The Legacy Of Hearth And Home
We know after sheltering-in-place for months to avoid COVID-19 that our lives have been changed perhaps forever. We hear mostly about what’s broken, what’s difficult, and depressing. But there is another perspective of this reality to consider.
In 2003 I wrote The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman, where in Chapter 2 “Embracing Our Everyday Selves” I introduced the Greek goddess Hestia, Zeus’ sister. She was the goddess of hearth, home, and temple. Her symbol was sacred fire, source of light, warmth, and safety. Fire, not only essential in homemaking and mothering, also represented spirit, the light of internal meaning.
By demeaning “women’s work” in the 19th and 20th centuries, in order to compete to be “just like men,” women lost something valuable. COVID offers us the opportunity to do a rebalance, reclaiming a lost part of ourselves. Is it any wonder that grocery stores ran out of yeast this spring? Women had returned to their kitchens baking bread as their grandmothers once did.
My neighbor, a fast moving and rising manager in a major corporation, has been working at home since March. She hopes the change is permanent. Slowed by the virus, she’s had time to plant and weed her garden, time to read daily to her 3 year old son, Gio, time to hang washed bedding in the sun, bake cookies, and call her Mom. Intermittently during the workday she returns to her compute to attend a daily Zoom meetings with her co-workers. What she described was that COVID had given her the opportunity to rebalance her priorities … rediscover that her home and family are not afterthoughts, but a most important part of her identity and values.
“Our life’s mission may very well be hidden in the simple routine the we have come to devalue . . .There is holiness and meaning in even the most mundane tasks.”
– Rabbi Naomi Levy
Re-owning devalued characteristics of ourselves, becoming more of ourselves and experiencing ourselves as multi-dimensional, perhaps more whole, is one of the potential gifts of this pivotal time. Becoming our authentic selves is a lifelong task, formed like basalt cooling gradually after blasting out of the fires of a violent volcano (“COVID”) and transforming what was into what is. As our past forms the present, as our history and values mature, and as the contextual pressures of our environment reshape us even further, sheltering-in-place may be the modern woman’s best gift from COVID.
“Home is where my dignity is.”
– Irshad Manji
1. Make a two-part list: on one side of a piece of paper, list domestic activities you enjoy (for example hanging laundry in the sun); on the other side, list domestic activities you dislike, find boring or lacking in meaning (for example, turning the family’s socks right side out). Or instead perhaps differentiate by listing “the ordinary domestic things you love” and “the ordinary domestic things you don’t love, but would dearly miss should your life be at risk.”
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.”
– Helen Keller
2. Muse and write for 15-30 minutes, your purpose to explore your domestic preferences, passions, gifts and talents. Something you took for granted or thought meaningless may awaken new interest or old memories. Recall your mother’s and grandmothers’ domestic and creative talents, and attitudes. Then muse about what domestic activities you particularly value and want to be part of your future daily life.
“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours.”
– Florida Scott-Maxwell
3. After you’ve written for yourself, consider writing a legacy letter to women of younger and future generations about your personal domestic values and your sense of how the domestic has been in times past and continues now to have the possibility of spiritual meaning for our culture.
“The spiritual journey is the soul’s life commingling with ordinary life.”
– Christina Baldwin
“May the Greek goddess, Hestia, and COVID-19 be sources of blessing for you. May a new freedom of attitude and action be a gift to you in this pivotal time, and to the women who come after you.”
– Rachael Freed
Rachael Freed, LICSW, senior fellow, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, is the author of Your Legacy Matters, Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs & Blessings to Future Generations and Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient. Rachael can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.life-legacies.com