Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Best Friends

A Toast to Isaac Newton by Barbara Lavallee

"I am noticing that one of my gifts is to be an anchor for friends."
~Mary MacDonald

The August 2001 issue of “O” featured the topic Friendship and this is how it was introduced:

“It has been said that there are two kinds of friends: friends of time and friends of like mind. The first—pals from the old neighborhood, summer camp, our first job – give our lives continuity; the second – soul mates who share our interests, values, goals – give our lives possibility. Both stir our capacity to care and connect, or as the writer Anais Nin once said, Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.”

I think we can all look back to our past and make a list of friends who touched our lives. Inevitably we may have considered some of our friends as “best friends.” My first best friend at the age of three was also named Michelle. She moved prior to us starting school and I didn’t make another real “best friend” until I met Audra in fifth grade. Audra would move a year after our special connection was made and a new best friend named Tanya would enter the picture in sixth grade. I moved a year after meeting Tanya but we somehow managed to keep our friendship very much alive throughout our teen years and into our 20’s. I didn’t really have another “best friend” until my second year of college. There were always other friends in my life, some close and some not as close, but not everyone met fell into that "best friend" category. 

What I have observed throughout the years in my relationships is that there is a bit of magic that just seems to make certain people click with one another. Sometimes one can know a person for years but never get super close and then bam a person walks into your life and you feel as if you’ve known them for years and you find yourself easily opening up and sharing the most intimate stories of your life.  With some individuals there is an extra special connection and in some of these situations we find ourselves considering her or him our best friend.

I feel these excerpts from The Illustrated Discovery Journal by Sarah Ban Breathnach captures the essence of why some connections stand out from the rest:

“Every moment of every day, consciously, or unconsciously, we all seek our people.” Our people are our spiritual family, the kith, kin, and kindred spirits we’ve unconditionally loved and been loved by since the beginning of time. Sometimes we’re connected by blood and lineage. But not always.”

“Consider the different ways you feel about the people in your life….Which of these individuals represent your own inner circle—your people—the friends of your soul with whom you truly belong and feel safe? The ones with whom you feel that your Authentic Self can emerge, be appreciated, and be loved? Which family members and friends have cared about you, stood by you during difficult days, and were genuinely happy to see you flourish? These are your sacred connections.”

“There is also such a thing as friendship at first sight. You meet someone at a party, and you immediately enjoy the way they naturally include you in the conversation. You see a new employee stand up to the boss, and admire his or her spunkiness right away. Often such connections are very real and very deep…The Irish writer John O’Donahue reminds us that ‘the real mirror of your life and soul is your true friend. A friend helps you to glimpse who you really are and what you are doing here.’”

“You can learn a tremendous amount about your Authentic Self from your soul-friends, both passionate and platonic. The psychologist Carl Jung believed that ‘the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: If there is any reaction, both are transformed.’ A soul-friend is someone who not only sees the real you, but helps you to see her as well.”

Here are some questions to consider:

Who was your first best friend? How old were you? How long were you friends? How many “best friends” have you had in the course of your whole life?

Do you still have a best friend or best friends? Who is the friend that you have known for the longest time and still consider a close friend? When and how did you meet? What has made the friendship “stick”?

What does being a friend mean to you? How could you be a better friend to others -- and to yourself?

What qualities do you value in a friend? Do your best friends embody them? Do you possess them yourself? Ask someone you trust about the qualities you’re known for.

Which of your friendships need improving? What action could you take today to mend a torn relationship or revitalize one that’s flagging?

Nearly every friendship has its ups and downs. We grow at different rates or just need space. Are there any friendships that you need to let go of – temporarily or permanently?

Have you ever struggled through a period of time where you felt alone and friendless? How did you get through it? Do you have any recommendations to others who might also be struggling?

Lastly, do you have a favorite movie or book about friendship that you enjoyed and that you would like to recommend?


Resource Recommendation ~ If you are ever seeking answers on how to deal with challenges or difficulties in a friendship I recommend a book called Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend by Irene S. Levine, PhD. While the book does offer up stories and thoughts on how to handle the end of a close friendship, the author also offers up a lot of reflection on female friendships and how to strengthen and heal them too. Dr. Levine also has a web site called The Friendship Blog and you can find it here:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Harvey Milk Day

In honor of Harvey Milk Day - May 22nd

Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930. He was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.   Sadly,
Harvey Milk and the San Francisco mayor, George Moscone, were shot and killed by Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor, at city hall in November 1978. 

Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama.   Following that honor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as governor of California, signed a law setting aside May 22nd as Harvey Milk day in California.  May 22nd coincided with Milk's birthday.   Milk is only the second Californian, after naturalist John Muir, to receive the honor. 

While it will not be a state holiday, schools will be encouraged to hold lessons "remembering the life of Harvey Milk, recognizing his accomplishments and familiarizing pupils with the contributions he made to this state".

This video features a wonderful speech known as The Hope speech that he made after being elected into office in 1977. 

The Forgotten Populist, Harvey Milk
Excerpted from an essay by
Gregory J. Rosmaita 

copyright 1993

Despite the clarity of his populist vision, his piercing assessment of the socio-economic crisis confronting contemporary America, and his eloquent defense of personal liberties, Harvey Milk has been forgotten by the majority of Americans. His is not a household name, invoking only blank stares or the faintest glimmer of recognition. It is tragically ironic that the notorious "twinkie defense" of his assassin is better remembered by Americans than the mercurial Milk himself. Those who do remember Milk remember him only as a "minor" footnote in American history--the first openly homosexual man to be popularly elevated into elective office in the United States. To remember Milk solely for his sexual orientation, however, is not only to misunderstand him, but his concept of gay pride as well. Harvey Milk was one of the most charismatic and pragmatic populists of the past half-century, a man of remarkable organizational talent who never compromised his vision of "a city of neighborhoods" nor sought to hide his homosexuality.

Harvey Milk never intended to enter the political arena until he moved to San Francisco in 1972. Prior to Milk's arrival, San Francisco's burgeoning homosexual population lacked a sense of community, and consequently its political empowerment had been stunted.  

The city's homosexual intelligentsia--weary of bearing the brutal brunt of police persecution and public vilification--had organized several "educational" societies--designed to enlighten public opinion on the subject of homosexuality in the early seventies. Since the idea of an openly homosexual running for office in a city which still classified homosexuality as "a crime against nature"--punishable by up to ten years in prison--seemed ludicrous to the homosexual intelligentsia, an integral component of these societies were their political action committees. The homosexual PACs quickly succeeded in drawing sympathetic "liberal friends" from the Democratic party to their convocations, who--in return for their endorsement, promised to shield open homosexuals from officially sanctioned victimization. For the first time in American history, "mainstream" political figures treated their homosexual constituents with dignity and respect, actively courting their support.

The success of homosexual PACs was due in no small part to the fact that, "in this city of fewer than 700,000 people, approximately one out of every five adults and perhaps one out of every three or four voters was gay."  At least half of the total homosexual population--like Milk himself--had moved to San Francisco between 1969 and 1977, bringing with them a bold assertiveness which had been sparked by the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City. Milk recognized the parallels between the growing gay enclaves and the traditional ethnic neighborhoods that made up the crazy-quilt fabric of San Francisco. Many of these ethnic enclaves--such as the Irish and Italian sections of the city--had long since turned what had initially been a liability--their insularity--into a source of municipal power. It seemed only logical to Milk that the gay neighborhoods follow suit. If the homosexual vote was significant enough for "respectable" politicians to run the risk of alienating San Francisco's conservative voters by openly courting gay support, Milk reasoned, the homosexuals of San Francisco no longer needed to rely on "friends" for protection, but could rely on themselves.
You see there is a major difference--and it remains a vital difference--between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide... it's not just enough anymore just to have friends represent us, no matter how good that friend may be... A gay official is needed not just for our protection, but to set an example for younger gays that says that the system works.
Milk's goal in asserting gay pride through political empowerment, was not to force mainstream America to accept homosexuality, but to respect the homosexual's right to be homosexual, without governmental interference or hinderance. Milk fought not for the universal acceptance of homosexuality as "an alternate life-style", but for a universal acceptance of homosexuals as human beings, endowed by their creator with the same unalienable rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Whether his audience was sympathetic or hostile, Milk always depicted the struggle for gay rights as "the fight to preserve your democracy." 

Like the black civil rights leaders of the fiftiess and sixtiess, whose example Milk exhorted gays nationwide to follow, Milk viewed his struggle to assert the "unalienable Rights" of homosexuals as the penultimate expression of the most cherished of American values: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These basic American values were systematically denied homosexuals on the grounds of the Judeo-Christian abhorrence of homosexuality. Therefore, reason dictates that individual state and municipal governments had violated the Constitution's separation of church and state, when they codified homosexuality as "a crime against nature"--a naked assertion of a religious proscription over individual liberty.
The issue of sexuality, however, is seldom discussed on a rational plane, especially when the debate revolves around same-sex relations. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans were classified as "deviants" who, solely by virtue of their sexuality, were guilty of a felony which--according to the whims of local or state authorities--could lead to their prosecution, often resulting in public humiliation, institutionalization, and/or imprisonment. Such anti-gay statutes, many of which were relics either of the colonial or Victorian eras, were based upon the homophobic myths which form the basis of mainstream America's perception of homosexuality and homosexuals.
The blacks did not win their rights by sitting quietly in the back of the bus. They got off! Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets... We are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth about gays! [ellipse extant in text]
Milk firmly believed that the only way for homosexuals to break down homophobia--"the last major dam of prejudice in this country"--was for homosexuals to make themselves visible: to step out of the closet, and into the consciousness of the nation. Whilst the images of the "drag queen" and "butch dyke" are firmly ensconced in the popular imagination, there are no "defining" homosexual traits; most homosexuals--male and female alike--are indistinguishable from heterosexuals. Unless an individual makes the conscious decision to overtly express his or her homosexuality, that individual remains a member of an invisible minority. This invisibility is magnified by the fact that the majority of homosexuals do not live openly in Greenwich Village or the Castro district of San Francisco, but instead live lives of silent suburban exile in a society that--despite the rhetoric of diversity--still dictates conformity. Thus, the majority of American homosexuals remain trapped behind walls of fear--the proverbial "closet"--rendering them utterly invisible to mainstream America. Milk argued that this invisibility only fosters homophobic stereotypes:
Like every other group, we must he judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay, those who are visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo--a myth, a person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment. A tenth of our nation is supposedly composed of stereotypes and would-be seducers of children. But today, the black community is not judged by its friends, but by its black legislators and leaders. And we must give people the chance to judge us by our leaders and legislators. A gay person in office can set a tone, can command respect not only from the larger community, but from the young people in our own community who need both examples and hope. 
Milk's entire political career was dedicated to shattering the silence of homosexual America and exposing the homophobic myths of heterosexual America. When he finally gained office--after three competitive but unsuccessful campaigns--Milk quickly transformed his public image, from "a gay politician" to a politician who "just happened" to be gay. By concentrating on implementing an aggressively populist agenda which encompassed the needs of all of San Francisco's minorities, Milk quickly dispelled the false issue of his sexual orientation. His passionate attention to detail and his dedication to improving the quality of life of all San Franciscans greatly widened his base of support. His adept handling of the media allowed him to transform the popular conception of who and what he was--"all over the country, they're reading about me," he told his aides several months after his election to the City Council, "and the story doesn't center on me being gay--it's just about a gay person who's doing his job." 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart

In the Fall of 2009 Daphne Rose Kingma was on a walk with a dear friend who had come to visit her from Europe.  He had lost his job.  His wife had left him.  His financial portfolio had dwindled to less than a third of its original size.  He had also had to move and on top of it all he’d been diagnosed with a slow-moving degenerative disease that would, ultimately, be fatal.   She describes how he was in need of deep comfort as well as distraction from his anguish during his visit.   The walked and hiked, had picnic lunches, attended a concert, an art gallery opening and went to a Buddhist temple to pray.  On one particular afternoon while out walking he asked her to make him a list of the ten things he needed to get through his crisis.

Daphne, who was already the author of a number of books, including Coming Apart, 365 Days of Love, Loving Yourself and The Men We Never Knew, thought to herself when he posed the question, that it was a lot to ask, and that it was practically like asking her to write a book.   Yet, when they returned home from their walk and she sat down to contemplate his question, she found that within minutes she had created a list for her friend.   Her list would become the basis for her latest book called The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart.

In the Introduction Daphne shares “When hardship hits, especially when a bunch of things pile on all at once, we can be shaken to the core, and life feels completely out of control.”

“When life throws us a curveball, our first response is shock, denial, and disbelief.  We can’t believe that this --- or all of this --- is actually happening. Once we digest the fact that it really is happening and that it won’t go away, we begin to bargain, to try to manage the unwieldy monster.  Maybe it’ll change tomorrow.  Maybe my wife was just threatening –she’ll be back.  Maybe the bank miscalculated the dividends.  Maybe the hospital got the X-rays mixed up.  In this deeply painful emotional state, we’re torn between facing the truth of what has occurred and still hoping against hope that somehow the nightmare will be repealed.”

“But when bargaining no longer works, then what?  How do you mend your heart after loss?  How do you carry on or begin again?  What can you do when your wife walks out?  Your child dies?  Your husband takes you to custody court and “buys” the right to move your children six states away?  How can you keep on reaching when your dreams when your efforts keep coming to naught?  When you come back shattered from war?  When every cent you squirreled away has vanished in WallStreetspeak and cybersmoke, and at age sixty-four with a PhD you find yourself weirdly, working as a paint consultant at a hardware store?”

The following chapters outlines the 10 things one can do to find emotional and spiritual balance in the midst of crisis. Here is a small taste of each chapter.

1.If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Cry Your Heart Out.
“He who sits in the house of grief will eventually sit in the garden.” – Hafiz

“Hard times, more tha any others, reveal to us the truth that the signature of our humanity is our emotional nature.  What differentiates us from stone and butterflies is the degree to which what happens to us affects us on an emotional level.  We don’t just experience things – get a divorce, lose our house, watch our dog die from eating poison –we have feelings about these events.  It is the depth and nuance of our feelings – of our joy, sorrow, anger, and fear –that give texture to our humanity.”

2. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Face Your Defaults.
“Awareness in itself is curative.” – Fritz Perls

“Your defaults are whatever you do when you don’t know how to cope or what to do next…Defaults are habitual behaviors, and they’re not always the best way to cope.  New –and especially, difficult --- circumstances howl out for new solutions: improvisation, imagination, ingenuity.  But when we’re intimidated, scared, and overwhelmed, most of us resort to our default behaviors because, well, we always have, and there they are.”

3. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Do Something Different.
“We all like to stay on the little crutches that are familiar.” Jules Zimmer

“Different circumstances call on us to be different.  To grow or die.  To expand or contract.  To fly or get lost in the rubble.  As our world changes, we must change.  When our circumstances are altered, we must alter our response to them.”

4. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Let Go.
“Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” – Michael Peake

“When your life is falling apart, there’s always the impulse to hold on: to him, to her, to it; to the way it was, to how you wanted it to be, to how you want it now.  But in order to get through a crisis, you will have to let go of whatever is standing in your way or causing the problem; these are the handcuffs around your ankles, the tin cans tied to your tail.  You will have to let go of whatever isn’t serving you, whatever you no longer need, whatever keeps you from moving forward, whatever you’re so attached to that you can’t see where you’re going.”

5. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Remember Who You’ve Always Been.
“He knows not his own strength that has not met adversity.”  Cesare Pavese

“When the tectonic plates of the world are shifting beneath your feet, it is hard to remember that there’s a continuous thread of genius, of power, of responsiveness that runs through your life, that, since the beginning, you’ve had certain qualities to bring to the task at hand – no matter how fraught it may be with challenge and frustration.  Who you are now is who you’ve always been.  You didn’t wake up today as somebody else.  You are a single, talented, rare, unrepeatable human being.  There is something at your core that’s unique to you, that always has been and always will be.”

6. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Persist.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Wolfgang von Goethe

“Persistence is the spiritual grace that allows you to continue to act with optimism even when you feel trapped in the pit of hell.  It is the steadfast, continual, simple – and at times excruciatingly difficult – practice of trudging forward until the difficult present you’re scared will go on forever is replaced by a future that ha a new color scheme.”

7. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Integrate Your Loss.
“Enlightenment doesn’t occur from sitting around visualizing images of light, but from integrating the darker aspects of the self into the conscious personality.” – Carl Jung

“In order to get through the crisis you’re in, you will have to accept what has happened and then integrate it into the fabric of your life.  Your integration of the content and the meaning of the crisis will be the sign, the hallmark, that you are moving through this challenge.”

8. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Live Simply.
“Do what you can.  Where you are.  With what you have.”  - Theodore Roosevelt

“Living simply is paring away --- stuff, obligations, expectations, people.  It’s removing all the glut and rubble from your life, making space in your house, your heart, your brain, and your life for exactly and only what you need.  It’s getting down to the core of things and returning to a way of living that most of us can only vaguely remember: pleasures that don’t cost piles of money, rewards you don’t have to buy in stores, amusements that don’t require a screen or scrabbling with hundreds of other people to get to.”

9. If you want to get through this crisis you will have to Go Where the Love Is.
“In times of crisis, love must prevail.” ~ Linda Laurie

“In the end, love really is the only thing that matters.  We’ve heard that forever, and to some degree we believe it.  Be do we really live it?  Apart from romantic love – which, for a lot of us, consumes a great deal of our time and attention as we look everywhere for “the one” – we’re not generally whiling away our afternoons just loving each other to pieces.  Why does it take a nightmare to wake us up to our need for love?  Why is compassion the last thing on our agenda, after the ball game and a trip to Target, after we’ve answered our email and voicemail, checked Facebook and Twitter?  We have gotten so terribly far away from our gaping beautiful need for love because, somehow along the way, we have become immersed in all our distractions.  Our actions often seem to indicate that we believe that things, not relationships, will nourish us; that noise, not silence, will give us peace; that electronic stimulation, not morning sunlight, will fill our souls with excitement.  We have gotten so far away from the truth of our need for love that it’s almost as if the cosmos itself has had to bust our chops so we would wake up and remember.  Love is relationship.  It is the energy that passes between people when they are in close enough proximity – emotional, physical, spiritual – for that energy to pass between hem.  It is the energy too that passes between people and creatures, people and natures, people and the mystery.”

10. If you want this crisis to transform you, you will choose to Live In the Light of the Spirit.
“On many occasions when I was dancing I have felt touched by something sacred.  In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and I became one with everything that exists.  I became the stars and the moon.  I became the lover and the beloved.  I became the victor and the vanquished…the singer and the song…the knower and the known.” ~ Michael Jackson

“Spiritual life gives us a shimmering new awareness that this life is not the whole of things.  As we move through the paces of our spiritual practice, we begin to hear the whispers deep inside us.  Gradually we come to know, to remember, that there is something deeper and more ancient in us, something forever-ish at our core, something that was and will always be, something whose scope is vast and whose breath is eternal, something that we call god or spirit or soul.”

Each Chapter ends with some questions.  Here are some to contemplate from each section:

Cry Your Heart Out ~ What’s the old ache in your heart that you’ve never wept over? 
Face Your Defaults ~ What are your most prominent default behaviors?
Do Something Different ~ As far as you can tell, what is this crisis asking you to do differently?
Let Go ~ What are you holding on to that is impeding your freedom as you endeavor to move through this crisis?  Debilitating friendships? Unproductive work relationships?  A lousy marriage?  Hopelessness?  Despair?  A standard of living you can’t afford?
Remembering Who You’ve Always Been ~ What, if you think about it quickly right now, is your signature strength?  If it doesn’t come immediately to mind, ask yourself what you liked to do when you were a child of six or seven.
Persist ~ The area of your life in which you are most discouraged and to which you really need to bring the practice of persistence is ______________.
Integrate Your Loss ~ What is the crisis, the difficult experience, the loss or change of status that you are trying to integrate right now?
Live Simply ~ What are ten things you could get rid of immediately?
Go Where the Love Is ~ What’s the kind of love you still need?  How would you like that to show up for you now?  What is the offering of love that you would like to give? 
Life in the Light of the Spirit ~ What experience or experiences have you had that connected you to your own transcendent and eternal nature?

Concluding message from the author:

Peace Be With You

May the depth of your crisis remind you of who you really are.  May your pain bring you into the light of awareness.  May your journey through it give you hope.  And when you have made it through the storm, may you feel great peace and joy.

Lastly here is a video of the author being interviewed on Santa Barbara TV.

The Creative Community: Daphne Rose Kingma from The Santa Barbara Channels on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Passionate Presence

"Are you ready for real freedom?"

"Dare you step into your deep connected power and be here now?"

"Are you ready to open your heart and love?"

If you find your heart and spirit responding with “Yes, Yes, Yes!” then being Passionately Present is calling to you.

Come learn more about Katheryn Trenshaw, creator of Passionate Presence, in my column in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ I Wish You Strength

Positive Message for today:

Tim Bays/Jana Stanfield/Matt Wilder

In Cahoots Music/Jana StanTunes/Wilderness Music (ASCAP)

I wish you strength,
To rise unafraid,
Like the morning sun,
Taking on the day,
Because when you shine,
You light up the place,
So I wish you strength.

I wish you faith,
That you’ll overcome,
Whatever you face,
Until your journey’s done,
Beyond any words,
As certain as grace,
I wish you faith.

I wish you could see,
The you that I see,
There at the edge of possibility,
I pray that you will find,
All that you need.

I wish you peace,
That comes from within,
A gentle release,
Of all that might have been,
Like the stillness that waits,
Between waking and sleep,
I wish you peace.

I wish you strength,
To rise unafraid,
Like the morning sun,
Taking on the day,
Because when you shine,
You light up the place,
So I wish you strength.

I wish you faith,
I wish you peace,
I wish you strength.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Happy 1st Birthday AND Happy Mother's Day

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday dear Mojo Monday!
Happy Birthday to you!

Mojo Monday was born in May 2010, so we are celebrating her 1st Birthday today.  She has taught me a number of things during her first year of life.  (Children tend to do that!)  

She taught me that when you have a dream or goal that you need to set aside the time to do the work to reach those dreams and goals.  For example if you want to be a writer you have to write.  Thinking about being a writer or talking about being a writer some day will not move you very far towards your goal.  You have to actually write.

She taught me more about getting my joy from the creating and the journey, not from the responses I get (or don’t get) to what I created or wrote.   There are important lessons to be learned about the importance of internal approval rather than external approval.

She provided wonderful opportunities to meet, interact and get to know better more of the brilliant and creative Cosmic Cowgirls on the Rodeo, where I also post my Mojo Monday discussions.

She showed me that commitment and applied discipline to a regular practice feels good and can build one’s confidence to say “YES” to other opportunities.

Here’s to you Mojo Monday!
Mojo Monday also has another VERY EXCITING announcement to make.  Starting this month there will a new writer joining me.  I am thrilled that Cosmic Cowgirl Steph Cowling who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York will be bringing her brilliance, wit and wisdom to the weekly campfires.  She and I will be greeting you on alternating weeks.  Steph has been a Sparking leader and also hosts the Wild Women Story Gathering site with fabulous Jenafer Joy.  They are currently leading the group through the book Women Who Run With the Wolves.  If you are interested in joining the reading group check it out here.  She will certainly be bringing us a great deal of thoughtful and inspirational posts in the coming months.

In a book called Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Krech I came across a phenomenal section on Mother’s Day.  Seeing as how Mother’s Day is on this upcoming Sunday, May 8th I wanted to share with you his wisdom and touching suggestion to write your mom a heartfelt letter of gratitude.  

Before the author gets to his own touching letter he does start at a different end of the spectrum regarding the parental relationship:  “Mother, you never bothered to tell me you loved me. You never loved me for myself.  You just wanted me to fulfill your own unfulfilled dreams.  You weren’t there for me when I needed you.  You only paid attention to me when I got good grades in school.” 

The author continues “These comments are characteristic of those of us who have searched the depths of our souls to get in touch with our anger at our mothers, encouraged by an army of talk-show hosts, authors, recovery programs, and therapists, all helping us take an honest look at our childhoods and then take aim at our moms.  Of course, we’ll take time out on Mother’s Day to send a card, make a phone call, or offer a small gift to the woman, who among other things, brought us into the world.  But this small detail, and many others, are lost or forgotten amidst an array of people and programs who see mom as just another casualty on the road to self-realization and self-esteem.  Of course, mothers aren’t perfect.  They make mistakes.  They make foolish choices.  They act selfishly and lose their temper.  Some of them abandon and abuse their children.  But before we abandon them, it might be wise to review the record. 

My first serious attempt to do that came in 1989 when I spent two weeks at a a Naikan center near Kuwana, Japan, reflecting on my entire life. For more than a day I did nothing but reflect on my relationship with my mother, year by year.  What had she given me during my childhood?  Memories came slowly at first, and were somewhat vague.  But from time to time a vivid image would surface of her making me a bologna and cheese sandwich for my lunch box, or washing my muddy Little League baseball uniform, or sitting down and playing the piano with me.  Some of my reflections on my mom involved calculations: How many times did she change my dirty diapers? How many meals did she cook for me?  How many loads of laundry did she wash?...Much of what is required of mothers is not exciting: laundry, dishes, diapers, sitting on a playground bench and watching your son climb up and own monkey bars.  It is precisely because of the undramatic nature of these services that they are overlooked, forgotten, or taken for granted.  They don’t get discussed in therapy.  They aren’t a common subject of self-help books.  They don’t appear as a central theme in the TV sitcom.  But when we reflect on our lives and our relationships to our moms, it’s essential to remember these acts of service for one very important reason: they happened.

By the time I completed my two-week stay at the Naikan center my relationship with my mom was forever changed.  It’s not that I became a model son or built her a home on the Riviera.  It’s just that my memory was a bit more complete and my image of her was different.  I could rarely talk with her on the phone without remembering some of the excavated memories from Japan.  And those memories included my own mistreatment of her as a child and adolescent.  They included my own ingratitude toward her for what she had done for me.”

“…there was one woman who got me started as a seedling and made sure I was firmly rooted until I could transplant myself.  She deserves to be remembered for all the tedious, unexciting things she did for me.  As my way of honoring your service, Mom, I plan to fold some laundry today.”

What might you do today to honor your mom?

Are you feeling inspired to write her a heartfelt letter for Mother’s Day?  Please share it if you feel inclined to do so.

You could also write her a poem or paint her something. If you create something come back and share a photo.

Here is a scrapbook page that includes a letter to my mom and a sassy photo of the two of us back in the summer of 1996.  It also includes words that I feel describe her.  This particular photo was taken on a day that we had gone to a fair and had our faces painted.  We later went out dancing that night, with our face paint still on I might add.