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COLUMN: What it means to be happy this Mother's Day

Columnist Cynthia Breadner reflects on what it means to be a mother ahead of Mother's Day this weekend

Mom, you’ve given me a very special kind of love and support as I’ve grown up..

Mom, it’s another chance to tell you how wonderful you are and how deeply you are loved! 

May 9 is Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day, behind Christmas, was documented as the second busiest day for Bell operators back in the day where they had to say “your number please!” Mother’s Day is a day filled with joy, love, and sometimes a little guilt!

This past weekend I was celebrating motherhood with my daughter, as our DanCyn Adventures duo, backpacking. She also was celebrating motherhood leaving her two babies behind in capable hands. We hiked and camped for two days with our first overnight sandwiched in between!  The temperatures were in the single-digits for the night, and it bordered on uncomfortable, however, overall it was simply a lot of fun and truly what we seek, adventure! We hiked 18.25 kilometres the first day mainly because there were no good places to stop and pitch the tent and we had set an end-of-day goal in mind, aiming for a named camping spot. This kept us focused and kept us moving along the trail. We finally realized we needed to stop so began watching for any place to pitch. We both looked up and said together, in fun and in truth, please give us a place to lay our tents, and laughed. However, not far ahead, in partnership with this prayer and our observation a great spot presented itself. Obscure, quiet, and hidden!

As I was hiking along earlier in the day, I was comparing this journey to my life’s journey. Hiking, being in nature, gives one time to ponder as you walk. Time to think and wonder, as well as wander into your own thoughts. I thought about my life over time and thought about this wonderful adult woman who stepped gingerly ahead of me. I thought about my son and our adventures together and thought, as a mother, where I could have been better, done better, or left well enough alone! I thought about my mother and my mistakes with her. Now being a mother and grandmother, I thought about how we never stop being concerned (notice how I avoided the word “worry” there!) about family and the world they will grow up in. I thought about how I have more life behind me than ahead of me and wondered what the transition will be like from this life to the next. That is what hiking, backpacking, and nature do for me. It invites me to think and to just be.

Saturday night as I lied in my tent, in the darkness, it was just past 9 p.m. I had travelled a long way and yet, I felt invigorated and fresh. My body was tired, however, not weary. I felt accomplished and yet, not spent, or drained. I listened as the wind moved the trees. There was a small branch that Danielle had noted when we were pitching, observing it would be heard in the night so as to be prepared to remember what it is. As it could sound like an animal or a person scratching. As I lay there, I listened to all the noises in the area, rain, wind, trees, turkey’s gobble, and Danielle moving in her tent and I felt peaceful. Complete peace.

The most peace that I noted was I could lay there, and I could see into the darkness even in the middle of the night when I awoke needing to relieve myself. I could see the varying degrees of darkness. I got out of the tent and did my business, then I noticed through the trees I could see the waning moon. When I looked up, I could see the stars. The constellation I recognized was the big dipper. I stood in the silence with the moon, stars, and trees as my friends and realized I am enough, and I am okay, mostly I realized I am safe. The best realization is how I have worked through all the chatter of past mistakes, my lack in who I am, and the chastising I once heard about never being, doing, or performing well enough. The peace comes from within that I am in partnership with myself and deeply content and I feel happy each day.

There have been many studies on levels of happiness, and it is never about money or fame. I see the varying degrees of happiness walking into the walls of long-term care. I see the degrees of happiness in people suffering through grief, loss, and regret. I have witnessed my own journey through life of finding what it means to be happy and on this Mother’s Day I can tell you it is not only about being a mother that makes me happy. It is the nurturing and mothering I have done for myself, to myself, and around my own life that makes being a mother so meaningful. “Mother” is a verb, not a noun. To mother is to love, care for, nurture, and support another. To mother is to build up, set free, and forgive. There is “mother” in cider vinegar, and it is what develops and ferments to create a finished product that is useful and nourishing. To mother is sometimes to stand back and watch as a determined child must topple and fall in order to learn. To mother is to soothe the pain or soreness after a race is won. To mother is to be the ground of all being for that which comes to be nurtured.

There are many different people who mother, and a mother no longer looks like June Cleaver nor does it mean to mother is simply staying home and cook and clean and being the picture of domestication.  To mother is to fermentation and develop others who are in your care. I have mothered myself over the years because my mother did the best she could with what she had to offer and the rest was up to me. I mothered once I became a mother because I could see how ill-equipped I was emotionally to mother and could now see how my mother did her best.  

On this Mother’s Day, I hope you hike into your own darkness and find there is light there when we stop to look around. When we take a moment to mother our own fears and listen in the darkness, we are able to find our way. Hiking or walking gives Mother Nature a chance to mother your soul and weaves room to find forgiveness. As I laid in the tent on Saturday night, I was so thankful for all the self-work I have done to lay to rest the demons that can impose the impenetrable darkness inside the soul. Mother’s Day is for all souls to be honoured and it is a day to honour the woman who carried you and laboured to bring you into this world.  May you be blessed on this Mother’s Day and find your own mothering ability.

Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker and offers specialized care in Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy with special attention to trauma resolution.  She volunteers at hospice, works as a LTC chaplain and is a death doula, assisting with end-of-life care for client and family.  She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practices fitness, health and wellness.  She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections, if you have any questions contact her today!