Amid the ongoing arguments and protests against President-Elect Donald J. Trump, I am dismayed by the young women of all backgrounds who are so apparently “injured” by the result. Perhaps even more painful to me — some of them remind me of my own younger self, when I fervently believed women could have it all.
Wisdom typically comes by way of tough lessons and abysmal failures. For those willing to admit it, this is our finest teacher.
I learned that the hard way as a working mom. I was born in the post-war boom of World War II, when gals like me were raised to be mothers, wives, and dutiful daughters. We also needed the feminine wiles to attract the young men who would become our husbands, the heads of households, the fathers of our children.
For a long time I bucked this. As a girl I ran wild. I followed babbling brooks miles from home on my bicycle while believing I was an explorer on the brink of discovering a new world.
In that era of the 1950s, the best world of all was the one I found as a Christian in my small town’s High Episcopalian church. There, amid the background of old English hymns, sunlight through stained glass windows spilling upon those seated in the hand-carved wooden pews, I found my place. I began to understand what peace that transcends understanding might mean in my little life.
I bought into an agenda that would adversely affect my life for years to come.
As the years passed, however — I forgot all about that. After attending college (and “learning” in philosophy class that God did not exist) — I embraced the fashionable politics of the women’s movement, with its promise of having it all: dream jobs, money, marriage, children, hearth-and-home, and of course, love at the end of the rainbow.
Unlike our mothers before us, opportunities in law, medicine, business, arts, media, and finance opened up far beyond the stereotypical roles for women as nurses, teachers, secretaries, librarians, waitresses, and the like. Even marriage and children were encouraged to be delayed or denied in order to fulfill glittering dreams; the reverberations of Roe v. Wade fed our demands.
Tragically, like so many women of yesterday and today — I did not look but leaped while buying into an agenda that would adversely affect my life for years to come.
We couldn’t see ahead, let alone hear the long-forgotten voice of Our Lord that it was far better to be in the world — but not of it.
Today, having lived through decades of calamity in wars, social injustice, and political debacles, along with a country on the brink of financial and spiritual bankruptcy, I don’t have the answer. But I know one thing to be true: Most women who want successful careers while attempting to satisfy their own personal needs (along with those of their husband’s, children’s, country’s and other circles) can’t have it all.
For me, the demands of pursuing the legal profession’s top tier resulted in downsides of serious health challenges and surgeries; unexpected family losses; and deep financial setbacks. With the exception of my husband and my gifted son, who is deaf, I would not have changed a thing. But for the rest — I suffered by failing to set my own limitations as part of this quest.
While I may have achieved much in the eyes of the world, success came by way of willing myself to power through it all amid misfortune. Motherhood alone required every scintilla of strength I had as teacher, housekeeper, shopper, errand-runner, comforter, disciplinarian, advocate, spiritual counselor, health-care provider, financial czar, and troubleshooter for all manner of emergencies. What saved me from this vicious cycle?
I surrendered by letting go and letting God, via my conversion to Roman Catholicism. When a Franciscan sister handed me a chaste-white Holy Rosary with a book of instructions, I felt at peace for the first time in years — no matter that I was 40 years old. With childhood echoes of that glorious peace that inexplicably transcended understanding, I felt at “home.”
Yet I’ve had my moments of raising a clenched fist to the heavens in protest when things got tough. I did so — only to realize later, in a calmer state, that I was right where I needed to be.
I was reminded of all of these memories as I saw the tragic look of utter defeat on Hillary Clinton’s face on Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump was elected 45th president of the U.S. by the American people.
And while pundits today argue about the reasons Trump won and Clinton lost, I am reminded of another adage: to thine own self be true.
Was Hillary Clinton ever aware of her own limitations, including the various health problems that would cripple her campaign’s success? Did she fully comprehend her inability to admit to, let alone connect with, America’s suffering amid the failed policies of Presidents Bush and Obama? Did she know that in lacking the skills of gifted oratory — crucial to successful presidential bids such as those of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — many die-hard Democrats would remain apathetic to her candidacy?
Moreover, with every conceivable resource available to her of fame, privilege, wealth, prestige, and powerful allies and connections worldwide — the simple and sobering truth is this. Even a woman like Hillary Clinton could not have it all.
The author, a retired attorney, is a published poet, author, and columnist based in Arizona.