|As I enjoy a beautiful spring day in the mountains of southern Oregon, I begin thinking about the state of health most women in their 30s through 80s are in when they first come to my office; frazzled, tired, stressed, frustrated, harried, confused, angry and lost. It is much like reliving the commercial from my childhood with Mr. Owl and the Tootsie Roll Pop; how many licks does it take Mr. Owl to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? One – Two – Crunch – three… This is where many of the younger women are—crunch, the chewy center is gone, the pretty superficial shell used to hide the center is shattered and the sweetness inside is masticated and gone—there is nothing left but a tasteless paper stick.
For those of us in our 40s−50s it is not much better. Many of these ladies are adrift as well, feeling lost or overwhelmed by the demands of life. I refer to it as the Oreo cookie crowd. We are smack dab in the middle of life; our grown children with all their problems and worries are on one side, and just to keep things from being dull, we have our parents or older family members on the other side to look after… We as the creamy middle are trying to navigate in the work force, find time for our personal relationships, adjust to changes due to retirement or relocations, and our hormones are all over the place which means our moods are as well. Stress is a constant companion and we hope that today is not the day our brain goes on vacation to Tahiti without inviting our body along. This may be the reason behind some individuals’ efforts to ban guns… Will today be the day this cookie gets ripped apart, dunked a few times and swallowed?
One of the miracles of life is the reflection back. Here are our venerable grandmothers. These ladies are made of refined gold and precious gems. They have been tested by time and survived. The speed at which the world has changed in their lifetime is astounding. Some have come through it with grace and joy; others are what nightmares are made of. But all of them have insights and pearls of wisdom the younger generations can benefit from if we will only take the time to listen. Many of these ladies are the Charms Pops that so many of us loved. Sweet, hard to get around with sneaky biting; and inside, pink resiliency that can be formed into 100 different bubbles—all giving strength, joy and laughter.
I find myself an in-betweener; I am not of the baby boomer group and I am not of the Generation X group. I am an odd ball. And I like it. I am happy to say that all the women in my life have helped me become me. These women have taught me about choices. My Aunt Betty’s gift has been being graceful, loving and kind under fire. My Aunt Jeannie has taught me about perseverance, dedication, commitment and knowledge. My mother taught me about art, cooking and multifaceted thinking. And my mother-in-law has taught me about quiet, generosity, holding your tongue, resolve and travel—and as time goes on, who knows what other gifts she will impart?
This leads me to once again think about how our society has changed over the last 50 years. Is it good, bad, indifferent? What values have we lost that help us maintain our sanity; were do women need to grow, change or embrace ideas and concepts to lead the way to health, not superficiality? I wonder if all the pressure, stress and frustrations are largely the result of not only national malnutrition—I’ll go into this later—but also distorted concepts of health, success, and fulfillment. How much pressure do we—through unrealistic expectations, the media and communities—place on ourselves to be super women? What values of past generations have we lost—grace, politeness, perseverance, community, faith and hope? For past generations there was possibly more support even though they could not do instant communication. For us, maybe we need to spend a little less time trying to keep up and a little more time setting realistic boundaries.
As women of the 21st century we have a responsibility to guide those who come behind us. To show women and men of the future how to turn life off for a few minutes every day and take a deep breath. We do this by taking a hard look at what is good and what is bad about the world we are in. It’s not about global warming, inner city crime, the latest technology, car or house, or the economy; it’s about life with grace. Am I passing on healthy coping skills, do I persevere in my health care needs until I get help, will I be a victim or a survivor, a leader or one of the sheep being led off to slaughter? Here is the most important; can I find faith, peace and hope within myself? Can I later share it with those I love and strangers as well?
For me I started with the decision to follow the words of St. Ignatius; I greet every day with Joy knowing that happiness is not a guarantee. I look to my values, have faith, treat my body and mind with respect and care with healthy choices, family first, my word means something, treat others as I wish to be treated, meekness does not equal weak, think before speaking (this is a killer), never say anything in anger that you wouldn’t say at other times, lift people up not tear them down, act don’t react, and persevere under adversity. Every day is a new opportunity and we are faced with choices…What will yours be? When will you start?