Happy Women's History month, loves! I'm thrilled to share this guest post from Emily Joy with you. I've long admired Emily via the interweb, and had the good fortune of meeting her in real life last month—she's every bit as fierce and lovely as you'd imagine. I'm confident her words will be the balm and inspiration your soul needs today. Keep being too much. -Sarah
Like most women, I grew up under the weight of the fear of being simultaneously too much, and yet not enough.
Too loud, too opinionated, too stubborn, too angry, too sad, too troubled, too hard to please, too difficult to love… too much.
Not soft enough, not quiet enough, not submissive enough, not pliable enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not feminine enough…not enough.
Some women are able to hear these messages and contort themselves into acceptability. I do not blame them. A very large part of me wishes I had been able to do that. Wishes I had been able to fit the square peg of my self into the round hole of what was expected of me by virtue of being a human with particular chromosomes born into a patriarchal society and a patriarchal religion.
I don’t mean I wasn’t “able” to psychologically—like I just couldn’t bear the thought of sullying my “true personhood” or something like that. Though maybe it was a little bit of that, too. I mostly mean that I truly, legitimately wasn’t able to. I couldn’t choke down my words, I couldn’t pretend I was happy the way things were, I couldn’t lose enough weight, I couldn’t keep my damn mouth shut. Ask my parents. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. It wasn’t a campaign against sexism or a statement I was trying to make with my life as the grand social experiment.
To quote Titus Andromedon from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: “I am as God made me.”
And it wasn’t so much that I felt guilty for that. I didn’t. In time I learned to live into my truth. Even when I ended up spending three years at a conservative Bible college that questioned my legitimacy as a woman in theological pursuits at every turn, I barely wavered. I did not fall in line. I wished many times to. But I didn’t.
And though I emerged proud of myself and who I was becoming, I emerged resigned to a lifetime of barrenness, still believing those pernicious lies that I was both too much and not enough—and therefore destined to wander the planet alone. True to myself, but alone. I had learned enough to know that it was no use trying to go back and edit the fiber of my being. But I hadn’t quite learned yet that those very impulses came from a system bent on my submission—and if not my submission, then my destruction.
This is what I have learned since then: I am enough. I am so enough, it is unbelievable. I am enough for me, I am enough for the divine, I am enough for my friends, I am enough for my family, I am enough for my partner. I am deeply, gloriously enough. And it is an exercise in futility trying to prove my enoughness to people who have committed to never seeing it.
That I am not enough—that was the lie.
It wasn’t all a lie though.
I think I have decided that I am, indeed, too much.
I am too much for the patriarchy.
I am too much for Bible college.
I am oftentimes too much for church.
I am always too much for Evangelical Christianity, that’s for sure.
I am too much for a society built on genteel ways of being.
I am too much for friends and family that expect me to be the same person I was ten years ago—to pretend like my scars didn’t change me.
I am too much for those who make their way in life by tolerating or even sanctioning the oppression of others.
I am too much for the internet—I cannot behave myself.
I am too much for The South and its multitude of pickup trucks waving giant Confederate flags driving all over Nashville, and I fully expect to be shot at some day when I flip off the wrong drunk racist in a fit of holy rage.
I am too much for the 40-hour 9-to-5 workweek.
I am too much for the American Dream.
I am too much—and that is okay.
I do not want to make myself smaller, to make myself less, so that someone will accept me. Not my friends, not my family, not my partner, not some nebulous concept of “society” or “the church.” If I am too much for anyone, then they never could have held me to begin with.
And after all, being too much is not such a bad way to live.
It’s a good barometer for who you should and shouldn’t be friends with.
The jobs you should or shouldn’t take.
The people you should or shouldn’t marry.
When you are too much, you hold a proverbial mirror up to the world and say, in your loudest and least submissive voice, “Take a look! I double dog dare you.” Those that look long and full and don’t run away: hold on to them.
In the end, I am too much, and it is okay.
If you are too much, that is okay too.
Look into my mirror. We can be friends. We can be sisters.
Emily Joy is a spoken word poet and Midwest native currently residing in Nashville, TN. She cut her teeth on the Chicago slam poetry scene while getting a degree in theology from Moody Bible Institute, then spent a brief hiatus in the Arizona desert, where she met her husband, #twitterlessbilly. She now makes her living as a freelance writer, traveling poet and full-time cat mom to a tiny ball of fur named Clive Staples Lewis. Emily is passionate about challenging the status quo of the universe through art and empowering people, especially women, to pursue justice, speak their truths and ask hard questions. Follow her @emilyjoypoetry on Twitter, as well as on her website, emilyjoypoetry.com.