Maya Angelou has long been one of my favorite writers; below are two sections from her contributions to Willa Shalit’s compilation work, titled, “Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female.”
– On becoming a woman:
“Becoming a woman is exciting, but it’s hard. It’s onerous, but it’s honorable. It’s satisfying, because people know a woman. When a woman is in a room she doesn’t have to talk loudly. She doesn’t have to carry a six-gun. But people feel safe around her, all sorts of people, people she doesn’t even look like. People whose color may be different and who may call God by different names. People from all generations feel comfortable around a woman. To grow up female with the determination to become a woman is to earn all the plaudits, all the accolades, all the respect that this society has to give. I believe you can’t do it alone. I believe you have to have the ideals of women who went before you.” (p.1)
– On growing up:
“I believe that very few people grow up. Most people grow older, but growing up is challenging. Many people get older, honor their credit cards, matriculate into and graduate out of schools, get married and have children. They call that growing up, maturing. It’s not. It is simply growing old. One has to assume responsibility for the time one takes up and the space one occupies. To grow up is to stop putting blame on parents. To grow up is to care not only about one’s own self but about somebody else’s, somebody yet to come. To grow up is to be in a constant state of forgiving. Forgiving yourself for not knowing better, or for knowing better and not doing better, and then releasing people from your own anger and angst. You must stop carrying them around in their ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, giving them purchase on your back, and always having them to pole and pinch and carry blame…” (p.3-4)
Apparently, we residents of Chicago live in the most stressful city in the US, according to a recent survey. Here is the introduction to the article about the study:
“The crisis on Wall Street has New Yorkers alarmed. But it’s nothing compared to the levels of anxiety those living in the Windy City feel each day. Chicago’s rising unemployment rate, expensive gas, high population density and relatively poor air quality create a perfect storm of stress, according to measures we used to calculate the country’s anxiety hot spots.”
Huh. Where we live causes anxiety. Just the physical space and competing economic factors surrounding us apparently cause measureable stress on the inhabitants. Not completely new information, but interesting to think about again as I am reflecting on health and wholeness a lot lately. For those of us who are “situation dependent” – a term my husband and I joke about since he does NOT notice his physical surroundings in the least, and I am deeply affected by how things look, smell, feel, etc. – I wonder how much our environment and underlying stressors like job hunting and housing costs really does affect our quality of life. And how much more so for low-income populations in this city where housing/gas/food is the most expensive and families the lest able to absorb the marked-up prices.
This fall I am noticing different aspects of life that contribute or detract from my health – in a holistic sense – and wonder how our city that we love might be one aspect to reflect on and maybe adjust our patterns around. Days spent picking apples and frolicking in leaves this autumn might be even more important to plan for us windy-city dwellers!
I’ve discovered a new feeling; it’s the feeling of pride, joy and pure gratitude that a mother gets watching her child being deeply loved by that child’s dad. The feeling is both powerful and tender, all at once. It’s a feeling with touches of both playfulness and grounded stability. This feeling is somewhat familiar; it’s built on the unconditional love that I already receive and feel from my husband, a gift that I count on and luxuriate in, a gift that I now see being lavished on our daughter in the unique way that a new dad loves his new daughter. It’s a feeling that I never felt before these past few months, before I could watch my daughter with her daddy. I can’t really describe it fully – but, it really is amazing.
Happy First Father’s Day Imzadi – it is truly a delight to share the adventure of parenthood with you! Our girl is so very lucky…
And happy Father’s Day to each of you men who make your children (and their mothers) so proud and so secure through your affection. Fatherhood is so important – and so underrated in many ways. Hats off to all of you who take the job seriously and who love your kid wholly.