Honoring the Great Mother
Mothering myself has become a way of listening to my deepest needs, and of responding to them while I respond to my inner child.--Melinda Burns
There's a great flurry of activity downstairs this morning, which I am forbidden to observe. "Big doings going on... I can't possibly tell," my husband whispers as he closes our bedroom door with a collaborator's grin. I can hear the clanging of pots and pans, drawers being opened and closed, mixers whirling. Now it sounds as though a breakfast tray is being prepared as the clattering of my best china reverberates through the house. I don't normally eat breakfast. But I will today. As I write, it's Mother's Day.
Later, delicious, daughter-made strawberry muffins, buttery golden, warm from the oven, miraculously appear. I am amazed, proud, perplexed, teary, profoundly grateful. Who is this remarkable young woman with the beautiful, beaming smile bearing gifts from the heart to nourish my body and soul? I believe there has been some spiritual intervention at work here because I have never made strawberry muffins in my life and have no idea how Katie divined the recipe. It's a perfect moment to quietly meditate on the cosmic Great Mother who can inspire us all; the divine, feminine Spirit of nurturance known as The Goddess, so revered in ancient times and being rediscovered by women today.
Many women I know share a seldom-expressed yearning to be comforted. To be mothered. This voracious need is deep, palpable - and often unrequited. Instead, we are the ones who usually provide comfort, caught between the pressing needs of our children, our elderly parents, our partners, our friends, even our colleagues.
Though we are grown, we never outgrow the need for someone special to hold us close, stroke our hair, tuck us into bed, and reassure us that tomorrow all will be well. Perhaps we need to reacquaint ourselves consciously with the maternal and deeply comforting dimension of Divinity in order to learn how to mother ourselves. The best way to start is to create - as an act of worship - a comfortable home that protects, nurtures, and sustains all who seek refuge within its walls.
Gloria Steinem has written movingly of the need to reparent herself after she began exploring, in midlife, the issue of self-esteem. Because her parents divorced when she was ten and her mother suffered from a debilitating depression, the legendary editor of Ms. magazine assumed the role of family caregiver. Decades later, as a leader of the feminist movement, she organized, traveled, lectured, campaigned, and successfully raised money for causes, but she didn't know how to take care of herself - emotionally, psychologically, physically - even though she had spent her life taking care of others. Nowhere was this truth more apparent than in her home. She reveals in her book Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem that her apartment was little more than "a closet where I changed clothes and dumped papers into cardboard boxes." Gradually she came to the belated awareness that one's home was "a symbol of the self" and in her fifties created and began to enjoy her first real home.
Today, as you walk through your own home, think about the ways that you can start to mother yourself - every day, not just once a year - in small but tangible ways. There should be comfortable places from the living room to the bedroom that invite you to sit, sleep, relax, and reflect. There should be small indulgences from the kitchen to the bathroom that pamper and please. There should be sources of beauty throughout that inspire, order that restores, and the quiet grace of simplicity that soothes. The poet Ntozake Shange writes, "i found god in myself ∓ i loved her / i loved her fiercely." There is no more beautiful way of honoring the love of the feminine divinity waiting to mother us than by celebrating the temple where her Spirit dwells on earth.
-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy © 1995
So many of our holidays come with memories! You remember one particular Christmas when you got the new bike, or that Easter when you got the new dress or your fine suit of clothes. Or how about the time Uncle Bob really got blitzed at the annual family Labor Day gathering.. Yes, we associate either good or bad memories with certain holidays, just like some odors or songs remind us of being somewhere at a certain times and place, and doing something memorable. And every time that holiday rolls around again, you relive once more what happened, and how you felt.
Christmas is a good holiday for me. My mother was in the process of dying - slowly - with brain tumors, but her last Christmas was one of the most joyous days of that period of time. She was awake, alert, and in good humor the whole day. We visited, traded stories about what we remembered of our time together, cried and hugged a bit, prayed some and took communion together for the last time. That was just 11 days before she passed away, and it was the last time she was feeling and communicating that well. The queen of the house held court. Every Christmas for the rest of my life, I shall think of that one, and remember that wondrous day.
The Mother's Day that followed those events was one of the toughest days I had ever lived through. I thought that by then the pain of her loss in my life had mostly healed over. That I would be alright going through that day without her, but I definitely wasn't. What got me through that day was to remember all the good things we had as mother and son. I remembered all the cards, all the dinners, all the stupid little things I did on previous Mother's Days that she appreciated... how I would not have survived my youth if not for her... how I shouldn't have saved all my gratitude for what she added to my life for that one single day each year, but I should have shown my gratitude daily. I miss her dearly. She was a wonderful person, and I have lost a best friend.
Her job was a full-time position. Even though she worked outside the home, she took that job seriously - the usual array of housekeeping, laundry and cooking chores were done without complaint, but the job of raising us by precept and example was where she excelled. And she kept at the job of mothering even when she retired, giving over more of her time to us rather than to herself as she should. And, in the end, she taught us how to die with dignity, for she was in her own bed, at home when she gave a peaceful sigh and slipped away. It was 11:00 a.m., the birds were singing and the sun was shining. It was a good day to go on, and she did.
Would that we could each follow our mom's example: to live respected, and die regretted, doing both with love and dignity. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I'm still doing fine, and yes I'm being good, don't you worry. I love you.
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