Beth. I love Beth. That Beth, boy, has she got style and this cool-as-a-cucumber attitude that balances Randall’s emotional chaos. When he gets in his head, she pulls him out and sheds light on the bigger picture. She is thoughtful, selfless, and sexy. I admit that as a white adoptive mom to a black daughter, I paid special attention to her hairstyles. I mean, Beth is always spot on. If the writers have told us what she does professionally, I don’t remember. All I know is that she appears to have it all together–from her career outside of the home, to her career as a warm and caring mother, wife, and caregiver. Beth is the friend we all want, and need, in our lives. And this week, we finally got to see and feel her pain. It was a moment.
If Sterling K. Brown’s desire is that the cast connect with the audience, then this was Susan Watson’s week to connect with us. I have felt deeply connected many times, but even as much as I’ve loved Beth, I’ve been waiting for my moment with her. Last night, all those shields that a mother/wife/friend/woman puts up in order to take care of business–yeah, those–they didn’t just come down. They were ripped off as she quietly absorbed her love and deep feelings of loss for William. And as I cried, I knew I wasn’t the only one feelin’ Beth’s pain.
A selfish part of me feels like this episode, this moment, was past due for Beth. I have always felt that her strength was a side story. It has always been secondary, at best, to Randall and William. She is constant, steady, and so there usually isn’t much of a story with “normal.” Since my daughter was born with severe disabilities, I’ve had a weird relationship with the word “normal.” I really don’t like that word, but sometimes it’s the only word that fits. I don’t think Beth’s “normalness” is necessarily a bad thing. She was just never in the spotlight.
We highlight the extraordinary: the obese, conflicted daughter who feels she’s responsible for her dad’s death*; we eagerly watch as an actor finding his real self as he reconnects with a lost love and, come on, it’s gooooood; we focus on the origins of this familiy and the drama between husband and wife; we sympathize with the beauty of finding a birth father, building a relationship with him as he dies. Why would anyone pay attention to Beth? What story is there in the dutiful wife and mother? What story is there in the wife of the adopted son who finds his birth father who is now living in their house and who she takes care of?
Today is International Women’s Day. So in honor of this day and Watson’s character, the ever classy Beth, let me explain the story that Beth tells us all. Because ladies, this is us.
But all of us, women, fight every day to overcome and to tell our own stories.
Beth, you represent who we are. We are women all over the world who love. We have a deep compassion for those we serve and care for. We are born into this world not knowing our full capacity. Our own mothers have a vision of our potential and they instill this divine worth into our hearts. But it is as we grow, crawl, stumble, walk, and run that we learn we are of great worth. Some of us endure broken homes, abuse, neglect, bullying – we all break a little bit as we age. We question. We analyze. We create bad self-talk habits. Some of us never overcome this. Some of us do. As I recently heard it said, in order to have a soft heart, a humble but strong heart, it needs to be broken. Maybe it needs to be torn.
But all of us, women, fight every day to overcome and to tell our own stories. Yet, we are stifled in our story telling because all too often, we can’t choose which character we will play. More often than not, we play all the roles simultaneously. As we see in Beth and many of us see within ourselves, we do our best. We fortify our broken hearts. Others look in and say, “She has a cool as a cucumber attitude that balances that family out!” While inside, we silently surrender our own dreams and wishes to help lift those around us.
It’s not always a bad thing. In fact, we grow stronger in our sacrifice. We develop a deeper love with every deep breath we must take before moving forward. We are enveloped in compassion and empathy through our struggles and common experiences. We understand and lift each other–each woman–with that knowing smile, a gentle nod of the head, or small laugh. Our eyes say what words can’t, or decidely don’t, and our shoulders are either soft and ready for a head to be rested on…or solid and firm, holding our heads high and backs straight. Women like Beth–we morph into what is needed and it’s a transformation that is so beautiful and effortless that it’s b a r e l y noticeable. We are not immune to pain, sadness, anger, or our own individual versions of grief. In fact, it makes us more radiant because through it, we are able to touch hearts and lift souls. We change lives. We change the stories of those around us, and most of the time, it’s for the better.
Beth may not be every woman on this planet. But she’s the Every Woman. I hope that like Beth, when unplanned and unexpected life experiences arise, I don’t react, but take a moment to think, and then act. And when I do react out of strong emotion, I hope that I. feel. deeply.
I’ve been so privileged to have a few life changing Beths in my life. My mom is a shining example of this woman. I pray and hope that as I continue to develop and learn and transform, that my own children will one day be able to say the same about me. And that their daughters will say the same about them. My daughters–I’m preparing them to change the world…even if it’s done meekly and without much attention. There is power in each little girl’s brain and an abundance of love and spirit in her heart. No woman sits on the sidelines of a story and no spotlight is needed. What’s most grand, is that truly no woman with family, friends, or friends who feel like family, is truly forgotten or unnoticed. Eventually, we all learn that.
Even if it takes a postcard.