Sunday, March 6, 2016

Carol A. Hand

Yesterday was my granddaughter’s ninth birthday. We celebrated with a simple family gathering, thanks to my daughter’s thoughtfulness. Even though it was one of the days when I would have preferred to remain reclusive, I took time for silent reflection and decided to be fully present. It was the right choice.

Writing about the stories and observations of a younger me has helped me understand my life with a little more depth and clarity. I realize how easy it is to choose which stories we believe about ourselves. The stories I chose to believe about myself as a child were consistently reinforced by only giving credence to later ones that conveyed the same messages.

From my mother – “You have always been self-contained. You don’t need other people to be happy. You never have – even as a baby you didn’t need me like your brother. You’re different. You’re too smart. Other people won’t like you or understand you if you can’t learn to be more like them. You need to be more like your brother that way.”

From my father and other authority figures – “You’re willful. You think you know better that others and insist on learning things the hard way. This will teach you to listen!”

What I listened to were the mixed messages that encouraged me to withdraw into a world of nature, books, ideas, and imagination. I became self-contained and never really learned how to form deep enduring relationships. In retrospect, I have learned to see this as both a blessing and a curse. Withdrawing into study and reflection, I defined myself ever more by my differences. For decades, although I tried to withdraw and avoid confrontations, I couldn’t walk away from situations that reminded me of my childish stands in situations of oppressive authority. I saw them everywhere I went. And everywhere I went, ultimately I chose to stand in willful opposition. Again, a mixed blessing.

But internalizing these messages didn’t lead to an easy life. And they didn’t make me the best mother or grandmother. I’m not authentically soft and cuddly. I’m not good at cooing to babies. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love, it just means I do it differently. Yesterday, I chose to simply be who I am during the time with my family. By accepting myself for who I am, with both strengths and fatal flaws, I can accept others for who they are. I can celebrate their strengths by sharing past memories and try to build foundations for the future by creating new memories of laughter and kindness.

Ava's 9th birthday

Image: My Granddaughter’s 9th Birthday Celebration

I’m grateful I chose not to withdraw into my solitude yesterday. It helped me feel a little less superfluous now that I’m retired. Even if I had made a different choice, however, it wouldn’t change the depth of love I feel.



15 thoughts on “Sunday, March 6, 2016

  1. Thanks, Carol, for sharing in so intimate a way. You may not be the garrulous extrovert that some of us are, but you’ve shown by this post you are not so averse to encounter and relationship that you hide away!.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Ron. Interestingly, I’ve discovered that this odd degree of detachment sometimes makes me a magnet, drawing forth others’ stories and enabling me to listen in a nonjudgmental, compassionate way. A mixed blessing …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Know thyself.”

    You have heard this exhortation and sought your self out!

    I, on the other hand, have just recently begun this journey of finding self, and at a very, very late date.

    But I guess “better late than never” applies.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As a former teacher, I, of course, am familiar with Erickson’s theory of development.

        Although I don’t buy completely into it, this does narrow a huge range of experience/reaction down to a somewhat more manageable/predictable place.

        And in this case, “Wisdom, Ego integrity vs. despair.” does ring true with me, at this point in life.

        So, perhaps, I haven’t lagged behind after all? Perhaps, I am right on schedule!

        Yes, it is never too late!

        Thanks, Carol!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I really relate to this and I too received messages from my parents which ingrained themselves into my soul. My mum, “I was devastated when I found out I was expecting you, I wept for days….” My dad, “you’re so impatient, you want everything done yesterday!” They shape who you become and as you ssy, a blessing and a curse. I’m only just beginning to find out who I really am in my sixties. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nelly, thank you for your comments, and for sharing the cruel messages that made you feel unwanted and and deficient. I’m just discovering these things in my 60s, too, now that I finally have time for reflection.

      I’m deeply grateful for the depth and honesty of your comments.


  4. Thanks for sharing this, Carol. We share so much in common. The criticism leveled against me was that I was too “self-sufficient.” In order to survive in Brazil and raise my sons, I had to change that.

    The time we share with those we love and who love us is our way of giving back ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Rosaliene. I do believe time spent with those we love is a gift for all, and I’m grateful for the chance to learn how to simply be present and kind.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Salgirah Mubarak Duaoon Ke sath (wishes in Urdu) lovely post and such a nice photo.Taking a moment also to say Women’s day wishes and here’s something at
    I know you are an acomplished writer so hopefully you won’t be offended at my post though, I just want to widely share your wonderful work. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your blessings and kind words, Writer from the East. I’m deeply honored by your thoughtfulness, and grateful for the chance to learn from the important work you do.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Of course you need other people! And they need you.
    If you are comfortable alone, it doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy a good company. It only means that you are self-sufficient, intelligent, no-nonsense woman. It is what I think. You say you are not into cuddling, but sure you can show affection in some other way – in your photograph I see a loving grandmother.

    Liked by 1 person

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