While reading for school I came across this quote:
Our stories are not always composed by us, but come to us in powerful ways from others. If, as children, family members describe us in a particular way, these family stories often remain the same no matter how we change. What others believe about us, what we learn in school, in the media and from the reactions of strangers, define our stories.
In searching for alternative narratives about ourselves, we are often drawn to stories about others. Listening to these stories may offer us new possibilities, but if our new life stories are to fully emerge, we must also challenge the underlying myths and prejudices that limit us.”
— Ellen Pulleyblank Coffey “The Variable Tales of Life” (2007) as quoted in “Revisioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture and Gender in Clinical Practice”, Monica McGoldrick & Kenneth Hardy (eds).
This quote speaks of how our personal stories evolve, where they come from, and in many ways more importantly, how we can heal and rewrite them. It is true that community and society and our families and friends contribute to the creation of our negative myths about ourselves, and it is ironically true that through our community, families and friends we can re-write them, creating positive stories about ourselves and our lives.
I’ve written in the past about my personal struggle with the myth of the Not Good Enough or Bad Mother. I’ve struggled with this generations old story from both sides of my family. The struggle, in many ways, has guided me to being a Good Enough Mother (in Winnicott’s terms) and has led me to develop a strong and deep connection with my daughter. Most days I am in a place of peace with this story, knowing both in my head and heart that I am a Good Mama, that my girl and I have a beautiful relationship and that I am breaking a pattern and cycle and myth that was handed to me on a silver platter. It has taken every rebellious part of me to break away from what was given to me, to re-write motherhood for our family and for myself, and I honestly couldn’t have done it without my friends, my husband, or, perhaps ironically, my mothers (birth, step and adopted) and grandmothers.
Still, some days I struggle. I struggle with my daughter’s independence and free will. I struggle with her opinions and self-determination. I struggle when she has absolutely no interest in following the path I think she should follow. I struggle with acknowledging her, who she is and where she is at and accepting her wholly and encouraging her to be who she is. I struggle with walking that line of guiding her, being a present parent to help her function in life and society and squashing her individuality, her sense of Self, her brilliant, creative and sensitive soul.
It’s a line all parents walk, I believe. We have all our own shit, some of it buried deep. Those messages we were given when we were squashed, how we weren’t good enough just as we were, how we needed to measure up to some arbitrary standard, how we needed to fit in (but never felt like we really did). When our children start to express who they are, we have a knee-jerk reaction to squash, simply out of defense for ourselves, simply because it is all that we know, simply because we can’t always see the nonduality of life and how it is yes/and not either/or.
In those moments I struggle to find my breath. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I stop myself from saying some shaming thing or another. Sometimes I can slow down enough to open the space for her to be her and acknowledge my own pain and give each of us a little extra love.
Sometimes. Not always.
There are the times when the shaming words come out and sometimes I immediately regret them and start the repair work and sometimes it takes me a while to get there. This is human. This is part of my journey.
There are other parts to this motherhood journey. Myths that speak of value and worth, both financial and emotional. Myths that on bad days can break me down into a ball of sobbing tears, feeling that my girl would be better off with any other person on the planet for a mother than with me. Days that can start to eat me alive. Myths, that on good days, just piss me off and help me stand tall, knowing that today, in this moment, I am not that person, I am not the prescribed, pre-ordained bad mother, knowing that in this moment I am doing the healing work of generations.
I have a gorgeous circle of women who help me explore these myths. We guide each other on our journeys of digging into the stories that have been so deeply ingrained in us, and yet aren’t true. It is through this community of beautiful souls that the deeper healing is happening. Together we explore, we heal, we deconstruct and rebuild. We don’t erase, but we do re-write.
I have many circles and tribes, some of them intimate and in-person, some of them global and online only, some a mix of the two. It is through my circles that I excavate my myths and guide others to unearth their own. I believe that in order to heal, to find our way to joy and the present moment we need to understand what has stopped us, what pieces of our past and present, what messages from our families and our cultures, have defined us in a way that doesn’t ring true to us any more. This deep exploration of who I Am is, to me, a vital piece of our healing process.
Who I Am changes, sometimes from day to day, or moment to moment and with each shift of the tide I’m given the opportunity to explore the myths, to heal and to rewrite or embrace as I feel moved to do in that moment.
I love this journey. I love my own growth and change and I am deeply grateful for the people who allow me to be witness to their own growth change. It is a process, an unfolding and an awakening and I deeply believe that together we can heal: our Selves, each other and the world.
It is my life work, the unearthing of personal myths, guiding others while they guide me, finding our true selves and healing generations long stories of pain and lack. It is my life work, this rebuilding of relationship to our Selves, to each other, to our world. It is my life work to heal and be a part of other’s healing, to bring change and love and joy into the world. It is my life work to find and share the beauty of the present moment, to laugh deep belly laughs and to cry body-wrenching sobs and to support others in their similar yet different journeys.
I am grateful for this life and this life’s work. I am grateful for you, allowing me to be a part of your journey.
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