Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Ordinary

The other day a friend of mine made the following comment on a photo I posted on Instagram. She said,
The tagline on your blog is a bit humble. "Ordinary" women do not raise large families with exceptional children. Ordinary women do not move around the world and pick up foreign languages and teach them to their children. Ordinary women are not as virtuous and humble as you seem to be. But of course you would shy away from a more accurate world, which is "extraordinary". You are an extraordinary woman leading an extraordinary life. So glad to have crossed your path.

My friend's kind and admiring words gave me pause. In so many ways, I do not feel anything but ordinary. I am doing very much of the same things that my mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers did before me. They married, birthed many babies, and raised those babies- in whatever easy or hard circumstances they encountered. They kneaded bread, practiced the age-old alchemy of making a delicious meal out of nothing, and pinched pennies to buy shoes or clothes for their children. They expressed their creativity and intelligence in different ways-through sewing, working as a secretary and clerk for a lawyer and then for the county court, writing, or singing. Many of these women moved across the country leaving behind family and friends. Some crossed oceans taking an enormous risk in the hopes of a better future. All of them faced loss-some lost babies, others lost siblings and friends, parents, grandparents, and spouses.

My great-grandmother Gertrude Anderson Fenex, her son Floyd Fenex, and my great-grandfather John Franklin Fenex. Gertrude was a devout Catholic, educated at a Catholic school,  and was a school teacher. She was a great letter writer. She was the calm presence to my great-grandfathers fiery temper. Gertrude and John would lose a baby (Glen) during his first year of life and their eldest son would be killed as  a civilian POW in his early 20s on Wake Island in the Pacific Islands during World War II.

So when I look at my life, compared to the long line of women who preceded me in life, it is hard to consider myself as anything but ordinary. I cook, clean, wash laundry, make beds, run errands, pick up children from school, force children to do homework, and do what needs to be done to raise a family. I have friends all over the world doing the same thing with their families.

I will not demean myself though by proclaiming any of it is easy work. It isn't. It is the hardest work I have ever done. I often feel exhausted and grumpy trying to manage it all. I work very hard to parent deliberately, to instill order out of chaos,and to provide a warm and loving environment for my children to thrive.

Being a mother isn't the sum total of my existence though. I am a writer with some skill, but still have a long path to tread before I achieve anything approaching mastery. I am curious about the world with its mysteries and conundrums. I possess the capacity to adapt and thrive in unfamiliar and challenging circumstances. I am adventurous. I am a good friend. I strive to better myself.

Whether or not I feel comfortable calling myself extraordinary, I do feel like I live in an extraordinary time with extraordinary opportunities available to me. I only hope I can live up to the promise and adventure of those opportunities.


1 comment:

Nicole Salisbury said...

You are indeed extraordinary.