that last semester,
was spent in a sleepless blur.
Like a shimmer above hot asphalt
was the filter through which she saw
the endlessness of her life as it was—
as if God Himself had slowed down time
to make it last,
fortifying her to make her last.
She relished the days,
having passed the exhaustion stage,
by knowing that if she could do this much
for so long,
she could do almost as much
for the rest of her life.
She was 30 when she began her teaching ministry—
of life after infertility & divorce with
18 undocumented years “about her mother’s business”—
finding herself resurrected through the youthful hope
of her student disciples.
She was a woman of 20-dollar dresses
& 5-dollar lipstick,
who loved fried chicken & cheap wine.
She checked out novels & rented movies,
her ideal date night a shared pizza
& fresh breath.
Her favorite painter was Norman Rockwell,
her favorite book, Confessions of a Chocoholic.
She was more fiddle than violin,
more Encyclopedia Brown than Murphy Brown.
To her, any meat below well done
was positively revolting—
no matter what the TV chefs said.
(They ate bull balls, after all, so
though they had the latter,
they were still full of the former.)
She didn’t need a big house—
just a bit enough house.
Even if she won the jack of all pots,
she would still come stamped
with a certificate of authenticity.
She was Miss before she married
by her own free will & choice,
her husband’s name.
When people called her Ms.,
she didn’t bother correcting them,
for her husband had been a Mr.
& was a Mr. still.
But when someone addressed her
as Mrs. Jameson Adamson,
she did not answer to it,
for her identity was not
in who her husband was—
it was in who she was.
She was stripped of her pride,
but not of her dignity,
which she wore like a mink coat.
The graduate learned in her thirty-seventh year
that life was not about balance but priorities,
for the former was an unattainable ideal;
she learned that there was a season for everything,
for everything was beautiful in its time.
There was a time to learn
& a time to apply what one had learned.
There was a time to read
& a time to write about what one had read–
just as there was always a time to write,
a time to edit,
a time to share,
& a time to read what others shared.
There was a time to speak what she knew
& a time to listen to what she did not.
There was a time to go
& a time to stay,
a time to be something,
but more importantly,
a time to be someone.
There was a time to rise up
& a time to be content,
& it was in that latter time she would stay
until she mastered the tasks entrusted her
so that she could move on
“Women’s Wisdom: Pass it On”, by Kathleen Vestal Logan, was a great way to spend a few hours on a rainy Friday morning; I try to engage in a spiritual or inspirational activity before I start my day, so I am always looking for books that inspire me (in a positive, proactive way). It shows women over fifty they can embrace the life they have, and women under fifty they can embrace the life that awaits them. Mrs. Logan shows me I have so very much to look forward to.
Even though I’m fifteen years under fifty, this book still applied to me, as it showed me how I can have a rich and fulfilling life in “the autumn of my life”, summer being my present, spring being my past. I’ve always thought of summer as the ripening tartness of being, fall, a mellow-sweet lushness. Mrs. Logan shows us how we should celebrate each season of life (Stephen Hawking said that “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”); even a summer gal like me who would live in flip-flops and bikini tops all year long if she wasn’t so cold-natured, still loves what every season brings to my life. I would no more go back to my twenties than fast forward to my forties. (I like to joke with my husband that 43 is the new 42.)
However, the seasons of life, unlike Mother Earth’s, are not subject to cycle back, but we can make the most out of each season we pass like milestones (not kidney stones). An acquaintance once told me that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself, for I went back to college at the age of thirty-two, feeling young in my soul, but old amongst “the studentry” (as E.B. White would put it, “the student body being too cadaverous”). That said, I believe the bit of wisdom I’ve gained from life experience (and from self-reflection upon my life experiences) helped me love college far more than I did when I was nineteen. “Women’s Wisdom” helped me build onto what I already knew and enhanced it, highlighting the multitude of ways we all can enrich our autumn years so that they are as colorful as the leaves that fall on the cobblestone roads of New England.
One of my favorite quotes by the author was to “live your life not just with purpose, but on purpose”. Someone once told me there were two kinds of people in the world—the kind who make things happen, and the kind who lets things happen to them, or waits for things to happen. The former is what living life on purpose means to me. Opportunity doesn’t always knock; sometimes you have to seek it out.
When I was a child, I read a story set in ancient Japan that solidified what I had been taught about the older generations, and it is one of a handful of stories that have rippled through my adulthood, throwing stones that left a mark on my consciousness:
The Japanese who are of mature age “…base their idea of being useful on their life purpose, or ‘ikigai.’ It guides why they do what they do each day, from exercise to social engagement to productive contributions and engagement with their families and society… older people in the United States are so often stereotyped as frail, lonely and disengaged from society.” (http://www.nextavenue.org/why-we-need-embrace-japanese-approach-aging/).
Mrs. Logan shares her own life experiences, which add depth to her message of how we can gain wisdom. (Hint: it’s not just from getting older.) She also talks about body image, which you don’t think of women over fifty being concerned about, and which was of particular interest to me. “Women’s Wisdom”, told in the first-person point-of-view, isn’t preachy, but reading it is like you’re having a conversation with a friend over a pitcher of sweet tea on the front porch. Know that the present is precious, for blink, and it’s gone, but the past and future are long.
In “Wings”, my favorite sitcom, Brian Hackett (one of the main characters) says something like “Ninety percent of the time, you fall on your face, but that ten percent when something works out, it’s the most amazing feeling.” “Women’s Wisdom” gave a more nuanced approach to “push my boundaries”. (Weight-bearing exercises come to mind. Our bones actually become stronger when we lift weights.) I didn’t think I was unselfish enough to be a good mother, till I became one. I thought I was too introverted to be a good waitress, till I became one. I didn’t think I was smart enough for college, till I went back and realized I just hadn’t known what the hell it was I wanted to do all those years ago.
“Women’s Wisdom” tells women what they are made for, and, in doing so, they can find out what they are made of. One of the practices I will apply to my own life was her tips on the kind of journal you should keep. I already keep a couple of them myself, for writing purposes (I’ve found when I’ve purged my thoughts onto paper, I can let them go), and it helps clear my head, if not my heart. “Women’s Wisdom” tells you how to do it from the heart.
The good life isn’t just in the big picture, but in the details Mrs. Logan outlines. I’ve found that good nonfiction books should lead to other good nonfiction books; press one button and the whole switchboard lights up. This book will inspire you to seek out self-improvement over self-help, show how you can draw from the Fountain of Wisdom and Purpose, and how you can maintain overall wellness.
“Women’s Wisdom” gives you tips on how to be more productive, have a good marriage, and to just be happier, regardless of circumstance. She shows you what happiness is, how to increase it, and how to move beyond the absence of joy, so that you’re continuously moving towards the right end of the spectrum. “Women’s Wisdom” is chock full of friendly advice and quotes from others who have inspired her (in addition to online assessments that will help you discover your strengths). It is obvious that inspiration is contagious.
At the end, Mrs. Logan outlines three keys to a healthy, fulfilling life, and they just might not be what you think. Those keys will unlock your life’s potential. That said, one of the greatest life lessons I gleaned from this book was how do I gain wisdom, if it’s not just about getting older and graduating from the school of hard knocks?
In addition to all of this, Mrs. Logan’s book is beautiful, with gorgeous floral photography and a sleek cover. The font is readable, the material comprehensive, and, rather than be buried in the back of the book, the bibliographies follow each chapter for future reference.
My advice? Take notes for future inspiration. I did.