I find New Year’s Resolutions often boring and predictable. I spent this New Year’s Eve ushering in the New Year with my Mom and three of her life long, good friends. I found their perspective and life views to cause me to stop, think, and review my purpose in the world as a woman, friend, and mother. I was honored to sit and be schooled by four teachers, (including my Mom) who have enlightened hundreds of students over the span of their collective lifetime. Silently and unwittingly, I had entered a Masters Class.
The evening was spent playing games, cooking, eating, watching a funny movie and talking, debating and sharing, no holds barred. These women are not shrinking violets. Each in their own right have achieved great success as teachers, mothers, educators, administrators, feminists, and women. They take their roles as educators very seriously. It is their calling and they know their stuff.
All but one are retired but I don’t think they know how to retire, at least in the conventional sense of the word. They are still in the trenches, in schools, their communities, and churches. Each continuing to make a difference with their wisdom, contributions and shared life experiences. I was in awe of how they approached retirement, life, friendship, relationships, motherhood, marriage, widowhood, and even death. The lessons were timely, valuable and as varied as the women who were sharing them.
First, if you can not hold your own in a debate, this is not the group for you. You can’t just “state” your position, be ready to defend it, be knowledgeable about it or you will be devoured with intellect and reasoning so strong you are instantly reminded of your third grade teacher tsking and shaking her head at your feeble attempt to answer a question, incorrectly and without raising your hand first. So come strong or stay home. No time for a Goggle check, if you speak on it then you must Know about that which you speak. If not you will be challenged, kindly but with intensity.
Second, disagreement is welcome, argument encouraged. I mean this in the most respectful and adult way. There is no name calling or disparaging remarks, no eye rolls, teeth sucking, or out right dismissal of anyone’s point of view. Seems strange in a world where it seems we can not hold two opposing thoughts at the same time, (Cognitive Dissidence, in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t wondering but I received an education about nevertheless). That’s the other side of being raised by teachers, don’t use a word or phrase if you don’t know it’s origin or meaning. It has the potential to be embarrassing as they are trained listeners. I learned the true value of a loving and heartfelt debate, valuing their choice of words, their tone, more than any ego driven need to win an argument.
Third, dismantling, attacking, and categorizing other women is not allowed. Collectively these four women have raised ten plus children and they know that there is no value in teaching a lesson with pain attached, life teaches us that lesson whether we like it or not. They are forthright, well spoken, intelligent women who have continuously worked on uplifting, educating, and supporting children and adults for dozens of years. They believe that Information is power, freedom and independence. They have marched, and challenged the status quo. They have lived through the free love of the 60s, the civil rights movement, women’s movement, mother’s movement and they are not done yet, not by a long shot.
Fourth, no two women are alike. Each one is a strong woman in her own right, working their entire lives and making creative and difficult choices, often alone. Their decisions and sacrifices have affected their families, their careers and themselves. Still you won’t find a drop of bitterness or martyrdom to be found among them. This is a group of women who get the job done, no time for muss or fuss. No time to wonder if they will get the credit for all of their hard work, (and I can say from experience, they do not). No time to sit around and whine about who is doing what, when. If something needs to get done, big or small, these women are on it. They are practical, ingenious, problem solvers and they don’t get nearly the recognition they should.
Fifth and finally, I sat back and watched and learned more in one night than I could ever write about today. I sat, in rapt attention barely moving as they shared eloquently the lessons of their own lives. l listened and I learned about being a woman in her 60s, 70s and 80s. I learned about being a mother, for a life time, (I know we know we are mothers forever but these women exemplify what a mother is and the dance that is required as their children have grown). I learned that I can speak up and out and frankly that I should at every turn, particularly when injustice is being done. I learned the true meaning and the treasures of life long girlfriends who support and love each other through the challenges, joys and pain that life brings. I learned how to fall spectacularly and continue to get back up, again and again with dignity and integrity.
I will leave you with some last words of wisdom from the oldest member of the group answering the age-old question, what is your New Year’s Resolution? She paused and thought about it for a moment, and she said, “I am living my New Year’s Resolutions every day in the choices I make, the people I love and cherish, the work I continue to do, and in the way I live my life. I don’t have any new resolutions, just to continue living, learning and loving.”
Yep, I will say it again, this was a Masters Class and these women should be on the cover of Time’s most Influential Women of their Time. As teachers they have taught these principles, shared these principles, prayed over these principles with their own children and the many children, many of whom are now adults, that they had the privilege of teaching over 50+ years as Educators. Retirement is only a word to them and these women are graceful, strong, real, honest, hardworking, dedicated, beautiful, intelligent, resilient, and extraordinary. Their lives are a blueprint for how I hope to live my life as I grow older.
Thank You for your hard-earned lessons, Mom, Ann, Beth, and Pam. And thank you for sharing them, albeit unknowingly, with me. Much love.