Today I’ve had the delightful privilege of being the wife. My beloved is presenting a paper at a conference and I’m in the cheering section. As I sit in the rooms and listen to the banter, I realize that I’ve been here many times but never in this seat.
I’ve been the participant at many conferences. Some of my favorite were the women-church events organized by a cadre of ecumenical women in Minneapolis before the turn of the millineum. These were church conferences where the women were daring to step aside from the learned patriarchy and practice a different way of being church. Called “Reimaging”, these conference actually re-embodied a way of spiritual encounter and were filled with lively of music and the words of Barbara Lundbald, Mary Daly, Rita Nakishima Brock, Thandeka, Rebecca Walker and so many more.
These were professional conferences more than academic, and as I was taking in this morning’s context I had a shard of memory from a more similar context that is still sharp. The time is my middle 30’s, I am new in St. Louis and have had the heady experience of reimersion in academic study. Infatuated with the feminist-womanist professor, I have written a worthy course paper and now been asked to present the work at a regional conference of religious academics. My then-husband and children are in tow and at dissonance with the unexamined feelings that I have for my professor/mentor. I remember little of the presentation, save that it was anti-climatic. What I remember is the smile of my professor, the place that stirred within me as we shared passion around ideas. It would be years before I could name the love that was in those days new and innocent; years and distance and broken relationships.
To be sitting beside my beloved as she prepares to present is a new and otherwise innocent enterprise. Today there is no anxiety, no unbidden and intentionally unexamined emotion, no professional angst. This role of observer is a privileged one, to experience the challenge of academic conversation without expectation to perform or achieve is precious.
To be here on behalf of my beloved is an even more profound privilege that I could not have imagined in my earlier incarnations. She, of course, has the full range of anxious emotions but mine today are simple. Mine are pride and delight. My beloved is a scholar, often self-effacing but always intentional with a razor’s edge for justice. She has been using the master’s tool to dismantle the master’s house (see: Audre Lorde), this particular paper looking at the myth of ability. While her field is not mine, I share her passions and value the importance of her work. It is a delight to watch her shine.
I take a break in the lobby, reveling in the warmth of the early March sun, and ponder the emotions that are mine this day. In this moment I realize that I am here. I am in the place for which I’ve spent my life preparing. This isn’t a place defined by job or title or pedigree. This is a place of peace, of groundedness, of relatedness. I am in the moment and it is so very good. To be sure there are questions still before me, business that awaits. But it isn’t today’s.
At peace in the moment, I realize that today is International Women’s Day. On this day I pause to note that it is in our being, as well as in our doing, we are rising.