The sincerest form of flattery

A genuine desire to imitate comes from a place of inspiration. When one person styles themselves after another — through attitude, action, or even dress — it’s because they’ve been inspired enough to make a change in themselves. That’s powerful.

Back in the late 90s/early 00s my friend Amy and I had a little company called Battleaxe Folk, that promoted local music — especially the work of women and queer folk, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of our more popular events was “Imitation is the sincerest form of…”, a series of fundraising shows that saw a group of local musicians each pick a known artist to cover.

I remember how chuffed we were when we came up with that name — we felt so clever. And really, we (kind of) were. We took what was, in essence, just a show of cover tunes and turned it into a celebration of artists — like Ani DiFranco, The Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, and Sheryl Crow — that inspired our community and, in turn, raised money for local charities. Even today I still think it’s just about perfect as a name could be. Because it’s true. Of course, some imitations move way past flattery and into unethical territory, but when an intention is pure, a little bit of mimicry can be remarkable. And that’s why I think this project — the Whole Family Happiness Project — and the community growing up around it, is such a beautiful thing.

Over the last decade or so of raising a kid, I kind of let things slide. Not only did I feel like I wasn’t doing as much as I could, I wasn’t even doing as much as I used to. And then I found Whole Family Happiness. Over the past months working on this project — interviewing amazing moms and editing their inspiring stories, and being part of the conversations that emerge in the comments under Facebook posts — I’ve begun to feel my old fire reigniting. I’m inspired, and it’s you — all of you — that inspired me.

Because of fierce women like Cindy Wilding and Sarah Dantzer, I’ve started taking regular trash walks around my neighbourhood, tidying up as I go. The stories we’ve shared about trailblazing women like Tracy McNeilSusan Goldberg, and Emily Kerton prompted me to order a supply of bamboo toothbrushes — in bulk, trade my Gillette Sensor for a Weishi safety razor, switch up plastic wrap, paper towel and produce bags for reusable versions, and ditch plastic straws for their metal and paper counterparts. And that’s not all — I’m also making my own hair and body products, using solid shampoos and conditioners, preparing more meat-free meals, walking and biking as often as possible, and prioritizing local wherever it makes sense.

Every day I’m inspired to do something more by someone else. And I’m thankful for it. So thank you — all of you — for inspiring me to take the lessons I’ve learnt here, bring them home, and make them part of my everyday life. Thank you for encouraging me to do more with what I have, and to keep looking for ways to do better. Thank you for making me feel connected to something bigger, for making me feel less alone, for being you, and doing your most. I hope you’re sincerely flattered.


Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.

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The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Come join us on Facebook.

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