My grandmother lived her whole life under the rules of the 1920s: A woman should be seen and not heard; a woman's place is in the home (I would've said "barefoot and pregnant" but that term first came into use in the 1940s); and modesty is a virtue. A number of tragic circumstances forced her to break out from this mold and define her own place in the world. A place in which she wore a variety of labels: breadwinner, divorcee, single mother, abuse survivor. At the age of 45, she started over. She walked away from her old life with nothing, not even her name. With her new life came some new labels: home-owner, office manager, dog mommy, friend, grandmother, and role model.
She passed away last Thursday at the age of 87, surrounded by the family she never thought she'd live to see: her adult daughter, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. It was the first time I'd experienced the death of someone close to me, and although she'd been ill for a while, her actual passing made me sit back and reflect on who she was. Many of us -- myself included -- would've considered her life full, happy, and a success. She did not. She would have said that she did the best that she could under the circumstances. This trailblazing, independent, amazing woman wore failure around her neck like a millstone because she never conformed to what society viewed as appropriate for women.
And maybe that's the challenge for most people: distinguishing who we are from who we think we should be. We create these constructs (control, rules, truth) to try and give meaning to our lives, and then suddenly, without warning, we find we're no longer building. Suddenly, we're trapped by the "rules" we've created.
What if all that is "true" in our lives is that we live and that we die? What might be possible if we stripped away all the things we take to be the "truth": what people say about us, what we say about other people, what we think life should be, what we think life really is, what we have to do to win at life, what we have to do to avoid losing at life?
Perhaps if we can let go of the interpretation of what we think our lives should be, we might finally be able to fully embrace -- and celebrate -- what our lives are.
I invite you to consider the possibility.
For more by Christine Sachs, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.