A dear friend of mine passed away on Mother's day. She was a legendary mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter and woman. She was one of the most inspiring, gentle, loving, strong humans that I have ever met and she will be dearly missed by all who knew her.
My friend was young, only in her mid-thirties, with two little girls to raise and seemingly had much of her life still ahead of her... that is until Stage 4 Cancer showed up on the scene.
For about two weeks now, I have been grieving her death, sitting with the energy of her soul, and, as humans often do, attempting to find (make) meaning of it all.
As part of my grieving process, I felt that I wanted to connect with what her legacy was/is. In other words, what powerful medicine did she bring to this planet through her life (and her death).
While there are MANY things about her that I can (and do) gather inspiration and medicine from (her example as a mother, her kindness, her playful spirit, her zest for life, her commitment to holistic wellness, her artistic/creative nature, etc.) the element of her life that keeps coming forward again and again has to do with vulnerability and connection, specifically in her relationships with other women.
From my perspective, there is a certain cultural myth that is poisoning the hell out of us as women, and in some cases it is literally killing us. (I believe that this was the case with my friend, especially after reading the blogs she wrote before she died).
This is the myth that: as women, we have to have it all together.
Don't believe me? Some examples of ideals that many people in society still subscribe to:
- We have to "do it all" and be "strong and independent" (if we need to ask for help we will be perceived as weak or messy).
- We have to be competitive in the workforce (often having to work even harder than men for the same or less pay).
- We have to stay home and raise our babies (and have a perfect birth and breast feed for the "right" amount of time, and make all of their food by hand, and use cloth diapers... etc.)
- We have to maintain a certain type of physical physique and dress a certain way (basically we need to look like a covergirl AT. ALL. TIMES.)
- We have to have our kids in the "right" activities (plus we need to drive all of our kids to all of these activities as well as volunteer on all of the related teams/committees).
- We have to maintain a "perfect" household; cooking, cleaning and organizing (and God forbid we hire anyone to help!)
(This is by no means a comprehensive list... but you get the picture).
Now these cultural myths are not new to us. They have all been around since before my time even. What is relatively new however, is our current ability to prolifically compare ourselves with others via social media. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON PINTEREST... they all provide us with image after image, video after video of the "perfect" mom/woman/friend/household/family etc.
I say enough. Fuck that noise.
I, for one, do NOT have it all together and I am sick of the societal expectation that I should.
Lots of times (and I mean lots), I feel isolated, lonely, overwhelmed, depressed even because I find myself trying to do it all... often by myself.
Yes, I have a wonderful, healthy child. I also have a great relationship with my parents and plenty of friends and acquaintances, however RARELY do I ever let them SEE me. The real me. The vulnerable me. The one who sometimes falls apart and totally doesn't have her shit together.
Now, over past few years the years, I have gradually learned how to "outsource" some of my projects/responsibilities as well as lean on certain folks. Take my partner for instance. Over the past few years we have managed to fully let each other "in". He can fully see me and hold space for me, and I have learned to let him. This has been completely life-changing for me as I have slowly learned to soften and let go of the gigantic brick wall that I had eternally built up around my heart as protection.
I have also learned to allow other women to "help" me. I have an amazing woman and friend who provides me with before/after school childcare. I have another angel of a woman who comes into my home a few days a week to cook for us.
But here's the thing, if I'm really honest with myself, I know that this isn't enough. My partner, though he is wonderful and magical and extremely supportive, he can't be the ONLY one that I let in. That's not balanced. It's not even fair to expect him (and our relationship) to be the only one who can hold this space in my life. And while I love and appreciate the two women who help me out each week, I know (and I have known for quite some time), that I need to let others in, specifically more of my women friends, to my inner circle.
This is the legacy teaching that my friend has left me with and one that I am committed to honouring.
In the week following her death, I connected with a few of my closest girlfriends and re-affirmed my commitment to our friendship and my love for them.
These women are a huge priority in my life and I can see so clearly now that I need to show up for them on a regular basis. I need to make the effort. I need to make the time to connect regularly with them. I need to show up for them and I need to let them show up for me.
Across time, space and history women have always naturally "leaned in" to one another in community, connection and support. Red tents, "gathering societies", farming communities, early childhood mothering groups, etc. Connection is in our DNA. I would even argue that, as women, we actually NEED these connections with other women in order to be whole and healthy.
The way I see it, as the pace of life gets busier and more and more demands get placed onto women and families, we are going to need to each other now more than ever.
And for heaven's sakes, stay off Pinterest.