Navigating life…wisdom from the elders

I was an only child until I turned 8 years old and because of the gap in years between my brother and me, we often joke that we were functional onlies. By the time he reached an age I may have wanted to get to know him; I was already out of the house. As a result of that age gap I spent a lot of time around the grown-ups. Back in the 1970’s and 80’s when I was coming up, entertainment options were limited, no cartoons past 11am, parents back then did not tailor their social lives around their kids either. In many instances kids just got brought wherever parents went and you adjusted. I suspect that is why I was a big reader as a kid, no iGadget to plug in, limited TV channels. So reading and overhearing the grown-ups talk was what I did once toys no longer held my attention.

Looking back, I am sure I overheard quite a few conversations that probably weren’t appropriate but as I became a teenager, I was actually allowed to be a part of the grown up conversations and for that I am eternally grateful.  In fact I grew to love those grown up talks, when the grown-ups in my life primarily my parents and grandmother and other assorted relatives would talk openly about life and the challenges that they faced. I knew early on that marriage was hard work; I also realized that adults often hit an age where they seemed to need to figure out who they were. I knew that at almost 50 my grandpa took off for his family home in Texas to figure it out…leaving my Grandma for a couple of years. As a kid, I remember being confused about why Pa-Pa had left, eventually he did come back and they stayed together until he died. Years later when I was a battled scarred young adult leaving my brief and tumultuous first marriage, my Granny told me their whole story, again it still didn’t make sense since even though I was already relationship weary, I still believed that love and marriage was a straight line, that it either worked or didn’t. Now though? I get it, I totally get why he left, why she was fine with it and why he came back and they were fine.

This morning I found myself thinking of those talks within my family as I realized yet another person I know is at what I am starting to believe is the crossroads. That place we get to, where all of sudden we need to align our dreams and hopes with who we really are, where we no longer want to be anything less than our authentic selves, no matter how messy.

Yet I fear with my generation, Gen X and the younger generations we are losing the wisdom of the elders that we all once had to assist us in this journey. As more of us are no longer geographically near our tribes or simply not as close as previous generations used to be, we lose the voices and wisdom of grandparents and other loved ones letting us know we are normal. Instead now we have a generation approaching middle age, or already there that on the outside looks fine but inside is wondering what the hell?

For all our technological savvy and connectedness though, we lose something when we don’t have wisdom from those who have walked before us in this journey of life. I suspect this is one reason blogs especially those written by women and mothers speak to so many of us; sometimes you just need to know you are not alone in this world. After all, even though our elders didn’t have all the gadgets and accoutrements we have that make life easier, something’s remain the same.

1 thought on “Navigating life…wisdom from the elders”

  1. I remember when I was 21, newly pregnant with our first, and petrified. I was visiting my Grandma and she and my Aunt told me about something I’d never known – my Aunt got pregnant as a teenager and gave the baby up for adoption. It really did help to hear them tell me about this, it let me know that although my situation wasn’t how any of us had wanted it to happen, it wasn’t the end of the world. My family wasn’t going to judge me and I could go on to a happy life.

    I do miss the connectedness we used to have as a family. And I miss having elders I can turn to. I do have my parents but I spend a lot of time glossing over the difficult parts of my life, so as not to worry them, rather than asking for their wisdom. I should probably stop doing that.

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