Women’s month, August, always gets me thinking about family. I find myself contemplating the many women who have gone before me in my family, most of whom I’ve never met and some of whom I knew only briefly - like my great grand-ma who I remember as a little old lady who gave me sweets when we visited. Some of those women are known to me only through stories from my parents and other family members.
Womens Day in South Africa, on the 9th August, marked the day that 20 000 women marched on the Union Buildings against the Pass Laws in the then-Apartheid government. The choice taken by these women to act against something they knew to be unjust, and to take ownership for getting involved, made a huge impact on our country and the changes that were slowly put into place. The day is now celebrated as a day of honouring the strength, resilience, courage and value of women. For me, it is also the day that marks the birthday of my dear late aunt, Maureen. Perhaps that is why I always find myself thinking about family and the line of women I come from around this time? There is a sense of missing and remembering. And an awareness of the fact that, though she is gone, she is still a part of who I am, and who my family are, through the impact she had on us and those that knew her.
And then I wonder what part I am playing in my family’s lives? What is my impact? I wonder what my daughter is taking into herself from me? And my husband? My mother and father, siblings, cousins…. What do I add, or take away from, their lives? Sometimes the magnitude of my affect on others can seem crushing and wholly intimidating. But I am also aware of the resilience and compassion inherent in all those people. I remind myself that it is not up to me to be everything to everybody or to be ‘perfect’– just to be the best me I can be.
But that takes a choice! And that is one of the hardest choices to make because it involves taking a hard look at ourselves, reflecting on what we do and say and taking responsibility for how others experience us. And it means acting in order to grow and change in order to enhance the gifts we have.
So, in the interest of providing the best legacy for my family, and in honour of the 20000 women who did their best on 9 August 1956, here are some steps I am going to try in order to be most aware of myself and mindful of the affect I have on others:
I hope some of these thoughts may be useful to you in creating your best impact on your family and friends? Whatever your roles – mother, father, friend, colleague, child, sibling, employer, neighbour – you matter and you have an impact. It is up to you to choose and put in the work to being the best you can be at those roles.
On a personal note...
I am curious, creative, determined, committed and (a bit too much of) a perfectionist.