We go through what we go through because at the time we don’t know any better, or what, if anything needs to be changed. You can only see so far, and when you live with and through trauma, your mind is either far into the past, or far off into the future, and sometimes, you are nose-against-the-wall in the present.
My wife and I talk, all the time. We span decades in minutes. We met, and knew one another as kids. She understands my family dynamics and history like no one else could. She has memories of my life that I’ve forgotten. When she shares slices of moments with me, it lights up parts I didn’t know existed. It’s an uncovering, an unfolding of who I was, which then provides me with more clues as to who I am, how I lost that part of me that was wild with wonder, stood up for herself, and didn’t care much what others thought. The underside of these clues give me subtle hints as to where I lost that person, and how I found myself in a pattern of shadow living, hiding from everyone, and most especially, myself.
In one of our conversations recently, we spoke of my grandmother and I came to an incredibly healing conclusion. More on that after I share things about my grandmother that make her an incredible force in my life, and mostly, after her death.
My grandmother died of breast cancer in my early 20s. She was young, in her 60’s. Her loss in my life is a pain that with time has softened and gone hazy. When I allow myself to sharpen the focus of her, it stings. I know I get my extreme passions from her. My grandmother took me to my first yoga class, and brought me to my first Latin mass. She took me to a Mexican hat dancing class, celebrated my 5th grade graduation as if it was University, and drove from Mexico to NYC with me and my cousin when we were 13, by herself. If I squint, I can see the purple-orange sunset as we drove from Saltillo to Monterrey with an actual map folded up in my hands. She trusted us to lead the way. I can even remember our room service order of Saltillo burgers. They were bigger than our faces, and loaded with mushrooms.
English was not my grandmother’s first language, but she learned it well enough to earn a master’s degree, teach, then go on to become a principal in the Bronx, and teach others the language in night classes. She loved to travel, but also loved her privacy. She was gifted at making you feel at home, right where you were with food, music, sincere encouragement, Golden Girls marathons, or just a bucket of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream.
She never met my children, or come to see that I walked away from my family of birth along with any ancestral information, her included.
It started on this last Halloween, or dia de los Muertos, I usually move a picture of her from the shelf where I keep other pictures of those that I love, to my kitchen altar. When I was Catholic, I would bring the picture to their table at the church, so their prayers would lavish more intention than I felt I could give her myself. This year, I was moved to write her a letter. I let her know that I was married, happy, and more myself than I had been in decades. How I came to learn that she didn’t approve of women being in love, but how I couldn’t imagine she would feel that way about me, because, my grandmother always supported everything I brought to her, even if it wasn’t considered traditionally acceptable.
I cried when I told her of my children, of my life, and how things turned out. I asked her to keep watch over me and all that I love, and how I hoped she was proud of me. I kept the letter on my altar for the month of October, along with others I’d written for loved ones, and instead of burning them, I kept them.
As I spoke with my wife recently, we went over what we knew of her life. Of her two marriages, both very abusive, physically, financially, mentally and emotionally. How could she, someone so smart, so self-motivated, disciplined, wise, warm, kind…how? And in that moment, I realized that I answered that same question for myself. How did I stay? How did I endure? How did I shrink and almost disappear? I never thought that ancestral wounds had anything to do with me because I didn’t know a lot about my ancestors. But in that moment, with my wife, who knew my grandmother, asking the same question of “how” that I’ve asked of myself for years, the pieces connected and I realized, it’s inherited. This denial of self: self-love, self-esteem, self-care, self-identity. It’s in my bones from my sweet grandmother, as much as my love of yoga, long road trips, learning, education, spirituality, and massive burgers with mushrooms.
I marveled for a while at the feeling this revelation brought to my body. I could feel the grip of “something has to be wrong with me” release, and I felt my grandmother, blessing me through it, and thanking me, as I thanked her.
I listen to podcasts on my drive to and from work. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a podcast, by Amber Hill Magnolia called Medicine Stories. I invite you to subscribe to it. I chose Episode 45: The Deepest Magic: To Know Yourself Know Your Ancestors, randomly, but you know it’s not random at all. I “chose” this episode after, with my wife as an unknowing guide, healed the ancestral wound of women in my lineage submitting to abuse. I feel that healing in my body still very, very strongly.
At the very end of the podcast, the speaker, asked that as soon as the episode was over, to speak with your ancestors. Speak to them and tell them how you are, to thank them. That evening, I pulled up in front of my house, turned the car off and heard myself say out loud “Nanny, you’ll never believe what we just figured out…”
I found a meditation to heal your ancestral karma, that I invite you to incorporate into your practice if you feel called to it. There is music that accompanies it, if you don’t want to use it, that’s fine, you can chant the words. The artist, Ayanna uses Crystal Singing Bowls, and they are magic to me, so I highly recommend the music accompaniment.
Yogi Bhajan said that when we work to clear our subconscious, as with meditation, we are directly impacting and healing seven generations past and seven generations into the future. I certainly felt the healing ripple backward and I know that the effects are already having a potent impact on my children. Imagine all that you could do with this simple meditation.
Pull back slightly and see the current state of our world and the people in it. How your practice, could heal seven generations after you leave this earth? Imagine the impact, the legacy, you leave behind, and the healing you provide to your ancestors who, regardless of anything, did all they could to bring you to consciousness. It’s a little mind blowing.