Before my mother died she said to me; “I wish you could stop trying to fix yourself! Why can’t you just be more like me?!”
I have a dining room cupboard filled with dishes and china from relatives who have long since died. I never fully thought about whose they were because my younger sister remembered it all.
She died six years ago.
So there are stories and lives and traumas all witnessed by those dishes that will never be told. How much gets passed down to us in those stories even without words? How much shame, even joy do we learn as our families live out their DNA and traumas?
There are good stories in my family. My nephew recently had a health scare and there we all were! Texting and phoning, traveling and emailing from all across the US. A delicious family in a crisis. So much love.
Yet I also hear my mother’s critical negative voice in my own. I see my anxiety in my daughters and my grandsons. I have a deep dread that something is about to go wrong at any moment. I have a very typical chaotic mind of an adult child of an alcoholic!
I remember a story about my father’s childhood when he was left at an orphanage with his siblings because his mother couldn’t afford to take care of them after her husband died. "There is an incident of something going wrong," my father might say!
Am I still living this out this story? Has it been handed to my children and my grandchildren? The answer is probably yes, along with a set of brain chemicals and DNA that won’t leave me alone.
Brene’ Brown says in A Daring Way that a therapist needs to “stay aware of our own darkness in order to bring light to those we are trying to serve.” From this perspective, I am grateful for the dark stories in my family…it helps me bring light into their darkness.
After my mother died, we all agreed she was grumpy. Yet, there was consensus among her daughters that she loved us. I don’t remember her ever saying that she loved us…it was just something we KNEW and never doubted. Now THAT'S some great DNA!
So I go forward with my lovingness and my grumpiness bringing both into my awareness when I am able and shedding light whenever I remember to those around me. The new ingredient being added is awareness that gives me choice about how I behave and feel most of the time.
Maybe my mother had a point. Now I am finally more like her! I just threw in extra awareness and happiness, that’s all.
Executive Director & Founder
The Estuary, Inc.