Tag Archives: Strength

My Experience as a Woman

Today, we are sharing a post with you that was written by an incredible woman and YW supporter who would rather not share her name.
It’s a post about being a woman, it’s about growing, it’s about believing that you can.

Sometimes women’s greatest strengths are also their greatest weaknesses.

My story is personal; my experience is not universal. I acknowledge my privilege. White. Able-bodied. Cis-gendered. Well-spoken. But perhaps it will still resonate with others.

I was raised to do it all. Not intentionally – but as an oldest child, product of strong mother and abusive father. Divorced parents. Amazing support in childhood from mother, family, and especially female role models. There was no doubt in my mind that the future was female. That women could do anything. It seemed that the head of every household in my family was female. If it wasn’t – if there was a power imbalance not in our favour – it was righted and, once more, women came out on top.

It was never an externally applied expectation, but one ingrained on my heart from so early on.

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

I have given it all in every arena of my life that has involved others. The term loyal to a fault fell on my shoulders, the phrase only discovered later. What fault is loving another? Providing? Offering friendship, advice, and all-consuming loyalty?

It is a tragic-flaw not to provide those things for yourself first.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

One constant in my life has been the renewable resource of friendship and companionship of like-minded individuals. These have always been strong, brilliant women. Never ones to be intimidated by each other, but the ones that consistently strived to build that community. They built community that was intent on support, communion, love, building bridges, acknowledging strength and, of course, continual encouragement. There were shoulders to cry on, arms to be wrapped in, and the greatest of minds to mingle with.

“Surround yourself with the people that make you want to be the best version of yourself.”

The world is not always like that. Women are not always like that. The greatest lessons I’ve ever learned were from people who taught me what not to do, who not to be. Older women. Misogynistic women. Threatened and tired women. But while those trials felt soul-sucking and brutally difficult, the sharing, communion and strength of my community would always build me up again.

Sometimes it can feel like your only purpose in this world is to serve others. Especially as a woman. Even when you are taught strength, you are taught to give of yourself. And continue to give of yourself. Even when you refill your cup, is it just so you can continue to pour it into another’s?

“Find yourself before you find another.”

I have found life extremely difficult to navigate. Maybe I’m overthinking. I think we do a lot of that now that we don’t grow our own food, nor milk our own cows (mind the dairy allergies), nor build our own homes nor hunt nor gather.

I have felt a failure in my relationships. I swing between complete and utter independence and being utterly needy and withdrawn. I have pushed away when I meant to pull. I have so much anger that is hard not to turn inward. I have moved from providing for my family as a child, to providing in my relationships like my partner was a child. A result of my personal history and experience as a woman.

“Learn from your mistakes.”

I wanted to write a blog post. I wanted to heal myself. I love reading, writing, words. I love meaning. I love this moment in time when I am alive and focused and purposeful.

The great thing about purpose – that most people don’t tell you – is that you get to choose your own. There may be a divine spirit, a plan, mysterious forces at work. But you get to answer that question yourself. You choose your purpose; your purpose doesn’t choose you. You can look for signs. But in the end, it is one thing you decide for yourself and whether or not you will live it.

For the longest time, and still sometimes, it felt like my purpose was to help others. I’ll be in the driver’s seat until they’re ready to take over. Then I’ll move to the passenger seat. Pretty soon, I’m kicked out of the car. Hope you enjoyed the ride! You’re welcome! No thank yous in return. I felt empty. Hollow. Lack of personal purpose of my own.

It’s not the reality. We, as women, must ensure we name our purpose and put ourselves first.  I have so much brilliance and talent, and I love sharing it with others. I used to love the spotlight. Now I love being on a team with a shared cause even more. Women are amazing. Learning is exhilarating. I want to continue to learn and grow and love. Maybe that is my purpose? I still have not named it.

“You have to travel outside of this moment to find a problem.”

People always have a choice. We can be lousy. We can harm the environment. We can get caught up with selfies and self-absorption and the kind of shallow self-love that still seeks external validation. Or we can be purposeful. We can see that all our actions have a reaction that impacts our mental, physical, creative and spiritual health, and the ripple effect of those actions touches living things across the globe.

Don’t bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re not responsible for anyone but yourself. Treating  yourself right, breaking old patterns – or just recognizing them – will bring you a new perspective, and perhaps purpose, that isn’t going to seek you out without your hard work. Be brave. Be bold. Be proud to be a woman. Find a community that helps you navigate the difficulties of this life, for there are so many.

Each year, I met so many amazing women at the Niagara Leadership Summit. I have also met so many amazing women walking the halls of the YWCA shelters. Women with varied stories, challenges, backgrounds. We were all different. And we were all the same.

“Claim. Illustrate. Analyze.”

I always struggled with the “so what” in my essays. This post is no different. I wanted to share a little of my story. I wanted to encourage others to name their purpose. Most of all, I want you to see the strength it takes to be a person in today’s world and encourage you to celebrate that with those women you love. Maybe you know them. Maybe you haven’t met them yet. There is a community waiting for you with open arms.

 

 

What I Am

Blog Post written by our blogger Irene Motz

I recently watched a movie – I’m A Teacher , I’ m A Singer , I’m A Writer .

“That’s What I Am.”

It teaches about tolerance , and appearance .

Tolerance :
Sympathy , or indulgences  for beliefs or practices different from , or  conflicting with ones own , or the act of allowing something to be different .

It is saying to me, that you do not have to hear my story, or know my plight to accept me as an individual. Tolerance for everyone , no matter what their appearance or circumstance. The premise of the movie was “that we are what we believe we are, ” and if we allow stigmas and labels to identify us , we become them.

We live in a world where success is measured by the titles we hold. The name on the door or certificate hanging on the wall measures our success. A title gives us acknowledgment of our accomplishments , and it can give us a sense of well being and pride . It represents us in a positive light . Labels have the opposite effect . They make us invisible as people. They rob us of our identity and define us as a label. We are under the neon flashing sign of our label that is placed upon us by others to make it easier to identify the problems. It accomplishes nothing but making one feel inferior. That is all people see, or choose to see. People  in Poverty  are a problem to be solved.

We are addressed as “The Poor or  the  Marginalized ” by agencies, reporters, and social media to bring awareness to the plights of those living in Poverty, and to draw compassion and empathy from the public. It does, however,  not bring awareness that behind the labels there are people. People with dreams, passions and aspirations. People with the same families , same friends , who live in the same community , yet now are invisible or rejected and are living on the outside looking in.

We are addressed as “The Poor or  the  Marginalized” by agencies, reporters, and social media to bring awareness to the plights of those living in Poverty, and to draw compassion and empathy from the public.

It can be compared to being in a room full of the same people you have known , and suddenly you become invisible , and the label Poverty stands in your place. The Label has identified you , and you no longer exist as an individual person.

It is a silent shame others feel for you.

They do not want to exclude you. That would be cruel and undignified, but it is permissible to politely smile and ignore you. That is exclusion in its cruelest form.

Then there are self imposed feelings of shame that come after onslaughts of comments made on public forums by people you do not know, and even more damaging by those that you do know. You are told that “you are not deserving” ..” that you should be grateful,” …”that anything you have to say is inconsequential. ” It causes a slow and painful erosion of your self worth.

I walked among the same people, the same community, yet I was no longer part of it. I walked in the shadows of my own life. I kept my conversations guarded. I rarely spoke about my personal life,  having had too many experiences of looks of pity , and/ or judgement . I was the same person, nothing but my financial status had changed, yet  I was living on the outskirts . That was my new identity …I was one of “The Poor”. It felt as if I was in a prison and someone had the key to my life.  Poverty removes personal freedoms. The freedom to make choices where you live, what you eat, and where you are permitted to go.

It seemed that there were  now two road maps . One map giving you the freedom of choice , the other had road blocks . There were now signs of ” Do not Enter….Road Closed.” The choice was made for you if you lived in Poverty . Yes, our financial  status may restrict us , but it is our label that blocks us . Labels oppress the very people that society as a system is trying to help. We are recognized by our circumstance, not by who we are as an individual person.

The circumstance of Poverty did not cause the slow erosion of my self esteem, my self worth, and my confidence. It was the perceptions of others, the judgement and the misconceptions that made me feel shame .
To live within the parameters of a label is a precarious  place to be . It carries with it the burden and shame  of always being identified by that label and never going beyond .

It was my choice to go beyond the label .

Poverty had not changed my physical appearance , nor my passion for life. I still had the same , if not more dreams and aspirations. The difference was my circumstance,  and I could not allow my circumstance to define me. I was identified by society under the label, “The Poor.” It was my choice not to accept it.

Labels cannot identify and exclude us , unless we allow them to.

The experiences we all have in life cannot oppress us , unless we allow them to. Labels cannot identify and exclude us , unless we allow them to. People cannot make us feel unworthy and undeserving , unless we allow them to.

For a time we are not strong enough to do anything but silently walk through our life. We put our body and mind on auto pilot until such a time when we begin to recognize some familiarity of our lives. Despite  the excruciating pain of all the  personal and financial losses, we gain strength and courage in small doses from people who do recognize that we are still beautiful individuals hidden behind the label. They recognize as we do, our self worth. Slowly our identities emerge again. We become comfortable walking among others as we once were , and again are. We shed the label as if it were old disheveled clothing we had once worn, but have outgrown. We regain our place in our communities. We are the same, yet different. A difference that does not make us feel shame . It gives us strength and courage to speak out .

The memory of our experiences never leave us, but hopefully they will remind us and fuel us to make changes in our society. Changes that our children and grandchildren live in a world where behind different , is not a label. A world where despite the circumstance …they can say…” “I am a Teacher. I Am a Singer , I am a Writer ” …That’s What I Am .”

A world where  we are accepted because of our strengths, not shamed because of our differences, or circumstance .

To be able to write, and to give strength to others , shows me that I have knocked down the road blocks, shed  the label and I can freely say ,

” I am a Writer …That’s What I am. “

 

 

Remembering Remembrance Day

111113-remembrance-dayRemembrance Day  is a time for us to pay our respects to those that put their life on the line to protect our country and all of it’s freedoms.  Freedom to make our own choices, freedom from dictatorship. Freedom to pursue a life of happiness.   It’s a time to reflect on what it means to be Canadian and to be grateful for living in a democratic society that is possible because of those that took a stand on the front lines.  It’s a time to remember that we enjoy so many freedoms because others fought  for us to have those freedoms.  It’s a time to honour those that lost their lives during the battle.

For me, it has special meaning and bittersweet memories.  As a child I was not allowed to participate in any of the ceremonies held to honour our war veterans, or to acknowledge the sacrifices that our brave soldiers made.

2My paternal Grandfather was a Private in the Second World War and served as an orderly in a hospital in England.  He was so young when he went off to serve his country, he left as a boy and returned as a man.  A man who was very different from the person who witnessed all of the atrocities of war.  He worked in the operating room at the hospital, cleaning up after surgeries were performed to save limbs and lives.   He saw things that no human could ever forget.  He served his country faithfully for 3 years, while his wife (my grandmother) waited for him to return.  She was pregnant with my father when he left to go overseas.  My grandfather would not meet my father until he was 3 years old.

1As a child I remember seeing old men coming to our school to talk to us about war and why they were proud of defending our country.  I remember seeing the veterans rolling in wheelchairs and  being horrified by all the amputees.  I remember seeing how they dressed sharply in their uniforms, adorned with poppies.  I remember thinking that this would never happen again in my lifetime.  I remember feeling ashamed for not being allowed to participate in something that even as a child I could see was very important.

In the seventies, my parents joined a cult that exerted extreme control over every aspect of our lives.  We were required to remove ourselves from anything outside of their organization.  I remember feeling so disrespectful for having to stand in the hallway while the war veterans gave their presentation.  Even at an early age, I could clearly see the sacrifices these people had made to protect our freedom.  I suffered with an internal struggle to obey my parents in the face of such hypocrisy and ingratitude.  I realized at a 3very early age the extreme irony of being forced to do something that I personally didn’t believe in, while living in a country that had fought for the rights of all Canadians.  Yet, I was not free to participate in a tradition that I thought was important and special.  As a child I was expected to do everything I was told without question. I was not allowed to express doubt or disbelief.   I was not allowed to disagree or object to anything.   This was done in strict adherence to a high-control religious organization. I found it maddening that their rights to practice a “religion” that stripped their members of their rights, were protected by the very people I was supposed to disregard.  I was to remove myself from their presence and not show them any honour.  I found this to be very disrespectful and distasteful.  And yet, out of sheer obedience to my parents I did just that.  I would have to excuse myself from the Remembrance Day assembly and stand in the hallway while the soldiers delivered their messages and handed out poppies.  I always felt sick to my stomach and I never made eye contact with anyone as I left the room.  Inside I was filled with turmoil.  I felt like I was 4betraying myself every time I had to announce to the entire classroom that I could not participate in Remembrance Day.  The teacher always looked at me with pity in her eyes.   Some kids looked at me with confusion, while others looked at me like I was a traitor.  I felt like a traitor!!  But I couldn’t defend myself for fear of the consequences at home.  Soldiers had fought and died for my freedom, but a cult had stripped that away.  The irony was sickening.

Years later I escaped the cult and started a brand new life.  I promised to be true to myself from that point on.   I made a big deal out of every holiday and celebration when I had children of my own.  Sometimes I went over the top in an attempt to make up for the past.  I proudly wear a poppy every year and I reflect on how lucky I am to have a second chance to express myself and involve myself in things I truly believe in.

remembrance_day_2011_by_the0raclexx-d4fsj3uI have a son who is a Corporal in the Reserves.  He’s been in the Army for 8 years now and for years we went to the Remembrance Day Ceremony together.  He would wear his dress uniform and participate in the parade in the arena.  It made me proud to finally stand up and sing O Canada and honour all of our past and present soldiers.  It makes me happy to know that my son makes his own choices and defends the rights of others to do the same.  I am not a warmonger.  I’m more of a peace-loving hippie on the inside,  but I respect those men and women that put their lives on the line to protect our country and our freedoms.   I sleep better at night knowing that someone is watching over us.

My life has come full circle and I’m grateful for another chance to do things my way.  I never take anything for granted and I know that I enjoy this beautiful country because of the dedication and loyalty of our soldiers.  Past and present!   This Remembrance Day I will once again find a way to pay tribute to our veterans.  My son has moved to Calgary so I won’t be going to the arena with him, but I will still pay my respects by going alone or taking someone with me.  I am so proud of the service my grandfather gave and I’m proud of my son’s training with the military.  Their involvement in the military gives me a connection to a tradition I had always wanted to honour.  I am a proud Canadian who wears a poppy and honours Remembrance Day with reverence.

remembrance_day_banner

*Images courtesy of Google

Now and Then

Today I drive a BMW.
Today I live in a 4 bedroom house of my own. 
Today I wear diamonds and jewels and dine in 4 star restaurants.
But it wasn’t always this way.

When I was 14 my mother ran away with my father’s best friend. He wanted my mother, not us 3 kids. So, for the next 2 years he made my life unbearable. He constantly accused me of being up to no good and told me I was worthless. When I turned 15, I got a social worker through my guidance counselor at school and made plans to leave my dysfunctional family.

The week after I turned 16, I committed myself to the Niagara Youth Centre in Welland. Everyone there were runaways, abandoned, or there by court order. I had never see anything like that before. So many damaged children. Most of them through no fault of their own. Most of the girls had been molested as young children and wore their scars like a badge of honour. It was the first time I was ever asked to use Kwellada to delouse. It was a degrading, humiliating experience; one I will never forget. I can still feel the sting in my nostrils and the burn on my skin.

I lived there for 3 weeks before I ran away with a girl named Mary to Toronto. The first night in Toronto we slept in a cemetery. We had $11.00 between us. The next day we went to the Salvation Army who referred us to a Womans Shelter. Again, I had to do the delousing procedure. I slept in a room with 3 other beds. My room and board was $4.00/day and I had rotating chores to do. I got a temporary job at the Schneiders factory and was able to take care of my rent and my basic needs.

Life in a shelter is not guaranteed and every 30 days you had to look for new housing. There was one night I couldn’t find a shelter so I sat in the lobby of the police station all night. I was told I had to leave at 7 in the morning. I then found my way to the Native Womens Centre in Hamilton and was humbled by how kind these women were to me.

When my time was up I called my father, collect-call from a bus station in Hamilton and begged him to let me and my friend come stay with him in his 2 bedroom apartment. He said I would have to return to his church. I told him I didn’t believe in his religious ideas. He hung up on me. It was February and storming outside. We slept in the bus terminal that night. The next morning we hitchhiked to Toronto and found a new co-ed youth shelter to reside in. I was so grateful the workers in the shelter. They brought me in, washed my clothes and provided a hot shower, followed by a hot meal. They empowered me to believe in myself. They gave me the tools to become independent.

I went back to school and got a job. I eventually got my own apartment and continued to upgrade my education.

Today I am a Certified Personal Support Worker, Dietary Aide, and a Medical Office Assistant.

I believe in giving back and I have always given donations over the years to various shelters. I want people to know that there is hope for everyone. I want women to believe in themselves and know that no matter how desperate times can be, things can always improve. I had to learn to believe in myself and treat myself with respect and dignity in order for others to do the same. I have also learned that not all men are evil and to trust myself before anyone else.

I will never forget the compassion and empathy showed to me during my darkest hours. I will spend the rest of my life giving back to my community in any way I can.

Written by a YW volunteer. 

Confessions of an Imperfect Woman

I have a confession to make….
I am not super woman.
Surprised me too!
I am a busy, working woman and mother. Sometimes a stressed out, tired out, angry woman. But it’s often that I bring it on myself. I have this insane idea that I can do it all, or at least, should attempt to on a daily basis. (Maybe it’s all the elaborate, beautiful fun idea’s to do with your kids that you see on Pinterest….maybe it’s the other mom friends of mine who constantly post about what they are up to with their families….seriously, I get exhausted reading it!) I just know I struggle daily with a nagging guilt to do more, to be more in control of my home (I’m not a nice person when it’s not up to my standards) to be a better parent and to be a carefree, “who cares if the house looks like a tornado hit it” kinda wife.
Women….hear me roar!! Is there anyone else that feels like banging their head on the counter watching your husband or kids empty the dishwasher? Anyone else standing there biting their tongue because they are putting everything in all the wrong places, or not in the neat, lined up way that you do it?
Super woman to the rescue….I’ll just do it myself, thanks.
Do I really wonder why I’m tired, cranky and bordering on setting the house on fire some days? Don’t get me wrong, my soon to be husband typically does the cooking, which is a huge help and much appreciated by all, but I think I’ve now trained him not to help around the house because my annoyed little expressions scare him off.
So by the time I get home from work, clean up what I can, get some laundry done etc. I’m exhausted and really just want to sit down with a glass of wine and zone out. That’s usually about the time my son asks to play a card game, or have me watch him play some video game.
NO. NO …no…. please!!!!
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………
I’m writing this because I’ve recently come to a realization. Again.
Years ago, I wrote my son a poem apologizing to him for not doing enough, for him. I get so caught up in the day to day grind, my incessant need to have a perfectly clean house and my own desire to shut down, that this poor kid usually ends up being the last on my to-do list.
I need to realize that when it comes down to it, I won’t look back regretting that my dishes weren’t done on Monday, June 1, 2013. I won’t look back wishing I had cleaned the garage out on that particular weekend. I won’t regret leaving the cups and glasses the way they were stacked. But I will regret not spending the quality time with my family that they deserve. I will regret not taking an hour out of my evening to ensure my son feels wanted, secure…loved.
I need to learn to relax. I need to learn that it’s okay that I’m not super woman.
I’d like to share the poem I wrote my son years ago, and though he’s grown, and his interests have changed, I realized that his needs haven’t. He still needs me. My attention. My love. The dishes- can wait.
Hope you enjoy, and this inspires you to play today:
You say to me,
Mommy, let’s play’
And I say baby,
not today.
Mommy’s tired, mommy’s busy,
I have so many things to….

And then that little voice,
Your little voice
Reminds me that I could be,
So much more…
For you.

I need your reminders,
That your just..so little.
And that you need me.
My imagination, my strength,
My willingness,
To be your everything.
I want to be that.
I want to join you,
In mad scientist adventures,
And lego buildoffs,
In blanket forts, and coloring creations.

I miss your energy,
that I was once instilled with.
And I cry.

Because I fear you deserve,
so much better,
than I have given.

You, The master of your universe,
And the center of my world..
Who has somehow been put on the plateau
of things to do today.

You are joyous and amazing,
Loving and generous
And I pray
I don’t somehow bury those parts of you
with my selfishness and lack of trying.

And so I promise myself,
to give to you,
My laughter and smiles,
My silliness and Hope
My love for today and every tomorrow.

Adversity Builds Character

I can only just write about this subject now, but the date Monday, May 13th will live in my memory for a long while.It was on this date that the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in the first round of playoff hockey in overtime Game 7.
It was a heartbreaking loss that mired the accomplishments this team had made that brought them to that moment in the first place – it had been nine years since this team had even made the playoffs. There really are no words to describe how I felt watching James Riemer the goalie, our goalie, remain down after the goal went in and the Boston fans were celebrating moving on to the next round. To see the Toronto fans in the audience, stunned into silence…to be so close, and have it slip away. Sometimes there are just no words.

Adversity Builds Character.

As a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I want to say to each of them – don’t measure your success on that single game – take each accomplishment, each adjustment, every hard lesson presented to you this season and commit to yourself that it will make you stronger and there is sometimes more valuable in a loss than in a win. I know it doesn’t help right now, but use this experience to motivate you as an individual, and as a team. Then you can hold your head up after defeat, congratulate the winning team and begin again. You have won more than a game or a series, but the heart and admiration of this Leaf’s fan as well.
What I can offer to everyone – team member or not – life isn’t fair.It is how you respond when times are difficult or tragic that not only test your metal, but teach you valuable life lessons – strength comes not from having everything go your way, but pushing through, holding your head up and beginning again when it doesn’t. How could we possibly appreciate those special moments as much as we do when they happen, if we didn’t know how hard it was to get there in the first place?
So, next year, I will be turning 50. I think 2014 is a fine time to turn 50 and for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make it to the second round of the playoffs…don’t you?