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.

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.

Woman of your dreams

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If you could be the woman of your dreams, who would you be?

My answer: Me, myself and I.  No matter what my experiences might have been, are and may be, they are just that, experiences.  And I live them.  As you do yours.  You are amazing! 🙂

 

 

If you could be the woman of your dreams, who would you be?

In love,
FlorenceT

 

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

10 Quotes of Woman.

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No woman can resist these quotes, am I right? 🙂

ronovanwrites

“The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” Jean de la Bruyere

“One is not born a woman, but becomes one.” Simone de Beauvoir

“If you cannot inspire a woman with love of you, fill her above the brim with love of herself; all that runs over will be yours.” Charles Caleb Colton

“A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.” D.H. Lawrence

“When in a relationship, a real man doesn’t make his woman jealous of others, he makes others jealous of his woman.” Steve Maraboli,

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” Steve Maraboli

“After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live…

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The artistry of poetry

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Perhaps life has something to teach, perhaps it takes a life lived to hear the voice of poetry, perhaps I have changed, perhaps… perhaps… perhaps that is why I have come to appreciate poetry.

Yet for many years, I’m the ‘poetry is not for me’ type of person. In my mind writing poetry is all gift and it should come naturally otherwise I can’t do it. But lately I am at a place of ‘que sera, sera’… so I will write poetry fearlessly (somewhat?!).  The jury’s still out whether I am any good at it but hey, it is a form of expression and if I let it come, it is what it is, and whatever will be, will be.

And what brought about this stream of consciousness…? Well, Colleen’s (of Silver Threading) blogging event, Writer’s Quote Wednesday and combining my love for Sarah Kay’s spoken word poetry.

So, first a quote from Sarah Kay about the artistry of writing poetry:

Artistry S KayIt is in fact, like all creative outlets, hard work.

Now let me share a piece of spoken poetry titled ‘The Type’ by Sarah Kay.  Enjoy.

– FlorenceT

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

Being in a Woman’s Body

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woman body

This is one of many blessings in my life.

In my life, I have had 2 pregnancies, 2 live births and so 2 beautiful children.

Do the Maths. Many are less fortunate. And women bear the loss, trauma, pain and sense of responsibility greatly. Miscarriages, abortion, stillbirths… no matter the circumstances, whatever the religious, moral or valued judgments – they are all losses to be mourned. They carry a toll on a woman’s body, her psyche.

How do I know? Well, I don’t exactly know. I can only imagine – having been pregnant and having my children, the loss of them at any stage is unfathomable. We lose people in our lives – friends who no longer are, spouses or partners, lovers, siblings… for myriad of reasons, but none, none came from the nurturing of a woman’s body, none which could possibly shatter her innocence so simply.

Yet, the language of loss in this space tends to hurt those who are already hurting, women. “She lost her baby” as if she has been reckless, as if she was less than capable, as if she was irresponsible. There are many reasons why miscarriages happen and many contributing factors. Comments like, ‘she was working too much’, ‘she should have rested more’, ‘she used to smoke’… may be factually correct, maybe not.  Nevertheless, where is the compassion and empathy? Women learn the lessons of their lives through their bodies – sex, pregnancy, childbirth…something that is uniquely ours.

And what about abortion? ‘Selfish’, ‘she shouldn’t have in the first place’… Suffice to say, women’s bodies ought not be the playing field upon which politics and power wrestling occur. Women suffer enough without blame and condemnation being heaped on them.

Women’s bodies are sacred. We still need to learn that, it seems. Mistakes we make and we pay the price. Sometimes, life happens to us through our bodies. Whatever the cause, the effect is one of loss and grief.

I have no wish to disenfranchise any woman who is unable to or choosing not to be a mother.  My personal view has always been as Margaret Sanger said,

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.

Approach a woman and the stories of her body with kindness, empathy and compassion.

Namaste
– FlorenceT

 

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

Map of a Woman’s Heart

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womansheart

Do you agree?  Love at the centre, surrounded by vanity, selfishness, sentimentality and superficiality, with some good sense thrown in.

I wondered if the ‘love’ depicted on the map is spiritual love, the Universal Love that encompasses all that is, that which is embodied in every particle of the Universe, the energy that gives expression to the Beauty we see each day, the essence that glimmers and shines within each of us if we but to know it in our hearts. Sadly I doubt it, given its ‘companions’ on the map. Not a flattering representation, don’t you agree?

Did I interpret the map correctly? Do you have another interpretation?

Is the ‘love’ then an egoic expression of our desires, our needs for attachment, validation and completeness.  Attachment to what, I ask. To a personality we believe we lack? To a reflection of a self we lost? To a fulfillment of a dream? To seek confirmation of our worth because somehow we do not truly believe we are worthy? To reclaim a lost self? To reach out for an anticipated self? As real as these desires and needs are in our human experience, they are also illusions.

Being worthy is not premised on perfection, the standards for which are externally defined. Being worthy is to see our self for all that we are in our humanness – the beautiful and the ugly and everything in between.  And as we accept our whole-ness (not perfection), then the desires and needs for attachment, validation and completeness cease. What is left is the purity of Universal Love – which we give and receive freely, no attachment, no expectation.

In my vision, my heart holds paths to purpose, to connection, to compassion, to acceptance, to humility, to grace; and all these paths are inextricably linked to create the essence, this energy called Universal Love.  तथैव अस्तु (‘Tathaiva astu’ – let it be so).

Have you a different map? Will you explore this terrain of your heart?

– FlorenceT

PS. A Map of the Open Country of a Woman’s Heart was created by D. W. Kellogg circa 1833–1842. Image from BrainPickings.

 

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

Phenomenal Woman #MayaAngelou

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Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palms of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

 

I hope you are inspired.

With much respect
– FlorenceT

 

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