Saturday, 22 November 2014

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl

On Thursday evening, we got the eagerly awaited phone call: we have a new grandchild to crow about. We rushed to the hospital to meet the newest member of the family, and I got to hold her for a precious few moments. What a beauty she is! Welcome to the world, baby girl!

This baby has strong roots. She is blessed by a loving web of family and friends. Together, we’ll all be teaching her something about the world. As an Oma who is becoming more aware of the important role of “elder”, I’ve been wondering what messages I will be giving her as I rock her and sing to her, as I read her stories and spend time with her.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit because of my latest quilting project. Yes, of course, I’m making a baby quilt which will be stitched together with love, but that’s not the project that’s been teasing my mind. Instead, it’s an assignment from my Small Worx quilt group: name 5 things you like about yourself, then create a self-portrait based on that. I realize that how I feel about myself will have an impact on this new little life, and indeed on all the lives I touch.

Quick, now: can you name 5 things you like about yourself? Sure, we could ask our friends what they like about us, but what about the things WE like about ourselves?

All the women who participated in this challenge found it hard. Perhaps our first reaction was based on a message many have heard since childhood:  Pride goes before a fall, so don't get uppity about yourself. Some of us have also heard that it’s only by the grace of God that there’s anything good about us, because we are all broken creatures. You don’t brag about yourself.

And the fact is, it doesn’t take long for innocent newborns to get messed up. We’ve all been  bruised and bent out of shape by painful words, unkind actions, rejection and anger directed at us by others, even those we love who had good intentions at heart. If we believe the negatives, it shapes how we see ourselves.

In the hierarchy that was my high school society, if you didn’t wear the right clothes, have the right WASP background, were a little too smart or a little too slow, it was a smart survival tactic to keep your head down and hope nobody noticed you. This too is not conducive to a good self-image.

And even now, as mature adults, we are getting messages that diminish us: ads about beautiful women and beautiful clothes set an impossible target, and the workplace can be a harsh teacher about power and equality. The final indignity for me now is  the unspoken assumption that people of our age are on our way out the door, so not very valuable members of society.

It’s so much easier to tally up the traits we don’t like about ourselves. “Well, my dear,” I could say to my new grandbaby, (and to all my grandchildren), “I’m not much, but I’ll do my best for you.” Is this the message I want to send to a little girl who’s just entered the world? No!

And so I got to work, looking at the other side of life. What do I know and like about myself? It turned out that once I got the wheels rolling under the Appreciation Train, it was hard to stop. What do I like about myself? I like my hair – I used to hate it, because it would never conform to the “in” look. Now I realize it is unique, like me. I like that I’m a quester, always eager to learn more about life. I like that I’m creative, and that I inherited some of my mom’s aura of warmth. I like that I am vulnerable, and that I belong to a whole network of communities that support me. I don’t have to go striding down life’s trail strong but alone.

I chose to portray myself from the back, facing into the future, with a limitless horizon.The green leaves on the tree are indications of growth and change.

The beaded and stitched circles in my self-portrait symbolize the circles of support for which I am so thankful.

I am purple, the colours of imagination and spirituality. 

And I can say all this because I believe I am a child of God, deeply loved. Even though sometimes, because of life’s stormy weather,  I don’t see or feel it, I believe that the Creator of all is smiling upon me – and all of you too.

I hope, dear Grace Lydia, if you learn nothing else from me, you will feel and learn that message. I hope and pray that  this too will be your truth. You are deeply loved. Welcome to the world, baby girl.