The difficulty does not arise so much from the mere fact that good and evil are mingled in roughly equal proportions; it arises from the fact that men always differ about what parts are good and what are evil…The error arises from the difficulty of detecting what is really the good part and what is really the bad part of any given religion.
G. K. Chesterton ~ Heretics
One of the greatest miracles I witnessed at the commune was the birth of Greg and Sunni’s second child – a boy. Other babies were born there, but his birth was the first I was allowed to attend. It was amazing. Being pregnant was all the rage among the married ladies, and I myself joined their ranks four months after I was married. Unfortunately, I miscarried in the second month. Face and I were sad at the life that could have been, but we were not devastated. We were young and sexually active, so it was not a surprise when I became pregnant again about five months later. This time there was no miscarriage; instead there was hell.
I was sick morning, noon, and night. The only respite was during sleep. I ate very little, and the little I did eat did not remain in my stomach for very long. My weight quickly dropped to 108 pounds, which at 5’ 6” was way too thin. The lack of food made me weak and unable to perform my household chores. This, I discovered, was heresy, and like any heretic, I was burned at the stake.
The Patriarch told Face that I was using my condition to manipulate him and rule over him. He suggested that Face cast me aside as a “perverse and rebellious woman.” This really fried Face’s toast, and he stuck with me. This in turn really fried the Patriarch’s toast. It was the beginning of the end of their relationship.
I was getting hassled by the women. They would take turns coming to get me for work, look at me lying in misery on the floor, and turn away with a sigh. This continued for a week or so; then one day, they sent a deputation of two of the sisters to talk to me.
Sister Tara: You have a Pregnancy Spirit. You do not have to be sick. You are giving place to a Pregnancy Spirit.
Sister Martha: The women have been discussing your situation, and God spoke to us. You need to have more faith. The Bible says, “By His stripes we are healed.”
Me: It sounds like you’ve been talking about me behind my back. How Christ-like is that?
Sister Tara: We will be praying for you. (Sigh)
Sister Martha: (Sigh)
I remained in this condition for the next few months. In June, Face’s sister got married and invited us to the wedding. I was in no mood to go, but I went anyway to please Face and his family. The entire occasion was a blur to me, except for two things. The first was the food. It was a stupendous feast – I had never before seen that much food. Unfortunately, I could not eat a bite of it. My stomach was too queasy to even smell it. I tried to avoid looking at it and instead concentrated on not embarrassing myself by vomiting. The best thing about the food was that Face’s sister and her new husband donated the leftovers to the commune where it was greatly appreciated. (Note: As I got to know them better, I learned that generosity was second nature to them.)
The second thing that I remember is there was another pregnant woman at the reception. The reason I knew she was pregnant was not her belly, which was flat; it was because I overheard her tell Face’s sister that she was and that she “was really feeling it.” What? What did she mean she was feeling it? What was she feeling? She ate and laughed and walked around socializing like everyone else. I hated her! I wanted to be her.
My world during this time was governed by guilt and fear. I felt guilty that I was so sick. I felt guilty for not doing my share of the household chores. I felt guilty that I was not handling the pregnancy as well as the other women. I felt fear that something was wrong with the fetus. I felt fear that something was wrong with me. I felt fear that I was defective, unable to bear children. The thing is, the guilt and the fear I felt were feelings. I was not actually guilty of anything. I had done nothing wrong. There was no logical reason for me to feel guilty. And for the fear…it was not logical for me to feel fear because I was not afraid. Once I owned who I really was, I was okay. I was still sick morning, noon, and night, but I knew I would make it out alive. I climbed down from the pyre.
Everyone has a story to tell, a running narrative they tell themselves in order to make sense of the world. Whether or not it’s true, my story is that I am a joyful soul, even when I am miserable. What I learned while I was pregnant is that it is sometimes difficult to crochet during the apocalypse. There are times when the editors try to rewrite your story. The commune had its own group of editors that tried to revise my story to fit their narrative of the way the world should be. What should be is pregnant women do their work. Any woman who does otherwise has a pregnancy spirit, or is rebellious and not submissive, or is trying to dominate and control her husband. It can be a challenge to say no to the editors and remain true to your story, but it can be done. That is what I did; that is what Face did. And we were okay.
Sister Martha later came to me with an apology. It seems that my words convicted her; she and the other women had been gossiping about me uncharitably. She asked my forgiveness, which of course I gave her, and we became better friends. I was very glad I did not rail on her or get in her face at the time. That would not have been cool.
My mom taught me to always be a lady and be gracious to people, even when they insult you. When I was in the fifth grade, I made the social error of playing with the fourth grade girls. This so torqued off one of the fifth grade girls, she formed an “I Hate Sharon” club, which the other fifth grade girls joined – I heard she even collected dues. At recess, they would watch me play kickball with the fourth graders, and would jeer and yell at all my mistakes. I told my mom about it and she reminded me to be a lady – respectful and polite. She told me the other girls would eventually see that what they were doing was wrong. It bugged me, but I took my mom’s advice and did not return their insults. After about a week the club disbanded, and one of the girls told me she was sorry she ever joined. I was really impressed with Mom’s wisdom. Way to go, Mom!
To this day, I cannot bring myself to scream, yell, or shout insults at those with whom I disagree. It’s just not ladylike. I cringe when I see people on the news with their mouths hanging open in protest. In my opinion, Edvard Munch is only one who did anything productive with a scream.
The thing is everyone tells a different story about what is good and what is bad in the world. When someone’s version pronounces you guilty, you don’t have to believe it.
Note to self: It really helps to actually know what your own story is.