I’ve been thinking a lot about pride lately and how it can become an obstacle in one’s life. An icy chill came over me as I looked back at my year in Denver, and was startled to remember times I let my pride and ego-centric frustration take over unrelated things–how I was frozen in some ways, from feeling and expressing gratitude. The chill was more about the place I was in in my life, not the Denver snowstorms–which rarely linger in icy frozen gloom due to the fact that it is SO SUNNY all the time there.
I am humbled by what my Denver family–the Drews and the Stars (Starlily and Starman) did for me, and as my cousin Nancy Drew once said in response to my comment that when she and Mr. Drew opened their house to me it was an act of extreme generosity, You’ll pay it back to someone else in need one day. I look forward to it.Extreme generosity because she took a risk to trust me with her Wild Boo and with her already overflowing-busy life. I was 80% in the headspace to conceive of gratitude, but 20% solidly mired in a selfish, childish tailspin. But I guess when someone like me needs help, that someone is not their best self. And the more I tried to hide that, the more rooted in that ditch I got. Maybe the more people in our lives humble us with generosity of spirit during our “worst self” times, the more gratitude we can feel and use to extend generosity to others.
I am trying to bring gratitude into the new chapter I’m starting in New Orleans. Starting a new life chapter, says one of my college best friends Inte-Girl, can be very stressful, and you need to acknowledge that, go easy on yourself, but embrace all the good things that go with it. So true. This woman should know: she’s a mom and an educator who has taken the leap into marriage, teacher union organizing, publishing personal writing about being an out lesbian in the classroom, aside from being one of my role models up there with Nancy Drew in the area of integrity. In fact, I’ll call my tall, blond-haired, blue eyed friend of almost twenty years, Inte-Girl, because, well, like Nancy Drew, friendship with her is integral to my well-being.
Here’s a favorite memory of Inte-Girl: We met on my first day at Wellesley College. I was disoriented, tear-stained from saying goodbye to my family, and humbled by the intimidating architecture. (Neo-Gothic has that effect on me.) She sashayed with, well, not to overuse the term here, but with whimsy–in her batik broomstick skirt and colorfully beaded necklace, she shook hands with me and laughed lightly and clipped, a right-to-the-point kind of girl who clearly was not succumbing to NeoGothic intimidation. I was homesick and lonely. I desperately wanted to find the formula to being a “Wellesley woman” because I suspected that I was far from it in my dress, behavior, and accomplishments. Lots of stress! I remember during that time period abandoning most of my quirky wardrobe of wacky tights and skirt suits in favor of drab turtlenecks and pleated corduroys.
The day it first snowed that winter, she banged on my door in a goofy-looking knitted hat with a few pom-pons dangling from it, Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, and baggy flannel pj’s.
“I’m so stoked!” she exclaimed, leaving me to follow her long-legged strides down the three flights of stairs and into the frosted cold of a post-snow New England morning, complete with pine trees covered in frozen white snow and slick, icy footpaths.
Inte-Girl, in that moment, was unfiltered enthusiasm. Where I tried to behave like someone worthy of Neo Gothic architecture, she excelled at confidently, unapologetically, being herself.
No prideful disguises.