I asked today, why am I so sad? I saw pictures of myself from yesterday’s hike up swallow falls, and I looked so old. It was distressing — disappointing — sad to see that frail woman in that photo. Where did she come from? Why can’t she stop the rapid aging that seems to have taken hold? And why is it so difficult for me to accept this process? Am I alone in this? I am deeply saddened by this visual proof of the loss of my youth, who knew it would be so difficult to accept what is?
The hike up swallow falls was pushing my limits, I felt it — I knew it — and I pushed myself anyway. And I knew I’d pay. My mid back is incredible achy today — not yet recovered from another recent fall. Using my walking sticks yesterday hurt my mid back and aggravated my already injured lower back. Ugh. Chronic inflammation is a vicious circle trying to live life and then paying for it afterwards.
So, it appears, that my new homeopath is right. I don’t listen to my body — I disconnect and choose not to feel. I ask Spirit — “when did this start?” I hear the answer inside myself — “As a 2-year-old.” I know I was spanked quite a lot at two years of age — she (mom) wrote about it — described me, at 2-yrs-old, as the “sad, bad girl who will get no further privileges until she learns to behave.” Her statement, written at a time, when as a young mother, she had a 5-year-old, a four-year-old, a 2-year-old(me), and a new baby, speaks volumes about her own mental-emotional state, rather than mine. My mother was overwhelmed and took it out on me — her wild 2-year-old. She labeled — judged me — And essentially failed me, due to her life situation.
Labeling, judging and failing our children is what we do as parents. It is part of the parenting journey, as we label, judge and fail ourselves along the way, it is natural that this spills out onto our own children. There is no better way to learn that you yourself are not perfect than to become a parent. Parenting is a journey that is fraught with opportunities to fail, laced with liabilities we don’t see coming and at the same time, moments of unexpected joy, which we treasure. Parents have to learn how to think on their feet, how to set their emotions aside and how to have compassion for the little beings in their care. If your own parents were unable to consistently develop any of these essential skills, you may find yourself lacking them with your own children as a result.
It helps me to understand my own parenting journey by reflecting on my mother’s parenting journey. It also helps me to cut myself some slack as a parent while I retroactively witness what I suffered as a child. It even helps me to reflect on my grandmother’s parenting journey. Grandma Elizabeth was an outspoken feminist ahead of her time. She rejoined the workforce as fast as she could in the late 1930’s, after having three children. When she had the unexpected fourth child a decade later, she was even more determined to get back to work and hired a nanny who was in a biracial marriage, unbeknownst to my racist grandfather. Not uncommon in Detroit, Michigan, but also not well accepted, the nanny had to have her husband drop her off a block away so that my grandfather never knew he was black.
“My mother was a good mother, she never beat us or yelled at us,” replied my mom, decades ago, when I questioned her about her mom. Interesting that my mother’s definition of a good mother was someone who didn’t beat or yell at their children. Interesting that her definition didn’t include being hugged or held or encouraged or feeling loved. Now I know the 1930s were not easy times for anyone, so perhaps the best a child could expect was to ‘not be beat or yelled at.’ It was definitely still the time period where children should be seen and not heard.
The real question amongst these mothers; did these women push themselves beyond their abilities? My grandmother would have been amongst the earliest batch of working mothers in US history and would definitely still have been expected to make all the meals, wash the clothes, clean the house, etc. Accomplishing all of that, had to make her a pretty determined soul, which probably forced her to disconnect from her own exhaustion and overwhelm in order to accomplish it.
Interestingly, when I asked my mother for her opinion of how good a wife her mom had been, she didn’t think her mom had been a great wife. I suspect it might have been difficult to have the energy to be a ‘great wife’ in the 1930s— 1940s, when you were working full-time and having to do all the household chores.
My own mother, having had 8 children spaced so closely together, would have been, like all her Catholic mommy friends, exhausted by trying to take care of these huge families they’d created. Add to this scenario, a husband who traveled 3 weeks out of 4, selling insurance and the added stress of having three handicapped children who each died at the age of three. Pretty sure my mother pushed herself beyond her limits on a regular basis.
Which brings me to my journey, I recall suffering with morning sickness for the beginning of all three pregnancies, energized for the rest of the pregnancies and exhausted while breastfeeding each child for up to two years. Unfortunately, I too, was stressed out and overwhelmed during my children’s childhood. There were creative moments with them also, sprinkled between amongst my failures. Early on however, I was able to seek out and find healing mentors to help me restore my energy and to start the process of self-healing my underlying wounds.
Our underlying wounds come from personal experience and from inherited family experiences. So, my ability to disconnect from my body, from what I’m feeling physically, mentally and emotionally, appears to come from both; personal experience and inherited. I personally learned to disconnect from my body each time my mother yelled at me — spanked me — punished me. I taught myself at an early age to not feel what happened to me. This caused a loss of precious inner radar — the internal guidance system that was meant to keep me safe, had been disabled. The physical sensors which would alert me to how my body is doing or feeling in any given moment were turned off, put on mute or paused. While this is a very helpful technique which allows a child to survive something that feels traumatic, it becomes problematic over time, due to the loss of sensitivity that becomes second nature.
As a child, when I saw the end goal in my mind’s eye — my idea — I rushed towards it — determined to get it done, sooner versus later; lest I be thwarted by outside forces (mom). I had to become quick or sneaky. As a young parent, I’ve watched these traits develop in certain children. Even though the term ‘helicopter parenting’ didn’t exist yet, I witnessed the effect it caused; children from 0-3 became quick and sneaky, in order to get away with stuff before they were thwarted once again. I don’t recall being sneaky, but I’m sure I was.
I actually don’t even recall how much I got spanked — I’ve been able to receive information and insight about my early childhood through intuitive self-exploration; by asking internally about a particular time period — then somehow sensing what had happened — followed by seeing images arise in my mind’s eye, accompanied by a gut knowing that what I was remembering had actually happened. It’s all inside of us — even if we don’t consciously recall it, our unconscious does. We have access to all that we have experienced in this life, we need only quiet ourselves to explore it.
This process aids me today to help me realize that once again, I am still a work in progress. I still have much to learn and much to heal in my body, mind and spirit. And I still have another chance to get it right. I am willing to turn my inner radar back on, to reactivate my inner guidance which keeps me in touch with my body. Over the past few decades, I have purposefully unveiled, explored and healed many of my mental layers and my emotional layers, so perhaps it makes sense that now I am accessing the deeper layers of my physicality. Those physical layers have been ignored for far too long and have been patiently awaiting my notice.
I’m considering creating a new group for society: not sure quite what to call it yet, it might be a subcategory of workaholics, or over-achievers, but may be better labeled as ‘body-disconnected.’ There’s got to be a catchy term for this. People who are addicted to not feeling their body’s limits and needs. People who are addicted to pushing beyond, overriding and ignoring the messages and signals that their body gives them. I stand here as a cautionary tale, to forewarn you, there is a price to be paid for being disconnected to the body and the price accumulates over time. Hopefully, between me now actually listening to my body and my homeopath figuring out the best homeopathic medicine to get me back on track, I may get past chronic inflammation and back to balance. In the meantime, I will continue receiving regular therapeutic massage, cranial- sacral therapy, reiki treatments and acupuncture. Of course, I’ll also continue to receive ‘damage control’ after my life mishaps from our local manual therapy genius, Chris Crawford.