Who’s got your back?

Posted on: November 28, 2023

I’m so proud of my Auntie Mary – she was a woman ahead of her time. During the war she worked on the Enigma Code – transcribing the German U-Boat transmissions which were decoded at Bletchley Park. After the war she studied nursing and public health in Canada and was airdropped into a Cree Indian reservation for the winter as their only medical support. 

Next stop was The World Health Organisation with postings to Nigeria, India, Iran, Afghanistan and the Philippines. We eagerly looked forward to her bi-annual visits home and hearing first hand about her adventures.

Growing up in a time when all the women I knew were stay at home mums or teachers, a woman with such a glamorous and exotic career with the UN was a powerful role model for me. She showed me that women could be out in the world having influential careers.

A couple of weeks ago was the Celtic festival of Samhain, which marks the start of the year in the Celtic calendar. The clocks have gone back, winter is approaching and it’s time to draw closer to the hearth. These weeks between Samhain and the Winter Solstice (just before Christmas) are a powerful time to connect with our ancestors. 

I spent Samhain co-leading the Purpose Power Presence Autumn Athena Leadership Intensive with Hetty Einzig. During the programme we ask women to tell us about a significant person from their childhood and what they learnt from them. The spirit of mothers, aunts and grandmothers come into the room with their messages of encouragement and affirmation: “Be strong”, “Do things your way”, “Have fun and laugh!”

To reinforce the sustenance from those ancestors, we invited the women to embody that support by imagining that person’s hands on their back – a tip we learnt from Wendy Palmer’s Leadership Embodiment method.

A big part of the stress of modern life is that we are disconnected from our roots, including our ancestors, which leads to depletion and burnt out.

Questions to reflect on at this time of year are:

  • Who in your ancestors has “got your back”?
  • What positive messages did you get from them about how to be in the world?
  • How can you honour them at this time, for example, displaying their photo or sharing a story about them with a friend?

We spend so much time striving towards the future that we forget about the support that lies behind us.

I’d love to hear your ancestor stories…