DEMETER – May 2017

Never Underestimate the Power of Loving Care

Valeria had been teaching fourth grade for 10 years and having the natural inclinations of the Goddess Demeter, she loved it until the presidential election up-ended her life. Her class of 25 children in Florida had been getting along very well with each other, give or take a few skirmishes that were normal for their age and for a class that was so diverse in its makeup.

This changed when these young students started picking up on the prejudice and mean-spirited atmosphere that they witnessed or heard about around them. A Moslem mosque sprayed with graffiti, malicious exchanges between counter clerks and customers at convenience stores, and nasty chants at school sports events – in which some of the parents vented racist slogans.

Valeria’s “make nice” talks, reading to students about tolerance, and team building exercises weren’t doing it. She thought of quitting her job to find work teaching in South America.

Then she focused on why she got into teaching. “I’m a nourishing person. I make people and ideas grow. These students need me. They are at risk for becoming adults filled with hate who want to do harm.”

She helped the students create a class garden in the larger community garden in town. As a group, when they walked to the garden, Valeria mixed up the students so they didn’t walk with their BFFs – instead they were side-by-side with students they barely knew. After having established this new way to ‘buddy-up’, Valeria gave each student a ‘mystery plant’ to dig into the earth in honor of their new friend. Nothing like sharing a task!

On their way into town, Valeria pointed out neighborhood buildings and places for people from different backgrounds and needs – a group home for the disabled, a synagogue, a Fire House with firefighters of several ethnic backgrounds. She had arranged one day to have these men come out to greet her class and show them around a firetruck.

She arranged her student’s desks in clusters so they faced one another and tacked posters on the walls – women and men of achievement from a variety of races and religions: Temple Grandin, César Chávez and African-American female pioneers in the space race: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who worked in NASA’S team of ‘human computers.’

She decided to hold support groups for area teachers experiencing similar classroom negativity, thus extending her soothing sensitivities out to a broader base. They came together to share their ideas and what was actually working to banish the pejorative mindsets and patterns they encountered in their schools every day. She did this to balance her own anxieties as well as for the others.

In time, the nurturing energy of the Goddess Demeter blossomed again in Valeria as she became accustomed to hearing the giggles of new friendships when her students became more open with one another. Her cup felt over-full – she was no longer running on empty at the end of her day. She didn’t need to fantasize over life in another part of the world because she had confidence that her imagination would keep on supporting the work within her beloved, complex and exciting community.

Demeter, Find Your True Worth – January 2017

The snow was coming straight at me through the headlights. I needed a break and swung into Dunkin Donuts for a cappuccino. As I was leaving, I spotted Romy, all balled up and hunched over her coffee, as if to make herself invisible. Romy is Demeter incarnate: self-sacrificing, kind though fiercely angry when pissed off. She brimmed with mother love, but the hurly-burly of her daughter Suzanne’s adolescence was derailing the life she was valiantly creating since the divorce from her only child’s father.

She opened up about her state of distress: “I’m waiting for Suzanne right now. Weekend over, time to return to mom. I feel the weight of tremendous guilt bearing down on me every weekend that comes to a close with Suzanne coming home. God knows how much I love her, but my good will evaporates as I anticipate a week of fighting over homework, sports schedules, shared responsibilities around the house, and that damn cell phone.”

She further explained: “During the 2 days that Dan has Suzanne, I’m charged by catching up with friends, tackling the ever lengthening to-do list, catching up with my parents needs, and housework. Always catching up, never quite finishing.”

“You can’t be the perfect mother to everybody,” I cautioned her.

We would have talked further, but at that moment Suzanne sulked into Dunkin’ D’s with Dan. I bailed.

Once outside in the dark I sat in my car sipping the warm froth, watching a brightly lit scene unfolding inside.

When I called Romy the next day, she ruminated: “ Where have I gone wrong? Did I put too many limits on Suzanne’s behavior, didn’t teach her enough self-control? Raged too much with my own frustration when Suzanne’s demands for attention coincided with my own needs to spend extra time at work? Did I try to make a friend of her too soon, when Suzanne still needed a mother? Too much structure, not enough? Should I have initiated the divorce from Dan? Should I have had more kids so Suzanna would have a confidante at home to share the tough times with?”

Romy finished: “I’m really scared I messed up. And now that she’s in high school the stakes are getting higher. Boyfriends sniffing around. Pot offered up as an initiation rite. How does this guilt and fear ever go away?”

The woman influenced by the Goddess Demeter is filled with meaning – to nurture others gives her great joy. Once her bounty is being demanded, unappreciated or challenged, she feels disconnected from her own inner youthful spirit.

Here’s how I advised Romy. If you have some Demeter in you, study these pointers:

  • Now, take a deep breath.
  • Know that you have always been a really good mother.
  • Your energy is depleted – you’re giving it over to guilt and fear.
  • Take stock of your true worth.
  • Grab your mojo and have a talk with your daughter. Use your leverage to set limits on how much of yourself you will spend on her. She must take increasing responsibility for her own happiness anyway. And you might find yourself glowing with new possibilities.

Demeter – December 2016

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

“Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” — Janis Joplin

Demeter women smile with their eyes. People gravitate toward these women. You can pick them out in a crowd – they are warm, vibrant, nurturing. You may be one of them.

Natalie is a caretaker par excellence. Sometimes she’s in danger of going overboard: taking charge, smothering, and relinquishing her needs. She easily becomes so wrapped up in someone else’s wellbeing and their problems that she looses her own center.

Here’s the deal. Natalie had agreed to caretake her friend Joyce’s dog, Tom-Tom, for 10 weeks last spring while Joyce and her partner planned to take a sabbatical in Greece. She was excited for them to have this opportunity. Natalie had just taken on a new puppy, Gypsy Girl who adored Tom-Tom. Win—win.

But the sabbatical was unexpectedly postponed for a year. The time arrived. Six weeks before Tom-Tom was expected at Natalie’s she realized her current life could not possibly include another full time responsibility i.e. Tom-Tom. Over the past year she had committed to two long-term projects that were beginning to take shape, each needing constant attention. Like twins. What was she to do?

Why does the choice have to be between showing up for her Self, and showing up for her friends? Demeter’s daily mantra, “Sure, I’ll do it.” Smile. Smile. Smile. Being unaccustomed to asserting her boundary limit, Demeter women are constantly thrown off their game. Natalie knew she faced an opportunity to shift a deeply embedded pattern – flying away from her own center of activity to support another. This old habit undercut her own sense of wellbeing and the possibilities she was manifesting in her own life.

A dream showed the challenge being revealed on Natalie’s inner landscape: Artemis, the independent goddess, led the way into a cave. There, lit up and warmed by the fire is a new baby girl. Artemis instructs Natalie how to care for and feed this new life, protecting it while keeping intruders at bay. Her therapist continued to hold a reality check in front of Natalie’s ambivalence, reminding her that Joyce had 6 full weeks to make other arrangements for Tom-Tom. This was cutting edge growth material for this caretaking woman who had to take responsibility for how she was about to sabotage herself, again.

If you are a Demeter type woman, do you recognize when you are feeling disconnected from your center? Are you aware of when and how you abandon yourself? Natalie took the risk – met the challenge of disappointing a friend by gently and evenly asserting her own needs – explaining that this was not the right time for her to further extend herself. She was very sorry because of course friction was created between them. And they worked it out eventually.

Moving through this sort of empowering experience, the Demeter woman learned that in the future she could be well intentioned and serve others in bits and pieces, without fully giving herself away.