Several weeks ago my dear friend Suzanne messaged me and said she wanted to nominate me for a 92nd Street Y “Extraordinary Woman” award. Suzanne and I worked together as editors/reporters at McGraw-Hill (she at Chemical Engineering magazine and me at Modern Plastics magazine) back in the late 80s and early 90s. We attended each other’s weddings (21 and 20 years ago) and have cheered each other on from afar ever since.
To say I was blown away by her generosity and thoughtfulness (and that she thought my work worthy of such an award) is putting it lightly. Together we crafted the nomination (and I won’t lie, it felt weird on my part) and she submitted it. Except, the online form didn’t work and so it wasn’t received in time, despite Suzanne’s concerted efforts.
I am STILL blown away. The clarity I received as a result of her efforts has been profound, so I’d like to share part of what she wrote in the nomination.
I am writing to nominate Karen C. L. Anderson for the 92nd St Y’s Clara de Hirsch Award, in recognition of the brave movement she has created for women who have experienced lifelong struggles related to a troubled relationship with their mothers.
Why brave? Karen’s work shifts a paradigm. It is often considered taboo to discuss the pain of dysfunctional mother-daughter issues outside of lofty clinical pathologies and personality disorders, unless, of course, it’s in a private support group where, often, the “support” ends up keeping women stuck in their painful stories, reactions, and patterns of behavior. In that traditional paradigm, affected women are stuck conveying “lesser versions” of themselves, which, ironically, is often what happens between mothers and daughters who have a failing or dysfunctional relationship.
While on the surface it may seem like a niche issue, Karen’s work gets to the heart of self-actualization and gender equality. She made the connection between the micro (one mother / one daughter struggling) and the macro (internalized misogyny and the so-called Mother Wound, which is the pain of living one’s life as a woman in cultures and societies that do not value women and girls equally, an attitude that is too often passed down from mother to daughter). This is the source of so much intergenerational pain, dysfunction, self-loathing and even violence among so many women.
Karen’s work focuses on both this macro view and on specific, practical, and compassionate ways in which women can learn to “re-mother themselves” and to establish healthy, kind boundaries, not just with their mothers, but in all types of relationships, throughout their lives.
Based on her own healing journey, Karen knows that when women feel guilty, ashamed, and afraid, they are unable to help others who suffer from systemic oppression. In writing her groundbreaking book — “The Peaceful Daughter’s Guide To Separating From A Difficult Mother” — Karen set out to not just share her stories and her hard-won wisdom, but to create an empowerment process for other women. This process challenges assumptions about the way things are and can be for women, not just within the context of their ongoing or historic relationships with their own mothers (who often model and foster ongoing disempowerment), but within the world at large. Karen’s authentic writing style and shared experiences, wisdom, and recommendations help women to process and challenge long-held assumptions about power, helping, achieving, and succeeding.
Since her book (The Peaceful Daughter’s Guide To Separating From ADifficultt Mother) was self-published in September of 2015, it has sold more than 115,000 copies, and has been picked up by a small traditional publisher. A revised, expanded version of the book — Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide for Separation, Liberation & Inspiration — is slated for release on March 1, 2018. Through her writings and teachings and very active and interactive social media presence, Karen helps adult daughters to gain autonomy and control over their own lives, fostering power in them, for use in their own lives, and with their children, families, and in their communities.