When I was in college I had a painting of a woman hung on my wall. Due to my blogging credentials, it's easy to presume that this is one of your stereotypical naked chicks riding a bull or covered in body paint, but this wasn't like that.
Growing up, I used to frequent my grandmother's apartment in the Bronx. My grandma was an old-school Jewish woman who loved her family more than a redneck loves the smell of burnt rubber. She was a widow as long as I knew her, living on the top floor of a 2-story apartment. Her sister and husband lived below her, and as life progressed she ended up living in a home with her sister after her husband passed. Women are tougher than men, as you know.
My great aunt and uncle were fantastic artists. In their basement you would find dozens of paintings stashed away because there wasn't any room left on their walls. One day, I decided to take a piece of art for myself. I'm the oldest of four and because of that, was able to appreciate of a side of my family my younger siblings never could. This of course is a Catch 22, because as one gets older one may also hear unfortunate stories about loved ones not doing things so worthy of such emotion.
So I had this painting in my bedroom - it was of a plain, yet proud woman. To me, the seemingly vanilla and mundane qualities this woman possessed are what made her beautiful to me. She had brown hair and clothing that reminds you of something a woman in biblical times would wear. She was surrounded by flowers and trees, in the sun holding a vase if my somewhat clouded memory serves me right.
Why did I have this painting? Because it was a woman just being her. No makeup, no fake tan...no hint in her gaze that would show me that anything about this painting wasn't authentic. She reminded me of an expiring generation, one that I am fortunate enough to have caught a glimpse of.
I wish the women I meet today were like the women in my family, most of whom are not here anymore. They were just so real and strong, loving and genuine, wise and grateful. Perhaps it's not until you experience horror and despair do you become whole, and the woman in this painting - like my ancestors - was whole.
Guys look at women who have been through pain and see "damaged goods." Though I admit I won't be with someone who strikes me as too insane, I don't want someone who hasn't experienced what it's like to hurt...to lose...to be knocked down. It builds character, and the more resilient you learn to be the more confident you get to be. With this confidence manifests an aura of wholeness, a sense of self-worth masked by a shocking amount of humility.
The woman in this painting loved life because of what its entire spectrum provides. She's able to embrace the darkness and illuminate it with her reassuring smile. She realizes that there is bad, but she tries her hardest to surround herself with good because that's the one thing she actually can control, and she knows it. Life is gone before it begins, and all that matters are the people you leave behind and how to spread joy to the ones who won't even remember that you existed.