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Dedicated to my cousin Doris for reasons she will understand–

When we awaken the ego does die, but it is not what many think. The caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, dies to its old form and can never go back to being a caterpillar. Yet, if you look closely, the main body of it still retains its caterpillar form. ~ Atreya Thomas

During the White Awake workshop described in the two previous essays, we were encouraged to mend the fabric of the inevitable disconnection with our ancestral roots. When I did, I began to realize why my family had been silent about their histories. Not only did I encounter their overwhelming religious persecution, but I began to understand my grandparents’ abject rejection of speaking about anything related to the old country, as they desperately tried to embraced a whole new culture of becoming Americans and all that meant to them. For them, it was about basic survival – a new beginning in a new country. Severing ties from everything that was familiar to them, including their parents, aunts and uncles, their grandparents, and their whole way of life was a prerequisite.

During the late 1800s in Lithuania, pogroms (organized massacres targeting Jewish communities) were instituted which resulted in mass emigration to America. Some emigrants chose acquiescence, desperately wanting to assimilate; whereas some who had become revolutionaries in the old country brought that energy of resistance to America. The latter group had sought to unite all the Jews in Lithuania in a class-based fight for social reform. They had organizing to demand: an improvement in living standards, a more democratic political system, and the introduction of equal rights for Jews. They were revolutionaries, socialists and communists. My grandfather brought these ideals with him to America. In his 80s, my father first acknowledged to me that he had gone to the Workmen’s Circle, a socialist camp during high school. He explained that there was a communist camp and a socialist camp and he attended the latter.

I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have told my grandfather that, perhaps through osmosis (or DNA), I had received the teaching that hatred of other, whether expressed as racism, classism, sectarianism or anti-Semitism, was something to fiercely resist against! I would have told my grandparents that their suffering was not in vain, that I got the message. My whole life has been about dispelling hatred in myself and others. And now, in the 21st century, many of those socio-political issues are still present and growing. Dad, you prepared me well. Although, I didn’t understand all of what our ancestors endured when we had this intimate, revealing conversation just a few years before he died, I did begin to piece together why our home was secular, devoid of God. Many of the revolutionaries from Eastern Europe who had experienced such trauma became atheists, at least my father, and I suspect, my grandfather did. I don’t know how this trauma manifested in his older brother Azer, the firstborn, born into a family of immigrants, trying to piece together new lives amid the catastrophic trauma from which they fled, to carry-on in America. The firstborn often carries more weight than the other children, more responsibility, and more of the raw, direct trauma from the parents and grandparents, whether physically present or not.

My grandfather, who arrived in America around the turn-of-the-century, was a craftsman who built furniture and started selling his creations and used furniture along the railroad tracks in Pennsylvania where the trains would bring them to his storefront. My grandmother was more of a pragmatist who chose to not eat their limited rations during the Great Depression so her children could. After bankruptcies and dire survival struggles, my father began working with his father while still in high school. As I mentioned in the previous essay, I suspect my father (who was a bit of a mama’s boy) rejected his father’s ideology and became a capitalist to save his family. He would sacrifice a great deal not have his siblings, wife, or children starve as his family had. With a high school education, my father provided for his family and left a legacy of abundance and philanthropy, not scarcity and financial hardship.

I suspect he rejected his father’s gentle, humanistic way of being and saw it as passivity, and maybe it was, as trauma can take the form of immobilization. I see these polarities of capitalism versus socialism, revolutionary versus pacifist in myself. During our present, tumultuous times, having this internal conversation between the polarities of ourselves is necessary preparation for contemplating how we want to express ourselves, both personally and politically. Understanding our ancestry is an important part of our identity. If you understand epigenetics, trauma from previous generations actually can change the expression of our DNA and manifest in devastating and mysterious ways. For an interesting article click here.

When I knew him, my grandfather had advanced Parkinson’s disease. Having been the only two people in our family with progressive neurological illness, I have developed a kinship with him that only increases as this illness progresses. I can viscerally imagine the despair this loyal, enormously strong man felt as his body began to fail him. He was known to have carried an iron woodstove up a staircase by himself, something no human I know could accomplish. As his body weakened, he had to surrender to his somewhat caustic, but faithful wife who likely didn’t understand how past trauma may have manifested in herself and her husband. I remember my grandmother’s fierce loyalty caring for her husband as he grew more disabled and her unwillingness to place him elsewhere, regardless of the excessive demands on her. Love and trauma, trauma and love. There are no heroes or villains in this Sacred Work that is Life.

I consider myself spiritual, but not religious. I dutifully attended Hebrew school and synagogue in my early years, but there was little continuity at home which seemed to reveal a fracture I didn’t quite understand until later in life when my father finally admitted to having been a staunch atheist his whole life (until his death which I described in previous essays – our most intimate moment).

I found the Old Testament scary, presented by a rabbi who had little rapport with children. A punishing, threatening God was more of the stuff of my worst nightmares than a power that informs and heartens me. When I later learned of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of the church, this further reinforced my resistance to organized religion. The Jesus that was talked about in my early years, the prophet who was killed by Jews, created further shame in me for being different, for being Jewish.

Always having been a spiritual person by nature, the more mystical aspects of Judaism appealed to me when I later studied Kabbalah. I found that the mystical aspects all major religions seem to converge at the same point, the point where Jesus and other masters spoke from – Love. When we live from the soul, there is no other; there is only We.

The spirituality that I gravitate to is inconclusive, profoundly compassionate, deeply mystical, and emanates from my heart and not my head. That being said, I came to realize through the workshop that I had blatantly and aggressively rejected all aspects of the religion in which I grew up – the baby with the bathwater – and with that I had rejected significant parts of myself and my lineage.

The facilitator explained our relationship with our ancestors brilliantly – like with any intimate relationship, if one person has not achieved wholeness, they are like two halves of a whole, but two whole people can move past duality and co-create.

Today, we live in a world where capitalism has run amok and we have forgotten how to take care of each other. We have work to do. I am so grateful to stand on the shoulders of those who went before me, to reintroduce myself to them. The courage, the grief, the fortitude is quite a legacy they left for me to recover, by my willingness to feel shame and grief fully. This is what I contemplate when I sit at my altar to my ancestors.

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These bonds with our children as we are their mothers in this lifetime – like Joni Mitchell sings,’permanent tattoos’ that transmit all kinds of emotional knowing and intuitions about their states-of-being into our bodies. Indelible. Love’s burning mark. – Kathryn Brady

When I was 26, I had an explosion of love like none I’d experienced in my life thus far – the birth of my first baby. It was in that moment, feeling that degree of love, that I realized just how much more vulnerable I was in life. I never really had very much to lose, that is, before now.

It’s a girl. I had always been a tomboy, didn’t really know much about girlie things. The men in my family and the men in my mother’s family had been the nurturers. My mother was the matriarch and wielded much power, impetuously. I think she missed the nurturance gene.

I never wore pink. Intuitively, I knew that Casey was a pink baby. She was completely uninterested in the trucks, farm animals, and backhoes I bought her. Casey loved to wear pink and always had a baby doll in her arms. Early on she made it clear that she was an Artist, drawing hearts and balloons on everything she created. As a conscientious mother, it was always a mad dash to provide blank pages on her two-sided easel so her creativity could flow endlessly. Entering her room, I never knew what creations I was going to encounter. A happy being, Casey woke up  every morning singing in her crib until I heard, “Ma!” and my day began.

She was around two years old when I became a single mom and it was Casey and me for the next few years. I rode her to pre-school on my bicycle down St. Charles Avenue and sometimes we rode the streetcar. When I took a few classes in premed, she watched me study, enjoyed my wonder, and was curious about the dead frog in the refrigerator that was my homework.

Casey was strong-willed and she came by it honestly, if you know me. She is a third-generation fiercely strong woman and, also, just the medicine my mother needed to open her heart. There was a special bond between them that I was not a part of, but for which I am deeply grateful.

At four, my creative daughter built a clay Madonna that her art teacher found exceptional. Unfortunately, it exploded in the kiln. Nevertheless, my daughter was to be an artist no matter what else she did with her life.

Any program, class, or experience I could find to enrich her life, we participated in. I loved to watch her blossom and blossom she did. Aside from being creative, Casey was very grounded and sure of herself. In preschool she asked for the telephone list of her Montessori school and began calling each student and telling them to bring a particular fruit to school the next day. Casey was planning a fruit salad! During these moments, I watched her in awe and happily became her assistant.

Another quality noticeable at a young age was Casey’s selfless generosity, an attribute she shared with my mother. When Casey was three, she grabbed a plastic bag and started putting her stuffed animals into it. When I asked her what she was doing her reply was, “I’m giving these to the ‘crooked childs.’ ”  This quality has been consistent throughout her life.

We used to draw letters on each other’s back at bedtime and excitedly guess what each other drew. It was a sweet, simple time. There was strong connection and love between us that has surrounded us throughout our lives.

Conflict arose in her fourth year when my second husband joined our family. Casey is fiercely loyal and I suspect this quality was triggered, perhaps including Sid felt like a breach of trust on some level. Also, Casey had to share me for the first time which made for a bumpy transition.

We eventually found a new equilibrium, that is, until a few years later when I dropped into a sense of unworthiness and self-loathing almost too painful to contain. I later recognized this as a replay of the postpartum depression I’d experienced for a few hours after her birth.

Dense feelings have a cumulative effect throughout our lives and once they become unbearable, the earlier triggers may have been long forgotten. They often become lumped into general malaise and even medicated. Our culture doesn’t value vulnerability and the trauma that contributes to it. Postpartum depression is usually minimized to just hormonal when it is more like a lantern illuminating, or bookmarking, an issue to be explored at a later date. Embracing a greater vision of the cumulative, multigenerational nature of trauma is essential if we are to heal the depression and fear so prevalent in our culture. As we are learning with epigenetics, trauma can skip one or two generations and really wreak havoc making it more difficult to connect the dots. The mother/daughter dyad can provide a mirroring aspect that is often unconscious and evocative. Understanding our ancestry can be a helpful part of the tremendous healing process that is possible with same gender dyads. Some useful tools are Holotropic Breathwork and Family Constellation Therapy.

Being a psychotherapist and open to different healing modalities, I was able to bring much of my angst to consciousness which became grist for the mill for myself and my children. Fortunately, I raised children who are self-aware and communicative. My parents, having been first generation American born with parents who immigrated from the traumas of Eastern Europe and grew up in the Great Depression, made physical survival a possibility for our lineage. I try to make it a practice with my children to give gratitude to their grandparents. Our ancestors’ lives were not easy.

Considering this, my mother was likely struggling with similar feelings I had, but she struggled silently and with fewer internal resources.

Aside from family issues, Casey and I share something unseen. There is an energy between us that is beyond our limited, concrete understanding. For example, when Casey was very young she, her father, and I swam with the manatees in Florida. We had not spoken of manatees for decades. When she was in France, twenty years later, she was walking into their rental telling Kumar about the manatees when she checked her mail and I sent her a Valentine’s Day card with the name of a manatee I had adopted in her name!

After the disability became physically apparent, Casey agreed to go to Brazil with me for a couple of weeks to see John of God. I wrote more specifically about this profound journey in my book and in a previous blog essay, click here. After two weeks in Abadiania, Brazil sharing one of the most profound experiences of my life, I saw more of how Casey and I were similar, than different. I experienced the deep soul connection between us and how it had profoundly affected the community of others seeking healing and their loved ones. The collective grief was palpable as we left on the bus.

It’s as if something was activated during that trip that I had not been aware of previously. When I was preparing my book for publication, Casey told me she wanted to go to the river in Louisiana where they grew up and do an art project with photography and that’s where she would speak to me after I left my body. I titled my book Meet Me By the River – A Woman’s Healing Journey after asking her permission. For the book, click here.

I could have written a full-length novel about my relationship with my daughter. When she feels joy, I feel joy; when she feels pain, I feel pain, like permanent tattoos. I can also feel my mother’s compassion and joy at watching Casey grow and learn, after all, that’s what we are here for. It is not an easy curriculum here in human bodies. It is the PhD level of evolution and my mother, now in Spirit, knows that. As I can now feel my mother’s unbridled love, I hope my children will feel mine and when we are together again, we will all have a celebration.

VISIT THE BLOG FOR MY NEW BOOK – MEET ME BY THE RIVER!

Go to - http://www.meetmebytheriver.net -- And you can find it on Amazon!
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. more...

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