Let it be easy has been a prayer of mine for a long time—the path of least resistance. Opening myself up to allow ease and flow to unfold naturally in my daily decisions has been a conscious choice. I understand how our minds can keep us stuck in our thinking and a vicious cycle of trying to “figure things out.” The problem I’ve found is that our minds keep us in a thought loop. We’re most likely not going to think our way out of a situation or circumstance. But when you set an intention and get yourself out of the way, you start to see the magic happen.
The “how” is not ours to know.
This non-resistance strategy led me to take a creative writing class—something to get me flowing and out of my own way. I was pleasantly surprised by its simplicity and the direction of the instructor; it was nothing like I’d imagined. I had decided when I joined that I would show up one hundred percent, and I knew that showing up with all of my flaws would be an essential part of the process. And wow, was it! I’m so glad I said yes!!
It was a relatively small class, and we met online over Zoom. I’m a fan of live and in-person classes if given a choice, but the fact that we can meet with people all over the globe in ways like this is impressive to me, and I think it’s beautiful. It was so interesting seeing and hearing everyone’s take on the prompts we were given, what came up for each of us, and where it ended. I went in with an open heart and a willingness to listen/learn and be “exposed.” I felt so courageous afterward, and it felt expansive and inspiring because I was ready to show up in the way I did.
Our instructor gave us a prompt, and our instructions were to write until she said stop. She told us that if we got stuck, we could keep writing: why am I stuck? Until something else presented itself on the page. It didn’t have to be a real story—this was a creative writing class. But I found myself using that exercise for a prompt referencing our grandmothers, and what ended up starting out as just a story took on a life of its own and became a factual story—it was my story. I was so taken aback by what my pen put on the page that night.
Although my paternal grandmother is the only grandmother I remember, I have always felt a deeper connection to my maternal grandmother, for whom I am named Cecelia (Cecelia Marie)—but she died when I was young, maybe three, and I sadly have no memory of her. It’s sad for me because I wish I did. (I do dream about her sometimes!) But as this story emerged, I realized I didn’t have just ONE strong grandmother, as I had always imagined, but I had two! And it wasn’t even that I thought my paternal grandmother wasn’t strong, but writing about her made me see just how strong she truly was.
Cecelia (Ceal) was an independent single mother when a single mother was hard to find—unless a widow (which she wasn’t). She had my mom, an only child, when she was 29 or 30 in 1949. She held a full-time job and was even a homeowner. She traveled the country with another young woman in her twenties, which was also very unusual for this era. I have some of the letters she wrote home from those travels that I treasure! She and my mom lived in Indianapolis. She fiercely protected my mom and went to great lengths to keep her safe, but that’s a whole different story for another day.
My paternal grandmother (Grandma) Edna gave birth to twelve babies—five of whom she buried. Growing up, I never heard mention of the five babies she’d lost until I was much older, and I still don’t know nearly as much as I would like to. I was shocked to discover this and really began to understand that this is how stories and family history get lost over time; no one ever talks about them. I had difficulty comprehending such tragedy to one family; one mother. I also understood why she was such a strong-spirited, hard and determined woman.
She lived in Tennessee, mostly, where my dad and his siblings were raised, and my grandpa was a coal miner. They did not have an easy life, living in coal mining towns in Appalachia where my grandpa and the men he worked with were helping to establish the union—a risky and deadly business back in the day. My grandmother would have to smuggle in anything purchased outside the company store in the camp where they lived—a punishable offense. My dad was the youngest of the 12 siblings, of which seven remained. There was a considerable gap between my oldest uncle and my dad, with only one sister in the mix.
My Grandma chewed tobacco and always had a spittoon nearby. She made the best buttermilk biscuits you would ever eat and thankfully passed that tradition (no recipe) down to my mom, who NOW takes the trophy for the BEST BUTTERMILK BISCUITS! Grandma’s house always smelled like breakfast to me, and there was always an entire crew just waiting for the food to hit the table whenever we were there. I always knew, just from the change in the air when we’d crossed into Tennessee from Kentucky, that we were close. There’s a beautiful aroma that comes from those mountains.
I will never forget the time she and my grandpa visited when we lived in Wisconsin. She wanted to return home immediately when she couldn’t find her brand of chewing tobacco in our north country. I remember her throwing the biggest fit! (I don’t think they did go home, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out otherwise.) She was a determined woman, and did I mention she had a temper? I never saw her wear a pair of pants, but I do remember her hands on her hips often. Her hair was always long, gray, and pulled up—she was the perfect picture of what a grandma was in my mind and still is to this day. I always remember her cooking. When one meal was finished, it seemed like she was starting the next. And I guess when you have a constant flow of people to feed, that’s what you do, or used to anyway. I also remember her skin being super soft.
The stories of my two grandmothers are very different. And it all makes sense to me now that I am who I am. I was born of strong bones and genetically wired to be a woman of breadth and width. I am keenly aware of the stories we are told and how they make us who we are, though we don’t always have an understanding of why that is.
This prompt gave me that insight. I felt so joyful after making this connection. As I read my story to the group, I began to cry, knowing and resonating with the deep connection I felt with and for my grandmothers. I felt so grateful that they had both withstood the hardships of their lives, though very different, and persevered through all the pain, tribulations, and trauma they had endured. I only wish I had taken the time to get to know my Grandma, the babies she buried, and the life she lived. I was never close to her—they lived over 300 miles away, but I would have loved to have known her better.
More wisdom from growing older and the things we take for granted.
She died in 2000 or 2001. I didn’t attend the funeral. She had been in poor health for several years, was not really verbal, and she was certainly not mobile. It was winter, and we had a significant snowstorm when my mom called to tell me. I don’t even remember having that much conversation with my dad about it, perhaps because we seemed to have lost her long before she took her last breath. And maybe we had more conversations than I remember. If we did, I wish I also remembered those.
Sitting where I sit now, I can say that I would have been deeply hurt if my kids had missed something so significant in my life. I know things happen, life, snow storms, work, etc., and I’m sure my dad was perfectly fine that I was missing; he wasn’t one to complain much about what I did. But I can tell you now that I am very sorry I wasn’t at the funeral for him when his mom died. I can’t change that now, so there will be no dwelling—just an observation. And you know what? When you know better, you (hopefully) do better. And I will.
This is not the story I wrote that night, but it is what opened up inside of me as a result.
Inquiry can be beautiful, and I’m not done asking questions…I’m just getting started.
…this story will be continued.
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To your healing and to mine.
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