Now, being a woman who is constantly inspired by her mother, I have a deep appreciation and respect for other women who have the same sort of relationship.
Any mother / daughter relationship is special, but sometimes people express their love and respect for their mother in a way that is so eloquent that it just has to be shared.
…and that’s where today’s Fabulous Friday Female has come from.
So who is Elli Stassinopoulos?
The name probably doesn’t mean much to you…but she is the mother of Arianna Huffington, the editor-in-chief of the Huffington post.
…and when I heard Arianna’s story about her mother’s lessons, heartwarming ways and inspiring journey, I just had to share it.
Normally I would try to retell the story…but not today. Arianna’s words about her mother Elli Stassinopoulos are too beautiful to change:
The first experience of fear I remember was a particularly strange one. I was 9 years old. Over dinner one night, my mother started telling my younger sister, Agapi, and me about the time during the Greek civil war, in the 1940s, when she fled to the mountains with two Jewish girls. As part of the Greek Red Cross, she was taking care of wounded soldiers and hiding the girls.
She described the night when German soldiers arrived at their cabin and started to shoot, threatening to kill everyone if the group did not surrender the Jews the Germans suspected (rightly) they were hiding. My mother, who spoke fluent German, stood up and told them categorically to put down their guns, that there were no Jews in their midst. And then she watched the German soldiers lower their guns and walk away. And just hearing it, I remember the fear rising inside me, not just fear for my mother and the danger she faced but fear for myself. How would I ever live up to this standard of fearlessness?
My mother did not let financial concerns stop her from leaving my father when I was 11-years-old. For my father, as for many Greek men of his generation, there was nothing wrong with extramarital affairs. “I don’t want you to interfere with my private life,” I remember him telling my mother when she complained. His marriage was part of his public life, his affairs part of his private life. But that was not okay for her, and even though she had no job and no obvious way to earn money, she took her two children and left, trusting that somehow she would make ends meet. And, somehow, she did.
My mother was the ultimate non-thing person. For instance, there was the time we tried to give her a second watch for her birthday, only to have her give it to someone else two days later. “I already have a watch,” she explained.
She told me once that she operated like the government: She first decided what it was that her children needed and then she set out to find the money. My mother was one of the original deficit financers. She made ends meet by borrowing or by selling her possessions, from a carpet brought by her parents from Russia to her last pair of gold earrings. My mother’s real wealth was the fact that she never made decisions from a place of lack. Even when she and my sister and I had to share a one-bedroom apartment in Athens, she always radiated abundance. When I said I wanted to go to Cambridge, she never said, “We don’t have the money.” (Which we didn’t). She was a dreamer and always believed that the universe would conspire to bring forward the resources to fulfill her dreams. Which in her case were all dreams for her daughters.
When I started making money — after my biography of Maria Callas became a big bestseller — my mother saw this financial success only as a passport to freedom, which for her meant never having to make decisions based simply on the price tag. She taught my sister and me all about abundance: that it has more to do with your state of mind than your actual bank balance. And she was constantly living in a state of offering. Food, of course, was her favorite thing to offer, but it was a metaphor for so much more. I’m convinced that she absolutely believed that something terrible would happen to her children — and her grandchildren and her friends — if they went 20 minutes without eating. Nobody could ring our doorbell, whether the Federal Express man or a parent dropping off a child for a play date, without being asked, indeed urged, to sit down and try whatever she was cooking in the kitchen. And nobody could leave our house without goody bags filled with food.
My mother took control of her own status and defined her own worth. So she was freed from the petty turf wars and ugly envy of the status game, freed from fear about how “they” ranked her and what privileges “they” would bestow on her. By deciding her own worth and radiating the confidence that comes with this, she was secure in her status regardless of her life’s circumstances. Getting rid of the fear that the status game generated allowed my mother to connect in a much deeper way with people at all levels of life.
She cut through hierarchies and showed everyone fortunate enough to come into contact with her that we’re all cut from the same cloth. She approached life by liking everybody, and because this feeling of trust and connection is contagious, everybody liked her right back.
So today I would like to thank Arianna, for sharing her mother’s beautiful story and I would like to ask you to join me in acknowledging and celebrating Elli for the inspiration that she brought to Arianna…which is in turn being passed on to millions through her work.
As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with 3 simple details:
- Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
- Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
- A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)
So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU.
…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!