It happened again. You would think, as many times as I’ve heard it before, that it would no longer annoy me. Yet, it does. Perhaps more each time I hear it.
I placed a business call this morning, and I got this recording: “Listen closely, as our menu options have changed.” Like I had the previous ones memorized. Whatever.
Certain things come over some women after age 50. Certain things like, say, attitudes that change to “I don’t give a damn anymore.” And this can be a very good thing.
Gail, Suzanne and I are all past this half-century mark, so we feel qualified to make this statement. I have observed within myself, and with my beloved sisters as well, that we have liberated ourselves from many of those old annoying ideas that we have to do things the way they “should” be done. The way they have always been done. The way that other people want them done, because they think that is the only way they can be done, most likely because it benefits them, not us.
If you know any one, two or all three of us, this revelation should come as no surprise to you. Further, if you have known us for a long time, and you think we have always been this way, well, now it’s amped up to grand new levels.
And this is a very good thing, too.
We grew up as (mostly) very obedient girls. Obedient to our parents, our elders, our teachers, our church and our community. We did what as expected. (Mostly.) And this was a very good thing.
We didn’t get in much trouble, except Gail’s antics during her wild high-school years. (Her episodes of being grounded were detailed in a previous blog, and she won’t deny them.) Besides a few speeding tickets each, none of us have been in trouble with the law. We’ve been good girls. (Mostly.)
This hasn’t changed in our after-fifty years, but life has taught us many lessons–some that were hard-earned. We have taken what we have learned, and we are using it for our benefit–hopefully for yours, and all of woman-kind (and ultimately man-kind), too. We are still “good girls,” but our definition of “good” may have changed.
Our parents moved off the family farm into a nearby small town in 2000, nine years after they became empty-nesters. Throughout our growing-up years, Mom was an incredible cook, not just in the delicious dishes she made, but in the amounts: three meals every day, including a short-order breakfast menu that allowed each of us to choose whatever we wanted, and a meat-and-potatoes dinner and supper–on the farm, it is dinner at noon and supper in the evening. All this, plus baked goods and anything extra that needed to be whipped up. Gail, Suzanne and I apprenticed in the kitchen under her, learning her delicious methods, with Gail carrying the load for many of the meals as she grew up. Gail has continued to carry on Mom’s legacy in the kitchen more than Suzanne and I have, but if we have to, we can whip up a meal and baked goods, just like Mom taught us.
Understandably, Mom became tired of all that cooking, so when the table dwindled down to two place settings, her cooking dwindled with it. She had earned this time off. However, her cooking was always delightful, and when it was no longer there as he was used to, our dad apparently missed it. His menu options had changed, and he didn’t like it.
According to Suzanne, the legend goes like this: Mom fixed something simple for a meal, much less grand than she had all those years. Apparently, this episode–even though it was out of character for him–was too much for her, because when Dad said, “What is this shit?” she decided she’d had enough. She quietly changed her menu options with a quick trip to the pasture just beyond the backyard, and retrieved a cowpie, which showed up on Dad’s plate at the next meal. He called it ‘shit,’ so that’s what he got for his next meal.
Be careful what you ask for.
He let out his beloved belly laugh. He knew he was busted, and this never happened again. He listened closely to her menu options after that, and chose carefully from the new menu. In time, he even started cooking more for both of them.
I remember Mom as very quiet, generally getting along with everyone. She rarely spoke harsh words about anyone, but we all knew when she was upset about someone or something. This episode happened when she was in her 60’s, likely when she had experienced enough crap in her own life to call it out and act upon it when something didn’t work the way she needed it to. It took her many years, but she was able to change her own menu options to find what she needed in life. And those around her knew what their new menu options were with her.
For myself, I have taken so many of Mom’s life lessons to heart. She was a quiet, but forceful teacher (mostly), with the cowpie episode being one that stood out as extreme–in a good way. I find myself able to call out BS when I see it; and with the strength she bestowed upon us, as well as courage and practice I have cultivated over time, I find it easier to liberate myself from old chains.
Tragedy can be a crucible, melting a person down to their core before building them back up, stronger than before. This is how I experienced the tragedy of their deaths. I was down so low for so long, but when I summoned the strength to crawl out of that hole, I found the grace and the gift of newfound strength waiting for me to tap into. I felt empowered from the gifts, lessons and legacies they both left for their children, their posterity and for humanity.
I see Gail and Suzanne flexing their new muscles, too. All of us fell to our knees, struggled to get back up and began figuring out the new world we were living in. In time, I saw each of smiling again, even laughing sometimes. We forged on separately and together, becoming the new people, the new family we had to be without our beloved parents. A big part of this growth was this: we didn’t let the stupid little things bring us down–and we still don’t. We make our decisions based on what’s best for us, while still taking other’s needs into consideration. We figure out what works for us, and when someone proposes a menu option that doesn’t, we can assertively and meaningfully reply, “That doesn’t work for me.”
I wish it didn’t take such a hard and harsh lesson for me to learn what to keep and what to leave behind.
In my last post, “On Becoming a Matured Woman,” I wrote of the liberation women often feel when they are relieved of responsibilities, obligations and sometimes pressures from their younger lives. This typically comes with age, as well as hormonal shifts. It is not an easy transition for many women–myself included, but the other side can be glorious.
Knowing that newfound freedom may be around the corner, it is sometimes hard to claim it. Significant other people in your life, including your spouse, children, other family members and friends, may not be making changes in tune with yours. They are used to the you they always knew, and when you make changes in your life and your way of doing things, this may throw them off.
Humans generally like patterns and predictability, and if life is a dance, and every interaction has certain dance steps, you may be throwing off theirs when you change yours. No one wants to be humiliated on the dance floor of life by not knowing the steps, so be ready for some resistance from those who know your old dance steps.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you are leaving them behind, although, if you feel some relationships have become dead weight, this is the time to shed them, no longer including them on your menu. Only you know which ones should stay, and which ones should go. And trust us on this one, life really is too short to lug around dead weight.
If you knew our mom–and even if you didn’t, let her example above inspire you to change your own menu, if it is time. Trust that you have all the tools you need to rewrite your own menu, no matter where you are at in your life.
And remember, if a cowpie shows up on your plate, perhaps you should examine your actions to see if perhaps, just like our dad, you did indeed unwittingly order it off the menu of life.