I’m a day late

Posted on 09 March 2011

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I didn’t even know it until I received an email from Marlene this morning with the story of a humpback whale freed by divers from a tangle of crab trap lines and the sentence “Here’s to all the women we love and who love us and help us untangle ourselves from everything that holds us down….”

When I read this, I almost cried as I’ve felt quite tangled lately, trying to sort out what I want from my life and missing something, not knowing what, that makes me feel good about myself.

I almost cried again when I received an email from my daughter saying that as she unloaded the dishwasher, she felt so much like me in her movement and habits that ” it made me happy and proud. How did I get so lucky to have such an amazing mama?”

I wish I could feel this way about myself – not all the time but once in a blue moon would be nice. Often I feel as if I’ve missed the boat, that I haven’t used the gifts I’ve been given because I have never dared myself to get out into the working world and fight for recognition and a good salary like some of my friends, like my daughter.

I know that there is more than one way to be in this world and more than one way to use one’s brain and that one’s worth is not based on her salary, that all the little things I do add up to something – and those who love me, love me not for my job description or clout. But still it’s difficult. I can’t get Leonard Cohen’s line – something to the effect that “one finds one’s self-respect in one’s work” out of my mind.

Another article, honoring women “International Women’s Day: Life (and Work) Lessons Every Woman Should Learn” written by Arianna Huffington in which she pays tribute to her mother makes me feel a little easier about myself. You can read the whole article by clicking on the link above but I will quote a segment because her mother truly was an amazing woman and I feel the same about many things that she imparted to her children.

Of the many things she taught me — including the delightful notion that “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly” — the one that’s proved most useful in my work life is the understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s an integral part of success.

She told me once that she operated like the government — she first decided what it was that her children needed, and then she set out to find the money. My mother was one of the original deficit financiers. She made ends meet by borrowing or by selling her possessions — from a carpet brought by her parents from Russia to her last pair of gold earrings.

By example, she taught me that there is always a way around a problem — you’ve just got to find it. Keep trying doors, and one will eventually open.

And, by word and by deed, she regularly demonstrated the value of having a support group of family and friends — what I call my “fearlessness tribe” — in place to give you honest feedback, to support you when the going gets tough, to help salve your wounds… and, just as importantly, to help you celebrate and appreciate the good times too….

There was a magnificence in the way she approached everything in her life. Especially her role as a mother. She brought me up to believe that there was nothing I should be afraid to try while at the same time making it clear that she would love me not one iota less if I failed.

She used to say that the goal of life is not to see what we can make of it, but what it can make of us. Well, she made of life a grand adventure — and it made of her a magnificent tour guide.

Huffington reminds me that being a mother is no small thing. Recently I visited with two nieces, both new mothers, both smart, creative, gutsy women, and both state that looking after a baby is the hardest work they’ve ever done. Thank the heavens, my children are grown and no longer need my caretaking skills but when one or all three call for help, I am there for them but now, they are there for me as well.

I only have to decide what my next adventure is to be.

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