My Grandmother weighed less than 100lbs, but could level a freight train with her eyes. One look from her would cause even the sassiest teen to snap his mouth shut and pray the rosary.
It's not that she was mean or scary, it is simply that she held a great power within her, and occasionally, it flashed out of her eyeballs like lightning. And that power, my friends, is called a "Fiery Guatemalan Woman".
Never having been to Guatemala myself, I can't a claim that it's universal among the entire feminine species of the country... but judging from the women in mi familia, I think it's a pretty safe bet.
There is some intrinsic strength, passion, and charisma among the women in my family that is both beautiful and (as a child) a little frightening (two words: wooden spoon). The stories-- going generations back-- about the incredible hardships they endured and the dignity with which they endured them is incredible. Truly, I hope to write a book someday.
I have always hoped that, despite the fact that I'm only half-Guatemalan, I would somehow develop that same powerful stare, that same force of character, and the same incredible strength lying just behind my eyelids.
Of course, as with every strength comes it's flip-side, and I have learned that a passionate, fiery strength in the wrong context becomes critical, opinionated & judgmental. Dang it.
I recently took a 6-week course on Personal Growth, and part of the workshop involved getting feedback from people who know me well about my strengths and weaknesses. Before I dive into the "areas I need to change" part of the feedback (I'm a big proponent of soaking in the positive stuff before jumping into the negative), let me take a moment to say that it was one of the most loving, encouraging, uplifting experiences ever. I was (am) deeply honored.
Along with all the positive, loving affirmation about my passion & heart came some gentle words about the flipside of those "strengths". It turns out that the other side of "genuine" & "expressive" is wearing your emotions on your sleeve-- and when you're cranky & opinionated, apparently there's not much of a filter to what comes out on your face (or in your words). There are so many times when something ugly slips out of my mouth, and I wish I could have a magic fishing line to reel it back in, or a little eraser to make that speech bubble disappear.
I hate the critical side of me, and I hate that there are times when it slips out and reveals the ugliness inside. I want so very much to take the bite out of my words, thoughts & heart-- to think and speak the best of others... but, gosh, I am not always very good at it.
My hope is that as I round out the sharp edges of my character, I my words will also soften. But I know that these things don't come about by hoping, but rather through intentionality. So I press on with my gentle feedback, one hand over my mouth and a prayer on my breath... as my fiery Guatemalan mother prays everyday: Set a guard over my mouth, Oh Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Perhaps as I reign in my words, my eyes will gain that power that my grandmother possessed. One can only hope.