Overcoming the Stereotype

It’s amazing that when I think of stereotypes I don’t usually think of myself.  But more and more often I find that I too am the object of stereotyping.  Have you thought of the stereotype of a widow?  I’m usually confronted with one of two expectations.  First there’s the picture of a dowdy matron, always dressed in black, grim, solemn, quiet, often bitter  — a sad, dried up old lady.  Or there’s the other stereotype of the widow – a woman on the make, flirting and making every move to snag another man.

I’m not going through the rest of my life wearing black and standing quietly on the side lines.  It’s true I’m old-fashioned about a lot of things and I’ve been known to be unfashionable as well.  But I’m not going to face life grim and grumpy, never laughing or having fun.

As for the second stereotype — there’s got to be a way to live so that I can be social, active and having fun, without the assumption that I’m looking for a man to fill my time and desires.  So that others don’t see me as on the prowl (which I personally find to be quite funny).  And yet there are certainly times when I’d rather be part of a 2 than a 1.  I’m definitely learning to be content in my singleness, but it is a process to find the balance between desiring what you once had and accepting where you are today.

There’s got to be a place between the two stereotypes.  A place where I can be me – the same me that was married for 36 years, the same me that loved to laugh and be with people.  And yet, a place where I can also be the new me — the me that doesn’t have a partner to move through life with.

Yes, I feel like there’s a new me.  I feel like I now have a second life.  While I would have never chosen this (I liked my first life just fine, thank you), this is what I now have.  A second life.  A second life to make choices and decisions about.   A second life to try new things and have new adventures.  A second life to do some things differently than I did the first time.   Given this second life, I hope I’ll be better about making certain decisions – that I’ll do a better job than I did the first time.

How do you overcome stereotypes?   Except, to not be one.

What’s In a Name?

Michael and I became engaged when I was only 19 years old.  And while there were a lot of changing roles for women at the time, one thing I never thought twice about was taking his name when we got married.  I know not everyone chooses to do this, for various reasons, and that’s certainly an individual choice.  But for me it was never a question – I was proud to take his name then and have always been proud to be a Moskau.  In fact we got married six months before I graduated from college, so even my college diploma is in the name of Moskau.

But sometimes now, I wonder if my name should still be Moskau.  I mean, Michael’s not here anymore.  Am I no longer a Moskau?

It’s strange.  I know lots of women who divorce and take their maiden name again.  I completely understand this.  It’s usually a reflection of their wanting to distance themselves from that person or that relationship.  But I don’t want to distance myself from Michael or the relationship we had.  Yet, it still nags at me – Am I still a Moskau?

I was a Weaver for the first twenty years of my life and I’m proud of that.  In fact I’m still proud to be a Weaver.  And yet to take the name Weaver again also seems not to fit.  I’ve been a Moskau for thirty-eight years.  All of my professional career I’ve been known as a Moskau.  Legally my name is Moskau.  I am the mother of three children whose names are Moskau.  The majority of my friends know me by the name Moskau.  And yet some days the name Moskau seems to be something that is no longer who I am.  It was Michael’s name, and mine only by virtue of being married to him.

So, if I’m not a Moskau, and if Weaver doesn’t quite fit, what am I now?
Just one more quandary that I sometimes find myself in …

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”                                                                  Shakespeare

Looking Back

Last week I wrote about looking forward into the new year.  But this week I’ve spent a lot of time looking back.  Not just looking back to 2015, but looking waaayyy back.  Because this week I’ve had the privilege to spend time with the people I grew up with as a child and as a teenager.

These are the kids who were my first friends.  We played together day after day until we were finally old enough to go to school.  Our neighborhood was newly developed and each small home was occupied by its original owner – a young married couple having babies.  In the early years our street was unpaved and there were drainage ditches along each side of the road.  While this may sound unappealing or unhealthy to some, it merely provided a place for us to imagine adventures as we played.  We never tired of watching for cars and then jumping into the dry ditches to hide from them.

The days were spent running from one yard to another, swinging on swings, catching lightning bugs and mosquito hawks (a.k.a. fireflies and dragonflies), searching for doodle bugs and water bugs and catching uncountable numbers of lizards.  We would run through the laundry hanging from the line in the back yard.  And the chain link fences separating the yards were really quite useless as we thought nothing of jumping over them in a few seconds.

We didn’t know what air-conditioning was at the time and could sometimes overhear our neighbors’ business.  We could especially enjoy one of our neighbor’s beautiful baritone voice as he would sing a block away.

There would be great excitement when a family would buy some new appliance – a washer or refrigerator.  Not that we kids cared about the appliance, but the large box was full of endless possibilities for play.

As the years passed we went to various schools by day, but every afternoon we were back outside to play and talk and continue our friendships.  These are the kids I grew out of childhood and became a teenager with.  Playing games and catching bugs evolved into playing records and catching each other.  By one count our little neighborhood numbered fifty teenagers back then.  Most Friday and Saturday nights were spent in someone’s garage playing the latest 45’s, dancing and discussing who had a crush on who this week.  These are the kids who shared my high school dances with me.  These are the kids who shared rides in cars, “spin-the-bottle”, teenage anguish and acne with me.  These are the kids who shared secrets with me – secrets we still hold close today.

Today these kids are in their sixth and seventh decades of life.  We are more likely to be caring for our parents than for our own kids, at least for those who still have parents living.  We are becoming in-laws and grandparents with each passing year, and sadly there are a few of us missing.  We have multiple professional careers, own a wide variety of businesses and are easing our way into retirement.  Some still live in that old part of town that didn’t even have a name when we played there; most have moved to other places.  But when we gather together we are still kids.  We laugh about the way things were, we tell stories on each other, and amazingly we slip right back into those old roles and behaviors we displayed decades ago.  We look at old pictures and ask “Who’s that?”, only to be told it is us – and then we laugh even louder.

So, yes, this week I’ve been looking back.  But not in a sad way.  Yes, there’s a sweet sentimental feeling to these old memories, but mostly there’s thankfulness.  Thankfulness for people who have known me through all my seasons of life and yet still want to get together to love, encourage and support each other through another year.

With much love to the Moss Lane Gang!!

Looking Forward

Over the last week I’ve been reading people’s reviews of 2015 and anticipation of 2016 and I find myself looking forward as well.  It’s interesting to me that I look forward to a new year because I recall last year not wanting a new year to start.  To move from 2014 to 2015 was something I didn’t want to happen if I’d had the choice.  For 2014 held Michael and it would be the last year he was present in.  I didn’t want to move to a new year that he would have no part of.  But, as usual, I had no say in the matter and life continued.

So, indeed, I’m a little surprised and a little proud of myself to be able to say that I do look forward to 2016 and all that it will offer.  The prospect of change, while it still makes me a little nervous and rattled, doesn’t seem to strike fear or dread in me like it once did.  So this is what I see in the coming year.

In 2016, I want to challenge myself to do some new things.  I hope to read more, write more and get back into studying Scripture like I once did so faithfully.  I hope to get back into leading a small group seeking to grow in their faith and understanding of God’s work and purposes.  I don’t want or expect it to look like it once did.  But I do want to get back to it.

In 2016, I want to travel to new and exciting places.  Right now I have three trips on my calendar to places and events I haven’t been a part of before – some will be by myself and some with family and friends.  I have some other ideas of things I’d like to do to stretch my wings and my comfort zone; I’ll let God show me how much and when I will be able to experience those things.

In 2016, I want to be healthier.  It’s a daily, no hourly, struggle for me.  I’ve gotten pretty good at being consistent with exercise, but it wouldn’t take much for me to sit on the sofa with a good book all day.  Unfortunately I love food, in way too many forms.  So I need to constantly keep myself accountable – and I’ve not been real successful at this.  And for someone who is otherwise very healthy, I don’t want to neglect the opportunity to stay that way.

In 2016, I want to spend more time with my family.  Of course, I have the most wonderful grandson ever – and I don’t want to miss so many important milestones in his life.  But I also see the busy lives of my children and the many opportunities ahead of them in the coming years.  I want to be there to help, to celebrate, to navigate and to love them through every change, move and twist that comes their way.  And I want to deepen the relationships with my extended family as well.

In 2016, I want to be a better friend.  I want to appreciate, celebrate and support each of the precious friends I now have.  And I’m greedy – I want more friends to learn from and enjoy life with.  With each passing month and year I feel more aware of our precious time together slipping away, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

In 2016, I want to love more.  I want to be quicker to tell others that I love them.  I want to be more open-hearted (is that a word?).  I want to stop building walls and start tearing down some long-standing ones.  I don’t want to pause because I’m shy or vulnerable or afraid I might get hurt.  I want to love without hesitation, without judgement and without fear of rejection.  I want to love like Jesus did.  I want to love like Jesus still does.

Well, it looks like quite a list of things to look forward to.  But I must tell you there’s more I’m looking forward to – beyond 2016.  I’m looking forward to heaven.  I’m looking forward to not being afraid of the things in this world.  I’m looking forward to living in peace with those around me.  I’m looking forward to being in harmony with those around me.  I’m looking forward to an end to theological arguments and debating who’s right and who’s wrong.  I’m looking forward to no longer being in competition with other believers because my church or their denomination is bigger, better, or holier than some other one.  I’m looking forward to people cheering for one another and encouraging each other without jealousy or envy or any sense of satisfaction when someone else doesn’t succeed.  I’m looking forward to no longer struggling with the demands of my flesh and my ego.

With God’s help, may some of the changes in my own life make earth look a little like heaven in 2016.