On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, November 06, 2008

When Does Wisdom Come?

When I got married my new mother-in-law was about the age I am now. I didn't realize initially how wise she was, or how much I was learning from her. It took a number of years for me to figure out that this woman who saw things very differently from me on a lot of issues had an enormous wealth of wisdom to share. If she were here today and still able to argue and discuss, we still wouldn't see eye to eye on everything. There would be areas where I'd changed her mind, areas where she'd changed mind and areas where we agreed to disagree. Sometimes I think that I learned so much from her, from my own mom, from Aunt Drucilla, from my Uncle Stanley, from some of my favorite writers that I must be a little bit wise now. On other days and there've been a lot of them lately, I simply don't feel very wise at all.

My mother-in-law learned a lot of lessons in endurance while she was hospitalized for TB. I learned a lot of lessons in endurance when I was hospitalized before the birth of my daughter. I thought I'd learned all the lessons in patience etc. then. But I hadn't. As it turned out she hadn't either. She had long lessons in endurance to learn when my father-in-law was diagnosed with lupus, when she herself was diagnosed with cancer, when my brother-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes. I suspect that there were lots of days when she was tempted to bug out. But she didn't. I doubt that she knew she was being trained in wisdom through all those years. I doubt that she ever knew how much her lessons of wisdom meant to me. I doubt that anyone knows how much I miss her now and wish that I could talk with her again.

Perhaps it's the month of November when we think about departed souls. Perhaps it's having been to the cemetery this week. Perhaps it's feeling this overwhelming sense that I honestly don't have the wisdom to deal with some of what life has thrown at me that makes me miss my mother-in-law, my mother, my sister. Right now being the oldest person in the family is not a particularly happy thing to be. I don't feel wise, I don't feel competent, I feel like I need those older women in my life who are no longer here. As I said in a post back in January, I don't feel so smart anymore.

So why was Ma so smart at an age where I'm not. Did she know she was wise? What made her wise? From whence does wisdom come anyway?

Sometimes it would be easier to be 25 again and sure I knew all the answers. I try to remind myself that thinking you know the answers when you really don't is no substitute for true wisdom, but it certainly does give one a sense of assurance and competence that I honestly no longer feel.

It's been a rough week, even my knitting has not gone well. I just had to frog nearly 8 inches of my newest project (all the way back to the beginning) because my gauge was seriously off and the resulting project was going to be far smaller than I intended. So assurance and competence just doesn't seem to be on the schedule this week. But, I fully intend to pick up the needles and yarn and begin again. The frogging gives me a chance to rethink the whole project a bit. I'm going to begin it differently because I didn't really like the beginning rows anyway. Perhaps there's wisdom in not giving up on a project when you hit snags, even if you do have to do a lot of frogging and re-knitting. I'm going back to reading the Yarn Harlot again because it seems to me that she understands both knitting and philosophy, even if I don't necessarily agree with her politics.

Hopefully the next time I write I'll at least be making progress with the knitting even if wisdom is still an illusive dream.


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