On my bookshelf sits a copy of a book that has been a constant source of joy and teaching for me since 1996. The book is called, Growing Myself: a spiritual journey through gardening by Judith Handelsman. I have lost count of the times that I have pulled it out to again share Judith's journey as she learned about love, cooperation, sensitivity to life and how to find the miraculous in the mundane. In effect, she grew herself. There was one other thing that I got out of it that has been a huge lesson for me, and that is this: everything and everyone has the right to grow.
I remember one day trying to explain to a young lady in her 20's how it was for women of my generation back in the 50's and early 60's. Women were not encouraged to grow. We were not encouraged to stretch ourselves or seek out the answers to our soul questions: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? When I told my parents that I wanted to go to college to become a writer, they assured me that there were only two reasons for a girl to go to college: to find a husband or to learn a skill to fall back on should something happen to said husband (or for old maids that were never expected to marry and became nurses and teachers - sorry, ladies, that is honestly what I was told). I was expected to complete my secretarial skills in high school, get a good job and save up for my wedding (I wasn't even seeing anyone at the time). Fast forward several years and I was a divorced mother (said husband having taken off with someone who had no children) who was using her secretarial skills to support her children - can you hear my mother's I-told-you-so? I was trying to buy a car and they would not give me a car loan based on the fact that I did not have a husband as fall-back in case I lost my job or got pregnant again. I didn't remember them saying those things to my husband when he came in for a car loan. I had to get my Dad to co-sign the loan and went away humiliated and determined that no one ever again was ever going to tell me that I did not have the right to be who I wanted to be. You can imagine the look on the face of that young lady when I finished my story. Clearly she had grown up in a culture that told her she had every right to grow as an individual and as a woman in whatever direction she chose and no clue what it meant to have your growth overshadowed by the world around you
I've been thinking about all of that a lot lately as I approach my 65th birthday this summer. How lucky we are now, this generation that fought so hard to be equal human beings in the eyes of the world, that as we enter our wisdom years we have the chance to grow in new and exciting directions. It saddens me to see older women who have bought into the "I'm an old lady now" mentality and have already signed up for bingo at the senior center every Tuesday. I am so excited by all of the infinite possibilities out there to grow and learn. I am free to choose what new skills or interests to pursue and which tried and true approaches to life fit my needs better. I am free to grow in whatever direction works best for me.
There is a story in Judith's book about some petunias that grew where they were never planted. Perhaps they just weren't satisfied to be tucked away in a corner where they could not flourish but instead decided to toss their seeds into the wind to see what adventure lay ahead on the other side of the garden. Let's all toss our seeds and see where they take root. Who's with me?
And so it is.