Every shop you go into has some reference to Mother’s Day. It’s everywhere. This year I’ll be the one celebrating – a celebration of me, above all else.
Mother’s Day as a child was the one day of the year that filled me with utter dread. I went to St Monica’s Primary and the good Catholics would organise a Mother’s Day stall in the hall where you could buy your mother a present. It was a big deal.
These were the days when warm milk was delivered daily on the classroom entrance, everyone in my class received Holy Communion and out of 30 kids, there was only one other child who had divorced parents. I was the only one who was brought up by my Dad.
Like an adult missing their front teeth, I was so keenly aware that my home didn’t have a mother in it to bake cookies and plait my hair.
So you can appreciate how lining up for the Mothers Day stall in Year One buying soap or talcum powder for my grandmother, despite how wonderful she was, wasn’t quite the same.
The Dragon Left Behind
The loss of my mother at age four marked my life in a very significant way. She walked out on our family on Mother’s Day.
As you can imagine, a death might be far easier to accept than a mother walking out on three children under four.
In the magnitude of sins in the eyes of our society, maternal abandonment is right up there.
Experiencing such significant abandonment so early in life lead me to over-compensate with ridiculously high standards of achievement and a dragon of perfectionism I wrestle with every day.
The journey towards self-acceptance and self-worth for me is a lifelong one. Some days feel as though I have a sign around my neck screaming “reject and abandon here”, other days are sprinkled with a lot more compassion and understanding.
This Mother’s Day I’ll be celebrating what layers of compassion and understanding bring – which has been the doorway that’s brought me my freedom.
The Moment That Made Me Realise The Need For Change
When starting a relationship in my forties with a fellow yogi – who was quite sweet, but much younger than me – I knew that if I didn’t revisit this internal all-too-familiar territory in a new way, I’d be lining up again for another round of pain, sorrow, rejection and failure.
As I became closer with this man, my terror swelled. I knew I needed to seriously face this inner dragon – both for the sake of the relationship and for my health and sense of meaning in my life – even though I didn’t know what it was at the time (despite external appearances to the contrary).
Long story short….. I started to pray. I made a simple altar with a pink candle in it. I figured that the colour pink represented love (to me), so I lit a candle every day and just prayed for forgiveness, compassion and understanding. Nothing elaborate or fancy.
My paramour was away in the desert for that time packing up his life. So in my solitude I had the space to let this daily intent permeate my awareness and my world.
Two months later I was at a Mother’s Day yoga class and at the end of the class we had to send love and gratitude to our mothers. That opened the floodgates and I finished the class with a very soggy yoga mat.
Bring Three Generations Together
A few hours later I was painting my office and a question flashed through my mind – I wonder if my daughter would like to meet her maternal grandmother? That evening when I asked her, she told me her partner asked her the very same thing. For a woman never ever mentioned, twice in one day seemed to me to be a sign for action.
Fast forward ten days, both my daughter and I were in mother’s living room with my half-brother. Thanks to Uncle Google, I found her first go.
I approached her with flowers and a hug at the door. This melted her defensiveness. My spontaneous words “it’s all right” softened her.
Then she held me tight. I could feel her tiny, sparrow-like body frame. This woman didn’t make sense to me, and I couldn’t connect with her as my mother. We only spent an hour together. That was enough. And I’ve seen her probably about five times since.
It was – and still is – a very strange feeling looking at her and try to fathom ‘that woman is actually my mother, she gave birth to me’. I don’t have that. I don’t really have a yearning to make up for lost time either. I don’t have any sense of ‘lets make it all better’. Even now, years later, I can’t fathom the complexity of this paradox, and I’ve given up trying.
So now my mother and I speak on the phone every few weeks. I don’t call her Mum. We don’t really have a great deal in common, but it doesn’t matter.
Today her happiness at seeing me moves me so deeply and gives me much joy. In these moments I am unable to speak. Last Christmas Eve she got dressed up in her finest to meet me for an hour for a cappuccino at Gloria Jeans. The spark in her eyes was beautiful.
Opening the Door
After that evening of our meeting – my life slowly but surely changed.
I looked less for outside reassurance that I’m enough as I am. Even though this feeling didn’t entirely leave, it was abated.
I sank into that relationship with my younger yogi. We lived in a beautiful beachside home where we laughed and healed a lot. I rebuilt my life…. only to break it down 18 months later when this relationship finished and catalysed a new pathway of growth.
Fast-Forward Five Years
Now with a strong life direction, a man who is my true partner so firmly beside me, my daughter, her partner and grand-daughter living 12 minutes drive down the hill, I know none of this would be possible without taking that critical step of forgiving my mother.
Forgiving my mother for abandoning me as a small child ultimately led to starting to forgive myself for everything I decided and lived out as a consequence. My life is very much a work in progress and I know that the journey to attaining true self-worth is a life-long quest.
Whilst the journey towards self-worth is a very humbling one, I know that compassion and forgiveness really do work. They create the doorway to our inner transformation, which ultimately propels the outer transformation of our lives… what’s deepest in our hearts now has the possibility to really show up.
The Butterfly Temple honours the places of transformation in a woman’s life so we can all live to the fullest of who we are – in all of our magnificence, colour and beauty.
For this to happen, as women, we must walk through the different stages of our lives, go into our cocoon in order to grow.
Life moves in cycles.
If you watch nature, you’ll see the natural rhythm of death, rebirth, change, movement, chaos and back to life again.
Think of leaves as they start as tiny buds, bursting open, unfurling, then falling from the tree, decaying on the ground and finally composting the soil to create nutrients for the tree to grow more leaves.
You’ll see this so markedly in the changing seasons and in every arena of nature.
Butterflies Aren’t Born Butterflies
The butterfly is a universal symbol of transformation. And that’s because a butterfly can only ever start as a caterpillar. Perhaps it’s stating the obvious, but butterflies are never born as butterflies.
Think about that for a moment – to fully transform and emerge as an exquisite creature of beauty – caterpillars surrender themselves to a sort of death so they can emerge with wings.
They must enter into their cocoon in full trust and faith.
This caterpillar doesn’t know what’s going to happen. It doesn’t know it will emerge as a butterfly, if it allows the process of transformation to happen.
Just as the caterpillar must die to its hairy grub self, so to we must leave our safe shores so that we transform.
Live and Let Die
What is familiar must be relinquished. What is known and finished must die.
It’s almost like being in a tunnel … and some people call it the ‘long dark night of the soul.’
Beautiful yet fragile, to actually emerge as a butterfly takes two things – great courage and knowingness of what is actually complete and what must die.
It takes inner reflection and trust in knowing that in the process of death what will come is something that is far greater than what was.
Unlike caterpillars, magnificent, colourful butterflies have wings that give them a capacity to fly. And, importantly, the ability to pollinate flowers and catalyse creation and life.
Just like us. We let go of our hairy, slow, inching crawling fat wingless selves to emerge in beauty as a pollinator of life.
With an ability to create and gestate life – and be an inextricable part of the food chain of the interconnectedness of life. Incredible.
That’s the Butterfly, Now for the ‘Temple’
Temples hold that which is sacred. At The Butterfly Temple we support women everywhere to hold themselves as sacred in a new way – care, value and nurture themselves in loving and respectful ways.
In a way that is beyond any attributes of superficial identity.
We’ve seen enormous social change in the last 50 years, where we’ve been encouraged to see ourselves in new and more connected ways.
Connecting with ourselves, with others and creating community. It’s incredible the speed of change and what’s been created from this shift in mindset.
It has been an enormous gain. However, there is a lot of lip service in the media about honouring and respecting ourselves, but actually promoting the opposite.
So, the Butterfly Temple, we’re asking, ‘what is that process of transformation for you?’ ‘What’s the process of transformation for our planet?’
‘How can we support each other to emerge and fly as the beautiful butterflies we are, in our own way?’
How Can we Hold Ourselves as Sacred?
We restore our trust in ourselves, our faith in others and see ourselves with eyes of innocence and kindness, as we did when we were small children.
So, if the Butterfly Temple can make a small contribution to reclaiming connectedness, where we can trust ourselves, where we can hold ourselves with care and as innocent, irrespective of what’s happened to us in ourselves and in our lives, we will have done our job.
That’s our goal, that’s our vision, and ultimately that’s a vision of love. Of forgiveness and compassion.