I’m Every Woman

I had dinner and cocktails this weekend with my first friend from 1st grade.  I feel regrouped and revived and more ‘myself’  after spending some time with her.  I don’t know why, other than that she has seen me at every stage of my life; this fall it will be 40 years that we have known each other, and perhaps because she has known me always, she sees through any and all of my delusions, or bullshit, and cares not for anything but authenticity.

I realized Saturday night, slightly drunk on perfectly mixed margaritas and extremely full on homemade Mexican, that I am so NOT alone, I’m every woman…we, she and I, and us, women of our age, have so much in common, so many similar things going on at once, that there is nothing I have felt or wondered about that she, or any of you, have not.   We talked about women we know, women we know of, women to whom we are related, and ourselves…and I realized, perhaps for the first time in a long time, there is not much at all different about us, ANY of us.

We all share the same insecurities, dream the big dreams, laugh and cry and love and loathe…Some of us do it privately and some of us do it publicly.  We talked about money, family, gray hairs, wrinkles, skin, sleeplessness, energy or lack thereof, responsibilities, relationships, worry, elation, and envy…we talked about how we  have all kissed so many frogs over the years and some have found a prince and some are still searching, hoping there is another pond or stream she hasn’t found.  We talked frankly with one another, shared things that were on our minds, issues that were bothering us, things that had recently made us laugh or smile or cry…I got a lot off my mind that has been heavy in my heart for months, said things that I had to get off my chest and she listened, commented, nodded understandingly, asked valid questions and most of all, did not judge me…she just let me be, and I extended the same courtesy to her.

I realized in my hours with her, we all, us women of the world, are so much alike, we suffer with feeling criticized, we struggle with wanting to be the best versions of ourselves, we look at the pictures in magazines we look at each other in the grocery store, most of us look in the mirror before we leave the house and think, “well this is the best I got, here I am world.”   I realized while spending time with this lifelong friend that we are all guilty of perpetuating the madness…in that we ALL see each other every single day and think what we think, you know you do it too…and we have to stop.

We have to be kinder to each other, we have to be more supportive of each other, we have to judge less and accept more.  We are “sisters” and we have to be nicer to each other.  I too roll my eyes when I see women ‘too old’  to be wearing clothes and shoes made for 17 year olds, I too snicker in my mind when I see women going up to the beach with more hair spray and makeup on than I’d wear to a coronation, I too grin when I see the covers of the rag mags with stars looking not at all camera ready, I too sigh when I am annoyed by some old lady moving too slow either in her car or with her shopping cart in front of me..but I don’t like it, and I understand, more clearly with each passing year, that I will be her someday…

We are all at some time in our life, not enough, or too much, and I think the world would be so much easier to live in if we all, we women, we sisters, could just be comfortable in our skin, every day and accepted fully…too fat, too skinny, too much makeup, too many wrinkles, too fancy, too frumpy.  I decided yesterday morning that I am going to try to compliment every women with whom I have direct contact from now on if at all possible.  Say something, say ANYthing, positive, or uplifting, or kind, perhaps even be kind in silence, like a smile or a nod or an understanding glance.  I know that I am a better person and act like a better person when I feel good about myself. PERIOD.  I am a better partner, friend, and mother when I am happy with myself.  I suppose we all are.  So my effort is to try to make others happy too, by being happy, by being kind, by being understanding and accepting…I’m every woman, and they are me.

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how do you spell mother?

I was not emotionally ready, financially ready, or mature enough to be a mother, but I took the task seriously and did my very best.  I imagine every woman has the very same worries and concerns, regardless of her age or wealth,  and indeed feels vulnerable those first few days of motherhood, but somehow we figure it out as we go along and we learn every day, sometimes every hour, what works and what doesn’t.  It’s quite possible that where we are in life when we accept this job is irrelevant, perhaps no matter how much life experience we have, or how little, we all feel that sense of wonder and think, “I sure hope I do this right!” 

I am sometimes mediocre and I am sometimes marvelous, I am a Mother.  I am often ordinary and occasionally outrageous, I am a mOther.  I am traditional at times and trendsetting at times, I am a moTher.  I am heavy hearted when I hurt and I am heaving hysterically with laughter when I am happy, I am a motHer.  I am excited by joy and I am edgy from worry, I am a mothEr.  I recall first steps and first words and remember first  spankings and first scoldings, I am a motheR.

When my daughter was just six years-old I took a literature class in college that was HEAVY with reading.  In an effort to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone that semester, I decided that rather than read a story-book to my child every night before bed as I had done since she was an infant, instead I would read my school homework aloud to her.  She’d get a bedtime story and I’d get my homework assignment done, and it seemed a perfect solution to the time management issue of being a young single mother with a job and a desire to get an “A.”  I remember VERY clearly that she adored two works in particular, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. She would joyfully crawl into my bed and hand me my books for me to read to her, I often wondered if she understood much, if anything she was hearing, but her enthusiasm for the stories, as they unfolded, told me that she indeed was “getting” something out of the words.  She asked questions, bigger questions than one would think would come from a small child, and I answered them as if I was responding to a professor.  When I wrote my papers on these readings I read her them too…I can’t help but think, all these years later, that some of what molded her into the woman and parent she is today, is partly related to her early introduction to feminism, motherhood, and gender identity from her mother’s choice to read  -totally inappropriate for first grade-  books to her.

I can say and write with confidence that when your girl child grows up and has children and you see her as a mother, noun, and mother, verb, it is a pretty good indicator of how well you yourself did, it is perhaps a mother mirror.  You hope all along as you raise this child that you are doing okay and are well aware that there is not really a right or a wrong way but some ways are certainly better than others…it’s mostly by instinct I guess.  A dear friend while in labor was told by the doula, “find your inner monkey” and it might have been the very best advice about being a mother that I ever heard.

I am well aware that there are many truly fabulous women who turned out to be fantastic mothers, having had terribly un-fantastic horrific ones themselves, but I am not writing about those women today, today, this Mother’s Day weekend, I am writing about me and my daughter, both of us daughters and both of us mothers, making our way in the world and navigating the oceans of confusion when it comes to “what TO do” in all things related to mothering.  I am done, in a way, she is new, in a way, but I am still required to ‘mother’ as I am frequently responsible for these little humans.  I have found myself in awe at times when I see how she and her husband are raising their children, and how she tends to them, teaches them, and touches them.  I watch her kiss boo-boos, mend broken feelings, find her secret inner Doctor Spock when they are sick, and her secret inner Martha Stewart when they are making a project.  I feel deeply loved when I watch her love her kids:  I hear an inner voice tenderly say, “you did just fine.”  I guess how we spell it does not matter at all, only how we do it.

Miss Havisham does not live here

I have been happy with much less than I have at this moment and have been sad with much more.  At times in my history I have had much more money & many more friends, but had much less free time and much less love.

I have made choices and decisions in my life that have brought me to where I am today.  Everything I have chosen to do or elected not to do has planted me right here.  Good or bad, the free will I’ve exhibited and the judgments I’ve made to act or not, got me to this point.   There is nothing great about expectations.  I am old enough to know, and have lived long enough to have learned, that if one sews seeds of expectation, one harvests disappointment.

My Nana always told me, “kindness is its own reward” and I have tried for all of my life to be a kind person, a loving person, a friendly person, an optimistic person, a hard-working person, a generous person…dare I write, a deserving person…and therein lies the enigma of my existence.

I think that somehow I convinced myself over time and trial and error that there was some sort of prize on the horizon if I just kept at it, that despite the teachings of my Nana there was something else coming my way, that I was entitled to always expect something more.  I have watched over the days of my life as people got  things that I wanted, or thought I wanted, but did not have, often people who on the surface seemed not particularly kind, and instead of having feelings of congratulations or happiness for them, rather I felt those totally un-fabulous sensations of envy and self-pity…the “why not me?”  syndrome.  Somehow I came to believe I deserved…I don’t want to be a bitter and angry Miss Havisham, living alone in her beautiful house, or feeling resentful that I didn’t get what I wanted.  Miss Havisham will not live here.  It is not who I feel I am, yet sometimes my behavior or my words suggest otherwise.

Show gratitude for all that I have and all that is good and expect nothing, is how I want to live this life on this earth at this time, but it is not always easy, distractions are frequent, but ultimately it is how I wish to be.  A better version of myself.  I know people who have lost all of their possessions to a storm surge, I know people who have lost their house to the bank, I know people who have lost their jobs, I know people who have lost a child, I know people who have lost their parents…I have everything I could possibly want and let the very few things I do not have weigh on my spirit oh so heavily…why?  Pearl Jam has a line I love in one of  their songs, “the haves have not a clue” and I realize that in comparison to most of the rest of the world, I am in fact a ‘have,’ and when I find myself growing morose and taciturn and moody with envy I know that I am behaving like nothing short of a spoiled brat.  Nobody likes a spoiled brat, whether the brat is five or 45!!  My Nana also used to always say “pretty is as pretty does” and there is nothing appealing about a discontent sour-puss.

I started back to kick-boxing class a few weeks ago.  It is a great mood enhancer.  Running, punching, kicking, jumping…well, one can’t really dwell on any of the voices in her heard when one is trying to remind her lungs to take in air!!!  Getting back into my strong girl mode gets me toned and makes my outside better, but it is my inside that needs far more attention.  I don’t need to enhance my mood I need to stabilize it.  I have said for years I am a work in progress, but I don’t seem to ever fully change the way I think long enough to break the habit…I go through spurts of intense joy but then the old ways of thinking find their way back to my mind and I grow woeful again.  It’s like I’m constantly riding Rolling Thunder when all I really want is It’s a Small World…I don’t want the rush of the highs and lows, I just want to float.

“There is no disaster greater than not being content; There is no misfortune greater than being covetous.” ― Lao Tzu 

It’s hard sometimes for me to understand that the truth is I must simply be glad and grateful for whatever IS, whatever it may be.  I need to kiss my boy and hug my girls and believe, and know, I need nothing more, and feel joy and thanks that the universe has granted me another day on this side of the dirt…another sunrise to watch come up over the cedar trees and another sunset to watch go down behind the evergreens…