I felt restless. The beautiful day was calling me out into the flow of it all, and I needed to clear my head.
We passed each other in the hallway, hesitating to go by. Then turned, at the exact same time, to more politely say, “Hello.”
For five years in this apartment complex she has been one of the only friendly souls toward me, although a few have smiled at and snuggled my dog, and recently I’ve been making more connections. She however, has always smiled at me, has always asked about my day, my plans and thoughts.
Whatever I’ve said, she’s always cheered me on. “I know you’ll do it.”
I guess she can tell that it hasn’t always been easy, that sometimes I feel dragged down by the responsibilities and puzzles I’m juggling (mixed metaphor intentional), but that I’m still ‘showing up’ for life. Perhaps she relates to me, remembering when she first moved to America from another country many years ago. Newly divorced with two sons, she went back to school and became a translator for the court system at just about the age I am now, a job she genuinely loves.
Today, she was wearing a tigers-eye coordinated suit, fancy but not pretentious. I was attuned to the colors because I was about to drive to a small crystal shop that holds weekly yin yoga classes on a “show up and pay” model. I was definitely not fancy, in fact I’d just changed because my daughter had strongly expressed earlier, that I must have gotten dressed with my eyes closed.
So here’s the heart of this post…
While we were talking, there in the hall of this far too beige apartment building on this gorgeous Florida day, I felt my heart open in an unusual way, and found myself inquiring more deeply about her life and family. She misses her grandchildren lately; though they live nearby, she hasn’t seen them in a month or more. I asked, although I already suspected, that it was a matter with her daughter in law keeping her at a distance. Then I surprised myself to tell her something that I myself hadn’t integrated and *known in full* until sharing it with her.
(Paraphrasing) I said, “When the kids were little, I was very sensitive to feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job. I was hyper-aware of every movement, wanting to do everything perfectly and cover all the bases. Back then, *everything* reflected back at me, my own inadequacies. It has taken more than 20 years to know that was rarely true.”
She relaxed a lot, and started nodding, saying that she really does think her daughter in law is a great mother, and doing everything well. She respects her, although she sometimes gets the impression that her daughter in law feels intimidated by her resourcefulness… that she’s able to sew and cook and learn just about anything she sets out to. She’s isn’t offering help to be critical, it is just her way of things.
“It is really something going on with herself, something she needs to work out,” I said, “but I can tell you that what I really needed was validation.” It is always hard to describe these things, but I had chills during our conversation. I knew that some shift of perspective was possible for both of them, and that things would get better.
I felt better too. I can’t go back in time and speak up for myself, or accept the guidance some of the elder women in my ex’s family tried to give me when much younger. I can’t be the woman I am now, then. Still, it heals a sore spot deeply embedded in my tissues, to suddenly expand in vision that way, so clearly, ‘on the spot’ for the sake of someone else. Sometimes I feel rootless and aimless, but this was a reminder that indeed, we’re all needed in this life, this world, even when finding it hard to affect the seemingly bigger things.
I love that feeling. And actually the little moments are what spark hope that the bigger things can be affected, too.