Once a mother…

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“One day someone calls her “Mother”. That is what she remains for the rest of her life.”
Cao XueQin

Chinese-mother-baby

What a profound quote. And one which is open to many interpretations.

What does it mean to you? You women who are mothers, and who are not? Men who have known Mothers in your life?  What feelings rise to the fore as you read these words – joy, sadness, fear, resentment, uncertainty…?

My initial reaction was one of cynicism and somewhat scornful. So, this statement of popular sentiment became a subject for reflection. 

I don’t think Cao’s statement was intended to be limiting or denigrating to women. Here’s the context:

Cao was an 18th century Chinese writer whose novel “A Dream of Red Mansions” is considered a literary gem and was pronounced one of the Four Great Works of Chinese literature. The book was a romance novel on its face but represented a social commentary on family and social life within the Qing Dynasty. His book was, as Cao stated, “a memorial to the women he knew”, and the female protagonist though rebellious was a representation of aristocratic women of the times, restrained and fragile, and their unfortunate fate in feudal society. Cao’s awareness of the plight of women in a patriarchal and largely mysogynistic society suggests his sympathy.

So back to my less than enthusiastic reaction to this quote.

Like Cao, I am of Chinese origin. Unlike Cao, I am a modern woman and one who straddles two worlds – a woman who has lived in and thus familiar with a reserved collectivist Chinese culture and who now lives in a liberal individualistic ‘Western’ culture. I am a working mother of two, and myself a daughter who has experienced a version of ‘mother’.

Therefore, Cao’s statement is bittersweet.

The ‘bitter’ part of Cao’s statement is a suggestion on its face – that once a woman becomes a mother, that’s all she’ll ever be for the rest of her days. Her identity is entrenched in the role of ‘Mother’ and obliterating the other facets of ‘Woman’.

It brings forth the perceived universal ideals of ‘Mother’ – loving, caring, nurturing, protective, giving, selfless. But is it? These ideals have served to homogenise varied experiences of being a mother; they bind women in their expression of mothering. What of the mother who struggles to love her children, what of the mother who does not care or nurture according to societal expectations, what of the mother who ‘fails’ to protect, what of the mother who also takes?

Do these ideals give space for the “good enough” mother? I certainly prefer to operate on the ‘good enough’ principle, though my actions are informed in part by these ideals and will continue to do so, I’d imagine. I choose not to be bound by these ideals, and to celebrate the uniqueness of my individual children, my relationship with each of them and thus my mothering.

Cao’s reference to “Mother” may of course be intended to embrace the many faces of a mother. Of this, I will not know. Suffice to say, the ideals of ‘Mother’ are likely to be barriers to women’s social, economic and political empowerment. But only if we allow them to.

Am I a mother for the rest of my life? Yes, and with a joyous heart, I accepted this role many moons ago. I cannot unlearn what is within me nor do I want to. My children will always know me as mother and for that, I am grateful.

Am I the ‘Mother’? I don’t think so, and I am pleased.

Am I more than ‘mother’? Yes. As my children grow, they journey with me and experience me as a woman, whether they would be prescient to know this. They experience the mother as I am, and I fervently hope, a good enough mother.

Perhaps one day my children will see me as ‘Woman’ first, notwithstanding my mothering role – a woman who loves, who provides, who supports, who fights for those she loves and for her beliefs, who retreats to create peace, who forgives, who challenges, who celebrates her achievements, who creates. Perhaps one day, they may also forgive the woman who criticises, who gets angry because she was in a mood, who prefers to read instead of talking to them, who says ‘no’ without reason or explanation, who makes decisions without discussion. One day, they will see the complexity of the human experience, and that which I embody.

Woman is a ray of God: she is not the earthly beloved.
She is creative: you might say she is not created.
Rumi

– FlorenceT

[Edited 25 Nov 2016]

 

References:
Chineseculture.org, ‘Cao Xueqin’ at http://www1.chinaculture.org/library/2008-02/08/content_23134.htm
Wikipedia, ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_of_the_Red_Chamber

 

© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Contemplation on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving… giving thanks… for what do we give thanks? Today? At this time?

In a time when every change, great or small, is tracked, accentuated, dissected, analysed, discussed… its volume so loud that we lose sight of its actual significance, we lose the measure of their relative importance. Everything is the same, and nothing is the same. The noise causing us to lose our sense of what is true.

So perhaps at this time of year – whether we are religious or otherwise, whether we are alone, with family or friends, whether we are home or missing home – we may carve out a space to contemplate on what is true – the circle of life which connects us andtouches everyone, as it crosses every boundary underneath the sun“.

 

Some say
The walls between us stand so tall
They don’t see there’s just one sun
Shining on us all

I say
We each choose roads to call our own
But none of us is travelling through
This universe alone

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Seasons
Keep spinning on the wheel of time
We stand we fall
We struggle up

The mountains we must climb
Different dreams
May color what we see ahead
But our lives are strong together
On a common thread

And this circle (circle)
Just goes on and on (on and on)
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Around and round and round and round we go
Around and round and round we go
Love and learn and change and grow
Round and round and round we go

And this circle
Touches everyone
As it crosses every boundary
Underneath the sun

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’re gone

Yes this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Someday we will come to see
I’m joined to you and you to me

So to my American friends and readers:

happy-thanksgiving

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

She, a micro story

beach-walking
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She did not know what hit her. One moment she was in the dumps, disappointed with life and who she had become; the next she was awakened to life’s possibilities, her dreams no longer a distant past but a possible future.

 

If she knew the road ahead, she might have been less thrilled… then again perhaps not. She had made a right turn without realising, chosen a fork on the road without being asked to… but then she had been asleep, dead to herself so how would she have known. Which made it all the more miraculous, incredible in its simplicity and bounty.

 

She would never understand how it had come to pass but it did. Simple words, always words that meant so much. Her longing grew each day as they were all she had on this path… just that and even so, more than she had thought herself deserving or needing. Before, rarely a thought for herself but of the needs of others; and at times resenting yet persisting with the duties that made her who she was, without which she had believed rendered her nothing. She knows now she is more, those words arrive daily of the mundane, the unique, the humorous, of everything – to comfort, to support, to hold – filling her days with meaning and purpose.

 

She has walked this path longer than she thought she could, inspired by the goodness she felt, the strength she desired, the vulnerability she respected, the peace she yearned – this uplifting journey she hopes to remain. And on the low ebb days, those fears of rejection and abandonment still arise. She had lost her faith a little, tempered her trust of others; she might even have told herself she would be better alone. But she is healing on this path; and though confident she can be all that she wants on her own, she knows it’s manifold better and greater here on this road.

 

She is reminded of her needs and desires, those she had met for others, those she will now embrace for herself. For she craves attention too; care and kind gestures a balm. Now she loves again, she trusts; she has faith again. She will truly be free, she will have it all… perhaps. No matter, the journey is enough, more than she hoped. And all because of the enticing words that beckoned in the beginning, and the many many words that have followed across space and time… words, his.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Post-truth, a word

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Post-truth
Word of the year
as Oxford Dictionaries pronounces,
Era of emotions and subjective beliefs
Death knell to objectivity and facts,
Sensationalism, you say?
Or time for the personal to triumph?
Emotions, relations and transgressions
rule, where once ‘truths’ of a tribe –
dominant culture, norms and traditions – prevail.
 
Whose truth must we bear?
The heartfelt, the broken, the wise,
the ignorant, ah without truth, there is no ignorant
just as there is no wise,
What is knowledge, where is wisdom
when facts and certainty are subsumed
by the loudest most vulgar or so it seems.
A mediated world
through lenses, filters and screens
Creating the post-truth reality.
 
~ FlorenceT

 

Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year.  “Post-truth”, an adjective, is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief“.

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Selfish loving – Ayn Rand

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Love & sex

“Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a person’s sexual choice is the result and sum of their fundamental convictions.

Tell me what a person finds sexually attractive and I will tell you their entire philosophy of life. Show me the person they sleep with and I will tell you their valuation of themselves. No matter what corruption they’re taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which they cannot perform for any motive but their own enjoyment – just try to think of performing it in a spirit of selfless charity! – an act which is not possible in self-abasement, only in self-exultation, only on the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces them to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and accept their real ego as their standard of value. They will always be attracted to the person who reflects their deepest vision of themselves, the person whose surrender permits them to experience – or to fake – a sense of self-esteem … Love is our response to our highest values – and can be nothing else.

― Ayn Rand,writer & philosopher (1905 – 1982)

 

Is sex a reflection of our convictions?

I believe one’s perception of what sex is or can be, is indeed a reflection of our deepest values and convictions.  One cannot approach sex in a manner which one does not believe in, at least not without it causing psychic injury.  Be authentic.

Is sex inevitably a selfish act?

Philosophically, yes.  if one doesn’t enjoy oneself then sex has not fulfilled (one of) its purpose.  Thus, the complete experience of sex necessitates one to do what one enjoys… which in essence is selfish. Even the proclamation of one’s enjoyment is in giving to the other leads to a self-fulfillment that is exquisitely selfish. 

And is love a response to our values?

A resounding yes, one can only love – express love and receive love – in the manner which accords with one’s values.  If one’s value is of hard work and effort, then more likely than not, her love is shown by doing and service – that is how love will be shown and received. And no, it does not mean one can’t change or be versatile as one becomes more self aware.  That’s my take anyway🙂

So, do you agree?

– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

I breathe

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breath

 

And so I breathe
Deeply
This breathe of life
Watching it flow through me
Across the memories
Like a balm
Soothing
This flesh trembling
In the aftermath
Of fire scorching
Ripping through veins
Bloodied wounds
Seldom seen
And so I breathe
Deeply
For momentary comfort

– FlorenceT

[Edited: Image included 1 Nov 2016]

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

A woman, loss and politics

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I cannot escape this sense of loss, this great sorrow.

I am woman, and that alone is enough to speak to the many ways in which I am deeply disappointed by the outcome of the US election. I realised the energy, the hope I had invested to see a woman make it in what is purportedly the greatest country in the world.

I am not referring to party politics. I don’t want to speak of claims of fraud or lies, and misogynistic or corrupt behaviour. I am not calling it. My experience is not American, I am not one.

But I know the politics that is played out in my life, whether I have chosen to welcome it or intentionally invited it or have it imposed upon me. And the outcome of the election epitomised it.

So I will speak about being woman. What does it take for a woman to succeed? What does it take for a woman to be acknowledged as ‘qualified’?

Can a woman stand by her man, and not be tainted by the relationship? Can a woman remain loyal to the institution of marriage as many expected of her, and not be condemned for it? What if a woman leaves to maintain her integrity and perhaps ambition, refusing to be marked? What if she doesn’t leave? Can a woman be truly independent? What motivations do we ascribe to her?

Can a woman choose to be strong and ambitious, and still be a wife and mother? How much before she is too soft or weak to lead? How much before she is too ‘cold’, too ‘hard’ to be liked? Because women must be liked as they must be ‘nice’, don’t they?

Can a woman be like a man, and not threaten the established order? But a woman cannot be like a man for she will be ridiculed for being an imposter, won’t she? Can a woman choose to be herself and lose the faith of others, as their faith lies with conformity and acquiescence?

How many roles must a woman fulfil in order to be ‘good enough’? How much energy must still be expended for a woman to remind herself she is good enough?

When will fear cease at the sight of a successful woman, a strong woman? When will a woman be permitted to be flawed, to have an agenda or an opinion? When will permission be no longer an issue?

Tomorrow will be another day… and perhaps my daughter and yours will not feel lesser because once again, an intelligent capable woman with ample experience isn’t good enough unless she has impeccable virtue and full of grace, flawlessly perfect as men would have her.

Perhaps sitting in my bedroom in a country far away on the other side of the world, I am merely influenced by the media? What if the demons are not real? Maybe we are ascribing too much power to the US of A, as we see millions of dollars being wiped off financial markets worldwide.

What if we turn away, remove ourselves from the drama of it all and direct our energy to re-imagine a different world… I will certainly wake tomorrow less disorientated by what has happened.

For now, I will speak with my daughter who has been outraged and appalled, and choosing ridicule to cope; now I will share with her the dangers of labelling and dichotomising, and the importance of empathy for a people which she and I know little of.  We will speak of courage to stand out and stand up for being woman, unabashed in pursuing our calling, whatever it may be.

Perhaps, perhaps there is a historical lesson here for all of us, as time will tell, and I hope it is an inspiring one.

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

I believe in you

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Vulnerability and strength, two words not commonly associated with each other until recent years. Vulnerability tends to be perceived as weakness rather than strength.  And how often have I had to remind myself in the candid moments, in the times when being true to myself seemed a betrayal, when the tears flowed and the heart broke, when my vulnerability was exposed… that it was strength that brought me here, and it would carry me through… as it always will.

Those moments when friends around me were inspired, so they said, by my courage and incisiveness, to which I wanted to reply, “can you see how vulnerable I feel?” At last, only to realise perhaps that was what they saw… the strength was the vulnerability being carried ever so lightly.

Trust and patience, perhaps a less uncommon pairing.  Words easily spouted but how do we trust? When the distractions, the temptations, the greener grass is always on the other side, beckoning and making promises… Can we be patient? Can we be at peace with what arrives or returns? To know that I am worthy and enough, is a first step. Self-assured that I am complete, and will be so even if the trust is misguided, the patience runs out.

And ultimately, love.  To be vulnerable enough to let another in and to reach out to another, to trust that we will be held with care, kindness and gentle strength in return. To be trustworthy and patient in the face of challenges that threaten the peace…

So, the lyrics to the recently released Michael Buble song ‘I believe in you‘ and the music video. Enjoy!

Time goes by and I’ve been holding everything inside
But now I’ve got nothin’ left to hide
When I’m with you, oh, you
But I can see, how strong a man I’m going to have to be
To do for you it comes so naturally
So will you move

And all I want
Is a chance to prove Show all I can do

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you

And I don’t mind
If you want to hold on to me tight
You don’t have to sleep alone tonight If you don’t want to

And all I want
Is to know you’re near
You’re all I need, yeah

Time goes by and I’ve been holding everything inside
But now I’ve got nothin’ left to hide
When I’m with you, oh, you
But I can see, how strong a man I’m going to have to be
To do for you it comes so naturally
So will you move

And all I want
Is a chance to prove Show all I can do

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you

And I don’t mind
If you want to hold on to me tight
You don’t have to sleep alone tonight If you don’t want to

And all I want
Is to know you’re near
You’re all I need, yeah

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you
I believe in you
You got me through
I believe in you

 

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.