This is a continuation of the post, Steel Magnolias: Part One.
Our Steel Magnolias are quite adaptable. The magnolia tree grows all over the world, in all shapes and colors. Some trees are evergreen, some deciduous; some are quite tall (60 feet), others are shorter at their mature height. The Steel Magnolia women are similarly adaptable to blooming where they’ve been planted – or transplanted, as the case may be.
Humans, in general, are an adaptable species. We live all over the globe, from the equator to Antarctica, and adapt and overcome as a matter of course. It’s just what we, as a species, do. As with anything, individuals vary in our capacity for this kind of change: personally, I have adapted to chronic illness, but I could not to heat.
Women are highly adaptable. We fluctuate hormonally, and, miraculously, God created women to adapt to new life growing inside their bodies. As a group, we are literally physically adaptable.
Most people have some idea how they expect their lives to go. Mary did, and so did my grandmother. Both women adapted as those plans changed, as we have, too. Granny married Granddad, and subsequently moved all over the country as a military wife during World War II. Mary became a mother, despite taking a vow of perpetual virginity. She also moved quite often, which was likely not part of her original game plan, since society in First Century Judea was not very mobile. Mary had Jesus, and a trek from Bethlehem to Egypt, from there to Nazareth, and then from there to Ephesus. Granny had Uncle Bill, and a trek from Virginia to the West Coast during his infancy in the 1930s, then up and down the East Coast in the 1940s with three more kids. Neither lady had air conditioning, Cracker Barrel, audiobooks, or interstate highways to facilitate her travels. They didn’t even have disposable diapers for their newborn travel companions!
We adapt and overcome, too, every day, by adapting our ideas of family, our own family, and how and when to call that family complete. Then, sometimes, we adapt even further! My friend M had her first child well after she and her husband had accepted infertility. A mere six years later, just after they had given away all their baby paraphernalia, along came child number two. She adapted: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as only a woman can. We have adapted, too, every time we have faced a loss, disappointment, or obstacle on our journey through this desert. We adapt to new diagnoses, tests, regimens, and hurdles. Some, we overcome. Some, we go around. And sometimes, we make the most extreme adaptation by accepting radically what our reality entails.
How can we become more adaptable? Who are your role models for adaptability? Where is there room for growth in this virtue, and where can you model this virtue?
All of us, male and female, are called to be receptive. We are called to be receptive to God’s love, mercy, and grace, and to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Receptivity, then, is an openness to be one who receives a gift, to have our needs seen, recognized, and ministered to. It requires a certain humility or lowliness and a certain vulnerability, to have our needs seen, and to allow our own defenselessness so that what is wanting in us can be seen and supplied.
Women are uniquely receptive in some aspects of our nature. Take the way most of us listen, for example. It is axiomatic that women listen to relate, while men listen to solve. This is a common source of conflict between the two sexes (at least it is in my house). As I said earlier, there’s no absolute rule when it comes to humankind. There are plenty of men who listen empathetically, and not every woman listens well.
In general, women listen to understand, relate, share, commiserate, and respond. Our listening goal is more about demonstrating empathy and compassion than solving the problem, which may not even have a solution. A conversation like this can last a long time as ladies swap similar stories of their experiences, though care must be taken that the conversation does not devolve into gossip. Each person grows, learns, and reveals a little more of herself as a good conversation goes on.
As a kid, Mom, me, Granny, and Auntie would spend many weekend afternoons this way, playing games, window shopping, or cooking, and conversing about anything and nothing all the while. I don’t recall many of these conversations specifically, but I vividly recall the laughter and the bonds formed by sharing and spending time together.
I imagine Jesus, Mary, and the disciples having similar conversations about anything and nothing along the road as they traveled from town to town and village to village. I think this is the beauty of the Rosary, too. I think the Rosary is Our Lady’s school of prayer for us, a way to spend time together, sharing stories of her Son’s life, and listening to our stories. She uses those ten Hail Marys like the teapot in my living room, as a sort of timer. About the time the teapot runs dry, the conversations usually have, too. I can always make more tea, and we can always meditate longer, of course!
Who is your personal model of receptivity? Who is your model of a good listener? How can each of us more closely resemble that person, and employ what they teach us so we can become a paragon of that virtue?
We can live out receptivity as we listen to others, being open to hearing them and being present to them. We can also live it out by allowing our own needs to be seen and met by those around us. Infertility is often silent and hidden, especially as we wait and hope. It takes courage to let our pain and vulnerability be seen, to let others witness what we may perceive as weakness, but we can do that with dignity and grace, and in the process, allow others the room to be generous. We can adapt to the changes that come in ourselves, too, as we change roles from being needed to needing, from being supportive to supported. None of these proposals are “one and done”; our whole lives are about living out the virtues.
Oh, dear! I’m out of tea – would you like another cup?
Delsonora lives in Central Ohio and has been married to the best husband a woman could want for over a quarter century. She has a disability and was adopted as an infant. Delsonora loves pets, crafting, and food, and she thinks that coincidence is often a “divine hint”. Catholic from conception, she’s convinced that the faith is why, despite the prevalence of other options, she was able to be born.