Friday, January 28, 2011

Fierce, Proud and Stubborn

Could that possibly be me???

Fridays with Susan...

I can remember - many times in fact - describing an older person, such as my dad, or my grandmother, as being "fiercely independent", or "stubbornly independent".   It only occurred to me in the last day or two that there is an implication, or an expectation in the way some use those particular phrases to describe people who are at a stage in life where they are generally on a physical decline.  There is an expectation that someone getting older should begin to become more dependent on those around them and if they resist that, we attach a negative sounding adjective to it.  Should the fact that they protect their independence, their ability to make their own decisions and to direct their own life, even making their own mistakes, come as a surprise to us or be seen in any kind of a negative light?

Fiercely independent.  Why don't we say, "courageously  independent".  Or "unwaveringly independent".  But no, it's "fiercely", or "stubbornly".  Negative sounding qualities.

The other day, sitting in the kitchen with a few of my kids, the conversation came around to the weight loss I've experienced over this past 3/4 of a year.  I expressed my need to "step it up" a bit to overcome the plateau I've been sitting on for weeks now.

"Mom, you should be excercising for an hour every day," says one of my kids.

"Sure," I'm thinking to myself.  "An hour of exercise.  Every day.  I'll fit it in somewhere between my toenail painting and navel gazing." But I didn't share that with them.  Possibly interpreting my silence as assent, another of my kids says, "That would actually be a very good investment of your time, Mom."

GRRrrrrr.  I felt something rise up in me.  "Hmphh," I think to myself again, "If I never listened to my parents telling me what to do, what would ever cause me to listen to my kids?"  In a purely self defensive response, not to the idea of exercise, but to the idea of anyone taking over any tiny shred of my personal autonomy, I blurted out rather irrationally,  "I would rather die ten years earlier than exercise for an hour every day.  Blechhh."

Well, that brought further reaction from said kids who I hoped were now realizing that any attempt to take over my health program and control my thinking on the subject was a hopeless cause, but instead they tightened the screws and increased the pressure, which, of course,  met with just that much more resistance from me!

We talked some more and my reaction was explained and ruffled feathers smoothed on both sides, but it caused those words to come to mind:  "Fiercely independent."

It was the first time I had actively thought about that phrase as being applied to me.  I'm afraid it won't be the last time.  So I'm practicing my responses:

I think I'm old enough now to make my own decisions.  Yeah, that sounds pretty good.  If that doesn't work maybe I can add, I've lived long enough to earn the right to make my own mistakes.  Or how about the simple, I can do it myself!, which I've actually been practicing regularly since before my 2nd birthday.

Hmmm.  (I'm smiling to myself here.)  I guess I'm at the stage in life where I am entering the  ranks of the "fiercely", "proudly", and "stubbornly" independent.  Bully for me!

But I think I could use a "kiddo" or two inserted into my collection of nomenclature right about now!  (See Belinda's post of two days ago - "Kiddos With Cataracts".)   Any takers?


Dave Hingsburger said...

Well, kiddo, I can do that for you. Yo fierce, proud and stubborn woman. To me those are words that I love, given the occasion, to be applied to my character. They speak of strength and determination and values. And you, kiddo, have those qualities in spades.

Susan said...

Dave, you put a great big smile on my face. It's nice to have a supporter. :) You've convinced me. Fierce, Proud and Stubborn are three qualities I definitely want to take with me into old age. :)