Imagine wanting to learn to write and your palm and finger your only “paper and pen”… Inimaginable, right?
From the gaps and holes in history of women mentioned in archives, the author built the story of Helena, a maid in Netherlands, who knew René Descartes for more than a decade. Some say this is the story of Helena’s strugle to learn. For me, it was equally the story of Descartes’s strugle to learn. It was the time before his first publication, which is considerate to date as the basis of modern science and which required numerous explorations from him.
It is also the story of a woman’s aspiration to be independent and free from social expectations and bounds.
It is the story of a loving mother, who passed on to her daughter the love of letters and thirst of knowledge. It is the story of a mother’s grief for her child and her rebirth as a mother through the birth of her second child.
It is the story of a children book writer and her belief that all children – boys and girls – need to learn to write and read.
It is the story of female sisterhood and friendship.
It is a story of love, as impossible as it seemed in that century.
And, it is beatifully narrated.
In a doctor’s waiting room, a very talkative grandmother tries to get her granddaughter’s attention. The 15 year old tries to read. The dialogue goes like this:
– You can read your book at home.
– I can read and listen to you at the sane time, grandmother. I finally learned how to do it.
– You can keep your book. In my younger days, I was reading books all night long. I was 18.
– I am 15, grandmother.
– You can still read your book at home. What’s in you backpack?
– School things.
– Look at this! The grandmother seems surprised by the way the girl’s colorful backpack is made.
She then goes on about the lost value of Christmas, her neighbor crazy driving, religious tolerance … .
The appointment was for the young lady. I thought “How sweet! The grandmother accompanied her grandchild!” I almost wished she would never stop talking. I wished she would turn to me to get me to listen while waiting for her granddaughter to come out of the doctor’s office.
Then I got it. It’s their special thing: a 85 year old grandmother – 15 year old granddaughter dialogue, tune, reverberation.
Here is to all sweet grandmothers-granddaughters joy of sharing!
Today is the International Day to Stop the Violence against Women. Campaigns and signs of solidarity are all over the internet.
I think about my family’s history. And the history of so many families touched by violence.
– He gave me a slap on my face, only once, was one of my grandmother’s recollection if her 35 years of marriage, shortened by the war and grandfather’s early departure.
By her world standards, this was a violence-free marriage. In a rural soviet medium, violence was omni-present yet unspoken. It was seen on women faces and bodies, yet left unnoticed. By the church, by the community… .
My grandmother knew nothing about human rights or Conventions. Yet, she gave me the strength to never accept any act of violence be it mental or physical. She gave it to me by the belief that she is always by my side.
As a child I witnessed violence in the soviet illusion of violence free communities. You got quickly to see that the ideal family projected on the soviet propaganda TV was in stark contrast with the reality. What women who suffered quietly needed was to know that there is someone by their side. They still need it today.
On days of campaigns like this, I ask myself: what can I do? Can I be someone by their side? Can we be someone by their side? So that they find the strength they need to live the life they deserve as human beings.
I read this wonderful piece written by JOSHUA BECKER. https://www.becomingminimalist.com/there-are-better-things-to-talk-about-than-others/
And then this quote came to my attention; “Judgment is but a mirror reflecting the insecurities of the person who’s doing the judging.” (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus https://www.google.fr/amp/www.theminimalists.com/irony/amp/).
Judging is so human. I remember senour ladies on the bench in front of their houses in my childhood neighbourhood. Passing judgments was their fave pastime. Seeing them now makes me want to bring them mirrors :). I know, it’s kind of mean.
Judging is a choice – thought of the week for me.
– How old is she? i was often asked about my kid while strolling and playing in the park.
– Why? i would ask. The faces of inquires would get usually very puzzled.
– Hmm, to compare her with my daughter/niece/cousin’s kid…, would be usually mumbled in response.
– Do they need your comparison? would be my usual good-buy.
At school, my best friend’s mom would use two rulers to follow the marks on her daughter and my rows in the teachers notebook. I can only imagine the talks they had at home. As a result, our friendship suffered. My now ex friend has a PhD and i hope she did it for her professional fulfillment.
Comparison leads to wanting more, consuming more, spending time and effort on others ideals. We rarely spend time and effort on comparing where we are now to where we started from and analysing how much we achieved.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” said Theodore Roosevelt. I realise we cannot escape comparison fully though. Social media and glamorizing TV do not help with endless status updates, instagrams, tweets and alike. We see the surface and our brains make conclusions. It often does so from perceived weaknesses on our end.
I was raised in soviet union and even that “egalitarian” regime had a built-in competition. “Better”, “faster”, “more” were teachers and trainers favourites. In my grandmother’s village there was a competition for fastest growing trees. How can you make trees grow faster? They grow depending on their roots and need for light. They do not grow to compete with the neighboring forest.
I missed many joyful moments in life because of comparison, imposed or self-imposed. I also learned that Comparison can still be a friend when applied with care and in line with own intrinsic philosophy, values and aspirations.
I care now to make sure my kid learns to apply comparison when it benefits her growth. And it also helps me grow. The same way a tree does 🙂