(True story, biographical.)
“How do you know you’re at peace?” I asked my mother once, in my teens. She told me “when your masculine and feminine stop fighting each other, when you stop fighting yourself, that’s when you’ll find peace.” So I asked, “which side should I be then? Which one wins?” My mother smiled and said “figure it out.”
I watched, trying ever so hard to understand how my mother could be so at peace despite everything she had been through as a mother. Then I looked at both her sisters, and realised they’re made of that same metal that makes my mother who she is. Naturally, it made sense to get to know my parents’ siblings better so that I could better understand them…
In the last two years, I’ve learned that mother’s younger sister has been doing remote work from home for almost as long as I’ve been alive! What my generation aspires to do, she’s already an expert. Last month, I discovered that mother’s older sister is one of the first women who ever wore trousers as work attire in corporate London, back in the early 80’s. When she told me this, it hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a specific “skirt / dress only” dress code.
“We were supposed to only wear skirts to work,” my aunt told me, “but skirts can get very uncomfortable, you know. So one day I put on a pair of trousers because it was more comfortable. Next thing you know, other women start doing it too. Eventually, it just became accepted in our company (Ernst and Young).”
I reflected, and pondered: it stood to reason that the strength came from my grandma. With R20 (USD 1.50) in her pocket, my grandma moved the family of ten (five went ahead, I was told, the other five came later) to the city in the 1960s during the apartheid in South Africa. As a family, they never let the Apartheid become a factor hindering them from just living their lives. When survival is your main focus, and it slowly seeps into the “norm”, you learn to embrace the better parts of life.
My grandparents always opened their homes, always welcomed those in need. Though they didn’t have much, they gave what they could: love, shelter, and a hot cup of tea. They didn’t discriminate who came through the doors. They were loving, but they were tough.
To the kids, they were very disciplined, from what I was told. Swearing warranted washing your mouths out with soap, dishes had to be cleaned immediately after dinner. Beds had to be made and tucked in completely, without an angle sticking out anywhere (although, I was recently informed that bed-making was my great grandmother’s rule). Disciplined, but always out of love. They knew that as long as the kids were disciplined enough to later be self-disciplined, then they would be able to take care of themselves.
They were right. And so it continued in the family line. I see it in my mother, I see it in how she is with our family. I know it comes from her family, that strength, that unity, that togetherness. The way she always did her best to stay strong for all of us when we were all falling apart; when we’re at our worst, she’s always the one motivating us, holding us up, comforting us and letting us know that “it’s okay not to be okay, as long as you get up again when you’re ready.”
My mother is the strongest woman I have experienced. She taught me everything I know and more, at least by providing the platforms where I, too, could become self-disciplined and self-motivated. I am where I am (literally) because yes, she birthed me, but also because she is the one woman who has always, always been there for me, through thick and thin. The one who has lifted me when I was down, but humbled me when I was arrogant. The one who can fight me when I need it, and calm me down when I diverge.
I am strong because my mother is strong. She is strong because the women in her life are strong.
So how do I know that I am at peace?
Because my masculine energy and my feminine energy are no longer at war.
I am a person, a human. A human with strength, both inner and outer; a person with emotions, both aggressive and passive. A human with weaknesses, both external and internal; a person with flaws, both on the outside and on the inside. A human with motivation, both physical and emotional; a person with compassion, both expressed and empathised. I am not perfect, but I am balanced, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.
Balanced, and equal.
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