The older a woman gets the more she learns the wisdom of keeping her own counsel. The time afforded for those private thoughts narrows further still, as younger generations cannot imagine any world so interesting as the one they themselves now inhabit.
A woman learns to listen with one ear while still holding her place, as in a book, with the other. She remembers being teenager, tying up the family telephone in an era when no one was important enough to have a line all their own, giggling or murmuring breathy endearments that seemed so meaningful and so real.
Woman gets older. The world gets both quieter and louder. You speak, but you watch with your eyes — where are the children?– count — these are cataclysmic changes, mostly internal. No one could guess at them. The panicked anxiety dreams about protecting the children, the lost-youth dreams about going to school dances, but no one will dance with you because you’re old: the worry, it wears on you, but firmly, with an iron rasp.
Now the narrative will swerve from third person, to second, to first, as abruptly as the interstate drivers who change not one lane, but several at once.
I realize I am not the first to see the world at this particular tilt. I am gravely humbled by the understanding that this is a binocular view my mother, her mother, her grandmother also had –back and back and back. Despite the variables the constants remain. The woman is Shakespeare’s ever-fixed mark, looking on tempests, never shaken. [Sonnet 116].
She has to be. Everyone needs her. That’s just how it is. It’s not a resentment. It’s an onus. It’s a knowledge. It’s a skin, to be worn, and so it is.
We have traveled far enough to understand the legends and mythologies the children hold us to. Even if at first it is but a role we play, it becomes the one which, by living, we come to own.
At some point one comes to understand that this life is a series of viewpoints, from varying heights. It’s not that the thoughts and impressions and experiences were really new; they were just new to us.
Maybe, I realize, I’ve never had an original thought in my head. All the times I looked out the window of the school bus longing to be grown up, and free—- everyone else wanted that, too.
And now, studying a new crease in my left eyelid — it looks exactly like the corner of a page turned down, in a much-read, well-loved book– the one where I’m holding all my private thoughts— and what I’m thinking is, “I am growing old.” Not with rancor, or self-pity, only bland acknowledgment. And so it is.
I know I must have had flashes of inspiration, ideas I didn’t write down and lost, sleek shiny cars I never chased, so that must make me still unique, somehow, doesn’t it? my needing ego pleads.
But I am firm: we have all had dreams we thoroughly enjoyed yet, upon waking, failed utterly to remember.
The greatest calling in being woman is to love selflessly and without reserve and even, if necessary, without conditions or even attribution.
The greatest sorrow in being woman is in the fording of that nameless ocean she must cross, silently not tearlessly, to do it.