Monday, April 10, 2006

Mellowing Lessons

I am the kind of person that will hold out hope until the last shred of possibility dies. I have immeasureable faith in my fellow man, constant and unending love for people around me, no matter what they've done or who they've become. Many people have told me this is one of my greatest traits: to forgive instantly and remain loyal through anything.

This weekend, sitting in a hot tub with my cousin, I was a bit disturbed to hear that, at one point or another, she considered me unapproachable or "too smart" to talk to. That kind of hurt. I have never been unnecessarily harsh or mean to her. But my mannerisms, my demeanor, told her otherwise. She said that, most likely as a result of my relationships with the elderly, I've mellowed out in the last year or two. I don't know how true that is--but mellow is considered good in this society, and I'm generally easy-going.

How can I define "mellowing"? Where did I gain such an attribute? Can others learn this?
I'm currently in ES345, Native Americans in Oregon, and we are reading Standing Tall, the Lifeway of Kathryn Jones Harrison (Grande Ronde tribal leader). Chapter 14 recounts the way Native Americans (particularly those of the Pacific Northwest) viewed women in their society both historically and today. The most important role of any tribe did not belong to a man, rather the eldest female or most respected grandmother of the tribe. I was surprised, not because of the tradition, but because my life is oriented in a very similar way. I've often blogged about my dear grandmother. The role my grandma plays in my life is so much like the way Native American grandmothers taught their younger children. Grandma has attempted to teach me her life, her ways, her customs and traditions. I've picked up recipes (sweets!), history, culture, and a sense of resolve.

Here are a few things my grandmothers have taught me (list is not full, or in order):
  • Family history does not begin with me or my parents. Family history is all-inclusive, beginning with stories and experiences, the way the community views the family name. The most important thing in life is the esteem with which people hold you, not your money or fame or power.
  • Service and self-sacrifice. To give up one's time or energy for the benefit of another, to be humble throughout life, to serve endlessly for the sake of others, especially those who cannot do for themselves.
  • Loyalty to self, to family, and to friends. To not compromise values to fit in or make something happen.
  • Legacy. To pass on knowledge and love of life and learning. To share what you have with those that do not. To lead by example, not to lead by orders or decrees.
  • Faith. Not necessarily faith in God, but faith in myself, in the way of things, that no matter what things can always get worse and to always hope for the best.
  • The desire to cook for massive numbers of people, feasts of size immeasurable. To give food freely and without qualm at cost or time.
  • Character. To stand up for myself, to stand tall and firmly for what I believe is right. To let no one scare me. To let no man tell me what to do or who to be.
The most important thing my grandmas (all fifty of them) have taught me is simple: love, laugh, live life honestly, then love and laugh some more. If you can't laugh, fake it. Everything else will come in time.

1 comment:

Whit-O said...

love. love is something you just can't describe... it surrouds you completely and never leaves no matter what happens.