Friday, February 6, 2009

Martha Beck's "Team" thing

So, I've written many posts in my head that never made it to the keyboard. Maybe I'll remember them this weekend. Maybe not.

I've been reading Martha Beck's blog lately ( and I've found it interesting. Martha was a professor of mine at BYU and she had somewhat of a cult following even then. Funny to me how independent feminist types are always looking for a leader (ok, ok, that was a wild generalization that I didn't really mean, sorry). I've read all but Martha's most recent book. I've even hoisted a few copies of "Finding Your Own North Star" on unsuspecting friends. Her ideas have been very useful in my life, but I don't see her as a guru.

Anyway, her idea of a mystical team dedicated to saving the earth was interesting to me because I've known about the team, well at least a team, for a long time. In fact, her recent obsession seems a little late in the game to me, but the more the merrier. Mother Earth needs as many humans as possible paying attention and living lightly upon Her. I liked her talking about the ancestors, but I was surprised she was afraid of them at first. To me, G-d is a collective of beings dedicated to the continuation of life and the joyful enjoyment of the same - i.e. the ancestors. The ancestors came to me most strongly when I was in labor with Michael. The peace of those moments is precious to me.

The funniest thing to me about Martha's writings is how Mormon they are, without her realizing it. Her writing, coaching, everything is about getting in touch with the Spirit, bringing the Comforter's presence. The numinous knowing that she talks about is the same as a "real" testimony, the clear as day knowing what is true and the almost irrepesible need to follow that truth. I'm not really LDS anymore either (see above), but I know G-d when I see them.

In one of the posts, Martha listed certain qualities of people on her team. I realized going through them that I am not one of those people. I am certainly on the save the earth team, I'm just not on her team. And that's okay, because I have my own team, my own tribe.

It turned out to be an interesting exercise for me to respond to the qualities one by one. And, because this is my blog, I'm gonna throw it all out there and see what y'all think!

* You’ve always felt separate and odd, misunderstood by others while having the ability to make them feel understood.

True for many, many years. I feel understood by most people now that I know better how to make myself understood. People do seem to be drawn to me and always have. I believe that people tend to like me because I love them first. There are very, very few people that I have met in this life that I did not like, and even fewer that I do not love.

* You’re haunted by a feeling of having something incredibly important to do, but you don’t know what it is. Over the past couple of years, this feelings has become almost overwhelmingly intense.

True to a point. I had the overwhelming mission sense from childhood through to my mid-thirties. I drove some of my dearest friends in college insane with the “I know I need to do something important” talk. However, the feeling has actually de-intensified in the past few years. The de-intensification seems to have started after I recovered from my illness and got into therapy. I believe the feeling has de-intensified because I am on the right track and don’t need to be prodded as much anymore. At least I hope the spiritual nudges are more subtle now because I catch on quicker and not for some other more sinister reason (I’m ambidextrous, not left-handed - just a little language joke there).

In the O for You conference talk that’s online (go to the "news" section of the Martha site if you are interested), Martha talked about female students coming to her and talking about feeling they had a mission in life. Martha was one of my favorite professors actually -- and I feel like I should be referring to her as professor Beck -- and several of the students who came to her were my friends, but I was not one of the students that came to her. I knew I had a mission in life and wondered how I was going to get there, but it never occurred to me to ask Martha about that, at least not that I’m recalling now.

I do remember Martha wondering why I was so fascinated with bem diagrams of traditional masculine and feminine characteristics in the Western tradition. I was fascinated by them because I didn’t fit in any category and it confirmed what I always knew to be true – that the whole idea of certain personality traits belonging to one gender or another was bunk! The whole idea of a gender dichotomy fascinates me because it has never fit with my experiences with people. Still doesn’t.

*You hate small talk, but find that large talk is not encouraged.

I do dislike hateful small talk. However, I enjoy the kind of small talk that means, “I love you, but I’m too tired to think or speak too deeply. Let’s chat about the weather and just feel good in one another’s presence.” I find large talk wherever I go and whenever I want it, for the most part. The non-encouraging of large talk by the larger culture has never discouraged me!

*You love, love, love animals; in fact, your life feels incomplete unless you’re interacting with animals.

Not true for me. I do like animals, there have been a few special pets that I have loved. Some animals have been very bonded to me and I to them. But it’s not a “love, love, love” thing. I like people in general more than animals, but I don’t find animals to be that different that people, if that makes sense.

*Your childhood and adolescence were difficult. Like really, really difficult—abuse, addiction, years-of-total-despair difficult.

Yes and no. I did have years of great despair but I always fought it off by being true to myself. I felt that I was an “object of scorn” at my elementary and jr high school.I felt very, very alone as a child and thought my parents did not love me. But I did have G-d and a few dear friends (some of whom are still a part of my life). I broke off with some deeply bad-for-me friends in 8th grade, found much better friends in 9th grade and by 10th grade I felt I had found my people. Many of those people are still my friends. I figured out in college how to draw my people to me and have never been without friends since. I think I’ve sort of figured out how to be just normal enough not to scare everyone away!

*You’ve had a significant “life accident” such as losing several family members to death, being physically disabled, or having a child with a disability.

I lost my mom recently, but have not lost several family members unexpectedly (the old ones are mostly all gone now). No one in my immediate family is disabled and neither am I.

*You’ve had a long-term, disabling and/or painful illness that was mysteriously unresponsive to medical treatment.

Nope. I had a very rare form of cancer for which the only treatment was hysterectomy, but I wasn’t in pain, wasn’t disabled. The experience did spur me into therapy, which was good. I did have undiagnosed hypothyroidism but it responded instantly to treatment.

*You occasionally feel compelled to learn or create certain things, without really knowing why.

Make that always compelled to learn. I regularly have dozens of books checked out from the library. I read all the time! I used to wander the floors of the BYU library just looking for books that popped out to me. I recently learned that my husband did the same thing in college (but he was the U).

*You’ve begun meeting people who are like you, in a strange way you can’t articulate, and you feeling powerfully drawn to these people despite lots of surface differences.

Don’t know about this being a recent thing (see above answers). I’ve always had at least a few wonderful friends in my life at all times – I’m lucky that way. I have noticed that some of my oldest and dearest friends are interested in the same things I’m interested in about homesteading, the environment, and social stability, and I think that’s something.

1 comment:

  1. Independent feminist types aren't the only ones looking for a leader (though they'd certainly have reason to fear going it alone at BYU): it takes a special type of young person NOT to feel drawn to someone as persuasive and sympathetic as Martha Beck, Oprah, Tony Robbins, etc. Having said that, I think MB is a fraud--one who's so bought into woo-woo experiences herself that she uses her immense intellectual and public abilities to suck other people in, too, and make money from it while trying to pretend that's not the point. I hope in a few years the whole life-coaching movement will be debunked as an amalgam of 1980s recruiting practices, Tupperware parties, and spiritual claptrap. For now, though, it seems to be giving a lot of people comfort in troubling times. I just wish it didn't package itself as something bigger or 'closer to reality' than that.