myth and poetry


Maggie Macary Ph.DPink Hearts
Can't Be Broken
by Maggie Macary Ph.D

first published to in The Theatre
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2005 @ 14:49:32 EDT
Topic: Personal Mythology

republished Mother's Day, May 10, 2009

For a long, long time now, I've been contemplating mother and daughter relationships. In the beginning, I've denied their importance in a woman's psyche, thinking that a woman's relationship to the outside world was infinitely more important than her relationship to her mother. That was an adolescent point of view born out of a childish belief that we didn't really like each other and a desperate need to escape my mother's life and her reach.

Somewhere in my twenties, I began to understand that this primal relationship to the woman who birthed me was not going to leave me that somehow I must resolve the differences (and there were many), between her and I. Thus began years of therapy in which I got angry with her and focused on her faults. Somewhere in my forties, as she approached death, I began to savor every moment with her, both difficult and sublime. And then she died and left me alone.

It's been almost 6 years since my mother left and I am still working out and working on our relationship. In studying Greek myth, I delved into the mysteries of Eleusis and contemplating that the image of mother and daughter held an intertwined power.

Carl Jung writes:

We could therefore say that every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter her mother, and that every woman extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter. This participation and intermingling give rise to that peculiar uncertainty as regards time: a woman lives earlier as a mother, later as a daughter. The conscious experience of these ties produces the feeling that her life is spread out over generations - the first step towards the immediate experience and conviction of being outside time, which brings with it a feeling of immortality. (Essays on a Science of Mythology 162).

I've contemplated that idea for several years now, thinking about it philosophically, wondering if Jung touched the core of something that was worthy of exploration. Inherent in Greek myth and philosophy is the notion that a woman is born from her mother in a unique way; that she is of a particular race, the Genos Gynaikon or race of women.

Although these thoughts were born from a male perspective, a male philosophy, a male psychology, a male mythology, I can't help wondering about this notion of timelessness and immortality that exists between a mother and daughter. I think about turning this immortality from a feminine perspective, a feminine mythology, a feminine psychology. In those dreamy myths the story remains vibrant: a daughter becomes a mother who bears a daughter who becomes a mother - an endless mythopoetic expression that lives on and on. Regardless of whether or not this is a physical reality (I have no real-life daughter), I think it is an imaginal reality, that is something vibrant and alive that pulses through life and softly shapes what becomes, what is, what will have been. Yes, this is a kernel that I know I'll be pursuing for many years to come as I continue to work the relationships between myths and psyche.

I did not mean to have this piece turn so immediately philosophical. Because the truth is, this morning I am in a personal moment in which my relationship to my mother becomes crystalline. I've written before about the notion that my mother had an imaginal daughter who loved pink hearts. That daughter was never me. I never liked the images of pink hearts, thinking them silly and sappy. And I never liked the pink heart birthday cake my mother insisted on baking me for my birthday, pulling out, once a year, the heart-shaped pans that she bought when I was born. I didn't like the pink heart crepe-paper decorations that always showed up at my birthday parties or the tasteless little pink hearted candies either. I just was never that kind of little girl. I love chocolate, deep, dark, and rich. But the pink-heart daughter persisted in my mother's world until that day, years ago when she presented me with a pink heart vase that was her very last craft of a crafty life. Then she died.

I realized then how much of a role that imaginal pink-heart daughter played in the relationship between my mother and myself. I think it drove a wedge between us as my mother in her frustration with my refusal to conform to her imaginal notion, grew angry with me and somehow pushed me away. She was not alone in this imaginal relationship, because I had an imaginal mother who would somehow realize that pink hearts were just never going to be my thing, a mother more smart and intelligent, rather than merely clever and crafty.

But you know, perhaps my mother knew me better than I thought. Because here I am, years after her death, thinking about my birth and my mother and how pink heartsthe two of us stay intertwined. I never liked pink hearts, so I proclaimed. I am not the pink-heart daughter that my mother somehow held onto for all those years I said otherwise. And yet, this morning I am thinking of pink hearts and the mother who crafted them for me, year after year, and I realize that I have become the daughter she imagined. I love pink hearts.

Note: Copyright ©2005, Maggie Macary - all rights reserved. Originally published on

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