Mothers Day is almost here and I have been receiving and pondering epiphanies about mothers, from mothers, and about motherhood in general and realized in doing so that many of the epiphany stories in my book deal with motherhood either directly or indirectly. I think is because when you boil epiphanies down to their very essence, to me they seem to really be about some form or theme of love: love of self, others, the divine, our work, our communities or the world-at-large. And whether we want to admit it or not, the love of the mother - whether giving or receiving - is one of the most pervasive, complex, and important loves we experience in our lives.
I bring this up because since our greatest epiphanies tend to be deeply personal stories, many people I've interviewed admitted that they had never told anyone about their epiphany, not even their loved ones, and many times the people who hadn't told or even acknowledged their epiphanies were women, many of them mothers. Two of my closest friends astounded me when they told me about miracles in their lives that they'd never shared before. When I asked why they hadn't, they replied that they just don't really talk about it-the experience just seemed too deep and private. And many people, until asked, had never even thought they'd had an epiphany. Once remembered, their epiphanies were some of the most profound and emotional. In fact, two of the women that are in my book, Julie Horton and Tracy Hafen, both successful business women in different areas, told me that they hadn't ever had a great epiphany and then later came back to me with incredible moments of insight that were directly related to their being mothers. In fact, I'm realizing as I write this that my epiphany that sparked the idea for the Epiphany project came from the issue of motherhood.
I've thought often about why so many women and mothers have expressed that they don't think they've ever had epiphanies but then come back later with profound stories. One theory is because mothers are so focused on everyone else and are so busy these days, that they don't take or have the time to think about these important moments. Another theory someone posed to me once was that women have suppressed that side of themselves in order to compete or survive in the work environment. When women tell or think of these moments in their lives, it is easy to get emotional and they don't feel it's appropriate and don't give themselves permission to express emotions. When I interviewed and filmed my fifth grade teacher, Carol Lanning, she was completely stunned that she got emotional telling the story. Again, this actually happened a lot - she was just the only one I caught on film!
These are both just theories, I don't know for sure if either are necessarily true, and men have come back to me later too, but much less often. What I do know is that it seems we (both men and women) don't often speak about our epiphanies because they are held so close to our hearts. There simply aren't opportunities in our society to share such delicate moments, and often we're embarrassed by them. We don't always take the time to think about extraordinary moments in our lives and what they really mean. We miss the experience of awe that comes from listening closely to others, to ourselves, and to the signs in the world around us.
Through this project, I've learned it's important not only to know others' stories but also to honor and tell our own. When we do, we often discover things about ourselves or find a deeper meaning behind an epiphany. This happened over and over again when I interviewed people. Until they were telling their stories, they had not fully realized what certain points and moments truly meant to them. Many times they also realized or remembered other epiphanies in their lives that they had forgotten or buried, and only now could they see how their epiphanies had similar themes and built upon one another. Examining our epiphanies can be quite helpful in gaining insight into our lives and seeing where we've grown and where we still may want to grow.
The well-known psychiatrist, intuitive and best-selling author, Judith Orloff, M.D., told me the story of her mother telling her on her deathbed that she comes from a lineage of intuitive women. This revelatory story was told after fighting and discouraging Judith from using her psychic abilities her entire life. The freedom and healing that took place in that moment, just from Judith knowing the truth of her mother's story, changed her life forever. I keep hearing stories like this time and time again as people tell me how this happens for them once they understand their loved ones stories. I experienced it myself when my mother told me about her greatest epiphany happening when her mother died. Two recent epiphanies I just posted on my blog were written in about their parents telling them stories about their lives that gave them insight and compassion toward their parents and a deeper understanding about life. Florence Horne, my eldest Epiphany Contributor, wrote me thanking me for interviewing her because her children and family now knew things about her that they never had before.
Ask Your Loved Ones About Their Epiphanies and Stories and Tell Yours
There are many amazing people around you who help weave the tapestry of your life. Notice them. Observe. Inquire. Act. Wonderful riches are to be mined from everyone around us - from those we meet in random everyday encounters to the people closest to us. Many of the people who have helped me throughout my life turned out to have riveting and important stories to share with me. Because I had never asked, I had no idea about their epiphanies. What they shared with me has given me greater insight into them and into my own life.
People will share their stories generously if they know that their experiences are respected and needed. Many people said they wanted to ask their parents or grandparents about their epiphanies, but couldn't anymore. So do it. Share your epiphanies and ask the people in your life about theirs. Use this holiday to take the opportunity to ask your mothers about their stories or their epiphanies or maybe offer to tell your loved ones a story or two about yourself. As Andrea Buchanan, author of Note to Self and Live and Let Love, says, "If you can tell your story, you will heal yourself, and you'll help others do the same," and what greater gift could you give to the ones you love?