“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
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”
This morning I woke early to a gloriously beautiful day. I walked outside and just breathed in the morning. The range of color reminded me how hard it is to replicate anything that nature produces naturally. Even a camera cannot capture the full range of color as the color correction features try to ‘normalize’ the image.
On mornings like these, reflection is a more gentle process. The myriad of thoughts normally bottled up flow easily to the surface. Today was one of those mornings.
Saturday, the preliminary results of the election settled the dust of the last week around my feet and I could finally breathe. The last two elections and the last four years of the current administration have caused me to think hard about my place and responsibility in this world. The thoughts can be overwhelming so please bear with me.
My network of family and friends are widely diverse. I am proud to have the people I care for comprise such a vivid spectrum. I will always stand up for them and fight for them. I have been rather quiet on these subjects in my blog because I did not want to spend much time being ‘political’ here. I think my walk through the fallen leaves made me realize the things that weigh heavy on me have nothing to do with politics, or at least they should not. My acknowledgement of the history of my life and the hopes for the future are what make up what I refer to as grandmother wisdom. More on that later. Let’s get politics out of the way first.
I made the decision to register a party affiliation just so I could vote in the primaries. I think I may go back to registering as an Independent. In my opinion the two majority parties in our country are tearing apart the very fibers of what we are supposed to stand for. Freedom, equality, separation of church and state to name just a few. I do not dislike either party, but I dislike many of the political ambitions and recklessness of many people associated with both. That’s all I will say here about politics.
Back to grandmother wisdom. I have always felt ill-equipped to fill the shoes of the generations of wise women in my family. They were the backbones, filled with wisdom and experience and had what seemed to me to be all the answers. Now, at a similar age, I understand more about the qualities they possessed than I ever have before. Experience, heartbreak, success, trials, tribulations, defeats and accomplishments all come together to establish a certain wisdom. You do not need to be a grandmother to embody this, you just need to be vulnerable and allow honesty to flow through you.
My friend, Kim has a phrase she uses which has always resonated with me. Allow your heart to break for the things that break the heart of God. Wow. Just read that again. I have seen so much these last few years that has broken me in ways I never talk about here. The tapestry of my family and friends requires me to speak up. For they have suffered and worried about things they should never have had to consider.
Religious persecution. I first saw it after 9/11 when a dear friend who is Muslim came to me in fear and asked me to commune with her. She was shocked when I agreed. She was living in fear. Her parent’s shop attacked and her network of friends disappearing in front of her. I had people suggest meeting with her might be a bad idea. That only reinforced my resolve to do so. I will always love and stand up for her.
Skin color is a perplexing weapon of racism. People of color have suffered greatly in this country of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. I have cried and prayed for not only my family and friends, but those tortured and shot on our streets. I cannot be silent. I must stand up and show up. My private pain has been the public pain of generations.
I look at my grandson and my granddaughter and think about their future. Theirs will always be subject to those who consider the color of their skin first. Their hearts so filled with love, hope, and anticipation. How will the world greet them? Our current climate of isolation in this pandemic has hurt my very core. I cannot hold them and reassure them as I have in the past. It breaks me.
My latest heartbreak was when my daughter told me she and her wife were signing papers and starting the legal process for her to adopt her own daughter. Adopt her own daughter. Can you even imagine what that feels like? It shattered her to ask the courts to be the step-parent of her own daughter. The fear of her marriage being nullified in the coming years angered her, but they are taking steps to protect their child. This is the color of freedom and equality in this country.
When the calls come in from my network of friends and family, I always answer. I may not have the answers for their problems, but I listen and share my experience. I will always be their safe place to fall. For my nieces and nephews who lost their own parents, I will always do my best to be there for them. Always.
I have often felt my own grandmother’s heart was weak, but reflecting, I think it must be strong, because it has broken so many times throughout my lifetime. Thankfully the heart is resilient and recovers, growing stronger and more determined. It is from this pain and experience that wisdom is born.
Yes, there is so much beauty and goodness in the world. I try hard to see it and acknowledge it every day. But life is about balance and I cannot simply wear rose colored glasses and pretend the world is in step with me for it is not. I am stepping up and standing up to be part of the healing we all so desperately need.
This grandmother’s wisdom — look deep and acknowledge it within you. It is time for the healers to come forward. There is much work to be done. It is my hope more people will stand up and become part of the solution that truly provides equality for each of us. And when that call comes in, just pick up and do your best to listen.
It truly takes a village.