I had to sit on this for a while. I read a lot of blogs, and while it’s not unusual to disagree with the general premise or certain parts of one, I can usually find some little speck of common ground or at least wrap my head around the writer’s rationale, especially if I have some sense of what may have lead him or her to feel that way. I can’t get there with this one. That’s about as nicely as I can put that.
In my head, I have managed to pick apart just about every sentence of this post. Even after purposefully letting some time pass, in an effort to get past my initial knee-jerk reaction, I must admit that I still have all kinds of snarky comments and comebacks in my head. Very Tweetable ones, in fact. Twitterland would likely love some of these, but my better judgment tells me I should keep them to myself, and so I will.
What I could not stop thinking about was this: “You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”
My first response was to go over a laundry list of my own accomplishments, both personal and professional, since I married and had children, and those of others similarly situated. To count up the dollars made and the travel miles expensed. To point out the family pictures in my office and also the law degree on the wall. I thus satisfied myself (not that I had any doubts) that the above statement is simply false, finding no need to point that out to Glass, because 1.) I doubt she’ll care, and 2.) because some other folks have already chimed in along those lines and have done a pretty good job at such.
But the word “exceptional” is what stuck with me.
I got to thinking about all of the exceptional women I know. Some are married, some are not. Some have children, some do not. Of those that do, some stay home with theirs (as I have done at times), and some work outside the home (as I have also done and do now). They come from all walks of life, backgrounds, professions.
As a response to the post, I thought about highlighting and profiling some of them here as examples of how “exceptional” can and does take on many forms. Already mentally writing the post, I was really on a roll.
Then I added one more to the list. And she became the list. My daughter.
Make no mistake, all of the exceptional women I know deserve to make it into this post. And they will all understand why they didn’t (even if Ms. Glass doesn’t).
I could tell you about all of her accomplishments that fall under a wordly definition of “exceptional” for which I am of course proud of her. The resume builders and such.
But she is more than the sum of her almost ten years of accomplishments.
When she’s doing all the things that she does, and does well, or even when she’s trying something new or finding something to be a challenge. Performance can be measured, in grades, in scores, in accolades. It is true that the world rewards exceptional performance.
While part of life, those aren’t nearly as thrilling as what’s underneath all of that. I’m more interested in what it is that she (or anyone, for that matter) draws upon deep down, which is ultimately cultivated and formed into the person (and the performance) that is outwardly visible.
She is kind. She just is. She is nice to others. Maybe, like me, she has some not-so-nice thoughts rolling around in her head, but she doesn’t verbalize them in hurtful ways. (Yes, here’s one of those “teacher becomes the student” things. She is leading ME by example.)
She, like me, though not necessarily shy, is an introvert. But by no means a wallflower. She generally processes things internally rather than vocally, so when she asks a question, she has already put much thought into it, and thus desires (and deserves) a thoughtful answer.
She is also fierce.
Because of the introvert thing, she saves it for the moments when it is most needed, so many will miss this quality in her. I saw it the other night in her face on the basketball court. I’ve also seen it in her response to an injustice committed not against her, but against someone else, like a teammate (go ahead opposing team, swing an elbow one.more.time), a friend or a pet. Or even a parent.
She is intuitive. She knows how to read people in a way that just can’t be taught. She is perhaps the only person in the world who can get under her loud, extroverted brother’s skin with one whisper in a moment, then calm him with another.
And she uses her intuition on me.
Last night, we all sat on her little brother’s bed as we always do at bedtime, which is also story time. I didn’t think it visible from the outside, but I was out of sorts. Frustrated and tired from battling a scratchy throat all weekend, my biggest pet peeve, and seeing in my mind all the things that needed to be done in preparation for Monday. In a moment, I would summon the energy to get up and get on with it, but in that moment, the sound of my husband’s voice as he read a children’s book seemed far away, and I just wanted to be left alone to my miserable self. I closed my eyes. I felt someone move the pillow behind me, and a second later she was sitting behind me where the pillow had been. I knew it was her. No one else in my house moves that gracefully, and no one else in the world, save perhaps my mother, has a touch that is both the most gentle and the most confident ever felt, all at once. Gently pulling my hair from my face, her little fingers worked it piece by piece into a braid. Or something. I didn’t care what it looked like. If at the end of her efforts, I had looked like Medusa, it would not have mattered one bit. In under a minute, the soft tug of her hands in my hair and the sensation when her fingertips touched my scalp, almost a tickle but not quite, brought me back to myself, to her.
She is, in a word, exceptional.
What is even more amazing, however, is that my interactions with her bring out qualities in me that I never knew existed, lying dormant under snow until spring’s warmth triggered new growth. Some are pretty. Some need to be pruned.
I’m a big believer that family isn’t necessarily about blood. Family can be found and made just about anywhere. Each person in your life brings out characteristics in you. Perhaps your best, or even your worst. They add value to your life, and not simply because of what they can accomplish.
You do the same for others.
Just as an individual is greater than the sum of his or her accomplishments, family, wherever it is found, is also greater than the sum of its parts. If you don’t find that exceptional, well, we will just have to agree to disagree.
I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.