My day is unraveling. I have taken a quick shower but neither dried my hair nor applied any make up. I’m late for a luncheon where I’m serving. I’m trying to make a Sarah Salad from the Lion House in just ten minutes. In my rush, I smear mayonnaise all over my phone screen, obscuring the recipe.
I arrive late—washed out, wrinkled, and wet. I’m new to the ward, so I have never worked in this particular kitchen, I’m pulling drawers open and slamming them shut. I’m muttering and grumbling while hurriedly cleaning sheet pans to store plated brownies into the rolling rack. I’ve never worked an event with this team of women. A handful of the more efficient sisters try redirecting my energies. I using humor to circumvent my awkwardness, but my chatter merely magnifies my oddities.
My inner self bawls, “I want my mommy!”
Soon 70 hungry missionaries will be coming down the hall. My mother isn’t coming to help. Now is the time for me step back, take a deep breath, and channel my inner wise woman.
Now that I’m well into midlife, I am leaning less on my earthly mother figures.
My mother, mother-in-law, and step-mother all live in other states, and they have more responsibilities than visible resources to meet them. I’ve moved a lot, cultivating relationships with mother figures in several US states. Depending on their chronological age or their soul’s age, these women have been fictive grandmothers, mothers, or big sisters. Many of them are managing significant challenges of their own, so I’m leaning on them less.
[Photo of a quilt made by my Grandma Viola]
Recently, I’ve been conducting overt inner dialogues with my future self.
I can visualize my inner wise woman reaching back from the future to comfort, guide, and advise my current self. My future self is grounded, calm, mature, patient, intelligent, nurturing, and more. She’s full of divine virtues, but with a distinctive feminine power. I can feel these traits existing in the marrow of my bones. She’s there, slowly emerging into the present as I learn to listen to my authentic self and let my insecure, ego-driven, approval-hungry façade molt away.
My future crone flickers before my mind’s eye.
Her clothing is made of fabric ripped from well-worn clothing, patched with pages torn from dog-eared books. Her silver hair is adorned with autumn colored leaves and dried flowers. I see shadows of her in Proverbs 31, in accounts of the prophetess Anna, in the James Christensen’s work, in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, in the folktales featuring older women protagonists, in the writings of Eliza R. Snow—in innumerable places impossible to catalog. My future self draws on the pioneering work of other women, but she’s also unique to her own time, place, and being. She has her own vocations. She’s more grounded to the earth and more connected to the hustle and bustle of a community than the stereotypical wise man sitting on a mountain top.
She inhabits me more fully when I am engaged in serving others through various roles—intellectual nurturer, physical healer, emotional supporter, experienced leader, and innovative problem solver. If I brag about my emerging wise woman or gesture towards her growing presence, she dissolves. And I am again an egocentric, injured child–sitting in a bottomless pit of unmet needs.
For years, I imagined growing up to mean marshalling enough resources from the world around me to quell my damaged inner child. Once she was satisfied, then I could serve others. This isn’t the case. That child sleeps more soundly when I declare, “Enough.”
My inner child has had enough attention from outsiders after a half a century. I have faith that she’ll be completely healed on the morning of the resurrection. Now it’s time for me to turn my back on the past and face the future. I must use my waning mortality to give birth to my wise woman as I teach, lead, support, serve, and assist in the healing of others.
The missionaries come down the hall, and I spend the next hour smiling, walking from table to table carrying a huge tin bowl of Sarah salad. I’m dispensing food, compliments, and encouragement. I move the salad bowl to rest on my injured right hip. As I do so, I hear a crinkling sound–reminiscence of an autumn wind blowing crumpled leaves through an open window, past tattered curtains and over the pages of an old book.