that the role we are filling must go. Or perhaps, the systems supporting these oppressive roles must go. That is a story for another time.

Day by day, choice by choice, we are all asking ourselves, “Am I filling a role, or am I filling my soul?” If the answer is a role, we’re putting it down. Perhaps today you’ll join us and start shedding what no longer serves you.

Jessie Cooper

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