“Women hold up half the sky.” —Mao Zedong

Occasionally I cross paths with a woman who is lovely in every way. She is warm and thoughtful and present. She takes the time to offer compliments and affirmations to others. She is gifted in her work. Her heart is clearly good. She is also externally very beautiful. Her skin literally glows and she seems to grow more youthful with the passage of time. Her eyes are bright and alive. I recently learned that she views herself through a very different lens. She questions her own good judgement. She thinks that she is old. She is too hard on herself. I was so very disheartened to hear this—not because she is disappointing me but because I could write this same story of any number of other women that I know. Another woman—a friend—who is also so very lovely in many ways expressed to me that she was a “poor communicator” because she had unknowingly organized an event that overlapped with another event. Her intentions were so good, the gathering was successful and yet she came away berating herself. This is a woman who could have been patting herself on the back for her willingness to be in the arena and instead she experienced herself as flawed. I can only hope that my words in response to her could shine a light instead on her goodness, her willingness to help, her positive intention.

Recently I scheduled meetings with both of my children’s teachers for their seasonal conferences. I thought that I had arranged for them to fall on the same day but upon arrival for the first meeting, I realized it was actually scheduled to take place the following day. The warm and forgiving teacher whisked us into the classroom for a quick overview in the few minutes she had between her actual meetings and kindly offered us an opportunity to reschedule. She in no way expressed judgement, however, it was interesting to travel around my own consciousness and witness the way in which I responded to myself. I was not as harsh as I might have been in the past and yet I could not help but notice how delicate the fabric of my being can be in the face of—even non-existent—reproach.

I have been gifted with a loyal companion when I write. Like the season she was named for, “Autumn” is a Calico with black, white and orange markings. She lies next to me sleeping as I attempt to convey the story of my life, waking to purr occasionally and rolling a little onto her back. She has one little snaggletooth and a black marking on her forehead that looks as if someone might have picked her up there by her scruff leaving a thumb and forefinger print when dipping her into a bucket of color. She has seen it all. She was with me in my tiny West Village apartment in New York City on September 11th—still tiny then. I remember she liked to put her head up near the light in a little lamp I had and my sister always marveled at how she seemed to be, “seeking the light.” I remember being afraid to leave her there in the apartment when I traveled up to be with friends on the Upper West Side—not knowing if there was more to come after the towers came down. She was my witness as I navigated, in those years, relationships and jobs and my unfolding creative self. I adopted  another cat who tormented her and left her in his very big shadow for a number of years. She moved with me into two other apartments and watched on as I got married and later found out I was pregnant. She was there when I experienced a miscarriage two days before an intricately planned trip to Spain. She was there as my belly grew again and later when we brought Jonah home just after Christmas. She endured another move—this time to Maine where she could peer out numerous windows, fixating on the many birds that come into our yard. And then she greeted another wiggly baby, Adrian, with his loud cries and contagious laughter. She has witnessed me in every single possible state of emotion and circumstance under the sun and still she is here, eager to rub her head against mine and blink her eyes lovingly in my direction.

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