Still, I did it in good faith because the focus of the class was self-discovery and I needed to do a little soul searching. It was no surprise that when I turned off the devil inside and just did the test without thinking, I was pegged as an introvert. But it also helped me illuminate some things that had been bothering me – things for which there were no easy answers or solutions. My spouse says I think like a man, which means I don’t do the highly female thing of circular whining with no desire for a solution. I like to figure out the problem, devise a solution and move on.
In the last week, it’s been absolutely beautiful outside and I have a mess of a yard. I cleared my calendar and have spent the last two days cleaning up and clearing out and planting bulbs that were supposed to go into the ground last fall. (Much to my delight, they were all viable!) Now here’s what happens when I start pulling weeds and cleaning up dead plant material: I consider things that make no sense to me. The longer I work, the more my thoughts clear and I get to a place where I’m filled with gratitude. And that is my long-winded way of explaining the topic for today.
I am not a natural joiner. I’ve gotten involved in things because someone brought me. Pam brought me to Herb Society, and Alice kept me there. Barbara brought me to VEA , and Esther and Gary kept me there. Kay brought me to AAUW, and Catina keeps me there. Peggy brought me to PEN Women, and Ethel kept me there. Lou brought me into the Italian club and the cooking group kept me there. Jennie Sue brought me to NAP, and Marlene keeps me there. I’ve made connections, but staying in is hard because I am such a loner.
In each of those organizations, the issue has always been membership recruitment and retention. Organizations do not stay vibrant and viable without new people. At the same time, organizations that ignore new people and don’t make an effort to integrate them and bring them along into leadership positions wind up being old fart groups.
Today I want to thank the mentors who believed in me enough to help me get past my natural inclination to stay on the outer edge and who got me involved. In most cases, it was older women who did this, and my gratitude runs along the lines of understanding that they knew I was going to make mistakes; they encouraged me anyway and forgave my boo-boos. When I did a good job, I got accolades, but me being me, I just turned red and wished to hell they’d shut up about it already. For those who continue to teach me, I am especially grateful because sometimes I’m a really slow learner. For those who suddenly discovered I had a streak of social justice that wouldn’t quit, I’m sorry if my politics shocked you, but the truth is, the older I’ve gotten, the more liberal my ideas have become. If I seem particularly intransigent on some of those issues, well, that’s the way it goes.
To the younger women who continue to teach me and to help me understand the way of the changing world, I am especially grateful. Why some older women will not give you all a chance to lead is beyond me. Maybe they fear that I taught you how to speak truth to power and don’t want to give up the authority their age brings them. I don’t know. All I know is that you aren’t shy about kicking me in the behind when necessary and I always wind up agreeing with you.
Now if you wondered why I would take an interest in you, notice that I have had good training. An older woman brought me along, put up with me and helped me get better at whatever it was I was attempting to do. Sometimes all she needed to do was give me a chance and then stand back and let it happen. Sometimes she needed to hold my hand while I whined and complained and tried to find elusive solutions. Other times, she had to hold her tongue and hope to heaven I DID find the solution before all hell broke loose. But the point is, I was given a chance.
Breaking out of one’s inclination to stay tucked in at home with one’s books, cats, projects and solitary interests is tough. When I left teaching, a couple kept asking me if I was bored yet. No. That was ten years ago. I’m still not bored. If anything, I’m too busy with things outside of my home and am starting to get a little peevish about that.
But you all continue to blast me out of here, I love the time I spend with you (in spite of myself) and I hope that you mentor ladies (and two or three mentor gentlemen) are relieved to know I am cognizant of all you have done for me and that I intend to keep trying to pay it forward. If we don’t make room in our hearts and organizations for the younger generations, we do ourselves no favors. It’s one thing to be an unrepentant old fart, but it’s quite another to wink when admitting to it!