“She lived a colorful life.”
Often, that statement is not entirely complimentary. “Colorful” is often used in place of “different.” Colorful is used to describe people, usually women, who seem larger than life. They may have behaved differently than society thought they should. Lots of marriages. Or maybe no marriages, just lots of lovers. Opposite sex, same sex, maybe both. Traveled too much. Didn’t have a “usual” job. Or, had a job outside the home instead of staying home. No kids, or maybe kids that were raised with lots of love but few constraints or expectations. Wore “wild” clothes. Was ahead of her time, perhaps forging the way in careers that were not “typical” for women.
Authors, artists, musicians, athletes, activists, non-conformists, trailblazers.
People we admire, but that, perhaps, make us just a bit uncomfortable.
There have been several things happening in my life recently that have caused me to think about what I want people to say about me when I am not here physically. And I have decided that in addition to the usual platitudes (she was a good person, she was a good wife and mother, she cared for others) I want people to say,
“she lived a colorful life.”
I want to be remembered for shaking things up. For finding my own path and encouraging others to do the same. I want people to say, “she spoke her mind.” And I want people to say, “she made me feel special.” When people use a color to describe me, I want it to be red or pink or turquoise. Or gold. But not black.
And certainly not gray.
Let’s face it, we spend a lot of time worrying about what others think. Am I wearing the right clothes, going to the right places, saying the right things? We all want to stand out, but for the “right” reasons, and we all want to be remembered, but again,
for the “right” reasons.
Partly that is because of the expectations women are raised with. It may be 2021, but those expectations about behavior are out there. Strong, opinionated women make a lot of people uncomfortable. There are people who do not think a woman can be president of the local city council, let alone president of the United States. People still label women based on what they wear and how they speak. And while “assertive” or “aggressive” may be good in men, those words are often quite negative when used to describe women.
I am fortunate that I have had strong female role models in my life. My maternal grandmother, Freda, was an ace basketball player. She married a man seven years younger than her at a time when that just was not done. She had her children later in life (in her 30s, in the 1930s). My paternal grandmother, Greta, immigrated to the United States when she was 17 to marry a man much older than her. She was “adventurous.” Never afraid to try something new. And she did. She came to a new country, learned the language, raised three children, made sacrifices that I would find hard to make (she never saw her parents after she immigrated) and found joy in ways I am not sure I could have. My own mother went to college and held a job after she and my dad married. When one of the neighbors asked, “if you’re working, who is going to fix Dale’s lunch” my mother replied, “he can make a cheese sandwich.”
Each of these women lived traditional, yet I would say colorful, lives. They found their own paths even while living and raising families in communities that valued tradition and expected women to fulfill traditional roles. Their examples inspire me. To get an education, get a law degree, take the scary new job, move the family, start over, start a business. To love my children enough to let them be who they are, not a clone of others. To plan adventures with my husband. To buy the orange dress rather than the navy suit, to wear the big earrings, to laugh out loud, to cry when I need to. And to believe that it is never ever too late to live a more colorful life.
Gratitude Soapery is one way I am living a colorful life. It is an adventure every single day. There has been more learning in the last two years than I ever imagined. And I do not mean learning to make soap and create IG stories. Learning things like patience, resilience, presence, and yes, gratitude.
We only have this one life, this one chance to be all that we are intended to be. One chance to live mindfully and with gratitude, one chance to be fully present in each day, to live authentically and with grace. Enjoy this journey. And let’s turn “she lived a colorful life” into the best thing that can be said about us.