By Yvette Barrus Zobell | When the feelings of love and protection in your heart and soul are bigger than you are… When the desire you have for your child to be happy and safe is as powerful as the ocean… When you have passion and drive burning inside of you like a fiery furnace … You just might be a Mama Dragon!
Like a wave of grace, Mama Dragons has been there to encourage, support, empathize, rage, and sit with me as I walk this remarkable and demanding path.
I am one of the original Mama Dragons. Back in 2014 at the beginning of our Mama Dragon organization, I was 7 years into my own journey. I was a voracious learner and a seasoned advocate, and my LGBTQ child was a happy, healthy adult. My passion and advocacy centered on educating my community, advocating for civil rights, and reaching out to the LGBTQ community. I feel like my heart has been broken, shaped, expanded, healed, opened, and is a completely different heart than the heart I had years ago before I started this journey. Having women walking along side me experiencing the same transformation has been validating and unifying.
There are lessons I have learned during my journey that are worth sharing. These lessons were absolutely necessary for my growth and well being – some painfully learned, others gifted to me. I see this process of being a healthy Mama Dragon as an unfolding process. Think of a dragon unfolding her wings little by little. I used the word UNFOLD as an acronym for the qualities and practices that helped me “unfold” my wings!
- U – Utilize Self-Care
- N – Necessity of Mentors
- F – Friendship
- O – Optimize your Emotions
- L – Learn Everything you Can
- D – Draw Boundaries
U – Utilize Self-Care
I learned about the necessity of self-care. Having an LGBTQ child changed me for the better, but the reconstruction of my world was a difficult process. Self-care became very necessary in order to stay healthy. Even though I exercised regularly, I had to adopt and learn other self-care habits.
Meditation, spending time in nature, doing things I love, and being intentional about my spiritual practice have helped me to reduce anxiety and stress. As I entered the world of LGBTQ advocacy I learned what compassion fatigue was. It is not uncommon to experience compassion fatigue and secondary trauma as you witness the trauma and suffering of others. At times I’ve needed to step back from the work of advocacy to exercise self-care. Stepping back is not a sign of weakness – it is smart and necessary to rest and take of yourself.
How do you exercise self-care?
N – Necessity of Mentors
I learned that having a mentor helps you have hope. I was so fortunate to have great mentors who had already walked the path I was walking. I loved being in the presence of seasoned ladies who listened to me with kindness and empathy. They encouraged and succored me as I navigated the tumultuous twists and turns of this journey.
F – Friendship
I learned that having another Mama Dragon as your friend is like receiving manna from heaven. Mama Dragons links you up with other women in your area who are walking a similar path. Meeting up with another Mama Dragon and sharing a friendship is a beautiful, healing, and nourishing experience. I am lucky to have had this blessing. On many hikes and lunches with friends we would process our similar feelings and experiences. I felt nourished, refreshed, recharged, and connected as Mama Dragon friendships were developed!
O – Optimize your Emotions
I learned that strong, negative emotions can be a gift as they are transformed.
I use to be afraid of the anger that came along with this issue, but then I learned that my anger was a gift when I transformed it. Anger became the fuel for my passion. It gave me tremendous courage to do things I never imagined myself doing – like speaking about LGBTQ issues in front of a chapel full of conservative church-goers.
Have you had experiences using strong emotions to propel yourself forward?
L – Learn and Seek Knowledge
I learned that knowledge is power. There is so much to learn about LGBTQ issues and experiences. Study and learn everything you can. If you are armed with good information you can in turn educate others. One of my mentors had a mantra: “Educate, educate, educate!” she would say!
D – Draw Boundaries
I learned the absolute necessity of setting boundaries. The definition of a boundary is what is OK and what is not OK. Unfortunately most Mama Dragons will experience some situations that are NOT OK! I had to change some of the longstanding habits and patterns in my life. You may have to draw boundaries to protect your LGBTQ child.
Drawing boundaries was not easy for me, but it was worth it. Setting boundaries reduced my stress exponentially! It enabled me to not constantly be resentful towards certain people. It helps to treat people with more compassion when you draw boundaries. When you implement boundaries, there will most likely be push back. It might be hard; but it will also be worth it because you are worth it, your family is worth it, and your child is worth it. You deserve to be as peaceful and happy as possible.
What boundaries have you set in your life? What boundaries do you need to set?
I can say without reservation that having an LGBTQ child has been among the most enlightening experiences of my life! What an extraordinary gift it has been to learn what it really means to love unconditionally. What a blessed journey it has been to be involved as an ally advocating for a better world. I continually find myself unfolding.
How are your dragon wings? What can you change in your life to help you with the unfolding process?
All my best to you on your journey!