Today is International Women’s Day. I am honored and grateful to blog about the woman who has been my greatest inspiration, my mother who will be 80 years old this summer and has been a widow for 54 years!
I have always been inspired by women who sought rightful justice, who were pioneers, who were visionaries and who opened the door for future generations, while cognizant that they might never be recognized for what they did in their lifetime. They didn’t think about being recognized. They just did what they knew they had to do, with no need for approval, and they had pure intentions. Women of depth and women with strong and clear convictions like Indira Ghandi, Mother Teresa and Joan of Arc. Women with strong inner lives, such as Pema Chodron, Byron Katie, Marianne Williamson, Doreen Virtue and the late Maya Angelou. Their wisdom has inspired me since I was able to read, consciously observing and defining for myself who I aspired to be, inside and out. Women who accept themselves for who they are, such as Meryl Streep.
My mother’s life and mine have been deeply intertwined since I was 2.5 years old, when my father passed away. My mother was 25 years old. In an instant, our lives turned upside-down. As early as 4 years old, I knew that we were innate survivors and that we were there for each other. We have been, ever since.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had a devoted, loving mother– courageous, visionary, strong, perseverant and ‘in service’ to me, to her family and to others. A woman who, in her generation, was encouraged to marry to support us at the beginning of her journey as a mother of a single child with immense uncertainty ahead. My mother believed in being true to herself, to marry for love and to hold high her idealism. Having lost the love of her life, she never found another trusted partner who could have been with us.
She didn’t shy away from being determined to know herself and to find work, a vocation that she would love and that would support us. She tried different jobs, went back to school, studied English in the evenings and decided to be self-employed to have the flexibility to be at home and to be present with me during my early years. In spite of our challenges, I have never heard her complain; she was always expressing gratitude for what she did have, her gratitude for being my mother and her commitment to being my role model.
She has always espoused grace, resolve and courage. She is disciplined, responsible, autonomous and highly accountable. She was adamant about me being the same, as she felt that these qualities would give me strength to confront whatever would be presented to me in life.
As I wrote in my blog, On Being WISE Women – and Men: “In the face of challenges, she urged me to not develop a thick skin but to be courageous, grounded, compassionate, transparent and humble. My mother gave me the confidence to know myself. She sensed that I knew what I was good at and supported me in expressing my own talents. She always believed that I could do anything I wanted to do. She never made the fact that I was a science-oriented student a gender issue.”
My mother is the 2nd child of a family of 10. While she was navigating life with me, she became the matriarch. She is solid, with an enormous, tender, open heart. She is patient, centered with amazing composure regardless of the circumstances.
I have watched her love herself for who she is, aging gracefully, naturally accepting herself, as she believes that loving and accepting one’s self is our greatest gift to ourselves. How can you love someone, accept someone without judgment, if you can’t love “you”?
My mother has taught me to embrace the fullness of life and the fears that might show up. What is the worst that can happen? Not trying and getting up. In French, the word ‘incapable’ doesn’t exist, ‘pas capable,’ so I always had to find the inner strength to know that I could, and that I can, pursue what is true for me.
Maman, je t’aime avec tout mon Coeur. Thank you my dear leader, my spiritual teacher, and my woman’s companion who has opened the doors for me to fly with my own wings, and for believing in me, us, women to be all that we can be.
Thank you to the women I cited above for opening doors and creating paths where there were none. You have all comforted me over the years by your actions, your words and your authenticity.