Monday, January 9, 2012

31 Writers, 31 Lessons-Lesson 9: Honor Your Motherline

Kristen is a kindred spirit who blogs over at the spirit that moves me. Here she is to talk about the lessons we can learn from our "motherline":

“Finding our female roots, reclaiming our feminine souls, requires paying attention to our real mothers’ lives and experience; listening to our mothers’ stories, and our grandmothers’ stories, is the beginning of understanding our own. When we hear these stories, we tap into the wisdom of our Motherline.” – Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

I never grow tired of the familiar words spoken to me repeatedly by my mother from the time I was a little girl:

“You are special. You are one of a kind. Never forget who you are.”

When I heard them again just the other day, they warmed me from the inside out. Mom has always been proud of these qualities in me – almost as though I am fulfilling something that has long been inside of her.

Like every year at this time, I made my way home to the East Coast for the holidays. Trips home are laden with meaning, emotion, nostalgia and memories. But alongside the comfort of home is the reality of the passing of time. Particularly poignant is the change I see in my mother, which is something I face over and over each time I return.

This woman who birthed me, raised me, and loved me with all she had, continues to age while I am away. The change is visible in the lines on her face, the limp in her walk, the fact that her memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Whether I like it or not, she is growing older. Now, more than ever, there is an urgency to connect to my mother’s stories while I still can.

In recent months, I’m realizing that my mother’s life and the women of her ancestral line are an important source of my own feminine wisdom and truth. Their bodies the vessel, carrying within them pieces from their history, passed on to next generation – to me, and maybe one day, to a daughter of my own.

Unearthing the experiences of my Motherline is something I took on as a holiday project a few weeks back. I am now in the process of interviewing my mother and her remaining sisters. I am also digging up eulogies, obituaries, and old family photos.

As my Mom and I pour over old photographs of my grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, long-forgotten stories have begun to emerge, as well as some familiar themes.

Having a free-spirited nature is something that many of the women in my family have shared – a quality that both brought them to life, and became a source of struggle within the confines of traditional female roles. As a result, some of the women in my family never married, some had unexpressed passions for art, some had unfulfilled career dreams, or longed to travel the world but instead remained home to take care of their families.

Although I had the freedom to make different choices in relation to many of these things, I identify with their struggle – to nurture my independent spirit without guilt, to focus on my career or my art, to be either an independent woman or a mother, to choose one role over another – or if it’s possible to really choose as many of these roles that call to me without guilt, self-doubt, or regret.

Piecing together my ancestral past is helping me find answers to questions that have long resided within me. As I unlock the stories that have always been part of my history, I’m realizing that the experiences and wisdom of the women in my family can continue for any generation who is willing to listen. These experiences bring us together, and help us to realize we are never alone.

“My greatest pride is my four children. My greatest regret was never following my calling as an artist.”

My mother’s words strike a chord in me, and even though our lives seem worlds apart, we share a common struggle – to make real and honour the artist within.

Kristen is a writer, adventurer, and life-long learner, continually discovering new ways of understanding and being in the world around her. Her blog, the spirit that moves me, tracks her journey of discovering the sacred through her favourite passions in life – art, dreams, meditation, the sacred feminine, and everything in between. She is the proud aunt of many nieces and nephews and lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband.


  1. The story reads very differently for a male than for a female; I feel quite sure of that. I have lived long enough to understand that women's wisdom is quite different from men's, though the two belong together, like ying and yang.

    But it is an important to tell, consider, relate, share the stories. For the sake of the men and the women.

  2. Yes, I agree Rob-bear! And yes, the two wisdoms yin/yang, male/female do compliment each other quite nicely. I also believe we all have male/female sides to us, so this post is for everyone ^_^! Thanks for reading!

  3. Kristen,

    It just occurred to me that perhaps in this day and age we can have both. We can be a mother and an artist, unlike our ancestors, perhaps. There are many more opportunities and options for us and that could be seen as a fortunate thing, but it could also make us a feel a bit fragmented at times. My mother was actually encouraged by my grandfather, who traveled quite extensively throughout the world, to explore new places. When she was young, she road her bicycle all over Europe during a time when women didn't really do that so much. I'm grateful for my "motherline" of adventurous women and the fact that they were mothers too is quite remarkable! Love this post!

  4. I agree that both men's and women's wisdom are important, and that they are energetically within all of us. My husband and I talk about this a lot and feel that this balance keeps our partnership strong.

    This particular project is an important one to me, since my family has a very detailed history - going back several generations - of my father's side of the family, but next to nothing for my mom's. So this has been a wonderful journey of discovery.

    Katherine - it sounds like your mother was quite an adventurer and that perhaps some of this was passed along to you! I love how these stories build richness into our lives.

  5. Oh dear Kristen, I am so very happy to hear that you are interviewing your mother and remaining aunts while there’s still time. You won’t regret it. You have a goldmine to pan.
    And your mother’s word’s jumped out at me. “You are special. You are one of a kind. Never forget who you are.” How true and prophetic!