International Women’s Day today and my very first blog post.

I didn’t plan it this way, with my ADHD, planning is almost impossible because even if something is planned, when it comes to executing, if I am not inspired, I  just can’t do it, I can’t force it.

And so, for months it has been on my list to write my first blog post, which, with no inspiration, found its way further and further down my ‘to do’ list.

Until this morning.

I woke to a message from a friend in Cyprus wishing me happy women’s day.

While checking my social media I was treated to feed upon feed of various  posts marking the day in many ways, some not to my taste.

So I switched it all off and came here to this space to write as I reflect.

I am reflecting on the women who have come before me and in reflection, I want to glean the wisdom and lessons their lives have taught me.

I can only go as far back as my grandmothers because I have no information to go further than that, but that is sufficient to understand and learn.

I reflect on my paternal grandmother, a child survivor of the Greek genocide of 1914-1922, fleeing Constantinople – now Istanbul- with her mother and surviving the death marches, executions, rapes, kidnappings, starvation, weather extremes and tortures.

My yiayia Katina, went on to excel at school in her refugee status in Athens, and then survive the war against the Germans and Italians.

In the post war poverty and unimaginable food scarcity, she brought a child into the world, her only one. For him, she moved to Cyprus to give him a better life with her Cypriot husband.

But an accident took him away from her for ever and left her heart and body utterly broken until her last breath.

I reflect on my maternal grandmother Audrey whose life personified a Hollywood star scenario. she was beautiful, wealthy, lived all over the world with maids and nannies for her children and danced with politicians, famous actors and ambassadors.

But money didn’t heal her inherited trauma or the pain of losing her father at 14, and it didn’t protect her from losing her daughter – my mother- when I was 5 years old.

Prescribed meds and alcohol became her companions, and later when I lived with her in my teens, her frequent rages peppered our daily life.

And then there was my mother, Annette. She inherited her beauty from her mother, and drew the admiration of handsome men, modelling opportunities and marriage proposals.

She met my dad, a captain in the merchant navy and travelled the seas with him on intoxicating romantic adventures, until his accident separated them, and her suicide separated us.

So what am I left with?

What have I learned from these women and my own experiences over the last 48 years of my life?

I am not only a woman, but also a mother and I am a mother of a daughter who is taking her place along the lineage of women in my line.

I’ve learned:

    • That suffering cultivates character
    • That pain develops compassion
    • That loss ensures you treasure memories
    • That grief makes you grateful
    • That family secrets, taboos and stigmas create infected wounds that can never heal until things have been spoken, recognised, declared and accepted
    • That we carry the responsibility to honour those who paved the way for us with their sacrifice
    • That ancestry means legacy and history with all its good, bad and ugly parts, form the legacy and shape the legacy we leave for the generations that come after us
    • That no one can be blamed for our misfortune and that every trial can be turned into triumph, every mess into a message of victory and every act of injustice into an opportunity of forgiveness and growth

I’m still learning and growing and making mistakes and repairing but I am also seeing restoration in my family because I have been able to let go, learn and honour all who came before me, just like, I hope, my children will do for me, knowing that I am just a chapter of a very large book that makes their story theirs, and that they get to write the next chapters.