At dinner last night my sweet friend Monique said “One of the things I most like about you is that you aren’t jaded.” As I laid in bed a few hours later, I rolled the compliment around and around in my head to test to see if it was true. I thought of the reasons I have to be jaded and I thought of the reasons I have to not be jaded. And that’s when I thought of the word *surfeit*.
I have always loved the word surfeit. When authors use it I think “Yes…that’s a word we don’t use enough.” Which is actually funny since the word itself means “An amount that is too much or more than you need.”
I have had a surfeit of hurt in my life…more than some and less than others. The abuse I suffered as a kid is enough to emotionally cripple better women than me. And yet, most days I stand toe to toe with those memories and say “Today, you shall not beat me back into silence.” I have used that season in my life to drive me to better things and to help others. And when memories sneak up on me from time to time, I feel them deeply and give them room to pass through.
I have had a surfeit of spiritual abuse and religious patriarchy. I have been told that it was a shame I wasn’t born a man because I would have been a great preacher. I have been silenced, used, and had hard-won opportunities taken from me in the name of a few scriptures in the Bible. And I have been criticized for being strong minded and unwilling to bend and submit at every turn. I have been told there is not a place for me and run out. And I have had to walk out when the ambivalence meant they didn’t even try to run me out.
I have had a surfeit of sexism in my career. I chose a path that was riddled with good ol’ boys and the consequences have been that I have had to be twice as smart, twice as efficient, at time worked twice the hours, and taken twice the criticism. Time and time again (particularly in the last few years), I have worked hard to get something in a good place only to have the project given away when credit was about to be bestowed. I’ve been called abrasive, bossy, and a bitch for being passionate, opinionated, and right.
Life can be full of too much loneliness, too much hurt, too much injustice, and too much ugliness. So why exactly am I not jaded?
Like everyone, I have days where I feel jaded and cynicism rises up to sucker punch me. Where tears are the only answer to the deep abiding frustration I feel over not being heard or being treated wrong or judged unfairly. When stories of yet another cop shooting yet another black man…or yet another bombing that took the lives of children…or yet another child being abused or molested…can drive me to tears and to my knees. Yes…I have those days too.
I have had a surfeit of love, friendship, laughter, and sisterhood.
I have had a surfeit of white privilege. Let’s face it…even a girl from humble white (mostly anyway) lower middle-class beginnings is given opportunities that some people of color and certainly women of color never receive or certainly not without a fight. I have not had to live terrified for my life, safety, or physical well-being since leaving home at 17. And I have benefitted from the injustice of a white complexion. It isn’t fair…but it has made things easier for me in ways that I cannot even comprehend.
I have had a surfeit of education. I have read (and owned) more books than many. I have a degree that puts me in the upper 5% of educated people in the world. And I can get more education at any time that I want because no one would try to stop me. I was never afraid to go to school. I was never fearful of the consequences of learning to read. I was happiest at a desk being taught something for much of my life. And the chances afforded me by my education, as a child, a college student, and as a curious adult, have been mine for the taking simply by virtue of opportunity.
I have had a surfeit of mystical and magical occurrences. I have felt the very presence of God around me at so many times and in so many places. We have spoken and I have felt enveloped by love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I have felt what it means to have God speak through me in moments of council, as I’ve preached or led a group, as I’ve prayed over friends. I have felt the rush of blood through my body that tells me that this sunset, this mountaintop, this dessert sky, this rainbow, this ocean’s roar, is for Me and that I should not miss it for one second. I have been overwhelmed and flooded by mercy and spirit and wisdom in moments when foolishness should have ruled the day. God has lived with me…in her various forms…and I have lived in God in my various forms.
And through it all…there has been hope. Hope and laughter. Hope and tears. Hope and grace. Hope and love. I believe there is something to be hopeful for…right here and right now. I don’t sit around hoping for heaven…though when/if it comes, I won’t turn down the keys to a mansion.
I am hopeful because I see life and goodness around me even in the midst of evil and cruelty. I watch as my friend Nicole gently takes care of her elderly parents. I watch as my friend Tiffany loves on her twin sons that she worked so hard to conceive. I am an observer of my friend Jelisa trying to sort out who she is and trusting that she is valuable even when the world has said otherwise. I am seeing the power of creativity and love in the life of my friend Linda and all those that she touches. This list could go on and on for days.
I would say that I am surfeit with hope. But never ever could there be an amount of hope that is too much or more than I need.