This has turned into a blog for you, but when I started it one year ago, it was to capture my launch into motherhood – even though we had been trying for months before that first entry when I saw my first ever + sign on a pee stick. Now that I am into the 27th week of you growing as you should, and having gone through all that I have, I reflect on how this past year has me finally appreciating that I am indeed a strong woman (this is an extension of yesterday’s writing about fictional strong women). With the Women’s March this weekend, I keep thinking about the woman issue lately.
I am not alone in this focus on feminine strength as part of going through this past year has connected me with the stories of other women who have likewise endured so much to achieve their dreams of becoming moms too. When I was younger – even in my early 30’s – I did not consider the whole motherhood thing much at all. To me strength was a physical thing. When I worked out a lot and felt okay in my own skin, I thought that I was strong. As I began to experience more and more of the struggles that seem to get bigger and more “grown up”, the concept of strength took on a new meaning. I like this quote because it captures this duality of the word: “There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” —Booker T. Washington. I think this past year was about pulling myself up after some really heartbreaking and physically crushing experiences. These trials only make the reward of getting you into the world (soon, but not too soon) so much better.
What took me to thinking of real life strong females was reviewing the list of women invited to the baby shower the Grandma J is doing. A quick note there, on Sunday night, Grandma J went to the ER and was admitted to ICU for a very high fever: 105. She has been on and off sick for a long time now and it turns out she has sepsis, which is a raging infection throughout her whole body. Her leg is the worst outward sign of it as it is completely red and swollen. She is in a regular room and attempting to eat a little now. She is also on a lot of medicine, which she needs but is making her feel icky. I think she will be okay, but this will be just another in a long line of medical woes that will sap her of strength and set her way back with regards to making any strides toward improved health. Grandma J has been incredibly sickly since she was 30. More than half of her life has been tethered to medicine, doctor appointments, and the almost yearly hospitalization for something or other. It is an unbelievable thing how she falls prey to so many various maladies. Hopefully she will recover soon and be healthier when you come along. So, again, as I reflect on strong women, she is strong in that she continues to endure despite the unrelenting pain of her disease and all of the horrible side effects of her strong medicine to treat it.
When I consider “strength” I often connect it to trees, which is something that I did long before meeting your dad. I used to walk alone in the arboretum and would touch the trunks of grand trees and marvel at how long they have held their ground and thrived while so much of the world around them changed. Here is something I wanted to share:
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
Nice. I think that is a great stand alone, but I included it here because it feels right as I focus on strength. And then when I start to think about the guest lists for showers I can’t help but think of how I am like the trunk of a grand tree. The women who have contributed to shaping my life are like the sturdy, strong roots and the lives of others I impact are the various branches. We all move toward the light. We all need eachother to live. And those roots are critically important are they not? We just had a large Linden crash in our yard and luckily just some utility boxes were the victims of gravity. The Linden was old and her roots were decayed. With how completely wet the ground was, she crashed. That wasn’t meant to be sad, it was just her time and without her roots she couldn’t stand tall on the ground. I am so respectful of the people who have held me strong through the years.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Ghandi
When I consider how blessed my life is I attribute a great part of that to the many women who have shaped my spirit. There is my own mother of course, and how much I could say of her influence on me as she has always been an intense Mama Bear who fought fiercely for me to have the best in my early years and who pushed me toward excellence in all that I pursued. Her sister, my Aunt, who passed far too early, lived a vivid city life and was remarkably intelligent, warm-hearted, and fun. Their mother who was devoted, kind, and calm. And from my dad’s side, GGF, who lived for 101 years, was a major player in much of my character. Her petite frame was home to such an indomitable spirit and she did so much with all of those 101 years, right up to the end when she was still looking out for me. I am so blessed to have so many of her stories in my memories. As a younger self-absorbed punk it was easy to look at these women in my family simply as the roles they embodied. My mom was my warden, keeping me in line and telling me what to do. My aunt was a fun escape who we never had enough time with. My grandmothers were sources of wonderful spoiling and the go-to long-term babysitters for when my parents were on a vacation. I was young and my world view was rather two dimensional at that point. Then I started to grow up and thankfully my vision matured. Additionally, I was graced with so many other amazing women who contributed to my sense of self through their inspiring examples. They were teachers, counselors, babysitters, neighbors, and family friends. I am filled with joy when I consider how long I have known some of them and my heart aches when I miss the ones who, like my aunt, were called to God too soon. There were women who remained the backbones of their families despite job losses, strained marriages, excruciating medical strifes, terminal diagnoses, and the tragic of passings husbands and/or children. I took in these stories as my mom shared them with my sisters and me. And I often felt helpless to do anything for these harsh realities that hit so close to home. Everyone, everyone has their struggles and in those tough times these women demonstrated unbelievable strength.
When I was younger Hillary Clinton wrote “It Take a Village…” I thought the title was catchy. I never read the book, but I often thought about what the title implied. When my mom was sick, her friends brought us meals. When I needed someone to by my older sister, I had someone there in that role. The support I had far superseded my own blood relatives. My village was always there and has continued to expand. Then as I grew into my career as a coach and teacher, while taking on the adult roles of aunt, daughter, and granddaughter, I began to contribute to the lives of others. I am fortunate to have been both the recipient and giver of amazing support. I count myself lucky to have the strong women in my world that are constantly holding me up even when I am not aware of it. I know my family, many of my mom’s friends, my friends, and even work acquaintances have prayed in earnest for me and the baby. I know many of these same women have felt a twinge of pain with those prayers because they too have experienced loss and hurdles in their journeys to motherhood. I have never felt all alone in the hard times of this past year. Just knowing that I was a reverent thought in others’ hearts gave me more strength. The circle of women who are my village is amazing and when I stop to write the names down I can think of their stories one by one and I wish that I could convey to each of them, and to the ones who are in heaven, just how much their examples of strength mean to me.
I feel like this entry has been a little all over the place. I have been fighting a headache all day and my lack of sleep is just wearing on my ability to be eloquent. I probably need to drink more water, which has been my diagnosis for almost everything as of late. I also need to do some deep breathing as I feel more and more shortness of breath. I am getting bigger and it is starting to wear me out. The husband leaves me for three days tomorrow as he will be at a conference for work. I will be fine, but we aren’t apart that often and I know he worries that I will overdo things and/or have something happen that he will not be nearby for. I can promise him I won’t overdo as I just feel like a heap of exhausted nerves. As far as something happening, that has been the case from the get-go. That is something we can’t know and can’t control. So I will be smart and take it easy and just…drink more water. I am feeling you kick right now. You remain very low, but as long as I feel those kicks I think we are doing okay and you are doing your part to become a strong little baby. So keep it up kiddo. It will be just you and me and the felines for the next few days. Keep me company by doing your morse code on my bladder. It is strangely reassuring! Happy 1 year blog anniversary. What a year it has been!