Ever had this thought:
“I think other people know all about this. Others probably realize that I don’t know. Do they see my ignorance? Do they simply watch me fumble without telling me?”
What is your “unknowingness” – that fuzzy corner in life that you suspect you know little about?
A dear friend – Cassy, for the sake of this piece – was the youngest in a family of five. She had one sister and three brothers. Their mother died before Cassy had reached her teen years.
Cassy’s father remarried. Perhaps he was in a hurry – he chose to bring a woman into the family who had no children of her own. Seemingly there were few redeeming features in the maternal department. From snippets shared by Cassy, the woman’s presence would have kept an icicle from thawing in the Sahara Dessert.
Who knows what fears kept the poor woman from opening her heart to five motherless children. Cassy grew up feeling there was simply another person in the house who happened to participate in domestic affairs, but not in motherhood.
Cassy explained her “unknowingness” to me one day. Whenever there was a social event, she suspected there were things she missed that other women knew about and took for granted.
I asked for an example. Cassy couldn’t pinpoint any one aspect of this unknowing. She said it may be something to do with manners. Or, not knowing the proper dish to use when serving certain recipes. It might be some obscure no-no that she repeatedly performed and no one has ever told her.
Our group of women friends is close, trustworthy and honest. If any of us had ever practiced some glaring faux-pas, I assured Cassy, we’d let each other know. We’d either speak up with great care or one of us would turn into an instant mother and, with swift slight-of-hand, “put things right”.
Just after this conversation, I discovered Hope Edelman’s book, “Motherless Daughters”. While the book is full of poignant stories from various women, one chapter “When a Woman Needs a Woman” contained this excerpt from one of Ms. Edelman’s clients:
“I was too young then, or maybe just too uninterested, to pay much attention to how [mom] filled her day. My quest was to separate from her, not to connect. Now when I’m reminded that I lack the bits of knowledge other women seem to have absorbed in their mothers’ homes, I feel somehow incomplete. Defiant. Wrong.
My female friends say this is rubbish. “You just have your own style.” they insist. But I’m not talking about the facade here. I’m talking about interior design… …There are so many little nuances and subtleties in life that have just passed me by.”
Cassy confirmed this description expressed her feelings.
I said, “Whether our mothers have died or not, we all experience these feelings to varying degrees. You’re not alone. Some mothers are still alive and emotionally unavailable. Their daughters really suffer because it can take so long for them to understand their loss.”
“Do you have these feelings, Amy?”
Cassy’s question revisits me frequently. I’ve found my “unknowingness” has changed over the years. It first arose from having a mother forty years older than me. In my teen and young adult stages, I didn’t consider going to my mother for career, social or fashion concerns. Though we always connected at a soul level, as I ventured into my adult life, I found myself with other “more modern” mentors and models. Mom accepted this and summarized our gap perfectly when she said, “Darling, I’d love to be able to appreciate your career more, but, you see, it’s an entirely foreign world to me. I cannot comprehend dashing off to the airport to fly to another city for a meeting and be home in time to worry about dinner. I cannot even imagine your life.”
So I was on my own career-wise. Because my parents weren’t present and reassuring me that I was doing it right, I constantly needed to excel. I continuously pushed the excellence marker forward.
Now? I’d love to sit with my educator mother and talk about critical thinking. My post-secondary education was a series of University night-school courses chosen to complement my career or to answer some burning questions about life. Mother taught me that educated people knew how to think critically. I wanted to do know how.
There’s my current “unknowing”…do I know how to think critically? Though I’m not sure, I think it includes a balance of head and heart. In fact, I need to know. So – I’ve registered for a Justice course offered by Harvard. Thanks to the internet, there will be lots of shared critical thinking amongst the students and the Prof.
If I learn how to do it well, could I create a sharp, quick and viral one-liner that encourages world leaders to ask themselves the same question?
Does everyone else, but me, know how to do that?