Bridging the Divided

Beyond Ordinary

Ever watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix? Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are the lead characters – two old broads who were thrown together after their husbands fell in love with one another. I know, Jane comes with a bit of baggage and controversy. I can’t hold others accountable for the mistakes of their youth when I made plenty of my own. Back to Grace and Frankie. This is their last season. The four aging seniors are confronting the inevitability of death. We all do, right? Unless you consider cryogenics a viable alternative to beating death, death is the only option off planet earth. 

I can’t say I spent much time thinking about it in my younger days, however, the thought isn’t that far away anymore. Sure, I’m only 61, soon to be 62, but the reality is I can feel the grim reaper hanging out somewhere just beyond the horizon. I don’t think about death, per se. I think more about what may be left unsaid, undone, and unresolved. And that is where we find Frankie in the last season of the show – reviewing her life. She views her life as ordinary, although Frankie is far from ordinary. Grace tells Frankie our lives are defined by the people who love us – those who will miss us and carry memories of us for the remainder of their lifetimes. And Grace is right. Our lives should not be defined by accomplishments, job status, socioeconomic status, or the lack thereof.

Women tend to be hypercritical of themselves. We define ourselves by a number on a scale, the size of our clothing, the reflection in the mirror, and myriad other things. We compare ourselves to others and somehow always fall short. Many of us are reluctant to accept genuine and well-deserved compliments from our peers. I am much the same – I get it.

I used to facilitate a women’s group in an exercise facility I owned back in the day. Many discussions centered around appearance and the women’s feelings about themselves – their weight, not feeling attractive any longer, feeling inadequate, and insignificant. The truth is that someone will always be thinner, prettier, sexier, more accomplished, a better……fill in the blank – because we measure ourselves against impossible and unrealistic standards. My heart was saddened as I listened to the women criticize and chastise themselves for perceived shortcomings and failures. I saw them much differently and was awed by each one of them. Tears fell as they shared their stories – stories of survival from abuse from family members or partners, stories of triumph over tragedy, hardships, and challenges. Their courage and strength were humbling and empowering and yet, they did not see courage or strength. They did not see that telling their stories empowered others – empowered me.

Many conversations ended by reminding them of the lives they touched every day, and the transforming words of wisdom they shared with others. Most of us never know the impact we have on others or who we empower or encourage with a caring word, gift, or simple hug. We don’t concentrate our efforts on those who know us best and love us despite our flaws and failures. 

Death will come knocking at everyone’s door someday – we can’t avoid it. There will always be things left unsaid, undone, or unresolved. But, we also empowered others and had a positive impact on the lives of many. When we breathe our last, I hope we all meet the hour knowing we will truly be missed, never forgotten, and will remain alive in the hearts and memories of those who loved us. We are all beyond ordinary…..

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