Friday, January 21, 2011

δίψυχος

I once majored in Ancient Greek.  I do not remember much these days, but I often think about one particular word, δίψυχος.*  It appears often in ancient literature and it means, literally, "of two souls" or "of two selves."  I think of it as "of two minds."

I am so often "of two minds."  Likely this developed partly as the result of being a middle child -- I could look both ways and see a reflection of myself.  I often sat in between my two closest siblings and I developed excellent peripheral vision;  you need to look from both sides of your head when you sit in the middle and it certainly has stood me in good stead as mama to five!

For years, I could see the benefit of this.  I am a good mediator; I can see both sides of the argument.  I forgive easily because I can so empathize with the other person.  I am generally empathetic, which is why babies love me and school principals - not so much!  It makes me easy to hang out with; I am equally fond of martinis and coffee.  Whatever you are in the mood for will probably bring a smile to me, as well.  Prefer beer?  That's fine with me.  Iced tea?  I can go there! Sweet or un-sweet?  No matter -  I love them both.

So you see the trouble.   For δίψυχος also means wavering and fickle; in fact it points to a kind of faithlessness.  When, for example, I am in a leadership role, sometimes people just want to be led.  They lose faith when I present too many options;  and the internal pressure to commit sometimes catapults me into bossiness.  It's a kind of dissimulation.  And it can be frustrating as heck.

I am easily distracted, I am indecisive,others doubt me and  I often doubt myself.  On the other hand, I have a knack for soothing, for helping people see the other side, for loving challenging people because I can just see the hurt child beneath.

I wonder how much of my dissimulation comes about because I put myself in situations that are actually too much of a stretch for me?  I know it sounds like I am wimping out but truly, I wonder, isn't there some innate value in realizing how I am made and embracing it?

To reach my full "potential" shall I see this as personality flaw and work to overcome it?  Or is it in fact possible that there is room in our world for the middle child with eyes on both sides of her head?  Perhaps our society needs a little δίψυχος now and then.

But I can't say for sure, because of course, I am of two minds about it! (Wink.)


*Transliteration: dipsuchos

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grandma Huntley

Today my Grandma, Ada Poland Huntley, would have been 105.   She was the wife to Guy Huntley and mother to 9 boys and 1 girl, 4 of them already passed on.  All of them are living or have lived interesting and productive lives.  She loved each and every one of her kids and was widely known as a good cook who could create something delicious from virtually nothing.

I lived over 1000 miles away from her for most of my life, so I did not get to know her well when I was young.  However, when I was 9 or 10 years old, she came to stay with us and left me with one memory so vivid I can still taste it.  She taught me how to bake bread.

I remember she got a little cross with me because I wanted to go play while it was rising.  She set me straight right away.  Instead at her behest, I sat with her at the kitchen table and she taught me how to play solitare.  There is something very wise in teaching a kid to entertain herself.

When that bread came out of the oven, it smelled heavenly.  And although I had been spoiled by my mom all my life with homemade bread, none ever tasted so good as those first loaves I baked by my own hand.  That was some 40 years ago and to this day, I never bake bread without thinking of her.  She did so much more than teach me the art of dough making, kneading and baking.  She invited me to cook, which has been my creative outlet of choice ever since.

Grandma was like so many of the mentors of my life:  She taught me something which was in this case a process, bread making.  But more importantly, she recognized that glimmer -- that spark of true passion -- and she blew on and tended and fanned that spark until it burst into flame.  That is what the best teachers, coaches and mentors do and if you are not blessed to have such a mentor or coach like that in your life right this minute, drop everything until you find one!

 I still, on occasion, bake bread.  Five children and calorie cutbacks have curtailed that a bit.  But every day -- every single day -- I love creating nourishing and delicious food for myself and my family.  It is my favorite part of every day.  Thank you, Grandma.

Note:  This is a duplicate post with my family blog, Bright Love - Living Large in a Big Family