Castaway. The movie.
Man alone on an island.
Instantly I gave thanks. For family, friends, nieces, sisters, boyfriends, bosses, neighbor. Yeah, even though she’s planning my marriage without my permission.
Of course we’re millenium women. With careers, independent minds and a hunger to achieve. But it’s relationships, the people we go home to, that make it all worthwhile.
True, they may nag and point out that your top makes you look too thin/ fat, but they also hold a towel for you when you come in from the rain.
And however dysfunctional, or loud their snoring, there’s a reason why – even if we don’t see it immediately – each one of them is in our lives. Each, like a different vitamin providing the emotional nutrition we need. Providing the balance to career, money, fame.
Let’s begin with the parents. Well, besides the obvious, they were given to us to argue with. A chance to voice our opinion, and sculpt out our identity. But below the surface drama of ‘Who changed my channel? and ‘You should eat more, sleep less, go out and meet some guys’ runs a lode of love and nurturing, structure and security. Advice that comes from experience they inherited from the beginning of time – Hell, my mum advised clove for a toothache long before I read it in any book.
Would we be able to pursue our careers without much interruption, make big-shot decisions if not for them handling the cooking, taking care of the baby? Guess not.
Boyfriends or husbands? Yup, they contribute to the Dept of Love, Sex and Teaching us patience – especially when they leave their clothes on the floor. But most importantly we should give thanks for the male point of view, for balancing your ying with his yang, for the massage, for when he appreciates your behind, for listening, or is just there for you – even if he’s just snoring sweetly on the couch.
Our kids bring blessings that would need a whole book. But hugs and innocence rate high, sustaining us, giving us hope. Of course, as they grow they challenge our perceptions, our pronunciation, our fashion sense. But you wouldn’t want to turn into a dinosaur, would you?
And if you need someone to take your 2 am phone call, there’s two kinds of people you can turn to. Siblings and friends. The shoulders to cry on and an ear when you need one, even if just for small talk. Of course, they’re also there to tell you that you look terrible in that skirt. But look at it the right way, and it’s an opportunity to learn to handle criticism. To look at our flaws in a ‘safe’ environment.
They’re the ones we can ask for a loan. The ones who will happily share recipes and clothes. And the ones who will point out that the man you’re in love with isn’t right for you and has a scar that’s unaccounted for. They’re there to baby-sit, and stand by you like angels at weddings protecting you from ‘When’s your turn?’
Every one of our relationships help us examine our lives. Sometimes showing us our imperfections in cinemascope-size reflections. Sometimes, like earthquakes, shaking up our comfort zones, to create new landscapes. Inspiring our successes, and applauding while we celebrate ours.
But it’s not just them being there for us that empowers us. It’s also the fact that we’re there for them. In being the daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend we become someone they can turn to. Putting us in a place of importance. Letting you be the one who manages their kids when they’re ill, or listen to their secrets, allowing you to learn from their experience. Giving you the opportunity to help, to teach them what you know.
In their health and their sickness you’re given the power and the chance (and therefore the satisfaction) of being able to nurture. The power to change, to mould, to affect their lives.
At the end of it all, every one of them give us the power to love and forgive, and options to be better women and human beings.
So yes, go out and conquer your Everest, but know that it puts a bigger grin on your face when you have your base camp waiting to welcome you back.
(Essay published in Femina (March 2007).
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