My last post was about Kali, the destroyer goddess of Hindu mythology. She is also a mother goddess, guardian of the cycles of birth and death. For mothers carry both aspects: positive and negative; light and dark; nourishing and devouring. We, who are mothers, know these aspects as the dark qualities that often appear unbidden, and often when we’re trying hardest to be perfect. The dark mother reminds us of the parts that need tending, our humanness, indeed our humanity. And many of us who are daughters know the dark mother from our own experiences with our mother. Again, we must know this part to have appreciation for the good mother. If we are fortunate enough to have a good enough mother and not a dark, destructive, devouring mother most of the time, we have permission to be human, to make mistakes, to occasionally even fail at some aspect of motherhood at times.
I have spent much of my life healing my mother wound. It is a wound that has been borne through generations of women on my mother’s side: unmothered, abandoned, under-nurtured women who have gone on to give birth to daughters who pass on the same wound. I was determined to heal this wound and not pass it on to my daughter. But in doing so, I have learned that I cannot be the perfect mother of my fantasies, and neither could my mother. I have searched for the nurturing mother my whole life and have found her within, through my connection with mother earth, goddess archetypes, and my ever-evolving spiritual journey.
Only recently have I begun to own the rejected aspect of artist/creator from which I split off because I didn’t want to be like my mother. She was the artist-creator and I, as a little girl who needed her mommy, was often sacrificed on the altar. But now I’ve come to see that she gave me a gift, too, that I had rejected and was afraid to own and in owning that artistic, creative part, I have come to appreciate her more. She was not a mother type; she, too, longed for a nurturing mother, as had her mother. My mother found her nurturance through art and dance and music. I am finding my way, too, without having to sacrifice my daughter.
And, as I’m sure many of my friends can attest, becoming a mother changes the way you see your own mother, particularly when you go through challenging times, when you realize the difficulty of filling someone up, of guiding them, of watering the sapling and then watching to see how it grows. Because at some point we can only witness and hope we gave enough love, enough wisdom, enough permission for them to be their unique self and not a carbon copy or one to be lived through vicariously or an example of how well we’ve done to fulfill our own ego.
In my healing work, and as I have matured as a mother, and as my mother grows closer to dying, I have come to see the gifts she gave to me with deep gratitude: a fun-loving nature, the ability to see the glass half full, a belief in my own power to heal myself, an active imagination, a childlike sense of play and adventure, an abundance of ideas, the ability to laugh at myself and to appreciate others who make me laugh, an interest in deeper meaning and soul work, and a connection with the creative feminine.
I have been recalling generous and nurturing moments: the time she made wonderful cream-cheese olive and walnut finger sandwiches for my birthday party and served grown-up lemonade-tea (I was probably about 8 or 9 and was thrilled with this); the time she painted a little door-shaped indentation on a tree outside my window red so the fairies could find their way home; the times we drew or painted together, sitting quietly side-by-side and her casual yet non-judgmental way of suggesting improvement, the times she took me shopping as a young girl and let me choose my own style of clothing without intervention; the time she was the choreographer of the school play and made all the costumes and encouraged me to dance and sing a solo at age 9; the times she encouraged me as a writer and gave me the freedom to explore my imagination and act on it. Thank you, Mom. I see you more clearly now.
And, as an aside, guess what my husband and daughter have made for our picnic lunch on this Mother’s Day? Cream-cheese olive and walnut finger sandwiches.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you beautiful goddesses -- whether you are a mother or not. As women, we all mother someone at some time and keep giving birth and creating life. Namaste.