Thursday, December 4, 2008

Honoring the 'No'

I had a conversation today with a typical modern woman, juggling multiple roles and responsiblities. There was an edge of exhaustion and overwhelm in her voice, mingled with determination and the remnants of her stamina.

She works full time and is scrambling to reposition her business in this sagging economy. She has been hosting events and doing presentations and developing new brochures and redesigning her website ... in addition to servicing her clients. Some days she is still in the office at 8 p.m. She is the mother of three children under the age of 9, all of whom are typical modern children who play several sports after school, take various lessons (dance, music) and sometimes need special tutoring in school subjects. She drives them endlessly to these activities most days and every weekend. Like many modern women, she lives far removed from her extended family; she has no day-to-day support from her mother or sisters or aunts. Instead, she has the additional responsibility to travel long distances by airplane or to host family members for long visits frequently in order to keep her family connected.

And now it is the holidays. She somehow has to find the time to shop and wrap and ship all these gifts. There are trees and decorations and lights that must all come together in familiar ways. She must plan holiday parties at work and birthday parties at home (all three kids and her husband were born in December). She has to work extra hours in order to pay for these extra expenses.

Today she was telling me that she needs to also find the time to make from scratch the whole array of holiday cookies that her grandmother used to make - "because it's tradition." I felt a great big 'NO' rise up into my my throat. I actually did find the courage to speak it aloud to her, but I don't think it went over so well. Tradition won the day ... and I wonder if this modern woman is losing her Self.

Just a quick reality check here: My Grandma did not work full time outside the home. She did not leave a day of work to drive her children to soccer games and piano lessons and math tutoring. In fact she never drove her children anywhere - they needed to find their own way after they had helped with the chores. She lived her life in a large extended family with sisters and aunts and cousins living in the same rural community. Her life was still demanding and challenging on every level ... but her decision to make nine different kinds of holiday cookies was anchored in a whole different set of realities.

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