Women of a Certain Age. Part 5

This is the final part of this series. For now…The woman pictured here was selling hats on the square at Patzcuaro. Fred and Pinky and I took a recent trip there for a few days just to check it out. I have a friend here in San Miguel who has a wonderful hat from Michoacan, and I did have the idea of hat-shopping on my mind. Most of the hats that this woman had for sale were pretty generic, but there was a pile set aside that had the feeling I was looking for. I saw the perfect one. I tried it on. Perfect fit. It now appears on my head in my FaceBook profile picture.

This lady has a certain air about her. I don’t think she messes around much. I seriously doubt that anyone messes around with her. She was wonderfully dressed, in the Old Mexico style of the women you see further south. I somehow managed to get the nerve to ask if I could take her picture. I loved the way she looked. She said okay, without registering any emotion one way or the other. The fact that I hadn’t tried to bargain with her about the price of the hat probably earned me some points. There is something in a face like this that says, “I see through all the crap. Don’t waste my time.” I snapped three and my nerve ran out. This is the one I like.

I have no idea how many years on earth this woman has accumulated. She could be younger than me. I don’t even know her name, or any part of her story. I just know when I look in the mirror at my own face, I would like to see more of this kind of strength.

 

Women of a Certain Age, Part 3.

This lady is one I see frequently on the street in San Miguel de Allende, usually helping out a flower seller who works near a sidewalk cafe. There is something compelling about her. I was pleased and rather surprised when she agreed to let me take her photo. She doesn’t have the strong, outgoing personality of the woman in the first of these posts, and she doesn’t seem to have the confidence of the woman in the second post of this series. In fact, in this woman I  always sense a feeling of vulnerability and shyness. I always say hello to her. Sometimes she holds out her hand to me, sometimes she doesn’t. When she does, I always find some pesos for her.

As a woman growing up in the USA I have certainly dealt with issues of strength and vulnerability. I have always thought that a woman could be one or the other…strong or vulnerable…but not both at the same time. My life in Mexico has taught me that only when we realize our vulnerability can we really find our strength. As a child growing up in a fairly dysfunctional situation I always felt vulnerable. The same vulnerability carried over into my first marriage. I was always expecting someone to come in the door in a really hostile mood, and even if it had nothing to do with me, I always felt it was my job to fix it. At around age 35 I managed to see that I could also be strong, and I saw being strong as the key to my survival. I saw strong as good, and vulnerable as not so good.  My experiences in Mexico have helped me to see that I can actually be strong even when I am most vulnerable. In fact, the only way to be truly strong is to be able to accept my vulnerabilities, love that scared child within me, and then to find my strength. I now see that we cannot really know our strengths until we also see our vulnerabilities. It is the ability to see both these sides of ourselves that matters most. So many women, especially women like me (old enough to have been strongly affected by the Feminist Movement..and to know what life was like before it), are not willing to see how vulnerable they really are. It’s always got to be Wonder Woman, all the time.

I don’t know the difficulties that some of the women I see here experience every day. I don’t know their joys. But, what I see is their magnificent survival. It is a simpler life here, and people aren’t all worked up about impressing each other. There is a kindness of spirit that I see in the faces I meet on the street. There is a shyness, just waiting for me to make the first move and say hello. I suspect they wonder about me sometimes, too. While I know that our lives have been very different, I also see more each day how similar we are.

One of the most important things I have learned about living in Mexico is that I simply cannot judge the lives of others. Many people come to a country like this and think that somehow the people’s lives are inferior because of the standard of living that they see. But, wait. Stop and look. This is not inferior, it’s just different. If you can put aside your own standards and expectations you can find a world very different from what you have ever experienced, but a beautiful world, nonetheless. And, you can look inside yourself and find strengths you didn’t know you had. And, when you need to feel vulnerable, you can just do that, too…without judging yourself at all.