I am the last woman survivor from my nuclear family. Sometimes I feel inadequate with the expectation of the holder of knowledge and wisdom passed down through the generations. I am the Auntie and the mom and grandmother. Perhaps wisdom is actually simply the ability to listen without judgement and sharing of ideas.
When I think back on the older generations in my family, I try to remember our conversations and their counsel. I always felt they were wise and held all the answers in the universe, but thinking back now, I can challenge that thought. I can only remember a few instances of solid advice to serve as a solution to my problem of the moment.
Instead, I think they were powerful sounding boards for my own chaotic thoughts. I remember one conversation with my mother when she calmly said to me, “I think you know the answer.” She was right. And I think about how many times in the years that followed that I have offered the same observation to others.
When I have given advice constructed as what someone should or should not do, it lies like a bitter pill. Maybe that bitterness is the acknowledgement that no one can know the right answers for another.
I still do not know if we are all born with an innate sense of what is right and what is wrong. If we are, then our environment must impact that sense beyond the mind’s ability to retain it.
My paternal grandmother died before my mother, but my maternal grandmother outlived my mother, her daughter. I wonder if they struggled with some of the same questions I have. I wonder if they felt ill-equipped for the role as I sometimes do.
Maybe Jimi Hendrix said it best:
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”