Mothering and healing spiral: I had robust health into my late-30s. My health carried me on many travels, including to San Francisco for graduate studies, and into my work of mothering a young family while pursuing scholarship. Yet as I neared the end of my PhD, something shifted. Symptoms began to take over and direct my life. I could no longer do it all. I lived through excruciating daily limits of fatigue, physical symptoms, and psychic pain. I could not walk for long, or barely even think, and had to surrender to my limitations. All my years of women’s spirituality came to bear in this new shape of my life through illness. I became newly aware of difficult inner and outer pressures. I had always been mindful of how my yearning towards a life-rooted spirituality of the Mother is closely linked to my need for healing, based in experiences of my own motherline. As part of my recovery, I had to further face and continue to heal trauma I experienced as a child and young adult. Thus, a small thread of gentleness, that I struggled to nurture, was how Goddess came to me in new ways. I had to take it very easy on myself through inner kindness. My home and family was my resting place and solace. Gratitude for my loved ones grew immensely.
Mothering is a big life challenge, in how to raise children with enough resources, care and love. In these patriarchal times, motherhood and mother-work are de-centred and de-valued. Being a mother, and being out in the world at work, are disparate locations. When my children were young, I felt pulled between the demands of care-work and other-work. I had to find my own way into creating a nurturing family life. My grandmothers were housewives and homemakers, of the pre-feminist generation who didn’t have educational and work opportunities. They took care of everyone at home, and were economically provided for by husbands. In contrast, my baby-boomer mother studied art and left her marriage. Yet she ended up working in a monotonous job she felt compelled to stay in to earn a living. I took note of all this. There seemed to be more to “liberate” in women’s liberation.
Mothering is a big life challenge in how to raise children with enough resources, care, and love. In these patriarchal times, motherhood and mother-work are de-centred and de-valued. Being a mother, and being out in the world at work, are disparate locations. When my children were young, I felt pulled between the demands of care-work and other-work. I had to find my own way into creating a nurturing family life. My grandmothers were housewives and homemakers of the pre-feminist generation who didn’t have educational and work opportunities. They took care of everyone at home, and they were economically provided for by husbands. In contrast, my Baby Boomer mother studied art and left her marriage. Yet, she ended up working in a monotonous job she didn’t like, but felt compelled to stay in to earn a living. I took note of all this. There seemed to be more to “liberate” in women’s liberation.
My life has become an interesting amalgam of the times. Thinking about what to cook for dinner is as important to me as paid work. Mainstream feminism of the day, which promoted women at work, didn’t help me know how to be the mother I wanted to. My involvement in midwifery and Goddess feminism showed me where I wanted to go. I noted that mothering was actually very valuable work. Nurturing and love was a gift to have, and to give. I was attuned to alternative early mothering practices, including home birth, attachment parenting, and extended breastfeeding. My focus for creating my own family became to spend time as an at-home-mom with my babies and young children, knowing I would work outside of the home. This process was greatly facilitated by my husband, who shares in the care-work of child-raising and household chores. This too is part of social change, a feminist shift in attitudes that men can care for children and home.
Over the years, being a mother myself and creating a safe and loving home of my own has been a central reparative practice in my life—more than I could have known as a young woman. Given the realities of my motherline, Goddess spirituality has been a vital source of re-mothering in my life. This is part of a larger story I’d like to tell about Goddess feminism, healing, and reclaiming the sacred work of mothering, home-making, and nurturing others—doing so in ways that do not defeat our self-development and autonomy as women, nor the vital culture of the maternal gift economy, as extensively written about by philosopher Genevieve Vaughan (http://gift-economy.com/). With generational trauma at work, social injustice, and economic barriers, many mothers struggle to find what they need, to care well for themselves and their children. Goddess spirituality and activism have been about transforming and healing my own and other women’s lives, overcoming difficulties to become ourselves as fully as we can in the world, at work and at home. In healing and loving ourselves, we heal past generations, as well as those to come.
Goddess scholar spiral: I have always loved reading and studying, and I felt very called to be a scholar, especially from the experiential book-of-life. Drawing from my artistic and midwifery background, I seek a creative, dynamic, relational, life-giving scholarly path. I hoped to meet my family’s needs by becoming a professor in the university system. This has had mixed results. I have publications, writings, and artwork in the world that reflect and validate female-honouring, Goddess-activating, women-centred spirituality, views, and research. I am currently editing two anthologies of writing, one on the human placenta, in mothers’ and midwives’ uses, and rituals of such, and another on mothering in Goddess and pagan traditions (Demeter Press, forthcoming). I am devoted to the transformative effects of women’s life writing, as in autobiography and creative non-fiction, which was the focus of my recent postdoctoral research in France. I have had teaching contracts, and I have been awarded fellowships. Yet, much of my study has been in alternate or holistic settings. I then spend a lot of time and ink explaining or re-validating these areas to more mainstream institutions. Thus, I straddle various worlds, and I am often a connector of these worlds. Goddess scholarship is not an easy fit with traditional academia, nor did it set out to be. Both the subject matter and methodologies challenge tradition and the status quo. This Goddess work can be a path of great love, alongside sacrifice and struggle. But, obstacles give birth to patience, as one learns to look and live for the long view. I live a simple life, on a spiral path driven by values and discernment. As the years go on, I see more into this dynamic question of “How Goddess?” This path (She) shapes me, as I shape this path (Her).
This essay series was written in response to the question, “How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality?” I love and appreciate this question, and the chance to articulate and share some of my story. I hope it may be of benefit to others. I envision “How Goddess” in my life as a weaving of spiral movements. Spirals are dynamic, ancient Goddess symbols of the life force and awakening growth. They express fluid transformations and the regeneration of all. In a spiral way, I yearn for integration of all aspects of my life In Part 3, I explore Goddess feminism, activism, and spirituality through living spirals of mothering and healing, Goddess as a verb, and being a Goddess scholar.
[Editors’ Note: This essay is from She Rises: How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? Volume 2 (Mago Books, forthcoming 2016).]