A (Wonderfully) Mixed Relationship
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Cheryl Ives primarily through Twitter, and today I’m very happy to share more than 140 characters of her writing. I find in her story a mirror of my own, and I hope you, too, will feel honored and seen in this latest Nest-Making post for Women’s History Month.
I have a mixed relationship with women.
I noticed early on that my mother seemed to do the most work, receive the most complaints, get the least praise, and take the short end of the stick in the family. I got the impression that being a woman means always giving more and taking less. Maybe I unconsciously judged my mother weak for putting up with it. I wanted no part of that for myself, my life.
Besides, girls made me nervous. They had strange rules no one explained, and they wouldn’t tell you when you broke them. They ostracized you and then claimed they were your friends. They were always whispering and giggling. I found girls consistently interested in boring things and bored by interesting things. I had no idea what to make of them.
Teenaged girls were worse – make-up, clothes, crushes, pin-ups…I felt pretty impatient with all of it. I faked what I could to fit in, but I never did. Then in University, the so-called Feminists I met made me mad with their demand that we all think the same, and their judgments of choices women made. I felt out of step with all womanhood, on all sides.
Bisexuality only complicated an already confusing relationship with the females of the species.
Workplace women presented another side of the creature. In the professional office environment, I saw undercutting behind faked support, overdone kindnesses masking shared smirks, resentments, and even sexual manipulation of men. That wasn’t all I saw, and many competent, respectable women rank among my former co-workers. But I felt that each of us, in our way, forged our own path. Women as community, in these workplaces, tended towards the social circles I thought I’d left behind in grade school – cliques with very specific expectations of each other. Even the most supportive team of women I’ve ever worked with often succumbed to the schoolyard dynamic. In this environment, success became isolating for women. For me.
So, to recap – I grew up thinking that being a woman meant being treated as less and asked to do more. I grew up without a sense of shared community with other girls. I made my way in my career without a sense of shared community with other professional women. Frankly, I didn’t really respect most of the women I met. I wouldn’t have believed that at the time, but looking back, I see it’s true. I saw most women as weak for being willing to do more and get less, and as mean for holding each other to that same reducing standard. I saw women restricting each other with judgements at any sign of “selfishness” or ambition.
And then, I had a baby.
Women who had never bothered with me pulled me into the fold. Baby showers, hand-me-downs, advice, cupcakes, casseroles, hugs – the side of women’s community that had always left me out suddenly surrounded me, drew me in, called me theirs. Women I didn’t know shared smiles and supportive words. Co-workers cooed over pictures. Women fussed over me pregnant, and as a new mom, in a way I’d never imagined. It felt like a cocoon of female support. It felt like…mother’s love.
When women tune into their mother, even women without children, everything changes.
When women tune into each other with love, it changes the course of history. I know, because it changed the course of my history.
The women of Twitter rode the heels of the mother-culture for me. In this world of non-physical interaction, I found myself enveloped with a community of seeking women, wise women, loving and giving women. Women creating and birthing, not babies but ideas, beauty and trust. A community of women surrounding and nudging each other, cheering each other on, clapping with joy and weeping tears together without even meeting in person. In this community, women of different ages, backgrounds, cultures and beliefs seek the common and share widely. In this community, I feel nurtured as my shoots of inspiration grub up through the soil.
I am daily deepening my understanding and participation in the primal nurturing care that women protect in this world of hard ideas and incomplete logic. Women have allowed the masculine to dictate what is valuable, and our systems have consistently failed to value caring and human life. Now, it lies with women to re-value caring in our societies through how we live and create community together, and how we support each other to carry this wider and higher until it infiltrates every system of government and economics.
It’s together that women can remind the world: Every Life Has Value. It’s together that we can nurture love and support for every shoot of inspiration, every shoot of creative life that reaches for sun. The mother-love inside us, regardless of whether we have birthed a human, can reach beyond our petty fears to love each of us for how we matter to the world. This is power unique to us.
And that inspires me.
Provocateur by trade and nature. After 16 years in the corporate sector and a two year non-profit experiment, I have decided to only seek work that I’m interested in doing, with people who are interested in doing it. In the meantime, I’m photographing, painting, speaking and writing about the things that matter to my heart. Website in progress athttp://www.ivesagency.com. Blog at http://mrs-which.blogspot.ca/ and open source novel at http://www.holdonhope.ca/
Cheryl tweets as @MrsWhich.
You can find more Nest-Making posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
Once again, I feel our sisterhood, so many of our paths have been the same. I came very close to writing about the same sense of alienation I felt with other women when I was younger. In the end, I chose a different story, but I am glad that you wrote yours, here.
You inspire me.
Oh, Louise. Such a beautiful, honest, clear, and non-judgmental post you’ve crafted here. I’ve written many papers, spent many a sleepless night pondering woman’s inhumanity to woman, and one day i just laid it all down and decided to be the woman i am, warts, nurturing, and all.
Today was a travel day for me, and I thought about you most of the way. You know, I carry the photos you sent me – the photos of your gorgeous paintings. I love that you are painting and photographing and doing only the work that beckons your soul to come hither.
You and Thelma, y’all both inspire me. So very honored, so very tickled our paths have crossed here in the ethers. xo
I’m grateful, too, for the inspiration I’m finding through Women like you. So glad we’re all finding each other and becoming better people as a result of the connection. Loving another from the beauty and compassion of our hearts is truly a powerful act: of healing, of connection, of generosity. I, too, related to much of your experience.
My love for you is deep. Always.