Who Inspires Your Life?
I have a complicated relationship with my mother. Many of us do. As an adult, I was confused about how I could love her. She is an incredibly strong woman with a "can do" spirit, which she shared with me, and I’m very grateful. But she was distracted most of the time I was growing up. I don’t remember lacking attention from mom, it was the day-to-day stuff, like remembering to pick me up after dance class every week and giving me the money for the lessons. Mom’s involvement seemed to end with praise, high praise. She fought to get me into a catholic high school and then purchased only one uniform for me. The shine on my navy blue jumper by senior year could blind a person, and the elbows on my two blouses wore out long before graduation. My sweater was my savior.
This conflict led me to research my mother's story. Learning about her success was easy because Mom kept every newspaper clipping and piece of paper about herself. I found an organizational leader in the church, a pursuer of higher learning and a spirit that relished challenges.
During a sabbatical in Maine, I spent time writing mom’s story and admiring her more with each sentence. When I finished, the complicated relationship, the confusion, the conflict were gone. I love my mother for who she is, not for who she isn't!
This revelation started me wondering about multiple types of inspiration.
I invited my blog readers to share women who inspired their lives. The stories of sixty-six women were submitted for this essay. National leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Pelosi, Harriet Tubman, and Angela Merkel appeared multiple times. Some referred to these women as rock stars! We admire them for who they are and what they've accomplished, others are role models we aspire to.
One of my favorites is the “never giver uppers.” A beautiful young nun, a drama teacher, told a student after she forgot her lines and quit the drama club, "You never give up because things don’t go your way.” The 6th-grade teacher, a single mom, whose goal was to run a marathon in every state, which she did. And Diana Nyad, who successfully swam from Cuba to Key West after 5 attempts spanning thirty-six years. She made it at age 64. When Diana arrived at Key West beach, she said two things, "We should never give up," and "You're never too old to chase your dreams."
Categories of inspirational women naturally emerged.
Nurturers and caregivers; moms, grandmothers, and daycare providers creating safe, caring, supportive environments “from which young humans can launch into their own lives.” My daycare provider, “Weezie,” inspired me to give my full attention to my children. This was challenging for me and rewarding for all of us.
Leaders, both local and national, moving this world forward. A reader is inspired by a long-time local activist who draws people to her with gentleness and kindness of spirit. When Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, locked down the country, she said, "Act as if you have COVID-19. This will save lives." She chose elimination over containment. The chair of a YWCA fights tirelessly for affordable housing for women. Teachers change our lives.
Creative women teach us to use our imaginations to present our ideas. Virginia Woolf inspired many to look beyond what they saw to create art. Margaret Pine, a Peace Corps volunteer, taught colleagues English and technology needed by women in developing countries. Ann Patchett pushes beyond her celebrity and creates an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee for free thinkers.
Courageous women follow their dreams and sometimes pay a high price. A foreign service officer died delivering books in Afghanistan. A bisexual woman’s strength allows her to survive rejection. Eve Ensler shocked both genders with “The Vagina Monologues.” Florence Nightingale inspired the development of Swords to Plowshares as it struggled to heal the wounds of war that last beyond the battlefield. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team sues for equal pay, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford speaks truth to power before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Then there are the personal role models who fit into many categories but inspire us “to do or feel something." A reader's aunt, Florence Keller, M.D., inspired her to become a doctor. A biology teacher inspires a student to follow in her footsteps. The trailblazers continue to be role models as we fight for equal rights! And yes, my mom inspired me to be strong, self-confident, and a survivor.
“Just because somebody doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.”
Thank you to my readers for sharing these fabulous women. Leave me a comment below so I know you're out there.
If you’re curious about mom’s story, here’s the link.
Martha Walsh, A Model Professional of Her Time, Essay Finalist in 2019 Adelaide Literary Award, Anthology (print only) Reprinted in Medium.com