Reflections on Women Who Changed My Perspective
Let’s start with a stranger. When I was in India, I entered the country after watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and thought I understood the culture. My husband and I decided to visit a nearby mall and to get a feel for the place, we walked there. Our unusual dress, height, and skin made us stand out like a neon light. Most people made a slight circle around us, not knowing if we might be dangerous. One woman garbed in an ironed cotton sari and a baby on her hip headed straight for us.
She murmured words I couldn’t comprehend. When we didn’t respond, she spoke louder. Finally, she touched my sweater and pressed her baby’s arm against my sweater, too. By this time, we were on our way back and one of the hotel guards ran out, shouted something at the woman, and rushed us inside the hotel. We later learned the woman was born into the caste/class called untouchable. People actually paid her not to touch them. We must have been a disappointment.
In our short stay, I had the owner of an exclusive tea house brag that he was able to run such a fancy place because of his birth. It made me remember the first woman we met who had no choice about her birth, but she still had enough respect for herself that she cleaned her face, braided her hair, and ironed her sari before going out each day. She couldn’t change the circumstances of her birth, but she could still have pride about what she could do. We classify people here in the United States, too. Somehow one person is good, while someone else isn’t. This person matters, while another person doesn’t. This person is important while that person receives a wide berth. Even if we don’t admit it, there is a definite class system in the US.
nursing home resident named Katherine. As a teen I worked at a local convalescent
center. Katherine had checked herself in due to alcoholism. I’d often spend my
lunch with her, listening to her tales. They were glorious—at least the early ones
were. She was an intellectual during the times when women only attended college
to snag a husband. Often with a cup of coffee in one hand, she’d reminisce about meeting her much older husband and their epic journey to New York City to work and live. It was a hard life, but they had each other, enduring love, and a spirit of adventure. When he died, her world fell apart.
She tried to recreate it with another man, but that didn’t work either. Instead, she turned to the bottle to forget and lost her coveted journalistic job. What I learned from her, is to enjoy what you have as opposed to attempting to hold onto things or people who are gone. There is joy in every day if you look for it.
That would have been enough to make anyone bitter, but she was the opposite. At some point, my grandmother saw no merit in complaining about things she couldn’t change and chose to look for the good. She always had a kind word for everyone. Whenever I want to complain about something, or sometimes, when I catch myself in the middle of a full-scale rant, I think of my grandmother and stop.
I met Grace about eight years ago at a Pagan Pride Festival. She, along with another woman, was handing out information on a Goddess group in the area. I took the pamphlet and moved on, unaware of how this small contact would change me. It’s funny, as I get older, I change my definition of old. While Grace will always be chronologically older than me, she will never be old, or at least my version of old. Instead, she is the one up on her feet dancing, encouraging the younger women to join her. While most of us attempt something new cautiously, ready to pull back if it doesn’t suit, she runs in full tilt. Grace has taught me to laugh, dance and be authentically me—and not some Stepford Wife Drone. She also taught me to accept my shadow tendencies. Every part of us has merit and every experience is a lesson.
When I think of Grace, I am not afraid to age. She has shown me this is the very best time of life and to celebrate it.
Even though this is Women’s Day, I found this interesting when I tried to find pictures on a photo site. I started by typing in the word girls. I hoped to get some kindergartener in a Wonder Woman costume. Instead, I got several photos of women between twenty and thirty. Despite the marches and the fight for equal rights, it takes a very long time before females are categorized as women. Many die before that even happens. Why is the word frightening to whoever set up the site? Interestingly enough, what I didn’t find under the girls listing was actual females under the age of eighteen.
Another thing to ponder on International Women’s Day.