WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Aunt Gladys

I’ve known several people named Gladys and they’ve all been lovely.  One was tangentially related to my mother and possibly the most patient person I’ve ever met.  Another was a judge who ironically possessed the perfect mix of quick wit and absentmindedness.  But the Gladys I know best is a real beast.

I don’t know why I named her Gladys, but my beast of Gladys is what I call the part of me convinced I’m just not getting it right – no matter what the “it” is.  I titled her Aunt because she reminds me of some crazy relative living in the attic of some other relative’s house.  For the most part she means well, but she’s a bit of a know-it-all and hard to please.

For more years than I care to count, I tried to get rid of Aunt Gladys.  I alternately ignored her, pleaded with her, and appeased her. Still, the old bat hung around.  I changed tactics and tried to fix her through meditation, journaling, and analysis.  I have to thank Aunt Gladys for the desperation leading me to those strategies, because they are helpful and good for me in lots of ways. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to transform Aunt Gladys into the Polly Sunshine I hoped they might.  

I’ve finally realized Aunt Gladys isn’t going anywhere and she’s not interested in being anyone but who she is.  Her bossy, worried, glass-half-empty self is content as is, even while she leaves me fretting and wringing my hands.

But I’ve also realized Aunt Gladys isn’t the only one in the attic.  There’s someone else up there who is whole and undamaged and right as rain. I work hard to remind myself of her when Aunt Gladys calls down or, worse yet, decides to put on a new housecoat and traipse downstairs with a cigarette dangling between her fingers. And that whole, lovely someone is always there, even when I forget.  She’s just patiently for Aunt Gladys to head back up to the attic and finish her crossword, which – worry not – she always does.

Photo Credits

  • Evers, J. (March 5, 1969.) Gladys Knight(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0). Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gladys_Knight_(1969).jpg
  • Gazebo. (2013). Gladys Holland(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0).  Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gladys-Holland_2013.jpg
  • Hesser, E. B. (March 30, 1922).  Gladys Walton(Public domain via Wikimedia Commons).  Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gladys_Walton_-_Mar_1922_Silverscreen.jpg
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture.  (November 19, 2013).  The Offering:  Statue of Dr. Gladys Tantaquidgeon.  Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/12237092785/
Whitney Cain