My years as a young working mother passed in a blur of seemingly endless tasks and challenges. I often wondered if I was doing things right, or enough, or how to measure up to so many expectations. I looked forward to Wednesday nights, when “You’re Going to Make it After All”, the theme song for Mary Tyler Moore’s sitcom, signaled thirty minutes of respite and encouragement. Mary’s joyful smile as she flung her hat into the air helped me grind through tough weeks. I watched her on The Dick Van Dyke Show and then on her own sitcom in rapt appreciation of her confidence, beauty and zest for life. The episode of Chuckles the Clown’s funeral still makes me laugh, watching Mary try to keep a straight face.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, she was a role model for me. A woman striking out on her own path, who achieved success without flaunting huge boobs or fretting about her lack of a male partner.
Remembering her brought to mind the many women from whom I have drawn strength. At key points in my life, their actions or writing appeared which I watched or read, mulled over, and took solace from. Each unfolded a view of the world I hadn’t yet grasped.
Gloria Steinem spoke at my university when I was eighteen. Here was a woman taking on the world on her own terms! Intelligent, confident, and unafraid of stirring up trouble, she was the first woman I encountered who intellectually and politically challenged the status quo. I read many of her books over the years, strengthened by her ability to frame powerful arguments and boldly express them. In Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions she declared, “Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.” I took sips of her courage each time I opened her books.
One day in my thirties, distraught and overwhelmed, I wandered into a bookstore. Picking up Co-dependent No More, my eye was grabbed by the question, “Is your life unmanageable?” Melody Beattie’s matter-of-fact voice was my constant companion for several years as I came to terms with choices I had made. I rested my bruised spirit and read, “It doesn’t matter if…. It doesn’t matter… IT DOESN’T MATTER.” Subtlety was not what I needed. Melody gave me straight facts and insights that found their way in through the cracks in my ego and wounded pride.
These three women expanded my view of what I, and my world, could be. My next post will talk about two more women. I hope that this sampling will stimulate your own thinking.
On whose shoulders do you stand? Whose words and actions have brought you to who you are today? Of course, for me and most of us there have also been male pathfinders; but for women, it is particularly important to identify and celebrate our pioneering female leaders.