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I LOVE ME TOO!

July 1st, 2017

Middle Son (15) is a bit of a jester and trickster both. Whenever I tell him that I love him, he gives me a lopsided grin and replies: “I love me too!”

 

 

As well as funny I think this is actually brilliant as we are constantly being told that we can only love others in as far as well love ourselves. And if we do not love ourselves (wholeheartedly, sufficiently) our love for others becomes distorted because our own needs and unresolved issues colour the space. Manipulation and unresolved shadow material often comes into play, even if this is unintended and we are not aware of it.

Many of us grew up in families where love is not unconditional but conditional on us behaving a certain way and meeting the expectations of the parent, sometimes even living out the parent’s own unlived dreams. We grew up in families where co-dependency was rife and manipulation (trying to control both situations and people) the norm.

For some people I know being “loved properly” means arriving at a healthy degree of separation. A few months ago I asked the same son if he felt that “he receives enough love”. He shouted: “Too much!!” and ran off, slamming the door to his room shut behind him. After that moment , I have tried to give him more space and to be less openly affectionate with him. The cute blonde toddler that used to clamor : ”Cuddle me! Cuddle me!” has morphed into a young man who needs to leave the realm of home and mother to make his mark in the world.

That lack of “healthy separation” informs many key relationships in my life. I am very much ” my son’s mother”, I thrive in relationships where there is space, where it is OK to retreat and go silent, where it is OK to say that now is not a good time to meet or talk. Where my love for painting, writing, music and wide open space is understood and honoured.

 

 

I love the fact that my son has put both these dynamics into words, that he is aware of them and able to voice his needs. Loving ourselves – it is easier said than done isn’t it?! What does it mean to truly love ourselves?

In my perception of the world, love without a spiritual dimension often nosedives, crashes. There are many self-help books on the market that tell us to change our beliefs, to think positively, to use positive affirmations, to use visualisation to create desired outcomes and so forth. In my experience all those things certainly have their places and uses – but they cannot stand alone, they must be embedded in a personal cosmology and commitment to spirit (as we perceive spirit, a power greater than ourselves), a dedicated spiritual path.

Relationships with members of our family of origin often remain tricky and sticky for life because we are not given the space to change (and the changes we do make are frowned upon or ridiculed) and also because there are unspoken expectations and limits that erect a kind of trip wire between people. “Beyond this point expect hand grenades and landmines…”

Example: my own mother grew up as the child of a very abusive and manipulative mother who actively ‘broke her spirit’ (those were the words she used, her parenting goal) and made my mother her child servant: tending to her every need. This pattern carried on all through adult life. As a young child I observed my mother jumping in the car every time the phone rang with another demand from Oma (grandma).

My mother had been given a Roman Catholic upbringing (with a determined focus on self –sacrifice, putting others first and admiration for martyrs to the faith etc.) She truly believed that unconditional love meant meeting every single demand that Oma threw at her. Oma had many health problems (at least in part because medical issues were the legitimate road to attention from doctors, priests and her own daughter). I think you get the picture! My mother did not attend higher education. She chose not to work outside the home because “Oma and her three children came first”.

Oma died when I was 19 years old. Today my mother is nearly 79 years old and looking back on her life. One painful lesson I have had to learn is that loving myself means even operating a healthy degree of separation between my mother and me. Healthy boundaries that reflect the person I have become (I turned 50 a few weeks ago). My mother perceives those boundaries as me being a bit cold and distant. She has not done therapy. She has not delved deeply into the forces that shaped her own life and reflected on them. She prefers to think that “Life dealt her a pack of cards and she did her best with those cards”. She chooses not to see that she could have made many different choices along the way. Taking the role of victim (or “done to person”) absolves people from the need to take responsibility.

I myself actively choose to do a lot of work on family stuff. As a shamanic practitioner I am also very much aware of the pull of ancestral forces and unresolved ancestral issues expressing themselves through living members of families (often the most sensitive or psychic member of a family). I have chosen not to follow the “daughter sacrifices herself for her mother” dynamic or script. Even as a young child observing this, it felt all wrong to me. Instead I have worked on releasing and transmuting this from the family field. It is interesting too that I have three sons and no daughter – almost as if the Universe thought: “Enough of mother-daughter agony destroying lives. Let’s skip a generation….”

For my mother this is all very puzzling. After a lifetime of making sacrifices for others – who is going to do it for her as she navigates old age? An eldest and only daughter who lives abroad and works full-time is incomprehensible to her. And don’t worry, my brothers and I keep a very close eye on things, my mother is very far from abandoned and surrounded by wonderful neighbours and friends who also help her in many ways.

My mother is very affectionate. She tells me every phone call that she loves me. There are moments I feel like taking a leaf out of my son’s book and saying: “Yes, I love you and I love me too!” Meaning: if you truly love me, release me to my own dreams and calling, release me from the martyr archetype that runs so strong in you. Spare me your never-ending diatribes on working mothers (as the root cause of all evil in our society – in your perception) and take joy in my achievements.

This is all true, yet is also a simplification. Last year I published my first book (Natural Born Shamans, in English) and my mother has spent many hours with an English-Dutch dictionary, slowly reading many chapters of it. She does take pride in my creations – the ones that do not clash with her needs and values anyway.

 

 

Essentially I have two families. My family of origin with whom I am in relationship but operate healthy distance and boundaries. Then there is my spiritual family: the people I am thrilled to share the Web of Life with. These are the people who give me space, who encourage me to make choices that are good for my soul (not the easy choices that keep me stuck in my personal comfort zone). They are the people who truly rejoice in the things that make my heart sing – and this is mutual, I also give them both space and undivided attention in the right measure. I delight in their achievements, I will actively encourage them and cheer them on when they try new ways of being in the world. I feel no envy at their achievements – when they do something amazing I think: Road sign! If they can do it, maybe I too will try and succeed at something new. They are showing others the way!

It is only when we love ourselves that we learn that only very little other people do and say (even if they are talking about us) reflects on us. It reflects on who they are, where they are and the people they surround themselves with. These days I only take to heart feedback and constructive criticism from people who come from a place of love and wanting the very best for me. Not people who have not done any work on themselves.

I love you but I love me too!

 

***

 

About Imelda

Imelda Almqvist teaches shamanism, sacred art and internationally. 

Her book “Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life”, Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages was published by Moon in August 2016. 

http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

 

Imelda is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86

 

And she will present on the Shamanism Global Summit with The Shift Network on July 25tth

http://shamanismsummit.com/program/132

 

 

The Wintertime Family

winter


The winter months can be very gloomy for us.  We contend with few hours of daylight, cold temperatures and often limited mobility due to snow and ice.  Beach frolicking is a distant memory, the piles of leaves for jumping in have been racked away and the fresh sprouts of spring are not quite stirring under their frozen blanket.  Despite the limitations of the season we crave activities to share that connect us to the quite slumber going on under our feet.  This month we’ll look at some options for sharing this time as a family in terms of activities that connect the family unit and feed our spiritual souls in the dark time of the wheel.

Winter activities tend to require more planning than in the summer months but a great way to keep the winter blues at bay is to plan out a tentative schedule for weekend/vacation activities so that the kids can anticipate them, and parents have time to make them happen.  Brainstorm with the family while you are still home for the holidays having each member include some activities that they would like to do.  Be sure to make an Outdoor and Indoor list.  Here are some examples to get you started.

Outdoors:

  • winter sports such as: skating, skiing, sledding, hockey
  • snow ball fights
  • winter forest hikes
  • winter animal search
  • snow science experiments

Indoors:

  • cooking & baking
  • arts & crafts
  • journals
  • future family plans (like vacations, classes or rituals)
  • reading together
  • movies together
  • at-home-family-spa
  • family talent shows/theatre

I would recommend planning one indoor and one outdoor activity each weekend and if the weather is storming or too cold for the outdoor option you have a second option. A key to meeting the spiritual needs of your child and yourself is to let the messages of the season resonate through your home.  One of those lessons in my opinion is rest.  So while keeping the kids and yourself somewhat busy is a good way to ward off winter blues there is also a certain yearning that the body has for more rest during the dark months.  Finding the balance of rest and activity is not an easy task and may be impossible, so instead aim for a healthy home environment that tries to relieve stress rather than create it through too much scheduling.

The moon is particularly beautiful in the winter months with its light reflecting off the snow.  Even if you live in a climate that does not have snow you can still think of creating a special Esbat ritual for the family to celebrate together.  It can be as simple as taking a moonlit walk together or as elaborate as ritual garb and assigned roles but let the planning process be something that each family member contributes to and I’m sure you will make some lasting memories together.

Another key to this time of year is to try and be in the moment.  Yearning for summer or another time period is natural but living in the present keeps us connected to each other and helps us appreciate what we can do now as opposed to later.  And in closing “alone time together” should also be an option for wintertime activities.  A lazy afternoon of one parent having tea and reading, while the other is playing with a child and another child watches a favorite movie is sometimes a more peaceful and needed option than forcing an activity on some members who are not very in to it.  After all we are not looking to create a war zone in the home but a retreat.

Here’s to some fun, active and rejuvenating family memories this winter & many blessings to you and yours this Yule.

What Parents Can Learn From Angelina Jolie

I stumbled across this article recently and I must admit that I was very encouraged by the comments Angelina Jolie made about her daughter Shiloh’s choice of clothing.

Apparently Shiloh prefers to dress “like a boy” and that has media critics blasting a 4 year old and calling her a transsexual.  While it is beyond shameful to take jabs at a child in such a manner no matter who her parents are I think that Jolie handled the situation with honesty and integrity:

“Children should be allowed to express themselves in whatever way they wish without anybody judging them because it is an important part of their growth. Society always has something to learn when it comes to the way we judge each other, label each other. We have far to go.”

As parents we too often let our child’s behaviour reflect back our own insecurities.     If Jolie was insecure she may have seen Shiloh’s behaviour as reflecting badly on her parenting skills or on her own sexuality.  Instead she makes the choice to see that it is not about her but about self expression and the magic of childhood.

As pagan parents we tend to encourage “dress up” and mystical play.  Children are naturally drawn to worlds of fantasy and if they say “I’m a dragon” or “I’m the fairy of spring,” wouldn’t we encourage that and be delighted?  I have a sneaking suspicion though, that when it comes to our child crossing gender boundaries many of us may start to get a little uncomfortable.  What will the neighbours think?  He will be judged by other children, so for his own good I’ll make him dress masculine.  All girls want to wear pretty dresses and play tea party, what’s wrong with my child?  Our own embarrassment starts to take over our actions and we let society’s silly rules of sugar and spice or puppy dog’s tails influence our parenting.  Instead of unconditional love and space to explore themselves children learn to tow the line, not ruffle feathers and suppress their inner creativity.   That doesn’t sound like a very pagan way of growing up to me.

I realize that it is not as simple as the last paragraph makes it out to be.  There are people out there who are so afraid of gender bending that they become violent.  Our first instinct is to protect our child from harm, so our perception of how others may judge them is an important tool that we need to keep our kid safe.   If you have concerns that your child may be judged or harmed that is something that you need to work through with them.  When they are young you can perhaps encourage them to dress in their special outfits only at home or in a predetermined safe place.  As they grow older you may find that it was a phase that they leave behind them or you may encounter a more serious need within them.  If you do encounter this need I encourage being open minded.  This is your child; they are still whole and wonderful.  There are resources out there for parents to use for support if your child is transgender or confused about their sex.

Within our traditions there are many interpretations of masculine and feminine energies.  Some choose to see the traits in a more black and white sense because it makes them feel safe and ordered.  In my world view though there is a lot of grey area.  We all have male and female traits, energies and tendencies.  When we are children those traits are much less rigid because we have less conditioning.  I do not encourage my son to be masculine or feminine those tendencies are just there for him to act on as he comes across them.

Angelina Jolie is taking the same approach with her daughter Shiloh.  She doesn’t want to judge her daughter and so she is being open to Shiloh’s desires and guiding her towards finding her true self.

Please search out help if you or someone you love is dealing with gender difficulties.  Silence, shame and secrets are not the way to help your child or your family process these complex issues.

The pagan community seems to me to be a perfect example of an arena for openness regarding sexuality and gender.  Being open minded and non-judgemental goes way beyond religion in this day and age and as a burgeoning community we are poised to lead the way towards a healthy relationship with our sexual identities.

TransActive: Supporting children & youth of all genders

Transgender Family Resources

Gender: Gender Roles and Stereotypes

Autumn

hourse


I love the change of seasons, but I must admit that the summer to fall change is my favorite! Maybe living in the South gives the change to cooler days and nights more of a welcome. And I do love the colors!

Bringing autumn inside is easy and free! Beautiful baskets of leaves and nuts, acorns and pinecones. A decorator’s delight! This is also a great time for outdoor play. Mother Earth is rich in decorations and condiments for mud pies and other pretend foods!

Some fun things to do are to make people out of things found. Pinecones, acorn tops seeds and sticks can make some cool creations. Nestle these guardians of the woods under plants, bushes or beside trees. A little clay or glue will hold them together. You can even accessorize them with little strips of cloth for scarves!

Don’t forget pressing beautiful leaves between 2 pieces of wax paper. One year we shaved crayons onto the wax paper with leaves, topped it with a second piece of wax paper and pressed with an iron. What lovely works of art. Tape them to windows, cut into bookmarks or let your child come up with a use.

Seeds are bountiful now. Cover a Styrofoam ball with glue and roll it in a bowl of seeds or even beans. Split green and yellow beans and poppy seeds are just a few ideas. Match the size of the ball to the seed or bean. When dried, fill a bowl or basket with them. Kids love making them and they make nice gifts too.  Build a fairy house of twigs and side it with seeds and beans.  Use cinnamon sticks as the door.

Now is also a natural time to introduce warming food back into our meals. Spices such as cinnamon, chili, paprika as well as soups and stews help our bodies adjust to the change. In our home, granola is replaced by porridge for breakfast and hot chocolate or warm cider in the afternoon instead of cold juice or lemonade.  Helpful hint: The more Vitamin C you can get into your family now the better. That way when the inevitable sniffle season hits, your family will be ready for it. Apple cider and warm applesauce are fun sources, so is raw broccoli and  spinach dip!

An Intent of Thanksgiving

Is it just me or do other women dread family gatherings for the holidays?  It is not that we do not love our extended family, it is just that we are not all on the same page concerning life.  You know, life’s big questions like handling money, raising kids and picking spouses.  Oh, and there can also be the really hushed page concerning religion, beliefs, and spirituality.  Bring everyone under one roof and we are ready to throw our hands up and surrender.

I have noticed that with few exceptions most people I know have an eclectic collection of characters within their family.  How we approach a gathering can be the key to sanity.

Intentions.  Remember that word?  I know, it is hard to practice what we preach sometimes.  Never the less, our intentions for any day, sabot or Thursday, is important and powerful.

For November in the States, the gathering of family is imperative.  It is Thanksgiving. And we are going to be thankful, by golly, whether we want to or not!  That is how it feels after four days of cooking and cleaning and juggling money in order to feed that band of people who are always happy to show up and eat but not clean, cook or finance the event.  Is it really just me?

Here is how I plan to weave the intention of the month with the unique strands of family and friends.  I am giving a Gratitude Tea.  A time set aside from the family meal to visit and relax with people I am grateful for being in my life.  A friend, a neighbor, my daughters.  A time to enjoy each other and express what Thanksgiving is all about – gratitude.  As a sign read at a national coffee chain, “Take comfort in rituals.”

The ritual of tea is an old one and full of grace.  A pot of tea, a nibble or two and another person to share a moment of quiet.  For my tea, I will place my intention on gratitude.  There will be a bowl with strips of paper and a pen for writing one or two words of   blessings.  A journal will be at each place setting for listing five things at the end of the day for which we are grateful. For libations, Earl Grey tea is known as the tea of gratitude so it will be offered along with a pomegranate herbal blend.  Candles in votive holders and Celtic music will add peacefulness.  Light finger food with a sweet or two will fill the tablescape.

My family’s intent is for me is to be happy each and everyday.  (If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.)  My intent is to be grateful each and everyday. An intent of thanksgiving.

March Simplicity

This turn of the year brings with it bird song, flower buds and warmer days. It is a time for new beginnings and births. We instinctively long to be outside to feel and connect with the return of the sun.

I try to walk everyday and I love to hear the birds sing on these chilly mornings! I am ready to reconnect with the wider world after winter’s dark quiet. All of the ideas that have been germinating in my mind are ready to move into the light and grow. I have the energy to put action behind the ideas. To “give birth” to plans conceived in winter!

Our families are bursting out also. There is so much to do at school, after school and weekends that we can become scattered and feeling detached. How can we juggle everything at once? Ever feel like the plate jugglers on the old variety shows? Don’t let the plates slow down or they will drop and break! Yikes! A wise man once said to me, “you can do everything you want to do, just not at the same time.” How true. And how comforting a thought. I can do everything and our kids can do everything. The lesson is to choose what is right for the current time. Prioritize. Don’t overbook yourself and don’t overbook your children. We all need play time and we all need to be together in peacefulness. Soon enough, they will be out on their own. While we are a family under one roof, let’s cherish and protect as much time together as possible.

Being present in our children’s lives

Those of us who live with children know the amazing energy and powers of observation children have. It is my opinion that there is nothing more important than raising our children ourselves. I mean by that statement, that we must not allow television, advertising, movies, computer games, other children or families to raise our children for us. It is harder than one can imagine, and I believe a responsibility we automatically have the moment we invite a child into our lives. I was raised in a time when children were seen and not heard. Whereas I believe in teaching manners and appropriate behavior, I also know that children have much to teach us. We must listen and watch.

When we leave the television off and play a hand of crazy eight’s with our kids after dinner, we are enriching their lives on many levels. Memories of fun times shared follow us throughout our lives and bring smiles to our faces. Taking thirty minutes to walk outside with our kids brings to us the fresh awareness of life around us and how miraculous it is. Our children show us by their example how to marvel at the most humble of life. Watch a young child discover an earthworm. We will learn to breathe in and look a new at nature around us. We will also learn more about these people in our lives.

Nature shares many lessons with us. One of them is the lesson of rhythm. There is a rhythm in the seasons. There is a rhythm to our day. An inward breath of reflection and quiet, and an exhale of expansiveness and action. When we allow the natural rhythm of our daily lives to guide us, we can put some order into our family life.

We can do it all. We have a lifetime to do it in. And so do our children.

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