Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Amazing

I must be getting old, because people seem different to me. There is an abundance of amazing women in this world, and I didn’t recognize this phenomenon until very recently, so perhaps they have changed, or I have changed, or I just didn’t realize this until I was old enough to appreciate them. If the latter is the case, then getting old isn’t so bad after all.

My library has many amazing women. Perhaps because I work with them everyday and have had disagreements or merely neglected to pay them notice could have soured my ability to see their amazingness, but there are a few who I feel privileged to know. Certainly, they aren’t all amazing. In fact, some are downright vile, but the sheer number of amazing women at my library is enough for me to have more faith in womankind.

If I were to list the amazing features of Marina, this post would take forever, so just trust me when I say she is it. Christi, too, has amazing qualities that not only keep me laughing, but that keep me fighting for happiness, for only she gets me when we talk about humble beginnings and having to wage war against the obstacles in our lives that strive to keep us down. Around her, I’m not afraid to be weak, yet she keeps me feeling strong and undefeatable, no matter what I’m up against, because that’s her nature and I think that’s amazing.

All the women in my department are amazing in different ways, whether it’s because of their insight and honesty or their upbeat attitude and humor, and I’m lucky to work with each of them. I can’t imagine being in a different department and losing that coworker camaraderie with such a diverse group of chicks who make me want to be a better person.

The most disliked department in our building houses many truly amazing women, perhaps because they’re mired in the negativity that is Circulation, but they rise above it. Other departments are also blessed with women who sincerely leave a positive mark on this world; not just at work, too. They’re quirky and funny, kind and generous, and they each have something unique and exciting to offer the people in their lives.

I was at the gym the other day, and one of my coaches asked me why I chose that gym to join, not just because it’s an all-women establishment, but because I chose one outside my home town. My answer kept her nodding as I spoke, because she understood every word I said.

“I walked in these doors the very first time and there were women of all ages and all levels of fitness, from an older woman walking with a cane to a woman in her 20s with the body of an athlete. For a gym, that’s unusual to see it populated with REAL women. Normally you walk into a gym and it’s all fake. It’s plastic surgeries and boob jobs, body-building and muscle enhancements, legal and illegal, and everyone is so into themselves that they don’t even make eye contact with other people if they’re not sizing you up and judging you. HERE I don’t feel judged. HERE, even if I have never met these women before, there are smiles and welcomes and encouragement. HERE I don’t feel ashamed and I don’t feel bad. One of the coaches I hadn’t seen in a few weeks asked me how I was doing one day, and I gleefully told her I’ve lost 22 pounds and gained an incalculable amount of strength and energy, and before I knew it, the other women in the gym were cheering for me. WHERE ELSE am I going to get that kind of encouragement? My own boyfriend doesn’t cheer me on like that. My family doesn’t get it. My friends are happy for me, and they do support me, but I don’t think they know how hard I’m working for this. Only the women here get me, because I get them, and we all are trying to reach the same goals of feeling good, looking good, and being healthy. This place chose me as much as I chose it.”

The coach I was talking to said, “Isn’t it nice how whenever anyone walks in the door, the whole place erupts in greetings and welcomes that person?”

I said, “Yeah, it’s like our own version of Cheers, only minus the alcohol and barstools.”

We laughed, but it’s true.

Recently I’d written a post about wanting to feel like I was part of a club, a community that acknowledges one another even if they’re strangers, like the bikers on the road. I have that. I have that at my gym, where perfect strangers become my heroes and make me feel better simply by being nice and supportive for no reason other than to help one another. THAT’S amazing. And it’s nice to be at an age where women can be supportive without that competitive streak. I have waited so long to get here!

At work I co-run a crafting program, which brings together a mix of strange bedfellows, and more so this month than ever before, I sat next to these women and felt this strange sense of community with them, too. Under other circumstances I might not have ever paid them a bit of attention, wouldn’t have cared about their struggles and accomplishments in the least. They were merely patrons to me. Sure they all have their own story, but I can’t make room in my life for all of them, even just to hear their stories, so they all get the same treatment from me, which is to say I treat them well, but don’t get involved. But sitting together for 90-minutes while working on our crafting projects and chatting the time away, I realized that I have connected with these women and have come to care about them.

One had a recent serious health problem that caused her to have to give up smoking, and though I’m quite against smoking, I have found that I care about her so much that I am willing to listen to her tell us about all the ways she loves and misses cigarettes, and how hard it is each day to not smoke. And I want to help her in any way I can. Another woman’s husband lost his job last month, and she has teenagers who can’t find work, so their family is in the worst financial position they’ve ever been in. And I want to help her, too. Another has a husband who is running for office and is a Republican, which would normally push me away instantly, but I actually care so much about this woman that I want to help her and her husband. Political differences aside, they are good people, and that is moving to me. The last lady is older, retired, and she has the most amazing stories from her life. I could listen to her talk for hours. And maybe that’s all I can give them right now. Maybe I want to help, but having this program that allows them to get away, be surrounded by folks who care about them, be distracted with a project of their own choosing, and feel like I want to know them and hear their stories, maybe that’s what I have to give right now and maybe that’s enough. I can hope.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s an age I reached or if the world is different, because I am surrounded by people who do incredible things everyday. No other time in my life have I been more acutely aware of the sheer number of amazing women I know, perhaps because at no time in my life have I been so surrounded by women. There are no games, there is no competition for attention, and they are all so generous in spirit, with an effortless grace of ladies who have learned that niceness doesn’t cost you anything so why not spend it freely?

It could be the economy, the weather, the planetary alignment, or it could be that I have finally matured into a woman who sees other women as my community, my kind.

Of course that maturity is tempered with the 12-year-old sense of humor that keeps me laughing hysterically at staff meetings because someone said “I don’t know how big her package is,” embarrassing myself in public, as always, and clinging to that inner dork that is me.

So I guess I’ve come to a point where I’m comfortable with my flaws, proud of my accomplishments, and open to change, and this combination has probably opened my own eyes to the amazingness that has likely always been there, but I’m finally at a place where I can cherish it.

And I do.

Some women are absolutely amazing.

And I want to be more like them.

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