A Woman’s Job

Is it career or is it family or is it both? Or is there any other choice?

I’ve been torn between choices for a good number of years. In world’s years, that means nothing – in the finite time of my life, it feels too long. Time is precious and how can I use it wisely? I can do many things, literally. And when I say I can do them, that means well enough. I can draw, cook, write, teach, solve difficult problems, sew, knit, garden, design architectural plans. I can keep deadlines and manage projects of all kinds including the complex ones of a five-people household. I know the sophisticated grammar of two languages, a lot of history, advanced Math, geography, physics and politics. Some may think it’s ridiculous I can’t decide, that I don’t have a career. After all, women these days can do everything. Well, that’s exactly the problem, I’d say.

We are conditioned to think about what we’ll become when we grow up. It’s in what you’re taught when young, in your parents’ behavior and their life choices, it’s in your peers’ success (or lack of) and personal relations – ultimately, it’s in how much you let all of these affect you. Add to this your partner’s behavior, goals (or doubts), dreams and actions – that’s a biggie for no small reason: you two are supposed to share a life together.

Is it any wonder that contemporary women like me find themselves tangled in definitions of womanhood? At times, we can be focused or unfocused, depressed, overwhelmed, excited, sad, good busy, bad busy, frustrated – are we happy though? Are we at peace with our choices – or the incapacity of making at least one? Happy to be vertical, happy to breathe. Are you? There’s so much pressure. It has always been, but if we try compare to past times, it does look like there’s much more to fit in a day. It’s hard to resist that – especially when everybody behaves (and expects others to act) like a computer.

We do have many dimensions, but see, we’re not machines. Despite their amazing managing capacity (which is a thing of the head) women are ruled by their heart, and their actions – analytical as they may be – carry the heavy burden of pain. Formerly abused girls or women are likely to develop into feminist bitches who abuse others, or depressed addicts of sorts who continue to let themselves be bullied. It is quite rare that such women would snap out of destructive patterns and become balanced individuals.

Is this generalizing? Probably – and I’m no psychologist so I shouldn’t even talk. In my little life experience, I had lost some of my feminine dimensions along the way. Once aware of that, I have tried hard to retrieve them, as if they were applications which I could upload back into my system after a reset to factory standards. Hmm… some worked, some didn’t. Sure they didn’t – what factory am I talking about? Maybe it’s a matter of time and discipline. Maybe it’s matter of acceptance, of loss, of aging, of trust and belief.

A friend brought me some colorful yarns yesterday and I got inspired to start knitting. As I was doing row after row, I remembered how long it takes to make a pullover. In contemporary currency, it’s not worth it. I could spend my time much more efficiently. My thoughts floated to my mother who would knit and knit in the dullness of the office in the hydro-energetic institute where she worked. There were not many projects which engineers would work on during those communist years. People showed up at work in the morning and found ways to fill their 8-hour work days. My mom was a trained engineer whose real profession was to make colorful clothes for us in a country wrapped in gray bleakness. She would sew and knit countless pieces. I was the best dressed teenager in the high-school, no kidding. Not one single item survived… I gave them away, stupid me. Well, they did lose appeal, they went out of fashion. Thinking back, I should have kept some because they had timelessness sewn in. Fortunately, I still have some cards she wrote after we immigrated. I miss her.

I also miss my grandmother. She had worked twelve years in a flour factory moving heavy sacks around and when she finally retired, she cleaned our house, she cooked good food. She was quiet and stern. She was the reliable background, not much of a different career than that. I miss some of my teachers too, and colleagues from the museums and architectural companies I have worked for. They were exquisite professionals who did their jobs well. And as The Beatles say, some are dead and some are living, in my life I’ve loved them all.

Is it then only love that remains? Do you, my dear fellow woman, know the power of your heart? If there is pure love in your work, you are blessed. If you can wrap your family in love and give them hope and courage, you are blessed. If you can do everything, then you are blessed. And if you cannot decide on more than today’s effort, you are still blessed. A woman’s job may very well be that undefined matter of the heart, which takes shape according to the circumstances. Sometimes, we need to use the brain to get things straight – but please, please don’t dwell in the analytics. It’s hard when they tell you differently, when both men and women try to convince you that you’re a man. It’s hard when you’re a good planner. It’s very hard to detach but it’s worth it. Peace is not found in charts and problem solving, but in songs and in the – sometimes annoyingly perfect – geometry of the circle. The wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round… all through the town…

Woman, you can bring misery or you can bring joy. What would you like to be remembered for? Do you care to be remembered?

I am too scattered. Can I love so much?

One birthday party

It was a joyous event. No milestone really, just making real something I’ve had in mind for a while: throw a party for mothers. I invited mothers and grandmothers and godmothers of all ages from within a day’s travel distance. As I was adding people to the list, I myself was amazed at how many women I’ve come to know in the fourteen years of our Canadian residence. Blessed, that’s how I felt.
Whether accepting or not, all wrote back to say “what a great idea”. I said why not, after all if we don’t celebrate ourselves first, how will others know we like to be celebrated? And who’s gonna do it? You know how the story goes: kids are mostly ungrateful, husbands are usually forgetful. In order to save themselves some trouble and grumpy mothers’ mood, they’ve even invented this special day a year, Mother’s Day – by extension, Women’s International Day (though it’s not exactly the same – about this, maybe another text, stay tuned).
I didn’t want another Mother’s Day or another birthday where I get frustrated as I end up doing things so they actually happen. I wanted a Mothers’ Party with gifts in the form of potluck contribution. Lots of women poured in and out the house that Saturday afternoon with the most diverse and delicious dishes no caterer could have put together more lovingly – after all, it was mothers who took care of this meal! My garden was in full bloom and we had glorious sunshine and perfect temperature for this party, all special gifts from God. He also sent Holy Fire, straight from his tomb in Jerusalem – no kidding. It had come to our church that very afternoon after a long journey throughout the States and Canada, and one of the ladies so graciously brought me a candle lit with It. Another friend commented: you must be pretty special to get Holy Fire for your birthday. Indeed, the blessings kept multiplying.
They came with flower bouquets which miraculously lasted for two weeks after, and pot flowers which still adorn my desk or my garden. They came with heartwarming wishing on exquisite cards and gifts of books and toiletries and jewelry and good wine … and they all smiled and laughed and were truly merry! In and out the house they went, and I could barely catch them to exchange a few words, that’s how many they were. Each found company in others, they moved around seamlessly, like mothers do, knowing how to make things happen, who to speak to, what to say. Or maybe not. Yet, the smiles on their faces told the story and it was a happy one – it was all that mattered.
I couldn’t go to sleep until very much later that night. The energy and excitement of the day were flowing through my body with immense gratitude for these beautiful women in my life who have given me the most beautiful birthday celebration and in the joy of knowing we had done it together: I had launched the invitation, they had responded wholeheartedly. Crying and laughing at the same time, I raised from my bed to have a look at the flame of the Holy Fire in the candle: the wick had turned into a heart, which was literally ablaze with love. I’ve never experienced anything so humble and great at the same time. Christ was there with me, saying “I love you” in His truly awesome way, and tears of pure joy sealed the kiss which I blew to all the mothers in this world.
I love you. I wish you could have all come to this party. You’re doing the greatest job ever. Never forget that and never forget to celebrate yourself, even if they forget to do it.