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Maternal In Memorium & Mother’s Day Manifesto

IshtarToday marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death.

Ours was an unusually complex relationship, with  complete estrangement over twenty years ago. Despite the common cry of making amends by well-meaning acquaintances who do not know the depth of the family’s dysfuncionality, I have no regrets when it comes to this relationship, or lack thereof.

My mother was a victim of her times and of abuse. She was the poster child of body loathing and repression.  I grew up surrounded by women’s magazines, and I confess, I still regularly take Woman’s World for their feel-good stories and their little strips of inspiration. It reminds me of a simple time when my paternal grandmother would clip the posts and pin them to the fridge, or tear out the Ziggy comics and pin them to her inspirational bulletin board in the sewing room.

My paternal grandmother was in touch with her power as a woman. She was wise, fierce, kind and strong. She lived fully and taught me what it meant to be my own person.

ziggy Times have not changed so much, and maybe even for the worse. Not only are we expected to manage our homes, but bear the burden of less feminine roles as well.  We are still surrounded by racks full of magazines, air-brushed images of the female form, with covers that imply we are flawed; how to be thinner, how to be happier, how to please our men, how to de-stress so we can be all of the above. We are ingrained in a culture who continues to devalue the natural life-affirming work of women.

You may wonder what this has to do with the anniversary of my mother’s death. Everything.

I was raised by a woman who was  estranged from her own beautiful, glorious and powerful self. I had a choice as a young woman, continue the trauma, or claim my own glorious divine feminine. I chose the latter.

So many of us hate our ankles, our bellies, our hair or our skin.  We punish our bodies and ridicule our own needs. We ignore the call of primitive intuition, and we diminish the great power of fertility and motherhood.

We live in the world of magazine promises; to create a common, submissive self that perpetuates a world where our value and spiritual gifts are damned.

As the years passed and I healed into my own femininity, into my own woman, forgiveness came. My mother was not a bad mother as such, she was  truly a victim of her times, of her inability to seize her own power, and grow into her own, always determining her own worth by the praise of abusive men.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope that all of the women in my life,  spend some quiet time, reflecting on their own beauty and how their body has served them well, their own natural, intuitive intelligence, and their own power to embrace the fullness of what it means to be a woman.

More than that, I hope that whether maiden, mother or crone,  that all of the ladies reading this live each stage of life and every transition fully.  I believe that is the secret to a well-lived life. That is the secret to having no regrets.

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All Souls Day – Remembering the Good & the Bad Gives us Strength

grandmothersToday is All Souls day. This is a day to remember our ancestors who have died, and to honour them.

Today it was my grandmother whom I remembered. All Souls Day is special, but I remember my granny every day.

No one would ever accuse her of being delicate or fragile. She was strong, fiercely protective, and one of the most fun, free-spirited people I have ever known. Living life fully is the legacy she left her family.

There was always room for one more at her table, and enough food in the pot for one more. She was generous and giving, and thrived on adventure and curiosity. She gave us tradition, taught us the true meaning of love, and backed down from no one and nothing. She was simply amazing.

As a single woman, I could not have asked for a better role model or mentor. She has been gone almost 15 years, and she remains the strongest influence in my life. She was the mother I never had.

Today a friend of mine had to make funeral arrangements for her own mother.

My mother died this year too.  These two women never met, but seem to have one thing in common; they had terrible relationships with their daughters.

The only thing I mourned when my mother died was the long-forgotten hope that perhaps one day I would have a loving, caring mother, instead of the one who knowingly allowed the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of her child.

On the day of her funeral, I woke up, wondered at what an absolute waste her  life was, and toasted her  with a mimosa. I prayed  that her soul might finally be set free from the misery of her own creation.

Had my classmate not let us know her own mother had died, I would not have been thinking of the woman who gave birth to me either.

All Souls Day offers us a chance to remember the difficult relationships in order to appreciate the good ones.  It offers us a reminder that one day, we will also be gone, leaving nothing but a memory with those whom we love the most.

Raise a toast to those who have challenged you and even tried to devastate you.  Get down on your knees and give thanks for those who raised you up, lived a life of purpose rooted in love, and gave you that little kick in the ass we all need to keep being kind and fabulous.

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Motherless Daughters and Daughterless Mothers

Painting by Saundra Lane-Galloway
Painting by Saundra Lane-Galloway

“Your mother took care of everything.” That’s what the girl in the sleek  red spa t-shirt and black spandex capri pants said to me yesterday morning upon my arrival at the spa. She said it as if it were absolutely normal. Like it was a sentence a woman hears every day.

In my case, and in the case of many other women, having a ‘mother’ who took care of everything is but a fairytale idea, right up there with prince charming, and the tooth fairy.

For women who have been orphaned by their mother, either through death, separation or circumstance, the absence of a real mother figure can be a painful space that gets revisited time and again as we make our way through various rights of passage.

In my life I have been fortunate enough to find women who have been there for me. During childbirth, my mother-in-law and grandmother. Divorce – my aunt. Mothering my own child, I cherished and held tightly to the advice of my old-school family physician – trust your instinct, and don’t let anyone tell you  any differently.

I parented fiercely, the only way I knew how. The only way that I knew how to show my child a mother’s love, and the lengths I would go to nurture and protect him. Something that I sadly lacked during my own youth and childhood, but had reinforced by the women that I have met and befriended.

So yesterday, as I turned my back to the woman at the counter, who was likely staring at my back, thinking, “Wow, that woman has a great mom.”, I thought to myself, “Yah. Yah, in fact I do have a great mom. The one that I was meant to find after so many years of feeling abandoned.”

If you were raised in an atmosphere that has made you turn inward, and lose trust in the women around you (I was raised to believe you didn’t get too close to other women because they’d steal your man),  open yourself up to the possibility that older women are great teachers, and younger women are hungry for female mentors.

Our romantic relationships flounder, our bodies change, our desires and the things that make us happy morph with time. It has been the older, wiser women in my life who have helped me understand, not feel crazy, and enjoy this ride we call womanhood. The younger ones remind me of the spitfire I used to be, and make me wonder at the more subdued version of my younger self whom I have become.

Being a motherless daughter has its obvious drawbacks, but there are benefits too. You get to choose your mothers and form healthy bonds with strong, wise women who are more than willing to light the path.

Open yourself to the possibilities that are presented to you. I wish you all the joy of having incredible ‘mothers’!