So lately I've been running in the graveyard right behind my apartment building. It's a lovely, vast cemetery filled with hills and mausoleums. Most of the time I don't run into another living soul, other than the occasional squirrel and one persistent hawk.
It's a peaceful run, but lately I've become disturbed by the gravestones. Not in any supernatural, oh-my-God-are-zombies-going-to-rise-after-all-this-is-Pittsburgh kind of way. What disturbs me are the words etched into the gravestones themselves. Here is a typical example:
Luisa Anderson, beloved wife of
(followed by the appropriate birth and death dates).
It's either that or:
Luisa Anderson, beloved mother.
And I'm not talking about just the old, crumbling gravestones. Some of these are very recent. Like within the past year recent.
So if I am getting this right, the most important function of women is still that they are mothers and wives. Despite the fact that 95% (and don't quote me on that, I'm just making an educated guess) of us are out there, working and living supposedly fulfilling lives. It's still the mothering and wifely duties that matter the most. Is that right?
To be fair, I have seen some 'beloved father' gravestones. But never, ever, have I ever seen:
Donald Anderson, beloved husband of
And to be absolutely clear, I am married. But I hope to God my gravestone doesn't have the words 'beloved wife' etched anywhere on it. Because being a wife doesn't define who I am. It certainly shapes me and my life. But it isn't the only thing about me that matters. I understand that now. I didn't always. I used to think it was the only important thing about me; I stuffed all my self-worth into the idea of marriage. Because it meant that I wasn't alone anymore. That I was cared for, and loved, and therefore important in some small way. And my little diamond ring let everyone else know it.
Now I know that my worth is not in that piece of paper, or the preacher proclaiming me someone's wife. It starts inside me. It can only be nurtured by me. And when it grows? The possibilities are endless.
So I'm going to stop reading gravestones. I'll keep my eyes focused on the soft green grass and crumbling paved roads. I'll look up at the startling blue sky. And I'll keep running.