“Be the lioness, not the zebra.”
That piece of advice resonated with me, given I’m an animal lover, and funnily enough I have a picture of both these animals on my wall. I understood the meaning:
” be like a lioness — strong and single-minded about what you want, focus on it, conserve your energy and go for the kill. Don’t be the skittish zebra — the prey, always on the defence, flitting without purpose.”
The other day it dawned on me while I was talking to one of my silver-haired lioness ladies. I may be thousands of miles away from my English matriarchy; a family made up mainly of women, but I have managed surreptitiously to surround myself with a bedrock of inspiring women. Women like lionesses; warrioresses of vintage and character, who are the most supportive and heartening of role models.
Did these ladies come into my life for a reason? Did like attract like, or was it just random potluck?
These women are mentors to whom I aspire, not necessarily for their mothering abilities, but for their strength and individuality. Women who broke the stereotypical mould. Women who don’t allow age to be a hindrance to fun, creativity and success. Women I take my cues from.*
Here are some of the important life lessons these lionesses have taught me:
Take Ruby – an ex-journalist turned artist and writer. I never asked her age but she’d be well into her 70s at a guess. Despite serious health problems I’d go and teach her yoga once a week and she’d teach me how to keep the spark of impetus, inspiration and joy alive — by being curious and engaged by the world of art and culture. How to still be steely determined and fabulous when your hair turns silver, though incidentally hers was still defiantly jet-black!
Or Frieda – another artist, ex-architect; an independent woman still working in her late 60s. She said if she were a dog she’d be an Alsatian and she can do anything a man can do and better. Say no more. She’s feisty but with a softish centre.
Then there’s Scarlet aka Mother Earth; the free spirit, animal rights activist with a river of love and laughs. The epitome of intuition, she just knows stuff. Her heart and mane are pure gold. She teaches me to soften, to be feminine, but she’s not all sweet and innocent, she embraces her naughty side. Funny, perceptive, eccentric and expressive; she boldly says and does what other people would not dare to.
Last but by no means least my dear mum – aptly named, Sylvia, which means ‘belonging to the woods’. Together with the surname (Wild), she’s a dynamo. She instilled in me a strong work ethic; to strive to be better but to accept that if you fail it’s OK because “you can’t do better than your best.” She taught me that being unconventional is cool and being a ‘yes’ person is not. Giver of unconditional love and generosity, at 70 she’s as fit as a fiddle; a platinum blonde who fusses over fashion and kicks her heels up belly dancing.
My husband and his friends joke “take a good look”; meaning look at the mother-in-law to know what the daughter/wife will be like. I think my mum will be thrilled that in her absence other golden maned, raven black or silver-haired women of spirit have taken up the mantel to dance with me down the path of life.
If I embody any similar qualities to these amazing silver-haired lionesses I’ll be immensely proud. That’s how I measure my success.
Then, I think, looking at these women is like looking in the mirror. I’m half way there, that’s why they’re my friends, my mentors.
We are magnets, because like attracts like.
*I’ve changed their names as they may not all appreciate me talking about them and their silver hair.