Monday, April 27, 2015

On Being a Woman in the World

       I am betting that there are women, like me, who have a corner of their brain dedicated to mulling over ideas for an unaccompanied mini-holiday. Actually I know there are.  I talk to such women regularly; I see "help me" in their eyes. 
Ocean-front retreat, anyone? Cabin nestled in the mountains? At the very least a hotel the next town over? It doesn't have to be fancy. Clean, quiet, working shower, bit of a view. Spa pedicure, massage, and luxurious bathrobe optional. Ok not optional, now that we've thought of them!

Most women I know have so much going on it's ridiculous. Under the serene smiling surface races a matrix of thoughts, commitments, ideas, memories, who's-picking-up-the-kids, plans, dreams, day-dreams, I-need-new-shoes, where-does-the-money-go, email drafts, and the all-pervasive What-the-hhaahh-should-we-have-for-supper. 
And yet somehow women carry on, holding it sort-of together. 

Most women I know don't even bother trying to explain all that they had to do in a day. 
"So what did you do today?"
"Ah, know. Stuff."
They simply carry on, looking wistfully at the couch which they haven't actually sat on in a week...? A month...? Ever...? Someone must sit there, because there are popcorn kernels and bits of chips on the cushions and probably ground into the carpet. The coffee table is littered with a vast array of everything known to man, except coffee. Said coffee is in hand, saving lives. 

The previous paragraph made a shift from the hypothetical  "they" to the more personal "you", and perhaps there should be an honest moment where we cut to the chase and say "I". 
"I" am a woman in the world who wonders What Happened. 
I used to have dreams...I think I wrote them on that slip of paper the wind whipped up and blew away. 

Now before I'm accused of feeling sorry for myself, let me say that I went into it all with my eyes open. Life is based on exchanges, sacrifices made, things received and things given. I wouldn't take back one moment spent with my kids; in fact, I wish there were more late night rocking chair moments, more mom-and-kids bike rides down the road, more birthday scavenger hunts. I love my two amazing children - they have always deserved the best I have to give. 

There was a day long ago, about age twenty, when I encountered one of those proverbial forks in the road. This friend of mine had written a song and I was asked to sing and record it. I had helped out with a few tracks in the studio previously. I wasn't in love with the song. Besides being western-flavoured, it was in a lower key than I could sing comfortably. Generally the track was laying down well, but there was one part that just didn't sound right. The key could have moved up the scale a notch or two.  But no, that wasn't on the cards apparently. Well, recording time is expensive, and my friend and his recording buddies decided I needed a little something to relax, perhaps, and then I would get the note right. Nobody said this exactly, but a six-pack materialized and I overheard enough of a whispered conversation to realize what was going on. I wasn't as naive perhaps as they were hoping.
Right then was the moment. I saw more of the same ahead. I saw this exciting road of really pushing ahead in the music industry, the struggle, the highs and lows, the crazy ride - and so much temptation to compromise. Maybe not being there for my future children, or not having children at all.  It looked terribly bleak and pointless. Surely there were enough singers in the world already? 
We continued wrapping up the session, but in my mind I was turning away, stepping down the other path. No regrets. I saw that I had a choice, to go on like this or not, and I made it -  I said  "No" - knowing what it meant. 

No regrets though? 
...Well not entirely. 
Sometimes if I'm honest I wonder if I tried hard enough, if I gave up too early. I didn't believe I was all that special. And I didn't want to be one of those people that are self-absorbed, relentlessly in pursuit of everything they want out of life, tossing scraps of time and love to their children. I didn't want my kids to be a side project, tacked on to an independently successful life. The children we have are people. Not add-ons to a list of things accomplished. I had to be free to be there for them. 

The point is that almost every woman has a story of dreams pursued and misplaced, set on the back burner and forgotten. Maybe a situation like mine, maybe entirely different. 

Those women who are wives and mothers can all relate on some level, at least. Standing over a dirty sink in the evening, dead on your feet, mind a thousand miles away.  Pushing a stroller down the sidewalk, watching the far away white streak of a jet, wondering where those lucky people are going. Knowing that somewhere a slim woman of your age is sitting down to a cappuccino at an al fresco European cafe, wearing linen pants and a cool expression....while here's your not-so-prim self dishing out spaghetti in a hot kitchen wearing a camp t-shirt and mom jeans. Which is all perfectly fine and beautiful in its own way. 
(And yet the whole beauty-in-the-mundane can be stretched too far, don't you think?? Like that grunge fished out of  the tub drain from time to time. No one is going to tell me that's 'a beautiful mess'!)

The slim women in the linen pants isn't real. She's just a projection of the desire to be relaxed and calm and far away from  our worries for a moment. When asked, "What is it like to be a woman in the world today?" my friends on facebook replied, "overwhelming", "confusing", "need to be everything", "blessed", "miracle if I get everything done", "failure", and "challenging". I agree with each description. 

I think it is simpler for some women than for others. If your desires and dreams line up with what is expected of you and what happens, then that is a pretty great scenario, generally. Of course things happen to everyone. Stories get halted, interrupted, twisted upside-down and backwards. There is no perfect scenario. 

A lot has already been said on the topic, that's true. I simply want to say to all the women out there that feel defeated, passionless, torn in every direction - and t.i.r.e.d. - I hear you. Let's be more honest with each other.
Don't let people and issues that aren't deserving of your time steal your joy and hope. 
Find a moment to rest.
Let things you don't actually need to deal with .....go.
Keep loving those you care about and who care for you. 
Make room to pursue the dreams you had, even a little each day. No one will die. But your heart might, if you keep pushing it back farther on the shelf. 
It sure isn't easy, and yet it seems to help when you acknowledge the truth of the situation. 

Above all, we have to be willing to change. Let something go so you can hold onto something else. If you (we, I ) look around a bit we might find that slip of paper with the dream under a stack of bills or stuck to the bottom of a box in the garage. 
Life seems to be steadily grinding in the wrong direction sometimes, doesn't it? Full speed - icebergs ahead! On the bright side, even a small adjustment of the rudder can set an entirely new destination. 

It can be very odd to be a woman in the world today. We've been told by society since we were girls that it is possible to have our cake and eat it too, but is it also possible to feel full and empty at the same time?
It could be just me. 
I've always been too ambitious. 

For my women readers; you are wonderful. Day to day courage is the toughest kind.
 For those who need to go back to the start, or adjust the sails, I hope you are able to try that thing you always wanted to do. No one else can; it has to be you. 


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