Comforting Words: Phenomenal Woman

Friday, July 06, 2007

Phenomenal Woman


Awhile back, I started writing a series – sort of autobiographical – and stopped.

It has been unclear to me why this happened – stopping that is. Until now.

The abrupt end to that series is not dissimilar to the way that I stopped going to weekly then bi-weekly then monthly sessions with my therapist.

Questioned by my dearest woman-friend Anni (who incidentally has been away for almost two weeks now and I miss her so much) about my decision to stop therapy, my response was “It was enough.”

Anni has this way of getting stuff out of me – a direct and forthright stare and then a “cut the bullshit and tell me the truth,” comment. That latter usually gets me talking real quickly.

“Anni,” I explained, “I have been in ‘therapy’ for a long time now, maybe not the same type and definitely not as a result of such emotional upheaval but therapy none the less.”

“What I have come to realize is that it is enough,” I continued, “Enough examination and reflection on my past and more so enough blaming of my mother and my childhood.”

That was a profound insight for me – the depth of which was not clear until the words were actually coming out of my mouth.

You see, for years my favourite pasttime was the Blame Game and I played it well. I had company at this game but not one of my playmates knew this game like I did – I was a master at it.

And then I spent a year doing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and met three women who challenged me at my game. They were my supervisors and they would not broker any argument from me that even hinted that my choices were my mother’s fault.

My days of playing the Blame Game came to an end in 2005 when my mother had her accident and was hospitalized with second and third degree burns.

Regular readers will recall the articles I wrote then, apologizing for my withdrawing from Comforting Words for a while, retreating to wrap my heart around the latest calamity in a string of calamities that my mother was prone to having.

This was a wonderful opportunity for me to have continued the Blame Game and even step it up a notch. It was very tempting and I had all the support I needed.

Let me be honest – my mother is no angel and it is and never has been my intention to portray her in that light. She made her mistakes and choices that placed me in situations no young girl should ever have to grapple or contend with.

Yet, today, I can testify from the bottom of my heart – she is the strongest woman I have ever met.

Moreover, in terms of Holy Boldness – she is my very best teacher.

It has taken me all of forty years, childhood sexual abuse, rape, severe domestic violence, the loss of a son, the birth and maturing of a daughter, a failed marriage, a failed same-sex partnership of 16 years, social exclusion - by society and supposedly family - migration, racism, unemployment near bankruptcy, suicide attempts and more to realize the strength of my mother.

Today as I celebrate the news that the job that I have been waiting for is finally mine after almost five years of struggling to settle in Canada, to gain recognition for my professional worth – both in terms of quality of employment and remuneration - I recognize the debt of gratitude I owe my mother, Miss Cherry.

If it were not for her example – I would not have survived my long list of travail and trials.

It if were not for her example – I could not have hung on to my sanity when the world that I knew turned dark and grim, mired in drama, lies, mystery, and even death threat by a woman-friend driven to desperation.

As I have said – my mother is no saint. And you know what – I don’t care anymore that she is not. Actually, good for her!

Miss Cherry, my mother, was never afraid to speak the truth to power, never afraid to be killed for her political beliefs, never afraid to do what she had to do in order to put food in my mouth and clothes on my body.

She never pretended to be what she was not. She grew up in the school of hard knocks and learned how to give it back when needed.

My trip to Jamaica in 2008 – the one that you are invited to join me on – will be both pleasurable and painful. I will return to the land of my birth to celebrate my 43rd, hopefully with at least ten (10) friends, and to ask my mother for forgiveness.

Rumors have it that this trip is being planned by “my boyfriend” and me, that we have started a business. I laughed when I was told that yesterday – not because it is outlandish. I laughed because this trip is way beyond any ‘relationship’ I may or may not be in.

No, I have not started a travel business and, like I told the person who informed me of this latest gossip – I don’t have a boyfriend but “several persons who I am dating and they all know that they are not exclusive with me.”

If any of them will accompany me to Jamaica in 2008, I do not know. What I know for sure is that I will be paying personal ode to my mother – in the words of Maya Angelou - the most Phenomenal Woman I know.

I do hope you will “Come Away with Me,” on this personal and pleasurable journey in 2008.

Blessings,

Claudette

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