One of the most powerful self-inquiry questions a woman (or man) can ask is “what has shaped me?”
November 10th is an important day for me, it’s the day I gave birth to my son. This year on his 29th birthday, my husband and I were far away on a tropical island and even though for my son, our absence on his birthday was no big deal, it was important to me to somehow honor this first day that began the ‘shape of him’.
My husband left to spend the day scuba diving and I spent hours on the beach, walking and then sitting quietly, allowing my mind to meander through 29 years of motherhood – the curves, hills, deep troughs, cliffs and mountain tops that formed not only the shape of my son, but the shape of me.
In honor of my son, I focused on happy moments – the cuddles, the smiles, the innocence, the ‘first’s, the proud mom moments, but then a deep pain grabbed hold of my heart. Try as I might, I couldn’t find my way around it. There I was on a beautiful beach, under a palm tree, with the warm ocean lapping at my toes and instead of feeling happiness, I was gripped by sadness and the tears began to flow.
Despite my best efforts with focusing on joy, my mind kept sticking on moments when I deemed myself a failure as a mom. Like my divorce and “ruining my son’s life” or the time when he was two and I was placing plants in the ground and he followed along pulling them out and I got mad. Or when he became the “young man” of the house post-divorce and took it upon himself to use the weed-eater to help. I thanked him and then proceeded to show him how to do it better. I’ll never forget the moment his proud expression melted into tears of disappointment. I recognized my error immediately and apologized profusely…but still, in that moment the glue of “failure” stuck hard.
As I sat on that beach crying my tears, what came to me was “I am so hard on myself (women are so hard on themselves)!” This pain I’m feeling are the moments I failed my son…or more truthfully, the moments I failed the rules I had made about who and what a good mom is.
Moments in time, whether from childhood, adulthood, or motherhood are like glue – a memory, or experience sticks and begins to form the shape of you. Sitting on that beach, I was struck by how these moments drove me to do everything within my power to be a “good mom,” “good friend,” “good wife,” “good daughter,” “good community member,” “good business owner”…good at everything—because anything less is failure.
As the path to the pain I was feeling began to reveal itself, the magic of this island we were on took hold and I remembered a forgiveness prayer I learned long ago. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Hoʻoponopono is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. It means to make it right with the ancestors, or to make right with the people with whom you have relationships or as Aunty Malia Craver, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner said, it’s “a method to resolve family and personal conflicts and achieve peace”.
I used this prayer often – “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you, thank you” when I was struggling with frustration and resentment towards my mom for the years of emotional abuse I grew up with. But on this day of my son’s 29th birthday, I used the prayer for the relationship with myself – to release my unconscious (now conscious) self-imposed pain, that had stuck like glue.
Reconciliation with self, the releasing of the unconscious agreements and rules unwittingly adopted brings forth clarity with ‘self’ and with others. It’s from this place we’re able to access empathy, understanding and clear vision that fosters a higher level of engagement, leadership and ability to make healthy connections with ourselves and with others.
I encourage you to pause, or perhaps even journal about what has shaped you. And then contemplate the shape you wish to be.
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