Rings On My Finger

I am a chronologically old woman, 7 decades measured and counting. Growing up in a nurturing protected neighborhood, that mythical village, my siblings and I shared the blessing of never having quite enough, of always being required to try harder.

Political correctness came long  years later and our discipline included the occasional ‘good spanking’ to teach a lesson.   The culture of that time believed in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, especially in questions of attitude.  Mom and Dad struggled as the country climbed from the depression, giving us the best that was theirs to give.

We received our early formal education and training from women of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.    Jesuits and Benedictines handled a large part of our college educations.  Discipline and humility held up the foundation.

Two marriages to two good men gave my life balance, reality checks and the richness of ‘for better and for worse’.   Each marriage extended my  family and I am grateful for what I have learned from each member of that very large group.

Marriage gave me the most precious gifts of my life–my five children.  Each of them fills me with awe and appreciation.  Their gifts are strong and enduring.  Life situations have not always treated them gently, but they handle what happens and they move through it.

My education provided me with a paycheck for doing what I would liked to have been able to do for free.  Teaching was a 28 year ‘fire-in-the-belly’ that never banked.

Through my time from childhood to crone I have often been overwhelmed by the generosity of  friends, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances.   These past four months are powerful life lessons in the blessings of enduring support.

And now?  Now I am Grandma/Nana.  No one could be more blessed by the lives of the five grandchildren who gave me my new titles.  With my wedding band, I wear a five stone mother’s ring given to me about 30 years ago.  Next to those two rings,  I wear a five stone grandmother’s ring that I gave to myself 18 years ago.

Rings on my finger, blessing of my life.

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Fall From Grace

Combinations of words become cliché when they are close to perfect in concept.  Very quickly, after being deemed perfect, they are relegated to the delete side of grammar check.

Damaged beyond repair is a cliché.  As I think about a relationship, the hopelessness of repair forces the ‘beyond repair’.   It is difficult to get my head around this one, this damage, this inability to repair what seemed so strong.

Years and years of wonderful history gone, of no consequence.  Standing together, supporting one another  during some of the most difficult years doesn’t seem to matter.  Holding one another close, guarding secret pain, complete trust in that protection doesn’t seem to matter.

Confidence in the relationship was a given.  Always.  Together, trusting, supporting, understanding, loving each other was so simple, so easy.  We are broken and the why of it seems insignificant when stacked against the loss.

The advice people would hang this on misunderstandings, would say that honest conversation would repair and reestablished.  Not so.   It will never again be the same.  I know.

It is not possible to explain how I know that we will not repair our loss.  If I try, I will cross a line of privacy.  It would be a betrayal of the other person through venting my perception of this death.  What I long believed to be as inviolate as our shared lifetimes is now no more sacred than any other discard.  The fall from loving grace is a whoosh— and gone.

Shamed Face or Saved Face

Shame is deadly.  Shame harbors the fear of disconnection, the fear of being alone.  Shame speaks with a loud clear voice, “I am bad.  I am unworthy.”  Unlike guilt, shame can never be healthy.  Rather shame moves us inward, away from vital connections, from  relationships.  Shame can ferment anger (at being unworthy) or create false need to please.

Guilt speaks to a wrong decision, a wrong act, a point in time.  Guilt can bring about change, restitution and freshness.  Guilt speaks of that single decision or act, but not to the unworthiness of the person.

Unless a person is seriously flawed, guilt and some shame touch each life.

So how do we deal?  Where is a safe harbor?  Where is a place of vulnerability?

Logically, that safe harbor is love, a place to be vulnerable, a place where that excludes shame from the relationship. Partners need trust in acceptance, in the love of the whole and not just the easy.  Partners can love with the safety of protection, of allowing–even welcoming vulnerability–of a level of commitment that erases all need for the face we give the world.

Tall order.

How Hard Is That Rock?

It was not my place to speak.  If what I viewed was a series of snapshots in the lives of other I had no background of judgement.  So I did not speak, but I did judge—-and wonder.

Age and time would seem to indicate that the relationship was strong and permanent.  The couple, now in their 70’s, had spent years together watching a combined family grow.  Now grandchildren were part of their lives.

She loved the family with obvious joy, relishing time together.    Faults or mis-steps were but blips  looked at and forgotten.  Any daily routine could be bypassed in an instant if a family time presented itself.  Smiles and laughter were the delight of her days.  Gift selecting and giving were her pleasures.

He sat morose, nursing any slight real or imagined.  At each opportunity, he choose a book over interaction with the family.  When she was out of the room, he spoke as a petulant child to whomever was near, making an opportunity to be mean-spirited.   One of the youngest grandsons asked his grandmother, “Nana, why does he not like you so much?”

And yet, when confronted with these observations, the man declared his love for the woman…no question that she was the most important thing in the world.  Odd.  Chip to destroy what is most important to her while declaring such love.

From my distance, I have no right to judge what I did not see, hear or understand.   The back side of the picture is as important as the snippets I see.   But it feels impossible not to judge this relationship as being both sad and unstable.

Grump

by Pat Antonopoulos

A Star Trek episode had children dealing with Grumps…Grown Ups. At least, my memory has the kids working around the cranky behaviors of the adults in the colony.

I think I am a grump. I don’t want to be, but hints are piling on. Rereading my blogs and a few chapters from Four Ordinary Women is hard-core evidence that ‘grump’ is the noun that works. Some of my writing reads as if I am soured on life, lamenting one thing or another. I am not!

The odd thing is that I am one of the happiest and most contented people I know. If I had to come up with something I want more of, it would be family time. That’s it.Not clothes. Not jewelry. Not a replacement for my ’99 Buick GrannyMobile. Not a bigger house. Not more travel. Not fine dining.

OK…maybe a few more boxes of Orville’s Kettle Corn in the cupboard would post some security on that evening habit. A paper fairy to make decisions and clean my desk would be nice. That sums up the current and most pressing needs of my life.

Well…except…
There is an ‘except’.
We, the four authors of Four Ordinary Women, have been enriched by time spent with women’s groups. Our quest is to find more opportunities to share the stories of your lives as we meld with the stories of our lives. Each time we join a group for conversation, we are realize the common yet extraordinary threads of connectedness. We come away appreciating the time and the company.

If you are in a group or know of a group that would enjoy sharing this experience, please do contact us. There is a contact button on our website, http://www.fourordinarywomen.com
We would love to hear from you.