Patience and Deep Listening with Grandma
I had the joy of growing up close to my mother’s mother. My grandma Gloria and I always had a special connection that only deepened after I lived with her during a summer that I was home from college. She is the inspiration for my mantra “every decade gets better.”
Excuse me while I gush over her for a moment. Gloria has a heart of gold. She is a simple and strong midwestern woman who has spent her life caring for the world around her. She spent over 30 years working as an RN. Her retirement was spent volunteering at the hospital until she lost her ability to drive in her late 80’s. She cared for my grandfather with incredible grace as he was slowly lost to Alzheimer’s. At 90, she resiliently moved from the town she’d lived in since she was seventeen to Colorado. At 91 she opened her heart to a man named Lee and, while she denies the title, got herself a sweetie! She is simultaneously one of the softest and strongest beings I know.
I had made the leap from my “planned” career of teaching math in public schools into the wild unknown of teaching yoga at about the same time Grandma moved from Illinois to Colorado. During my visits with her, Glo would almost always mention that I should find my way back to teaching math and that this “yoga phase” would pass. I did my best to not let this affect me, but as my commitment to this practice that was opening my Heart and changing my life deepened, these sentiments felt harder and harder to hear.
One Sunday I took Grandma to church (per her request.) As was often my experience at church, I didn’t much resonate with the sermon or community but I took joy in being there with her and hearing her sing the hymns. After the service, she was telling me how grateful she was for the religious practices in her life. She shared how the church and her beliefs had filled her heart for years and connected her to virtues of kindness, compassion, and wonder for something much bigger than herself.
It hit me as she spoke that this was exactly what I was gaining from my yoga practice and community. I shared this with her and watched her eyes soften. I believe this was the first moment that she understood the “yoga phase” was not a phase at all. I knew then that she was understanding and appreciating my commitment to my yoga in a new way. Since that day her comments about returning to math became less and less. Nowadays she inquires about yoga and what I am up to, no longer suggesting I alter routes.
While I know each of us has a completely distinct and unique family experience, again and again, friends and I have shared in the paradox of “family time;” how all at once there is the love and closeness that can only come from being known by another your entire life as well as the hard -even painful- feelings of being misunderstood, denied, or unseen by these same folks as we move through the world and grow into all we are becoming. I share this story of Grandma and I’s understanding with the hope of inspiring patience and trust for wherever you are in this season. I share with the intent of inviting the possibility that as we listen between the lines and move beyond feelings of separation, we might melt back into the ocean of connection and understanding from which we all were born. Even if just for a moment.