Friday, May 24, 2013

The Kind of Life that Matters

A few days ago I was invited to do a reading for a group of women at a church event. The purpose of the evening was to celebrate women...which in this case meant a beautifully laid tea party complete with scones, cucumber sandwiches, and gourmet cupcakes. Side note: I would like to add that cream filled cupcakes with freshly made berry frosting are a good idea if you plan to spend an evening celebrating anything.

Anyhoo, after we'd set down our forks I stood and shared a couple of brief excerpts from some of my favorite books, a blog post that I wrote back in January, and the short essay I published in Seeing the Everyday Magazine last year. Each of the four readings touched upon a different corner of celebrating women...what we love, what we need, what makes us abandon our rotten children in the middle of dinner and retreat to the bathtub, and to close, what we are capable of giving. I had been asked ahead of time to write something that could be printed and sent home with each guest at the end of the evening. And so I sat down at my computer and tried to imagine what I might say to a room full of women of differing ages, circumstances, interests, and doubts. What is the common thread that might encourage them to take a second look in the mirror, a deep down look? What is it that we can all celebrate? This is what I came up with...

The Kind of Life That Matters 

The days and weeks are long, but the months and years will fly past. Isn’t that what people always say? And by “people” I’m referring to old folks who can scarcely believe their once-smooth skin has turned into a calendar of the years, and their grandchildren are middle aged. Folks who’ve lived long enough to know what they’re talking about! What they’re really saying though, is not to let it pass you by. But what this advice assumes is that we all understand what the it is that we’re in danger of missing. Some days I wonder what it is that I'm hoping to accomplish, what meaningful, lasting offering I might give amid the stress and the changes of everyday life? I think the answer must look a little different for each woman.

Some days I wish a sense of personal fulfillment would happen to my life all at once, like a Jack n’ the Box toy popping open. Ta Da! It would say. Your little contribution made a differencebut you’re done for now so feel free to sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride. But living the kind of life that matters is a start to finish endeavor. From spring mud puddles to the crinkly, fading leaves in the fall, every season of life is significant. A child and a grandmother are equally capable of leaving their mark.

It’s difficult to know what to focus on since there are so many factors that demand our time and energy, influencing our sense of accomplishment. We are our bodies and our intellect, our faith, work, creativity and friendships, and of course, we are our children. Of these parts there isn’t any one that on its own can transport us to the greener grass on the other side of the fence where everything is exactly what we wished for. If only it were that simple! But we are not our work alone, or our lovely hair, our childhood, our homemade bread or our mothering skills. It is the sum of all the parts, and in a way I think it's both the grief and the glory of womanhood that we have so many demands to master and maneuver. But I suspect our success will be determined by our willingness to try.

I’ve often heard others insist on using every part of the chicken when cooking, letting nothing go to waste, and sometimes I think of that when I try to imagine what it is that I’m supposed to be doing with my life. And truly, what a world we might have if every woman could say with confidence,  I took a long look at the many good things inside of me and figured out a way to give others the best of it, nurturing whatever was good, beautiful and right. I tried to make my life matter! 

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