Is your to do list is too long, the day too short? As night falls is it hard so see what was of value, of real worth amongst everything you did compared to everything you were going to do?
Women struggle with this, most women that is. Wether we are single, married, unexpectedly alone, surrounded by children or with empty arms, we struggle with the demands of life. The should-do list always weighs heavier than the want to do list. This is the endless struggle. To find balance. To find the real gems in the riverbed of life.
When I was younger I worked as a night shift telephone operator. You couldn’t refer to it as the Graveyard shift when you are in a hospital. It sounded insensitive. I worked from 11pm to 7am. Alone in the carpeted basement. I never saw a soul but I talked to many: Nurses, Doctors, Patients, relatives etc
There was no meal break or any such thing. I prayed I wouldn’t need to visit the bathroom. For the all-night shift is a high priority situation. If anyone has a cardiac arrest or similar, the call comes through the red phone in the switchboard room. Three minutes is all the time you have to find the doctor, to make a difference: a life and death difference. And you didn’t want to start the count-down with a frantic dash from the nearest bathroom.
I would be tired drained and exhausted when my shift ended at 7am. I did 3 of these a week.
I would catch the tram home. I soon discovered this would mean waking up well beyond my stop. Or be woken up. Frankie was a night orderly worked in the ER. I don’t recall how we met. He had an old ambulance and offered to drop me at home. I never thought about how tired he might have been. I recall him being a little younger than me. He never made a move on me; he just would drive me home. I was living with my parents again.
I would wave goodbye go in, eat something and fall into bed into a deep sleep.
One afternoon I was coming back up the garden path from the mail box when I ran into my mother coming out of the house. Brightening I asked if she was home for lunch? She replied that it was after 5pm.
Things are not always as they seem.
These night shifts were taking a toll.
I moved into an apartment with friends.
Shortly after that, my parents homeward burgled. The thieves drove up in a removal truck and loaded what they wanted and no one said a thing. They drove away.
I lot had been stolen. Amongst the items was most of my mother’s jewellery. All of it. Diamonds, pearls, emeralds.
All the real deal. Mostly unique
Sometime later – though I do not recall exactly the time frame – I commented to my mother that I no longer heard her talk of a particular friend. My mother shared with me her heartbreak, and the story of how she and my father had attended an exclusive social event and there was my mother’s friend openly and brazenly wearing jewellery that was my mother’s. The stolen jewellery.
The women also wore a defiant air. My mother’s pride kept her quiet; she did not report the friend. She took the betrayal, the bold as brass attitude and buried it in her heart. No one knew.
Things are often different to what we think.
As my mother prepared to die, she talked to me about certain rings and trinkets that she wanted given to this or that person. She seemed to assign them quite casually. I questioned the giving of a valuable ring to someone distant from the family. Her eyes crinkled as she told me “none of it is real”. After the burglary she had only bought fake dress jewellery. Good items. But fake.
‘The only things of any value are my sapphires’ she waved her hand at me. ‘They are for you’. She had been wearing the ring the day of the robbery.
For years she would put the ring on first thing in the morning,and remove it last thing at night. I always thought it was because my father had given her the ring.
Some things are different to what we expect.
After she died I looked for the ring. I looked everywhere. High and low. Back. Front. Over. Under. No ring. She had been about to go to bed when things had become dramatic and was not wearing the ring when the ambulance took her to hospital. I had only seen her once more before her death and she didn’t mention it.
I sat on the end of her bed and closed my eyes. If I was my mother where would I have put it? This one piece of valuable jewellery. I opened my eyes and turned. There on the necklace tree draped with multi coloured fabulous beads and baubles was the ring. Amongst the rainbow of colour and style the silver and blue were hiding in plain sight. This treasure dangling with the worthless ephemera of her daily life.
Sometimes we cannot see what is right in front of us.
Sometimes we do not see the struggle of women. We do not see the broken heart nor the tired breaking heart. Neither is the empty heart, or the heart gone cold apparent to us.
In the busyness of life often, with the endless list, the expectations the demands and pressure of time we often miss the signs and signals that hint at a tender fragile heart. As women, we are generally better then men at picking up these messages. We see the behaviour. Or we recognize it because we used to do it ourselves. Or our mother’s did it.
We see women settling for the valueless baubles in life, having been shattered when the real gems were taken from them, one way or another. Or never given, or never received.
Are you a woman with a long list in her hand? Do you you have a tired tender heart? You are not alone. The boat you are in is crowded. Do you see another woman with a list in her hand? Just say hello, make a comment or ask a question.
I used to say hello to Grace at the supermarket. One day as I counted out the pennies for my small purchase, I laughed and said I am being frugal today. What is frugal she asked? I explained. We laughed together. I challenged her to teach me a new word. It became a joke. She would see me and say I hoped you wouldn’t come in today I haven’t thought of a word. She never did. But we talked to each other about all kinds of things, just a few minutes each time. Before I moved away I went specifically to see her, to tell her how she had brightened my challenging days.
You can become friends, you already have more in common than you know. Share your feelings. Yes, it will take courage. But it is the better way through.
Can you help me is a great question to start with…I am new in the area/school/office can you help me…find the post office, where is ..?
And if your heart is strong and healthy or healed I hope you will listen when a friend or acquaintance asks casually… Can you help me, have you got a minute?
Things are not always as bad as they seem.
You may indeed discover sapphires amongst the baubles and broken hearts.
*How did you find the sapphires in your life? Or are you overwhelmed with baubles? Is your heart tired or broken?
Thinking of you ♥ Jane
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