By Teresa Swartz Roberts
6. Copyright 2016
I am struggling with being a bitch in Bible study.
I do not use that word as profanity, a swear as my friends in Maine would say, or a cuss word as my friends in West Virginia would say. (I don’t know what my Georgia neighbors call it.) I’m using bitch because it’s the most descriptive word for what I’m trying to get across. Some women I admire embrace the word. A bitch is a strong woman, too much to handle, someone you don’t want to cross. She–assuming she’s a she–is unyielding, even stubborn and can be someone you avoid. The word commands a certain amount of respect, evidenced by the memes I see on my Facebook news feed.
The question is whether I can be a bitch while I’m trying to be a blessing.
I love a good debate, especially one with analysis and evidence. I love to hear other perspectives and argue issues. It’s not so much that I want to win; I enjoy engaging and am nearly as willing to have my opinion changed as to challenge yours. That said, maybe sometimes I do like to win. In my house growing up, every conversation had a winner. And I can definitely be a bitch in a contentious discussion without even meaning to. I don’t always understand why other people believe what they believe, and it shows on my face. How can you disagree with me when I am so clearly right?
So this brings me to Bible study. It’s actually called Ponderings with the Pastor because it sometimes deals with other aspects of my religion, which is Lutheran at this point. I have journeyed from American Baptist to United Church of Christ, more commonly known as UCC and, in my case, a Congregational church. Now my path has taken me to a loving Lutheran community, part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I started going to the study meetings when the group was studying Islam with the My Neighbor is Muslim series.
Now we’re studying Genesis by watching a series of discussions led by Bill Moyers. The participants are theologians and writers and artists who represent different viewpoints. The round tables were filmed 20 years ago, so there’s a bit of dated fashion and language, but Genesis is Genesis, so the discussions are still relevant. After we watch the discussion, we have our own discussion.
And the bitch comes out.
I tend to advocate for the underdog, and I have an inflated sense of justice. That’s why I was in so many fights when I was a kid, but my history of bully beat-downs is another story. As soon as I hear a disparaging sigh from someone behind me in response to a remark made by one of the speakers on the screen, that’s it: I have to defend the speaker. I don’t even have to agree with what was said, as ridiculous as that sounds.
Last week I came home with a mixture of self-satisfaction and regret for the points I had made–or scored–in the discussion after watching the DVD. I hoped that what I had said had helped people think more about ideas they had not considered, but I worried that I had basically been a bitch.
Is that my identity? I mean, I joined the class because I wanted to learn how I can be Christ-like in the face of a world divided by fear-fueled opinions about Muslims. I am a Christian. I need to practice my religion. I stayed because I wanted to continue learning. I love to learn. That is part of my identity. It’s an identity I am afraid of losing.
These essays are supposed to be about life through the lens of Parkinson’s. I can’t look at life any other way. To be honest, I am worried about dementia. I know it happens in only 20 to 40 percent of cases, and it’s less common in people like me who have early-onset Parkinson’s. But PD is a brain disease. There are cognitive effects. I can no longer multi-task, although researchers tell me there’s no such thing. It’s basically switching back and forth between tasks. So I’ll say I can’t switch gears so quickly now. I want to challenge myself by following complicated conversations, processing what I’m hearing, learning from it.
Another change that Parkinson’s has brought to my life is the conscious effort to be a blessing to the people around me. I want to spend time with people I care about, and I want them to want to spend time with me. I’ve seen a clip recently of Maya Angelou talking about being someone’s rainbow in the midst of life’s clouds. That’s what I want to be.
So I want to be a rainbow while showing myself that I can still chip away at what you say. I will criticize and stick to my guns and whack you on the head with my point of view. Now I have to figure out whether I can make your life better at the same time. Hmmm… One makes me happy. The other one makes you and me happy. Is that sustainable? Can I be a consistent blessing? I don’t know. It could be there is always a bitch at the end of the rainbow.