Verba Sapientium

Once upon a time, I was making a bad job of being pregnant. I was sooo morning sick, the whole way through, though working full time and going to law school five nights a week might have had something to do with my misery (and I was broke). I fainted regularly and I was anemic even on mommy-vitamins. I do not recall that time in my life fondly at all.

I do though, recall crossing paths with one of my sisters, probably the most conservative sibling of the seven of us, when I was approaching my third trimester. I was not married and not expecting to marry the baby’s father, I had not planned the pregnancy, and I was in therapy trying to sort out the kludge I had made of my whole entire, complete, overwhelming, blighted life. From this sister, I expected some judgment, or if she was feeling charitable, maybe platitudes. If she was feeling particularly saintly, maybe she’d limit herself to small talk and pleasantries.

What I got instead was wisdom. Said my sister, who is a mom four times over, unto me: This is not the time to castigate yourself, second guess your instincts, or run yourself down for past choices. You have done the best you could. Right now, just keep around you the people who are supportive and tell anybody else to get lost. That’s your focus and your job. The rest of it can all wait until you have the bandwidth to deal with it.

I was so grateful to hear a Starfleet directive that simplified my situation into a sensible, comforting, little lecture, that I about cried on the spot. I also followed my sister’s advice as best I could.

I’m struck in hindsight by how much I did not need information in that moment. I had a ton of facts in hand–how motherhood impacts earning capability (not for the best, in too many cases), how single parenting impacts children (ditto), what my options were if I had to drop out law school because the pregnancy became high risk (which it did do, of course). Facts and knowledge and data had reached the limit of their helpfulness and were in fact, making the problem worse.

I needed wisdom.

And that begs the question: In this age when we are deluged by information at chronic flood stage, when we can google anything, when we can wallow in facts, lies, statistics, and expert everything, where will we find wisdom? Where will we exchange and build on the wisdom we have? My sister’s advice in the present day could have been summarized in a social media comment, but something about her deep understanding of me–with whom she had played Barbies by the hour–illuminated what she chose to say and how she said it.

So I’m on the lookout for who and what is wise these days, though I recognize that the same person can be wise about, say, how to get somebody else’s book written, and a complete fool about how to manage her housekeeping (just fr’ instance as a random example).

Who or what has been a source of wisdom for you? Are there parts of life about which you’ve accumulated some wisdom? I suspect there are.

PS: Pre-order links are up for book two in the Bad Heir Day tales, The Mysterious Marquess!

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9 comments on “Verba Sapientium

  1. Pingback: Wonderfully Dreadful!!! | Grace Burrowes | I believe in love.

  2. In the last year my brother, sister and oncology nurse have provided wisdom to me. My brother can always make me see the positives. He drives me to my Boston appointments and reminds me that I am being seem by top notch doctors in the best cancer center. He tells me some funny stories to lighten my mood and reminds me that I can do this treatment.

    My sister (who is a nurse) and my oncology nurse listen to my fears and concerns, both explain the treatments and are helpful with my eating issues. The drugs have done a number on my stomach. Both offer different foods, drinks and foods to stay away from.

    Bits of wisdom and laughter have helped me through this adventure.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this since last night and I cannot think of a “who” but there are several “whats.” I don’t know if it’s because I’m an eldest child or that my partner tells me that I tend to intimidate people (really, not on purpose) but I just cannot think of anyone who has impressed wisdom upon me. However, I do read/see things that make me think about other things and sometimes change my perspective, if not my mind. Generally, that means books and sometimes it means a movie or TV show. One of the reasons I like both biographies and fiction, especially romance, is that I have gained insight into the world and myself through reading other people’s experiences. Does that count?

  4. My husband tends to be my source of wisdom and certainly grounds me.

    I was a teacher for 28 years, after 9 years on active duty in the Navy. I shared the wisdom I gained through life experiences with my students’ parents/caregivers. I was married, divorced, remarried, negotiated the ups and downs of a blended family, and had three “spirited” children who had various special needs. My guidance was based on real life, not theories in books. I think they appreciated that.

  5. I have had a number of wise friends who have given me good advice when needed throughout my life, usually when I was facing difficult (for me) decisions. They were able to help clear the brush out of my path so I could see which direction to head.
    But it’s been 2 books that have helped me the most, both by Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. She is a physician who understands living with illness successfully and she teaches other practitioners the importance of understanding and treating the whole person.
    I have read parts of her books repeatedly through the years, always with benefit.

  6. Like Karen H, I also like reading memoir and biography to understand another perspective and learn someone else’s life lessons. But I am also fortunate to have some friends with clear sight when I feel lost in the fog. One of my particularly wise friends is about 8 years older than me and has grown kids and now young grandkids and her advice and observations on my teens and my parenting of said teens, is really helpful. If I could gain an older sister, I would choose her. (Not that brothers aren’t useful, but mine don’t have parenting experience.) We also are friends with a considerably younger coworker (a little over 20 years my junior) who is an old soul wrapped in a youngster and they generate a good amount of wisdom disproportionate to their age.

  7. Hummm, what comes to mind , when I was young & the center of the world, (lots of “ I can’t believe I did that”’s ahead) was the big boss’s wife, a very gracious lady who taught me by example that very different people can find common ground to build on & find worth in each other.

  8. What a gift, Grace, that your sister offered wisdom at what must have been one of the lowest and most critical points in your life. Like you, I have found that true wisdom stays with me forever, whereas information is fleeting. Over many years I have heard wisdom in the form of random comments, mainly from colleague/friends (since I spent so much time at work). Their words return to me from across the decades, and I can see my friends in my mind’s eye, just as they appeared when giving me that wisdom. “If you take a job just for the money, you earn every penny of it.” “Leadership is lying around, just waiting to be picked up.” “Yes, your toddler interrupts your work now… but in years ahead, you’ll wish she was with you and needing you.” and so on.