[Theme song for this post: “You Raise Me Up” – Josh Groban]
“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”
I’d like to dedicate this to my Grammy, and to my mom… Two of the many women who have made my world vibrant. My life would be lacking if it weren’t for the vital truths they have instilled in me and the wonderful memories they have given me.
Last week, well, it just wasn’t great… My grandmother fell and broke her hip (after fracturing her spine in December), my dad was in the second of two car accidents for the month (he is fine, and he wasn’t at fault—either time—but still), and finally, my wallet was stolen out of my office on Friday. FROM MY OFFICE of all places, not even while I was out and about doing something FUN. So, while intermittently texting my mom funny yet encouraging cat gifs and videos of laughing babies, to get her through nights spent in the hospital with my grandmother, I openly reflected with her that it would be awesome if the universe would do our family a solid and cut us some slack for about two seconds. Ah, but I dream. As one of my colleagues noted today, I am clearly winning the year 2017.
It is through adversity, though, that I have come to understand (thankfully, over the course of my entire life) that I come from some kick ass women (men too, of course, but don’t stop me now—I am on a roll). I truly stand in awe of the positive and inspirational role models I have had as guides through my upbringing and adulthood. Women who I emulate in every way I can because they are the strongest, kindest, and most intelligent people I know. Life is hard, there will never be a point where everything is hunky-dory and the sun is shining just for you. “Life is pain… anyone who says otherwise is selling something” (thank you, Princess Bride, for always being there when I need you). It’s what you do with the pain that defines you.
What made me ruminate on this?
As I said, my grandmother broke her hip last week and she has been struggling (as is her right, the woman has been 39 for the past 48 years!). Someone who has been through so much strife in her life should have nothing but good things to bask in during her golden years (Though, I mean, she has me—her favorite grandchild—that has to count for something!). Though, despite the hurt and overall stress the situation creates, she bears up with nothing but fortitude and grace under the circumstances. She is one of the strongest women I know and if I become even half as amazing as her, I will consider myself accomplished… Not to mention set for life on the “good person” quotient. A beauty queen to humor her mother, who wanted the opportunity to see D.C.; a widow at a very early age who raised a family of five into productive and enriching members of society, and some of my favorite people in the world; a grandmother of twelve, each one more her favorite than the last until they loop around to start back up the competition again; a devout Snoopy aficionado; an advocate for the curative powers of Teddy Grahams (aka Grammy Bears); a world traveled girl from Maine who took the stairs two at a time well into her sixties and seventies; and a firm believer in the “Live Dangerously” mentality (particularly when it comes to the question of whether or not to carry an umbrella when it looks like rain)…
Grammy, as I call her, is one in a stunning line of heroines I hold dear. Personal heroines I have had the privilege of sharing genetic material with, or who I have chosen to be permanent fixtures in my life (and who have decided to keep me around—likely for the entertainment value).
I appreciate the power, vitality, and backbone of all of the women who have made my life. My paternal great grandmother, among a billion other accomplishments, took over a trucking company when her husband passed away and was, lovingly, given the moniker of “Mother Trucker.” My maternal great grandmother was the secretary to the vice president of a food production company in Maine, at a time when women didn’t work outside the household. My paternal grandmother, first of all, believed that you should always have a cookie for each hand otherwise, why bother (always a beautiful spokesperson for the importance of symmetry). But she also worked to raise three boys while my grandfather was in Vietnam, and then beyond as a military spouse, even when their home was destroyed by a hurricane or whatever other hardship would strike. She suffered from cancer for a number of years with the brightest smile on her face, always laughing through her pain and maintaining her stash of Hershey bars in the drawer under the microwave while having walker races with my brother and I through the downstairs of her home. Then, there is the lovely woman my grandfather married after my grandmother’s passing, who has not only adopted our family as her own but has worked for years to support my grandfather as his health has deteriorated due to Alzheimer’s. Never ceasing with her love and dedication to the man she married.
To top off the family portion, I have more aunts and cousins than I can even name here who are saving the world one hug, smile, and kind word at a time: military wives, kick ass moms, nurses, teachers, marathon runners, knowledge seekers, artists, public servants, musicians, cancer survivors, world travelers, engineers, athletes, EMTs… The women in my family kick all kinds of ass and look damn good doing it.
Then there are my best friends, a group of women who have gotten me through the hardest times I have seen in life… From my best friend and now, basically, sister from high school…To the women I met and in whom found the most kindred of spirits (and some liquor-type spirits) while in college, dedicated friends who have been, and will continue to be, necessities in my life… To the partners and siblings of my former husband’s best friends, who have helped me laugh in ways I could not have imagined over the course of the past two months… And so many more.
And then seriously, how many things can I say about my own mother? The answer will always be: not enough. I don’t have enough good, kind, and powerful words memorized to describe how in awe I am of the strength and love that emanates from my mother. She glows with it. It bursts forth from her and encompasses those around her, creating an aura of family, warmth, and a safe home, regardless of the circumstances (there’s gonna be bursting?).
I hope each of you amazing beings hears this in every way possible… You light up my world. You make my path less dark and murky. You add fun, intelligence, and all of the other necessities to my life. This is my ode to the awe I feel for you.
Each and every one of these women has raised me, whether it has been for the whole 27 years, just a few months, or even solely through family folklore… They have been my foundation for how I see, interpret, and treat the world. Rather than simply what I have wanted, they have been what I have NEEDED as I have navigated every uncertainty or success.
It is because of each of these women that I actively try to be the person who I would want (or would have wanted) someone else to be for me, in the times when I found myself in need or alone. I always ask myself what approach would have been the most helpful for me when I was in whatever situation I am helping address. Regardless of the situation, I want to be, for these people, the person I needed in those (thankfully few) times when I was figuring it out on my own. Like me, they have had enough difficult situations they have had to figure out independently, why not lend a hand when I can, like so many others have done for me? I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments in life that three young women have told me, in the past year, that they admire me. Talk about emotions… I felt a lot of them in those moments. That is my goal, to operate as a resource, to help people breathe easier, to cause smiles, and to inspire… Even in my own small way.
Women, so frequently, are more willing to tear down their fellows than take the time to lend support. Women helping women is one of the most beautiful things in the world.
So, this is my thank you to those who raise me up*… I can only hope to do as much for those around me. Never stop being you. Never stop helping and accepting help. Always know that your strife or victory is worthwhile because someone appreciates your fortitude AND you came out stronger.
For those of you who are struggling… Find your strength through adversity, through necessity, and through your desire to thrive. I believe in you and I hope you always remember that I am around to help in whatever way I can.
*To those of you I was not able to overtly list here, I apologize. Please know this does not diminish your value. Further friends, coworkers, well wishers, etc… I hope I let you know in every way possible in my interactions with you how much I love and appreciate you.
Photo: E. Campbell (2015)