Sophie. The Shop. And Silver.

[5 minute read]

On her way to work Sophie showed up for her planned brunch with Ma. She has been working at the wool-weaving shop, steadily for 12 moons. Before she completed her studies 8 moons ago, she would leave tutoring, and work from midday to sundown.

At her young adult age, she was promised consideration for a promotion to be the candlelight shift supervisor. That was 4 moons ago. A poor imperial harvest has been depressing trade, so the shop is in straits. But a friend who coordinates the shop’s staffing is still optimistic. Ma periodically inquires gently if she has heard anything from him. Not yet.

Working at the shop was killing her soul. At least that is what “everyone” thought, because she complained persistently about the mediocre management and unmotivated coworkers who made extra work for her. And she also complained about all her elders who told her what she “should” and “could” be doing, as a privileged daughter of the landed class.

She had been planning to seek more gainful labor elsewhere, and four moons ago, inquired with several other proprietors. Only one invited her to interview.

As for Ma, through all this, she tried to let her natural love for a daughter flow out of her, by believing in her daughter, and not trying to fix or solve: Unconditional belief is the form of love known as faith. Other elders in Sophie’s life were already urging her to be more ambitious, at least as they see ambition. But Sophie was doing life her way.

Since her second year of tutoring, Sophie has gone from an overachiever wanting political grooming at the academy, to lower aspirations as a skilled tradesperson through apprenticeship with a guild, but is now a mere second-shift weaver at the shop. She still has aspirations to make more silver so she can lease a flat inside the city walls, where her restlessness suspects unknown freedoms. She has wanted that for a long time, but hasn’t had the coin.

Ma’s circle have offered supportive advice for mothering Sophie more firmly, about her ambitions and a life plan. Ma has not yet felt the gods move her to action. These associates and relatives have genuine affection for Sophie, so are troubled by the downward spiral of her spirit. Sophie complains privately to Ma that the paths these patrons endorse are not for her.

Ma sees her daughter’s heart with tender clarity. Like the well-wishers, Ma had strongly urged Sophie to reverse her declining ambitions. But Ma withdrew her voice from that chorus moons ago. Her vision sees Sophie’s heart judging herself harshly enough. It would do little good for Ma to pile on. By the grace of the gods, Ma’s hands are now clean on that count. Her tongue has been checked by a growing awareness of judgmentalism’s damage.

Sophie knows that her Ma is an educated lady and prefers she go to academy. Ma feels like a strong enough mother that she doesn’t need to repeat where she stands on things that stab Sophie’s heart. Sophie’s head is much thicker than her heart:-)

Ma has raised Sophie through 20 seasons, cultivating the patience to bear parental insecurities. Each time life bruised Sophie, Ma was her refuge. So Ma remains content to let Sophie’s well-wishers bruise her. In fact, Ma is herself encouraged by the confidence these patrons have in Sophie’s potential. They soothe her own insecurities about whether Sophie’s path will yield fulfillments.

Sophie is a young woman now. And her mother is a woman. Hardheaded free women like them must learn life’s lessons for themselves, earning their wisdom with tenacity that sticks.

One lesson that isn’t hard to learn is how to judge one’s self more strictly than anyone else—or Jupiter Himself.

“Everyone” thinks working at the shop is killing Sophie’s soul…


Ma cosigned a loan for Sophie’s wagon last season. The moneylender offered a three-year payback term. Sophie opted for one year, and has made all the payments herself.

Not once has she dodged her work shift for irresponsible frolicking with friends. Not once has she been late to the shop.

Her frustrations with her coworkers are rooted in her own strong sense of responsibility and work ethic. Everyone else in the world may want her to apply that ethic differently, but she is her own woman. She aspires to management. She doesn’t fear leadership. She is merely youthfully impatient about the importance of example-setting by a leader. Perhaps her elder loom-staffing friend sees that too.

Her aspirations are materialistic—-there is no mistaking that. But, she is not immorally procuring the silver she idolizes; she’s earning it. She is frustrated that she can’t get enough, fast enough. That is an instructive frustration. Her next move could be progress on that front. Or the move after that.

Ma earned an academy diploma. That’s her familiar path, so her voice readily joins the chorus who revere it. But her parental vocation now demands wisdom about caveats on any path.

“Everyone” thought working at the shop was killing Sophie’s soul. Ma used to also. But Ma is open to the possibility that, on the contrary,… Well… Just maybe… The contrary.


“By the grace of the gods” Ma has kept her hands clean from piling on judgment and making Sophie feel worse about herself. What form has that grace taken?

It’s hard to put words around something so intangible. Recent transitions in Ma’s life have forced her onto a transformative path in search of her truer self. Her soul. A few of the guiding questions she latched onto are: What are my core values? What are my core competencies? What am I passionate about? What good am I good at?

Answers to that question (it’s really all one question to Ma) have sure as hell been more elusive than she anticipated. She’s now resigned that fully satisfying answers may remain mysterious this side of Elysium. One answer that came easily and quickly has been affirmed, confirmed, and reaffirmed by all her beloved friends and family whom she trusts with her life. Rather than wax profound, we’ll end where we started…

The daughter in whom Ma believes, and for whom she has love without conditions, stopped in for brunch today on her way to work…


Neil D. 2020-04-21

Published by Neil Durso

Just another mid-lifer sharing the journey...

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