I think often of the generations before us. Your mother, hers, the many faceless women who came before. The ones who were hurt and who hurt and who sent down their shock of pain through a generational wire which continues it’s gnawing hum in both of us.
We know so little about our genetic heritage. We know even less about the stories and the sufferings and the fantasies of the interior lives of those women. Who were they? What did they want? How much room did they make for us? What scarifies do we own them, if any?
Did they too, spend their entire childhood cowering like a frightened animal? Did they learn to rule with uncontrolled hysteria and avoidant withdrawal or manipulate with sheer nightgowns and histrionics? Maybe they were softer, kinder than your mother or hers and the men who wed them battered them into what we recognize as feminity in our family today?
With their threat detection systems on permanent high alert, how, in adulthood, were they supposed to trust, to feel joy, raise healthy future generations?
How far back does the trauma go? We have to assume that the rights of women, which have only recently begun to improve, had some additional impact on the welfare of our foremothers. Once we were given freedom, it was very clear: we did not know what to do with it.
We also have access to information that they could never know. Ways to get help, learn about trauma, and actual opportunities to upend generations patterns.
If we can give future generations anything, it is this: stories. Stories to know, to study, to exhume, learn from and then finally, pass on to incoming generations.
As I continue to work out how to become a functional adult — which means unlearning the siege mentality I acquired as a survival mechanism as an adult, I have one eye on the past and one on the future. Each one tells me how to proceed. As I surf between past and future, I carve out a little hallow in the present for myself and my family. It is not much, but it is better than before. Even with all that I don’t know, somehow, I know this to be true.
When the simple act of growing up exhausts you even before you have started to build you own adult life – it can be hard to get it right.
It can be hard to admit that mothering doesn’t feel natural or easy. It can be hard to admit that we maim our children when we are truly doing the very best we can. I am learning those lessons in real time, we both are.
You put many stones on the path. Yours were the first ones there and they will stay there, accumulating the wisdom of moss and bridging the gap between the nowhereness of our past and the hopefulness of the future.