Why send a heart-ening message?

 

The card has hung where I can see it for at least ten years.  The bends and wrinkles on the front are evidence of the many times I’ve opened and re-read the words that encourage me to keep on dreaming, reaching…

 

 

The words were written for that Hallmark Card by Renee Duvall. They were sent by my sister when I was in the midst of making a major career change.

 

 

Now two colleagues are facing serious health problems.  Friends have told me that they need words of encouragement.

Encouragement.   What does that word mean?  

To give courage.

It came originally from the Vulgar Latin (common speech) cor, which means heart.

With all the dis-courage-ing news, commentaries and tweets out there today, it seems more important than ever to show some heart when we communicate with each other.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there may be no better time to do that.

In a box of my mother’s keepsakes,  I found a Valentine I’d made for her back in the day when I was a Brownie Scout, doing crafts in after-school

meetings. She’d kept the simple message, just as I keep the card from my sister whose birthday—truthfully—is on Valentine’s Day.

Show some heart.  Send messages of encouragement. 

 

 

How a tennis trip turned into tips for an oldest daughter

Last weekend I went to a tennis tournament at the awe-inspiring 18,500-acre Air Force Academy in the Rocky Mountains.  Liz, a friend I’ve known since we shared an apartment after college, went with me. Trying to find our way to the courts,  we took the wrong road.  We ended up at a guard station in a restricted area where we were promptly and firmly turned around.  Once back on the correct road,  we looked at each other and laughed out loud.  “What would our 22-year-old selves think if they could see us now?”

That  led to something we’d heard about on national TV: writing a note of advice to a younger version of ourself.  The project had gained a lot of attention when Vice-president Joe Biden made public the letter he had written to his 12-year-old self.  Liz and I wondered what we have learned that might have helped our 22-year-old selves avoid taking the wrong road in the future.

letter to self

Back home, I found a picture of myself at about that age and sat down to write.  

 

Dear Patty:

I’m writing from an age you can’t imagine you’ll ever be.  Patty is the name everyone in our family and friends from school continue to call you.  Pretty soon new friends and colleagues will call you Pat.

This note is about the relationships you will have going forward with those who call you either Patty or Pat.  And with yourself.  And about how all these relationships are affected by the words, “oldest daughter.” 

Tip #1. “Oldest daughter” describes where you fit in the family lineup. Don’t let those words define you.

That can be a little hard, because it’s the way everyone in the family continues to think of you.   Mom and Dad have brought you up with expectations — to set the example, to lead, be responsible and caring. Our three younger sisters and brother expect those same things from you. They’ve watched and learned from what you do and the choices you’ve made.  They’ve grown to trust and often rely on you. 

Tip # 2.  Studies show that leadership and nurturing are characteristics that  go along with being an oldest daughter.  You’ve already experienced both.  You can choose, or not, to continue developing them.

In the future, you will be surprised at the expectations our family and others, without even thinking about it, will continue to have of and for you.   Sometimes you’ll feel frustrated when others don’t seem to  see what needs to be done or to take charge of a situation in need of “fixing.”  So you’ll end up doing it.    You’ll set yourself up to be overwhelmed if you continue to take on others’ expectations while also responding to the needs of your husband, your children, your job.  And I haven’t even mentioned taking care of yourself.

Tip #3.  It will be up to you to set boundaries that respect your own time and energies.

 

Tip #4.  Re-read Tip #1.  Then understand that what will define you is up to you and your choices going forward.  You have the right to decide what role you will play in contributing to this great, wide world we’re each part of.

That’s it for now.  

Till next time, with love from 

Your Older Self

“It’s like we’re connected.”

Maybe you’ve seen the auto-insurance commercial about  a younger fellow with long hair and a stocking cap who has just rear-ended an older, business-suited man’s car.   In exchanging insurance information, the two discover that they share not only the same company, but the same agent.  “It’s like we’re connected,” observes the younger man with zen-like pleasure.  “No, we’re not,” protests the other, obviously not liking that idea at all.  But as the younger man’s facial expression points out, there’s no denying it. 

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In somewhat the same way,  being born the first female in our families is a connector that’s not always or immediately apparent.

I’ve been surprised to realize the number of oldest daughters in my life.

  • My first housemates after college were all oldest daughters.  So were the four of us who subsequently shared an apartment.

That common characteristic was not realized, I’m fairly sure, at the time.  But it’s continued to be a fact in the people with whom I find myself associating.

  •   Four out of the five women in my original writer’s group were first-born females.
  • Six out of the eight women in the movie group my husband I belonged to were oldest daughters.
  • The majority of my close friends, business associates and colleagues in education fall in the same category.

In none of these situations has our family position been identified or discussed beforehand.  But our similar experiences, expectations, resulting feelings and personality traits have come to light in the course of conversations.

It’s those common connections that led me several years ago to begin researching this topic.  As one person I interviewed told me, “It’s like at some level we simply recognize each other.”