Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Perseverence of Working Class Mothers

I am continually amazed at the borders that our mothers continue to cross, often times alone and afraid, but unstoppable. Just a week ago a friend of my family's went sick and was diagnosed with brain cancer at a late stage. My mother has known her since she was younger than what I am now. At 69 y.o. she continued to work in the same dry cleaning business she and her husband started as an Chineese-Brazilian immigrant, in order to support her family. She never took time off. She worked up until she started feeling ill. She and my mom would barter services (my mom is a skin care aesthetician who works out of the family livingroom).

As I was at the hospital watching her family around her, I could not imagine what it was like to be in her two sons' shoes. Their dad had died from cancer too. The mother had handled it so well that I had no idea he was gone when I came back to visit a few times as she was workin away, sewing, ironing, and taking in customers, all without a word of complaint and all smiles. I swear these superwomen are distinct in their humanity and I see it in my own mother too. These women know what it really means to carry the world on your back without anyone ever knowing. They do it so naturally and gracefully, in a way that puts all the rest of us to shame for not being abe to endure pain or carry out responsibilities to their fullest extent. These women remind me that I have it in me to reach my fullest potential in anything, that there is nothing that can't be done, that nothing is too difficult to carry over. These women give so much of themselves, as if ambilical cords never get cut off from bringing forth life to families. I am in awe. I am scared that I will never be able to fully appreciate my own mother for the person she has been all her life, scared that I may not know how to give her all that she rightfully deserves... Seeing our family friend and her two sons was the hardest thing to see.. I fear that the time will come for my brother, my siser, and I, when we will be asking if we had done enough, if we had really shown her that we owe her our lives, or had we taken her sacrifices for granted..


fiercelyfab said...

Seeing people die and family members mourn does that to you; making you reflect and analyzing what you have, don't have, would like to implement.

But I hear you, and I know they do put us to shame. A lot of their silence also is imposed by culture. A lot of their silence is a form of survival. A lot of their silence is also pain.

I know from my own mother, she passed away of cancer too, when I was sixteen years old...almost ten years ago, and the same thing that you witnessed; I lived with my mom before she died. She never cried, or anything. She smiled, endured, and all. But I do wish sometimes she showed a little bit of her fear, her raw humanity, to us. She wanted to be too strong...be on top of it, carry everything and everybody on her back that I wish she would of spared herself a bit.

Bueno, and I do think of women like her, and of the woman you write of and think damn, why am I complaining? So, yes mujer...todo lo que dices un si, si, si.

Show everybody you love some love always for the very reasons you mention to feel comfortable with your return for what your loved ones, have done for you...eso que it has been for the most part positive.

Tigera Consciente said...

That comment means alot comming from you fab, being that you are one of the women I think of who blog who fall under the inspiring women category..

I always used to push my mother when I was younger to let loose her anger, fear, and rage. I used to be angry that she didn't. That she would take so much suffering and hold it in. It made me want to burst, and at times I did for her, and got a good beating for it from my dad. Now that I talk to her as an adult, in her mind, everything is strategic (and yea some of it is family culture too). I learned not to question her so much anymore, but instead try to understand why she makes the descisions she makes. Sometimes its hard because we come from different places and I am aware of this.

I've seen so many people loose loved ones to cancer. I am angry at this world for this disease that comes with modern living...

kactus said...

Tigera this is beautiful! With your permission I would like to include it in the next Carnival of Feminists being held next week at my blog. Please stop by and let me know if you have any objections.


brownfemipower said...

i think that fab is right in that a lot of that silence is cultural--when i was workin in the fields, i knew so many women who'd show up for work with bruises and broken body parts cuz of drunk husbands--and they'd carry on like nothing happened--and i would get so mad and as a kid, i just didn't get it, so i vowed i would never be like THEM and i went through my i'm white stage and my I'm SPANISH (not mexican, not mestiza)stage--because i hated that damn silence. i hated it so much that i had to reject my own culture so that i wouldn't become that silence.

now that i'm older, i get it more and i understand--and i worry and wonder and write all the time about silencing--how are we as latinas silenced? i've been reading "reclaiming the sacred" by winona la duke, and i've been thinking so much about how latinas just don't have any sacred to reclaim any more--we have been "mestiza-ed" to the point where we don't have any clue who our elders are and how we can rememeber a former history of screaming out in protest. and then immigration often silences us even more--where we are scared to say anything because we'll be arrested or deported or both...i really think we have to teach each other ways to use our voice--i was never taught--like you tigera, i was taught to speak out through your fists, and i just can't do that, so i have been silent for so long--we have to teach each other how to have a voice, our own voice that we can love each other with and say NO with...

Tigera Consciente said...

"A lot of their silence also is imposed by culture. A lot of their silence is a form of survival. A lot of their silence is also pain." From watching and listening, I've noticed these things about my mother too.. After I've made the decision that I couldn't instill strength in my mother, that she had to find it within her, she made that decision and I am here to support her all the way through. (She's taking GED courses and at 60 finally taking the step to leave my father..)

And like brownfem I was infuriurated (sp?) with the whole silence factor. Its so funny, this among other things, were the reasons I went through my "I'm not Dominican, I'm 'American'" stage.. similar to ur "white" and "spanish" stage brownfem.. I'm glad we've gone past these stages.. its not cool watching other folx who stay stuck on this stage for one reason or another...
BTW.. Our friend got one tumor removed and they're waiting for her to become compltely alert so that they could remove the second one that's already begun to bleed.. This woman still hasn't given up..

fiercelyfab said...

Another form of silencing is motherfucking (sorry but it pisses me off because I see all over) psychological and mind control.

In the mujeres who are working the good jobs, getting their education, or are aspiring but set back by their partners, not helped at home at all...at all, women that are kicking serious ass in the public world...but being trampled at home not by punches or pushes, verbal threats, or addictions but with put downs, not compromising to your interests, obligations and freedom.

And I hear what you've been told Tigera by your mom..'it is strategy since I'm really the one in control' but at what price...feeling like shit and conceding to the other half?

I don't know...I don't want to fall into that either and I very much so understand it, pero it is dangerous and it worries me too BFP. Yo, me quiero proteger y asegurar (make sure) that shit I'm workign for it not to fly in my home. Because male privilege, macho-ismo is too damn prevalent in all men and especially most men of color que you can't get comfortable. It's a reality, as enlightened and educated many of our men doing social justice, and are down for the movement.

They are usually the first ones to get you down cause they know your weaknesses, la familia...your passions. Oh and we can't forget our women who have internalized the violence and sexism they are numb to it and perpetuating the norms even MORE so too.

Girl, you got me started. It brings a lot of memories even though my mother was a happy woman, a fighter to the bone she suffered a lot due the men in her life especially the dad of her children.

Tigera Consciente said...

"And I hear what you've been told Tigera by your mom..'it is strategy since I'm really the one in control' but at what price...feeling like shit and conceding to the other half? "

YES! that is exactly how I feel when my mom tells me/ has told me this.. It hurts. When I try to expose to her the reality of the situation and what her many options are, and she responds with the same thing. I hope that when I move back to NYC that she pulls through with the option to phisically take up and leave. And what hurts more is when I've spoken to her about her silence and what she can do to leave or at least what she can do to take care of herself while she is at home (like responding to people who are seeking friendships with her), she tells me that people who give her advice can have some form of control over her, that her psychologist told her this. This was a while ago, and I stepped back. It hurt, but I didn't want to play a similar role in a different way. I wish I could just do it all for her, but I can't, and I shouldn't. I remember learning about how to talk to survivors of sexual assault when they are in crisis, and that is that you have to find ways of asking them how to heal themselves. Most people will feel inclined (I know I do sometimes) to tell others what they need, instead of asking them. My mom took the first step in recognizing that a problem exists. She took the second step by making decisions to do something about it. Whether her decisions work out (or work out soon enough) or not, she is making choices in her life, and she can take further steps to re-evaluate those choices, so long as she has some support from others.. For this, making the choice to love herself and fight to change her oppressive situation, at the age of 60.. she is one of my heroes, because she is yet another example of hope for change..

fiercelyfab said...

This is so true...and I forget too like you, not only that but it is patronizing and condescending to tell others what to do, and offer unsolicited advice and it can create an imbalance of power dynamics that can turn oppressive even towards our loved ones or towards us from our loved ones.

Something to examine is that hero complex that I see in the non-profit world of wanting to save the "victim" that results more on the person trying to help to soothe their issues instead of genuine help for someone to help themselves, ego, guilt, diversion.

Because ultimately, yes, it is not my business telling other people how to go about their lives just how it isn't theirs telling me what to do with mine.

ON that note it hurts to see loved ones in pain and resisting from hurting them further in the process of trying to be there and if seeking, hold their hand through the process--that help mode we place ourselves in, giving our unsolicited opionions and advice in the process.

You brought up really good points that's making me re-analyze my approach to certain situations, and I thank you for that Tigera.

Tigera Consciente said...

yo.. i got to check myself ALL THE TIME!! I tend to fuck up alot on that, I'm at the point where I could stop myself midway through it and refocus the conversation tho..

brownfemipower said...

ya;ll, i'm sorry i don't have a computer at home so i could participate in this conversation more, but ya'll have some really powerful words--the thing i was thinking through the whole conversation tho, was that we really have to figure out that balance between being supportive and not positioning ourselves as heros and offering alternatives and other choices that so many of our sista's don't even know we have. you know? like i just finished reading about a program in new york where this dude went around and started classes with folks like your mom tigera, who the system has given up on, poor, poc old, etc etc, and taught them upper level philosophy. he did this under the belief that 1. the system simply doesn't have expectations of marginalized groups, so it doesn't even bother, and 2. when it does have expectations, they are so low, the marginalized groups are treated like babies and they wind up dropping out from the insult, you know? but the class had an opportunity that could really benefit somebody like your mom, and maybe if she knew about it, she might be inclined to take it, and then inclined after she is done, to feel strong enough to make decisions that are good for her, you know? i think it's all just a matter of finding the right path that your mom wants to take--i think that we are told esp as latinas that we resist in a certian way--a stand on the mountain tops and scream from the top of your lungs that you hate all men---and for a lot of latinas, who are taught to be quiet and "be good" this goes against everything that they have been taught since they were babies, and they aren't going to just be takin that jump because somebody told them that's what they need to do, you know? they need to have a logical progression laid out for them--a path to liberation and independence that is honest and true to their own culture and upbringing--i mean, still today after five years of radical woc feminism, i *still* have to fight with that 'be good' instinct almost everyday--don't be too loud, don't be to agressive, don't be crazy angry, cuz then it all gets sexualized, and you're gonna be a girl in trouble in a little while you know?
so there needs to be a path that latinas can get on together, our own yellow brick road, that leads us to liberation. I think that so many of our early chicana feminists laid down some brick, but not much has been done since then you know? i think that rican feminists have done some brick laying to, but i swear chicas, most of the latina yellow brick road is sitting in huge piles while all of us stand staring at it you know? for real, it's time for us to stop staring and stop asking why our brick road don't look like "their" road (who's ever it may be) and start talking amongst ourselves and imagining how we want our road to look and what is the best way to create that road and then get busy making it you know?