I once learned of an African tradition that suggests if a woman admires another woman, she might give her the gift of her own necklace as a show of respect.
Before you read on, please imagine giving a necklace to a woman you admire. She may be living or not. Hold in your mind and name a quality you most admire about her.
My grandmother Genevieve truly saw me in my adolescence, a time I longed for feminine witness. She listened to me with her full attention, acknowledging my observations and experiences. In doing so, she allowed me to see my strengths as a young woman. In her gaze, I came into life, into being. Her attention was sunlight to me—generous and generative.
As you name a quality in a woman you admire: full-bodied attention as in the case of my grandmother, please notice something.
This quality, by nature, extends beyond the woman you admire. The quality you admire likely shines a light on those around her. I would wager that the quality you’ve named, the one that endears you, is a quality that emerges only in the presence of another.
Where does happiness rest?
We live in a culture today that tends to focus on “I” more than “we” and I wonder if this is the root of our unhappiness and unrest, especially in midlife. Think of the advertisements we scroll past daily—for diets, face creams, clothing, shoes, hair products, exercise apps.
My grandmother was a beautiful woman, but her hair, clothing, and physical fitness never enter my mind when I remember her. I think about the sparkle in her eyes but not the length of her lashes or creases in her forehead. In fact, it hurts my heart to type these words because they are too small for her. I’m not saying that looking and feeling beautiful are superfluous with age. I’m saying that these goals alone are too small for us.
What if we asked ourselves two questions: “Who would I like to be in the second half of life?” and “How does my community call me into service?” Can you see that the second question might be an extension of the first?
Interdependence invokes a magic that’s not found in going it alone. It’s in community—or communion with another—where we find meaning and encounter a larger sense of purpose.
I’d love to hear about the women you admire and why. I’m curious to hear how they’ve graced your life with their gifts.
If you feel called at this time into community, consider joining our Wisdom Circle for Midlife Women, a place for discovery and connection. In a circle, there is a feeling of centeredness and belonging to something more expansive. Come share with us your unique qualities and wisdom. Visit the link below to learn more.