Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Role Models/Is There a Picture on Your Wall?
Kaveh today and no plans for tonight which means I'll have a delicious evening home alone. Thinking long bath with lavender bubble bath and a cup of chocolate matte tea and then time at the piano working on what could be my new obsession - learning to play the piano using the chord method. I studied piano for years and got decent - an intermediate player but this is different. Playing by the chord method means taking a musical chart that has symbols like G7, Cm6, D#aug7-5, etc and translating that into notes on the piano. The end game is being able to accompany myself when I sing. How cool would that be? I could even gig out if I could accompany myself - it would make me an affordable performer. Diana Krall, watch out! (well maybe that's a bit grandiose).
Over the past year, from time to time, Kaveh asked me to give thought to whether I have had, or currently have, a female role model. This question has stumped me. There are women I admire, mostly some of my friends, but to say they're role models? - not sure. It's always been men who inspire me - my go to hero, Abraham Lincoln. I'm a Founding Fathers groupie, John Adams being my favorite FF. Kaveh, himself, is a role model surely as is Patrick and sometimes Nick. But a woman? I've just not been able to relate - real or fictional. Hillary Clinton, nah. Madeleine Albreight, not so much. Margaret Thatcher, no way. Mother Theresa, just can't relate. Fiction. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice - a maybe, but a weak maybe. And so I have searched my mind, thought about the question off and on for the last year. And I realized Kaveh was on to something with his concern that I lack an appreciation of other women - that I haven't been inspired and modeled myself on any number of great woman role models who are right under my nose. Maybe it's because women can be less obvious than men. We are different, different strengths, different domains, different agendas. Being a great woman is, I think, a subtler and trickier thing than being a great man. Great women are not always as obvious.
Finally and with absolute clarity, I realized I have had, all along, a female role model - someone who I've modeled myself on all these years - my girlhood hero. It is so obvious that when I mentioned this subject to Elizabeth this morning, and said it was a childhood fictional hero, she guessed immediately. My heroine is smart, fearless, crafty, has wonderful people skills - she's energetic, a great communicator, a leader among her friends, clever and responsible. Like me, she lacks female role models herself, no mother. She has a great relationship with the men in her life who think she is the bees' knees and who support her in all her endeavors. Mostly she is very independent of them (her boyfriend and father) but once in a while she gets in over her head and they come to her rescue. She is, of course, Nancy Drew. Ich bin Nancy Drew. I am SO her, even now at my age! Sarah = intrepid, bold, smart, fun, clever, hard-working - just like her. I also love the men in my life and appreciate and need their support and protection. And it seems I'm not alone. Nancy Drew has been a role model for some very powerful women, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Judge Sotomayor to name a few. Two other gals on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sandra Day O'Connor, huge fans.
So, I'm curious - who you would list among your role models? Thinking when we get together this would make a great coffee table discussion. What's more, should our role models change and mature as we ourselves mature? Is it a stunted thing to be a woman in her mid-'50's conducting herself like a teenage girl detective? Should we trade in Zorro for Ghandi or Desmund Tutu as our life view becomes more sophisticated and nuanced? Or is it OK to cling to our childhood heroes and make them the gold standard by which we measure ourselves over the span of our lives?
Thinking a good exercise would be to imagine the type of woman Nancy Drew turned out to be. What strengths from her childhood did she carry into the world? How did she approach motherhood. How did she balance her need for independence and self sufficiency against her need to be loved and cared for? Did Beth and George finally tell her off and tell her not to be so bossy, not to be such a smarty-pants? Did she always see the world in black and white - good and evil? How did she handle her own limits and deficiencies? And did she forgive herself and the people she loved, for not always measuring up to her Nancy Drew ideal of a perfect world? So many question for the grown up Nancy Drew!
The challenge today is to ask yourself who your role models are. Maybe you already know and have a picture of them up on your wall or maybe you'll be stumped as I was! Are you stuck in the past with your role model(s) or have your ideals changed over the years? If you are religious, chances are your role models are the greats, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, etc. If you're not, then maybe, like me, you are finding things to admire in the people who inhabit your life, inspiration wherever you rest your eyes.
When Michael Jordan played that deciding game with the flu, I was forever inspired to be a person who could reach deep within myself for that extra something when everything seems lost. I wasn't alone.Turns out the great singer Renee Fleming was similarly inspired by that game - when she has to go on stage and sing for hours while running a fever, she thinks of MJ. Friend Liza is an inspiring mother, putting her own needs on the back burner, sometimes using sleight of hand to find resources for her kids. Carol's unflagging interest in everyone she meets inspires me to seek out other peoples' stories and to be less self focused. Pam's joie de vive, in spite of some major life disappointments, models for me an attitude of acceptance and abundance. She could make a party with a package of wieners and a six pack and it would be the most talked about party ever. Pat's grace in managing a serious illness humbles me. Dorothy's quiet solid values - you could set a course to her moral compass. She walks the walk. Natalija inspires me in her devotion to her family. She has figured out that all the other stuff is fluff.
Female role models everywhere. I just wasn't looking hard enough.