healing the 7 generations

A rewrite of an earlier post.

I do not ‘love’ my mother. I no longer say that I hate her, though once I would have described my feelings for her in that way, though even then I suspect it was more the kind of hate that fills an empty space, which really longs for love. A younger rawer, painful emotion it was then. Today I wish her well. I sincerely thank her for accompanying me into and in this life, and for my life, just as it is. I hope for her all good things…. blessings, joy, love, healing, hope…. in the same way I hope for any other human being.  In truth, I suppose I have deep compassion for her. Still, it is not an easy thing to admit that I have so little affection for her. But this is about telling the truth and I may as well start here.

I wonder where it began. Certainly there is my own personal history that might explain it away, and I’ll get into that later. What I’m wondering now is where this legacy of mother-daughter brokenness began. Did my mother even have the resources to love me, bond with me, nurture me?  Did she love her own mother?

Growing up, visits to my grandmother were a regular occurrence, once a month. Phone calls between my mother and my grandmother were a Sunday evening regularity. But was theirs an artificial regularity, like bowel movements controlled by fiber laxatives? Or was there something nourishing that passed between them? Something nourishing that was not passed along to me?

I suppose then this is why I write

1. It is nourishing to me

2. I hope you will love your mother.

Not because I told you to, nor out of duty, but because something will have healed in these mother-daughter bonds by the time you arrive. This is why I write, trusting that this truth-telling will unveil more than secrets, but will unroot the family shame that keeps them hidden in the dark and keeps us from being tender to one another. I trust that hearing the stories of your grandmother will meet more needs than mere curiosity and wonder, but will forge connections between you and me, and heal this long lineage of broken female familial bonds.

When my daughter was born, I longed for her life to be different than mine, dreamed for her young life to be filled with hope and joy and free-spirited expressions. The pain that she now bears brings me such deep, great sorrow. It seems she is more stricken with the pain of not knowing her beauty than even was I. So ironic, as it was she who awakened me to what was awry in my own life and began in me my own journey of healing, this girl-child who reminded me of lost parts of me all along the way, this girl-child whom i wanted to nourish so that she’d never have to feel the pain of betrayal and abandonment, of dishonor, I’d experienced. She, whom I tried so valiantly to give what it was that I’d needed — to be seen as Beauty, to be heard, to be loved, to be attended to, to be cherished.

I remember the first time I saw her, nursed her at my breast, the feeling of beholding Love. So many emotions were stirred awake in me – longing, fierceness, deep gratitude. I recall vividly how also, gazing at her , I beheld my own loss.

I don’t completely understand what’s happened. Perhaps I projected too much. Perhaps it was too much for her young soul to carry. Though I’ve always known she came to accompany me, to heal me, to awaken me, to guide me — as each stage of her life awakened in me the lost part of myself at those ages (the unmet needs, the longings and losses)– perhaps all of that was too much for a young soul to bear.

Today, I wonder how that will play out in the lives of my granddaughters, how their parents wounds will play out in their lives in unexpected and unintended ways. Where will be the aggravation of the wound? Where will be the healing? What will they bear for us? How will we release them at last? May it not take 7 generations…

Great-granddaughter of mine, may you be honored for your giftedness, for the expression of beauty you bring into the world. May you not be exploited for the gratification of another. May you be cherished, not punished, for your beauty. May your free-spirited expressions of self not draw the attention of the predator. May your self not be silenced in fear. May there be something left of your Self, after traversing the treacherous passage to womanhood, for you to give to your daughter. I pray that by the time you read this, the culture will have changed in vital ways, though I expect that 4 generations will not be enough time to completely heal and make whole centuries of women losing themselves — in our family and the world.

In the book, Storycatcher, by Christina Baldwin, there is the story of a grandmother who began to tell her story when her grandson became stricken with the ‘family disease’ of drug and alcohol addiction. She thought it time at last to drag this dark family shame out from the shadows, expose it to a little light. Shame is such a hidden, festering wound. It grows unchecked like cancer until it poisons even that which is healthy in a body. The author spoke of healing the 7 generations with our storytelling.

Just weeks earlier, I had written this in my journal, shortly after I dreamed you on that mountaintop of young hemlocks.

‘I wonder how a book might be, one entitled ‘Letters to my Granddaughters’.

I am pondering my desire for my life to have meaning, for the expression of my self into this world to have created more Beauty in this place. I am thinking about the ripple in the pond. Of course, smallness always appeals to me. Perhaps speaking the truth of my life into the world is enough — i need not express anything terribly profound or new, just tell my story, unveil its truths – both light and dark — so that healing might begin here in me, and through me, in the lives of my family — the generations that came before and the ones to come after.


And may the healing of one family heal others.

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