Photo: My sister gave me this adorable pouch for Christmas. I have been housing my notebook and pens/pencils in it when I’m on the go with my heavy-duty tote bag. It is the perfect little something fort this life and times, but it’s especially cool for today, International Women’s Day. If you have a favorite woman in your life, consider getting this for her. They have the design in all sorts of different textiles. I seriously might get the beach towel.
I am still a little sad that I didn’t get the chance to have a daughter. However, my suburban life here in Massachusetts has put me in the orbit of many amazing young women ranging in age from late high-school all the way down to toddler-age. Through them, I get to experience all of the preciousness and fierceness of girlhood. While with them, though, I also feel accomplished in my womanhood. There is a lot to learn between there and here. There is a lot to experience, to survive. I feel a deep gratitude for the journey, a bit of sorrow for some of what must be left behind to get here, and a bit of trepidation for what I’ll have to lose between now and old age. That’s another post for another time.
In celebration of today’s holiday, a lot of women have been writing about or speaking about mentorship. It’s a good thing to honor the women who stop to help other women along the way. I’m always surprised to learn that this is not a common practice. When I thought about who I considered to be a mentor in my life, way more than one woman made the list. I found that there was a different woman for ever different stage of my life so far. The neighbor in elementary school who taught me to embroider. The 8th grade English teacher who wouldn’t let me slip through the cracks. The high school English teacher who was a writer who told me I had a talent. The adviser at UMBC who I still love to this day, who came to my wedding and loves my sons. The woman I shared my classroom with at my teaching job. My grandmother, especially after the boys were born. Now, my mom, a kind of full-circle sort of thing. Each woman represents a season and filled/fills a deep need in my life. They serve as confidant and teacher, protector and pusher. They are essential to my development, their lessons echoing long after they exit from my day-to-day life.
And now I’m surrounded by these girls who come interesting families in this crazy place, dealing with all sorts of pressures and opportunities. I want to hug them and shake them, I want to listen and laugh with them, I want to send them far away from here, I want them to stay just as awesome as they are forever and ever amen. I want the world for them because the world needs them. I want the world for them because they need the world.
My Quiet Thoughts today are about my emerging responsibilities. Womanhood is going through one hell of a renaissance, isn’t it? The good, the bad, and the ugly are all out there, fully on display, open for discussion and interpretation. What it is to be female or female-identifying is the big question we’re all trying to answer, within the context of now and also without it. What is womanhood? Shit, I don’t even know. Somehow, we’re all experts, though I would say that we cannot be experts in all aspects of womanhood. Womanhood is everything. Womanhood is everything. It’s all the potential. It’s all the feelings. It’s all the pitfalls. It’s all the dangers. It’s all the glory. It’s all the beauty. It’s all the responsibility. It’s everything. We’ll never know all of it. It’s too big, too wonderful.
How do you tell that to a junior in high school? How do you tell that to a 8th grader?
I’m watching moms I admire figure it out. I don’t really envy them. That’s a damn hard job.
I think my job is to stand back and serve as an example of one way to woman. I tell my story when asked, explain the decisions I’ve made in my life, point to the how and why I am who I am. I try to impart the lessons I’ve learned, knowing that some must be learned through experience. I think sometimes, when women of different ages stand in a group, the thought passing through each of them is the same: “I wish you knew what I know. Lord, how I wish you could know all that I’ve come to know. Everything would be so much easier.”
The irony is that we do kinda know. There are some universals in the experience. That problem is the timing. The lessons come when they come as they come. You never know where in the curriculum other women are. I try to remember that, to simply be in my place, to share what I know, to listen when others choose to share. I think my job as a mentor is not to try to be part of every season of these young women’s lives, but to urge them to grow into their next one. I want them to outgrow me and move on to the next great woman of their lives. If they do that, I’ve probably done something right.
It’s an evening for tea and reading Zadie Smith. It’s an evening for looking up at the gorgeous moon and wrapping yourself in a blanket. It’s an evening for sleep that is good and restful. It’s an evening for quiet. Be still, Dear Reader. Leave your head and go to your heart for a little bit of time.
This is a Friday for wishes. I wish you curry and spices that go right to the gut and warm you from within. Even if you don’t like spicy good, do try to find something spiced this weekend. Light up your tongue with all sorts of combinations, fill your nostrils with smells of somewhere far and away from here, then let it all sink down into your stomach and make you feel good. I wish you music this weekend. Your choice of style and artist. Whatever it is, I hope it moves you or refreshes you. I have been listening to a lot of classical compositions featuring the harp. I don’t know why, but it’s all I want to listen to right now. I wish you something natural–a flower arrangement, a walk outside in the brisk air, a room with a scenic view… something to remind you that the world out there is going through changes and they are worthy of your time. I wish you time with friends and good stories told. Can you tell a corny joke that actually gets a laugh this weekend, Dear Reader? Challenge yourself. If you actually get a laugh, please come back here and share what you said! I wish you time with your favorite person, quiet and happy. I think that the quiet shared between two people can contain volumes of story. How many chapters will you write this weekend?
I take time on Friday to tell you that you are loved because I’m not sure anyone has told you this week. I hope someone has, because I think that’s important. If not, I try to serve that purpose. You have to know that you are loved. It’s as important as air and food and water. Read these words and know: you are loved. What you do in this world matters. Even when you’re alone in an empty room, or invisible behind a little desk, or cold and anonymous in a insane world, you are loved. You are loved everywhere, all the time, no matter what. You are loved simply because you exist. You are loved for doing nothing more than being who you are. You are loved without condition. You are, simply, loved.
And because you know that, I hope you’ll choose to share that knowing with someone else this weekend. Tell someone, anyone, that they are loved. You’ll be doing the world a whole love of good.
Until Monday, Dear Reader, take care.