As a stay at home mom for a solid decade now, I found myself across the table from two very elegant and accomplished older women. One, a beautiful French woman who once owned a home decor shop, organized charity events and now is a Master Gardener; the other a successful businesswoman with no children of her own who has spent years jet-setting to high-profile fashion events and perfecting her admirable career. Twenty and ten years younger (respectively) than these women, I mostly listened and nodded, smiling at their stories of their favorite island vacation spots, cities in which to go shopping and far-flung summer travel plans.
As a former high-school teacher who hasn't held a paying position in eleven years, there was not much I could contribute to this line of discussion. Though they were kind and included me in their conversations, I was clearly the "young pup" of the crew and I didn't try to dominate the conversation in any way. Instead I chose to observe and to be genuinely present to them and for them, listening and hearing, not needing to insert my own life stories in order to feel worthwhile.
The dinner truly was delightful, especially my husband often squeezing my hand reassuringly beneath the table as if to remind me that I was fully there in his eyes if not in anyone else's. When we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways in the parking lot I took note of the sunset trying to peek through the overcast sky. It was breathtaking. I snapped this photograph of the marina from a slight distance.
I wanted more shots so I moved closer to the water's edge and nearly burst out laughing at the sight that met my eyes:
And suddenly a broad grin spread across my face. While I may not have tales to tell of fabulous vacations and glamorous business adventures, I was deeply aware of the richness of my life that I was not able to share over drinks and dessert.
How could I ever express the trust shining in my boys' eyes as they ask my guidance and seek me out to chat about their days? How could I begin to explain how strong I have become by moving permanently away from home at age twenty and many more times across the country since then, all with small children and a husband who travels extensively for work? How can I express that by having my babies with no family around to help has given me a steely spine and a sense of confidence in myself that no board room presentation could have ever given me? How can I express that no vacation destination could compare with the nightly gatherings held on our family room sofa or with the blessed ability to be there when the school nurse calls to say one of my children is sick and needs to come home?
These thoughts are what carry me through events in which I willingly take the silent backseat to those in the group who have so much to share and say. It pleases me to realize that I do not feel like that houseboat inside. Inside I am glowing. A quiet confident glow. The glow of being at peace with my choices in life, with the path I am on and the acceptance that, at my age, there are now paths down which I will never travel.
There is a deep satisfaction for me in knowing that though I may one day look back and wish I had had the chance to sunbathe on a tropical island for a week, I will never regret what I have chosen to do instead.
Standing in that truth is what makes encountering women of other paths so very interesting to me. Their stories fascinate me and allow me to live a bit vicariously through them. It reminds me that we all have our stories and they all matter, despite how radically different they may be.
see more encouraging posts at Amongst Lovely Things