“When my sisters talk about me, they whisper under their breath about how crazy I am”
These words landed heavy in my heart as they left my mother's lips over the phone and carried across the 2300kms between us. The depth behind this sentence lingered well after we hung up as she was off to pick berries and I was settling into my breakfast. It was a short conversation that somehow had veered off into the topics of weddings, children, family and the opinions or judgments others can have regarding all of the above. You see, my mother decided a long time ago to live a little differently than the status quo. As a young women raised in Saskatchewan by strict Polish parents, she had a rebellious spirit that called her to the North at the age of 20 after graduating from college.
Arriving in Yellowknife 1975 she was immediately infatuated with the connection she felt to the land mere steps from her front door. She took it upon herself to make the north home and challenge each and every single fear she had from her past. She was afraid of dogs, so she adopted a wolf-husky cross puppy and named him Tliya – pronounced kleeya. She was afraid of big, open water so she found an old sailboat in a neighbor's backyard, fixed it up and painted it yellow then taught herself how to sail. She found herself venturing off onto the land with her little wolf dog and loving the freedom to be found in the middle of nowhere. She did not want to live in apartments or mobile homes – she chose an old town shack - that was cold and empty but convinced the landlord that she should move in, replace the nail holding the door closed with an actual door knob and make it cozy.
The rest happened quickly, she met a handsome young musician, fell in love, discovered she was pregnant and got married in the Wildcat Café in the dead of winter. That all sounds pretty normal when you don’t know the rest of this different sort of fairytale.
This new couple decided that they would raise their children in that 560 sq.ft old town shack built in the mid 1930’s with no running water.
So that’s how I grew up. In that little shack, blissfully ignorant as only a child can be of how different my life was from everyone else's. It took me a long time to realize that how I was living could be perceived as less than ideal by other families. I think it took me so long to figure that out because I never felt a wanting for more or a lack of what I needed.
I only now am beginning to understand how much of an effort it was for my mother to stand up for her way of life and defend her choice to raise us so wildly different.
I can now see her immense strength, courage and determination.
I cannot imagine how difficult it was to dismiss the comments from her sisters, her own mother, strangers in town, parents of other children I played with, who held opinions that we were not being raised properly.
So I want to finally put a voice to the young child whom some may have seen as living a difficult or disadvantaged life.
I want to recognize and celebrate the strength my mother stood in at the most difficult of times, when I am so sure she questioned her need to be different.
I want to speak up for new mothers around me who are scared and unsure of the ways they can raise happy, grounded and content children.
I want to speak to the mother that I will one day become and will surely have the exact same insecurities and doubts.
This is coming out of me in gasps of breath and liberated tears unlike I have ever felt as a means to honour my wild and different mother.
The things a child remembers is not what toys they had, how large their bedroom was, how expensive their clothes were or how fancy their meals were. They don’t care about how much money you make or much more put together the other moms appear.
What your children do care about and will remember is the time spent, the emotions felt and the moments experienced with you.
My mother spent time making sure we were outside every day no matter the weather or temperature, she challenged us to create magical worlds with our imaginations and taught us how to follow our hearts.
That last lesson was the most difficult and took me 28 years to realize.
She taught me how to follow my heart by raising us the way her heart called her to.
She did not break when the opinions of others must have weighed so heavily on her shoulders that she questioned everything. She was determined to teach us that a life lived is not defined by the amount of money you make, how big your house is or your perceived success.
As kids, she would pull us out of school on sunny winter days, to adventure together to an island far off in the distance across the frozen lake. As teenagers, she would teach us to always treat the land with respect and leave offerings when you are gifted with a fish or berries or caribou meat.
As young women, she taught us to protect our hearts from those not worthy of them and to believe we are worthy of everything we dream of.
Now as I support my friends who are beginning the journey of motherhood and I contemplate that same journey myself, I recognize the importance of this lesson.
Here is my prayer -
May I trust my heart just as my mother did hers.
May I raise my child (ren) the only way I know how and stand strong in that deeper knowing.
May we support our sisters in all the dreams they choose to pursue
May we all stand our ground as women listening to our hearts, begging us to be true to ourselves.
Finally, may all mothers find comfort that one day your children will know how powerful being different can be.
This is my life through the yoga lens. Join me in my lessons, journeys across the ocean, dancing with a wild heart, eating with a happy belly and flowing down this blissful path.