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New Paltz, NY, Friday, May 11, 2007

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Photo by Priya Kale.
Photo by Priya Kale.

Mother Knows Best
By Judith Gayle

I WAS pleased to see that Venus had moved into Cancer to coincide with Mother's Day. It adds the possibility of a kind of warm, cuddly benediction on such a remembrance day. Like many such occasions in which we're conditioned to fully embrace the mythology and hype of the moment, the reality is often a disappointment.  
There are some inevitabilities to life, and one of them is that we all have a mother. Some mothers are wise and warm, some are distant and cool, some are overbearing and demanding -- and most are all those things at the same time. Edgar Cayce said that our relationship with our mother is the strongest link we have to another human on this plane. And I'd add, the most complex.  
Guilt and Hallmark Cards have more to do with Mother's Day than an actual outpouring of appreciation. All manner of neglect, indifference and avoidance comes due and payable on Mother's Day...for both parties. Perhaps if we didn't have to wade through so much illusion as regards our parents, this wouldn't be such a difficult day. I had to laugh during the first Republican debate when one of the candidates was asked about the war and launched into a message about how we had to get back to family values; for conservatives, the answer to everything can be found in family training. Of course, the family model he was referencing was the biblical one -- nuclear, with father as the "head," mother as the "dutiful nurturer" and children "seen and not heard." This is a kind of damaging Leave It to Beaver illusion we can't shake out of our consciousness. I worked with a teacher years ago who was raised by a single mother with two jobs -- he said that he resented her for not being Mrs. Cleaver all the years of his childhood. There is nothing simplistic about the parent/child relationship, and we need to stop pretending there is.  
Mothers are the first women we encounter on this planet. They are the Font of All Good for at least the first few critical years and set a pattern for how we will relate to every other woman we meet. If, by the luck of the draw or karmic dispensation or both, we get a good one, we are more likely to feel secure and safe in our childhood years, and we can later appreciate all it took to lead us through the minefield of adolescence. For sure, that deserves, at least, a card.  
Most of the extraordinary people I know didn't have good ones. Most of them had very flawed women raising them, selfish, manipulative or asleep at the switch. Much of their lives has been about resolving that essential wound and rising above it. It's made them self-reflective and self-reliant, given them a template for what is missing from their experience and a heads-up on what patterns need to be examined and discarded. It's made them strong. I'd guess that deserves a card, too.  
If we work at it, our mother becomes our friend at some point. It is at this juncture that Very Brave Women can feel free to pick up Nancy Friday's book, My Mother, My Self. I had a close and loving relationship with my mother, and I remember getting as far as the second chapter before my head imploded. I don't recall much after that; things got foggy. If you want to do some potent inner work, get in touch with your mother-dialogues. That mirror is too bright, too revealing...too honest for comfort.  
Yes, like it or not, we are reflections of our parents in most ways. Our mothers are less the authority figures than the ones that we turn to for unconditional love. As that's a hard concept for most humans to get a handle on, many mothers fall short in that department -- and that's a sorrow when you think of the Goddess-like potential inherent in the mother-child relationship. Mothers can be either healers or destroyers, and the latter would no doubt offer in their defense that they learned everything they know at the knee of their own mothers -- the perpetual loop of human dysfunction.

We need to cut our mothers some slack, I think. Forgive them their flaws. Nobody told them that they would be representing Goddess in our lives or taught them how to do that. It's an awesome responsibility, parenting. As parents, everything we do and say becomes our children's "default position" -- we are teaching them every moment of their lives. Maybe that's why some of us run, screaming, this time of the year. Maybe that's why Mother's Day produces a gut-clenching, headache-inspiring groan from so many. Still, parenting is a journey, much as is growing into adulthood. There isn't some place to "get to" on such a journey, no "perfect relationship" to work toward. Parenting is an evolution of consciousness that leads us to new understandings, mindfulness, amends, and actions.  

The original intent of Mother's Day was such a realization by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, at the close of our bloody Civil War. You may recognize the name as the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." With her nation suffering the loss of so many sons, Julia came to realize that war had little to do with a mother's heart, and less with respect for her opinion. She resolved to change that, calling women together with these words:
Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs." From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.  
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Cæsar, but of God.  
The original intention of Mother's Day was a peace proposition. Howe quickened a peace movement that spread through the nation and Europe. It was not set aside as a day of commemoration until 1914, and quickly became -- as most holidays do -- a way to market goods. And a successful one. Hallmark sells more cards on Mother's Day than at any other time of the year.  
The Goddess energy represented on Mother's Day is potent and healing stuff. Mothers bring life to the planet, and offer themselves the opportunity to learn unconditional love; the natural and eventual consequence of such an undertaking is a desire...a demand...for peace. Ask Cindy Sheehan and other Gold Star mothers if mothering and peace go hand in hand. Ask Iraqi mothers who in the last two decades have seen their child mortality rate soar by 125 percent. Ask the women of Darfur who carry their starving children across hostile borders in search of safety. 

Keep those women in mind when you call your mom this weekend. You might want to honor her with a message of international hope by participating in the Heifer Project in her name, or by joining in one of the many peace marches being planned. It doesn't matter who she turned out to be -- the terrific one or the difficult one -- in order to celebrate Mother's Day. It's a matter of consciousness, a declaration of the highest Goddess vibration. And the best gift you can present to her as her child -- and to Gaia, as her child -- is your own expanding heart and continued choice for life, for love...for peace. 

CREDITS: Managing Editor: Priya Kale. Webmaster: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Proofreader and Fact checker: Sara Churchville. Horoscope Editor: Jessica Keet.

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