I was seething in my own anger. I was mad at my husband and my daughter pleaded with me to understand his point of view and make amends. All I wanted was a little bit of space to be angry and breathe, so I walked off. And then I heard the broken voice of my beautiful little five year old empath sob “you. just. don’t. understand. how. much. I. FEEL.”
I never wanted to have children. Not that I needed one, but I had lots of good reasons for why I did not want kids. I’ve never felt a biological clock. Despite the fact that I am good with kids, have a natural mothering instinct and am inspired by the way they think and process the world, I just am not drawn to kids. I don’t want to hold newborn babies and really don’t like dealing with kids, other than my daughter. I spent my entire youth mothering myself and kids, and really, I just was tired of it.
I also truly believed that I did not have a capacity to love. I felt that life was painful enough and I wanted avoid the potential for more pain. My mother was an abused woman and she pushed me away. She is a pediatrician and loves children but she could not give or receive love. I don’t know what she was like before she was with my father – did she love herself and others? My father grew up with abuse and was recreating a lot of the violence in his life, at least that is how she justified it. He was hellbent on proving his success and worth. She thinks it is more important to be right than to love. There were so many issues with extreme anger and rigid control and they pushed each others buttons relentlessly. While the worst violence was between my parents and towards themselves, they took a lot out on us kids, directly and indirectly.
We were not allowed to be kids and were forced to grow up very early. My parents rarely showed me love through affection, words, touch and I often felt alone and scared in my own family under the psychological, mental, emotional and physical abuse. My emotional needs were belittled or ignored and while they loved me, my parents pushed me away as they did not know how to provide beyond materials needs of housing, school, clothes, food, toys, TV which were more than bountiful in my life. I learned to withdraw into my own fantasies in my head or in books. I physically held my own body, with my arms always cradling me, closing me off from others as a protective mechanism that continues to this day unconsciously. I was never comfortable in an embrace of any kind by anyone, especially if it was given out of pure love, and always felt out of place in the presence of others. I built high thick layered walls of protection. I craved physical touch but I was terrified to feel anything emotionally or physically. And as I got older and those feelings became more complex, I shamed all feelings in my body thanks to the teachings of the Catholic school I attended, my own Indian culture and American society in the 80’s and 90’s. Touch became purely functional only when needed or required and I learned to dissociate it from feeling.
I had enough despair in my life and I did not want experiences with the potential to add pain.
To have and love a child means there is a potential that goes beyond the physical and emotional pain that child bearing and rearing brings. It means that there is the potential to lose a child. It was a pain I was not wanting to experience after the loss of two siblings who had each been born with an inherited rare genetic disease.
I spent a lifetime asking the questions I know my parents asked repeatedly – why was I the one who survived? The wild, disobedient, nonconforming, angry, selfish child survived while my brother and sister, the kind gentle loving souls passed away. I had inherited my parents anger, violence, and self-destructive fear-based personalities, but I had truly believed what I had been told – it was all my fault and I was not the one that deserved life.
My early childhood is foggy and I have rare glimpses of my siblings who were both younger than me. My brother was my best friend and my worst enemy. He was my closest family bond as we were so close in age. He experienced the early years with me, and I have a feeling that I both protected him and sought shelter from him during the worst of the violent storms in the household.
I know we played together a lot. I remember when I was kindergarten and he was in preschool, we were in the bathroom on the floor playing school and suddenly he could not remember the alphabet, something he had known. That was the moment I knew something was wrong. No one knew what was happening – not my parents, not the doctors. I don’t think they truly found out until my sister was born four years later and she followed the same progression.
He deteriorated rapidly before my eyes. I was not allowed to talk about it to anyone or ask questions and when I did ask, questions were dismissed or vague. My parents knew very little and were dealing with their own pain of feeling helpless with my brother, but as a small child I was an afternote in their lives. I was scared of everyone and everything and the person closest to me was dying a slow scary death and no one knew why. My parents loved him and did the best they could. They are physicians and had the means and know how to take care of him at home. He was bed ridden early on and had round the clock nurses at home. But he was just there, not really part of our lives because we didn’t know how to be a family. Everything seemed to be a charade, acting the way families are supposed to act to be documented in pictures. We were isolated individuals under one roof. Our family primarily communicated to demand or scold and I never learned how to love, so I did not know how to be a loving sister to him. I was 10 years old and scared to visit him, even though we lived in the same house. I did not know what I was supposed to do, feel. Everything was so very terrifying to me. His body kept him immobile but he was inside there. When I did visit, maybe because I was forced to by my parents or because out of guilt, and he heard my voice, he gripped my finger with his finger and squeezed. He knew it was me. He was acknowledging me. Loving me. And it made me feel worse.
I knew the end was coming. At a father daughter dinner dance at school my father insisted on sitting with a friend whose father owned a funeral home. The dance was difficult enough to deal with emotionally because I did not want to be alone with my dad but I wanted to keep up the facade and did not want to be the only girl not attending. The added layer of my brother’s impending death as discussion during the dance was a lot to take in. When I was 11, my parents asked me about my opinion on euthanizing my brother with no emotion, soothing or even context on how to even think about the subject. My father was loud and factual and my mother was dissociated, which pretty much sums up their existence together. My brother was not euthanized but I remember crying and hiding under the covers for a long time; it was too much to process.
When I was 12 he was transported to Columbia University Hospital for what we knew were his final days in this body. He had lost all functions and had been on full life support for at least a year or two now. My mother had stayed with him and my father said it was time to go visit and say goodbye. I had been numb for a very long time. I put my hand in my brother’s hand and must have said something. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I think he squeezed back. I never forgot it. He passed at the age of 10. This was the first time I had seen a dead body, the first of four that I saw over the next five years. And that is exactly what it was, a dead body. I looked at him and immediately knew that was not my brother. Something dramatic had changed. This was my first experience of soul vs. body. So watching his body be reduced to ashes meant nothing, it was not him.
I could not cry. I felt like a fool at the funeral because I could not feel anything while my brother lay dead in a casket 20 feet from me. I felt like the bad person I’d been told I’ve been my entire life. I was incapable of loving anyone. I never showed my brother that I loved him. I was so scared of his disease and now he was not even here anymore and I could never show him. I did not know how to show him. I did not know what love was. I felt such horrible guilt. I remember being in the funeral home and a friend’s mother, someone who had been there for me from a young age, accepting me and caring for me despite the fact that she had six children herself, wrapped her arms around me. That unconditional love – I melted and broke down sobbing. She allowed me to feel my pain and sadness. I am not sure I would have grieved at all if it were not for her love in that moment. I know this because I never mourned the death of my sister.
When my brother passed away, my sister was about five and slowly dying. Although I was somewhat aware of what would happen to her after the passing of my brother, watching her body deteriorate was a painful experience. My little sister was a beautiful, sensitive and extremely loving girl. She was a peacemaker and it was hard on her sensitive nature to be in such a violent household. She cried every time my mother and I argued, which was often. She felt everything deeply, just like my daughter
But I don’t remember my life with my sister. Pictures of our life together feel foreign. Was I a good sister? Did I show her love? Did I care for and protect her? Or was I scared and lonely as I was with my brother? I had no one to talk to to help me understand and cope. All I knew in my early years was that I was spared the death my brother and sister endured and sentenced to a life I did not want to live.
I didn’t really start thinking about their deaths until I was in my 20’s, but I was not ready to process. Around my 30th birthday finally looked up their disease. It was such a rare disease that to this day there is no incidence rate for it. It is localized in two communities – the caste system to which my family belongs in India and a tiny little Jewish community. The disease was discovered by and named after two Nazi doctors, and has since be renamed to the enzyme that causes the disease. I saw that the average lifespan was 10 years old. I knew my brother lived to 10 and assumed my sister did too. Just two months ago, in my 40’s, my father handed me a folder of some of her information, since my daughter and I are the last of a bloodline and potential carriers of this rare disease. In this folder I found her death certificate. She died at eight years old, five months shy of her ninth birthday. She was so very young. I remember parts of the night before her passing. She had pneumonia. My parents must have known this was the end. They told me to lie down with her and although they did not tell me why, in my heart I knew. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember the room and what it looked like, the smell and a little bit of the feeling. I was both calm and nervous. I loved her so much, but I was scared, fearful. The next day, as I got off the school bus, I saw the cars of my uncles in the driveway. I knew she had passed. I was 15 years old. I walked so slowly home from the bus stop not wanting to enter the house. I remember being numb for a very long time.
I don’t remember her funeral at all. I remember the next day after her funeral, I went to school and my tenth grade English teacher told me I should go home, that I didn’t need to be there, I should be with family. I stated I would rather stay since school was a distraction for me. My teacher thought I meant from the death of my sister, but I meant from everything. From life. I was lost with no where to go. I could not stay at home. Between my sister’s passing, my parents coping with their own overwhelming grief, their everyday anger and violence towards each other and those around them, and two adopted baby brothers who had their own complex stories to deal with, there was no emotional space for me to mourn nor any sense of stability, love or comfort. I was not an easy child, but whenever I acted out and cried for attention I was told I did not need or deserve attention, that compared to my brother and sister my life was perfect and I had nothing to deal with. My whole life I had been told there was no room for me. I just wanted to die and could not understand why I had lived.
Relatives and friends of my parents were around to help my family but I had never been able to be real nor feel the love they gave me. I had an aunt and uncle who helped raise me early on and tried very hard to love me, still do to this day, but I was unable to let them in. My heart was so closed. I had put on a facade that my parents forced me to erect of a “normal” daughter. I hid every feeling and emotion, and exactly like my mother, I pushed away love and lived inside a mask of myself. Those family and friends that were aware of some of the abuse chose to ignore it for the sake of cultural and societal norms. Mostly because from the outside things didn’t seem that bad. My parents were two successful physicians, I was a mostly A student, we had two young boys adopted into the family and of course things were not normal as we were dealing with a rare disease and the death of children. In their eyes we would be reborn in love. Inside our nuclear family, we played our roles well and those on the outside had no clue of the internal hell inside that house. I became more withdrawn and distant, but I stayed close to protect my baby brothers from the increasing and never ending violence. There was no where to go except school, where I focused on learning while mutilating my body to feel pain and beginning to drown my sorrows in alcohol and recreational substances. My father told me that education was the only way out of poverty. He meant financial poverty, like the one he grew up with. And while my stellar education has kept me out of financial poverty, it was my solution for my emotional poverty. I channeled all my energy into strengthening my intellect.
I do not blame my parents for my childhood. They provided me with a home, clothes, food, financial stability and an extremely good education. When push comes to shove, they have been there to help me for the most part, though they know very little of who I am, what I have experienced or the life I live. Through my two marriages, they never once realized I never changed my maiden name and never knew what I did for a living, much less, traumatic situations that have happened outside of the family. But they were doing the best they could and they do love me, even though they do not know how to show it, and just have a very different concept of love. In the world they have co-created, fear is love and obedience is demanded. They do not love themselves or each other and choose to grip very tightly to their pain and their way of life to this day. They say it is too difficult to change, but I have seen them change many many times in their life when they want to. They choose not to change, not deal with their emotions, their past or their present and instead choose to hold onto and spread fear. They have built financial success in this life and perhaps that is what they cling to.
I called them in as parents in this lifetime for a reason and it is my choice to determine if I live life their way or chose a different existence. I tried their way building a life of financial success for myself, but it did not provide me with the stability I craved. In fact it sent me into further emotional turmoil. I feel the effect of both nature with personality traits I inherited from them and nurture with the learned behavior to control, internalize pain and push love away. But it was not enough for me to simply try to behave differently than my parents, have a different value system and try to love. That resulted in me wearing yet another mask, pretending at love but still being easily triggered and wallowing in my own despair while living a life that looked social media perfect from the outside. It was only through shadow, energy and healing work did I begin to understand what it truly meant to stop a cycle of violence, but I did not want to stop it for myself, as I did not know how to love myself. It wasn’t until my little girl was inside me did I understand what it meant to love. I have a husband, her father, that I love very much, but as all parents know, this was a very different kind of love.
I never wanted a child, but I needed her. She called to me and I heard her. She is the reason I have worked so hard to heal. To love. She saved me from myself and my past. She is helping me forge a new future for us. The violence, self loathing and fear will end with me.
Every day she spoke to me in my feelings and dreams and I spoke to her. I wanted to name her after my sister but it did not feel right as she grew inside me, so I made my sister’s name her middle name and gave her a name of her own. A rare name, but one that called to me. When she was three years old she asked me how I knew her name when she was born. I responded that she told me her name. Because she did. I felt it in every cell of my being.
She was so very chill and peaceful. She slept through the night at eight weeks old, making other parents jealous. She was easy to go places with, so we traveled by plane and car to distant places, camped and participated in festivals often.
My husband, her dad, is an amazing father and loved her in a way I did not know a father could love a child. It was the kind of love I always dreamed of and I manifested it for my daughter. But she only wanted to be with me. She loved me fiercely. And she was so very angry with me. An anger that was reserved for me.
From her earliest days you could see the fury she threw at me with her eyes which screamed louder than her tiny voice which seethed with fire and brimstone from hell. She tested me often, looking very closely at my face and ever so gently biting down on my nipple until it hurt and watching my reaction with interest. She wanted me to love her but she wanted to yell, scream and hurt me. Her storms were as fierce as my own. And then I noticed her exhibiting many of my trauma responses. I could see so much of me in her when she started to break down and enter into a multi-hour tantrum, overwhelmed and unable to cope. She was fearful of everyone and everything in the world that prevented her from interacting and experiencing the world even though her natural personality was social and curious. She had night terrors with nightmares so intense that I suddenly understood why there are movies about children possessed by demons; she would wake up at 1 AM almost every night and scream for hours not realizing she was asleep pushing us both away. There would be a slight change in her cry that only I could hear indicating she was back in this world and would allow me to comfort and soothe her. She would hold herself physically to comfort herself the way I did and detach mentally and emotionally to avoid the pain she was feeling. She blamed herself for everything and felt guilty for her emotions. She wanted me but did not allow me to love her. She pushed away love as much as she could and yet all she wanted was for me to hold her, love her. She was only three years old and had not lived through any of the violence and grief I had encountered as a child and yet, she carried all the pain.
From the moment she was born, love and violence seemed to be interrelated, just as it was with my parents. I had thought that these were traits I learned through patterning and by example and could not be passed on to my child if I did not behave in these ways. I raised my daughter with never ending love and affection, but she taught me these traits go far beyond our behavior and psyche and are passed down in our DNA.
All my life, I chased the study of molecular biology to better understand disease and wellness of the physical body. I never considered the potential to pass the trauma of our ancestors through our molecular code. While our DNA is fixed in its code, it contains chemical markers that sit on the DNA to change how and which parts of the code are given a voice or silenced. This is what is known as epigenetics. Those chemical markers change based on our lifetime experience. It was once believed that changes to the chemical markers could not be inherited, but now studies evaluating people that come from lineages with massive traumatic events – like slavery, the holocaust and famines – show these markers are passed down to future generations. These need not be all related to negative attributes and may be associated with qualities that could be viewed as positive in future generations, but we evolve based on these markers. Studies in roundworms have shown epigenetic traits can be passed on for 14 generations. It is believed that humans are able to show these traits for at least seven generations. That means we are not only living out the traumas of our lives, our parents and grandparents but also our great great great great great grandparents. Who were they and what did they live through? We may not consciously know but we tell their molecular stories.
But if these are patterns that are created within an individual’s life time, it means these are stories that can be written over.
I did my best with my daughter to give her what I did not receive. I showered her with affection and love. If she pushed me away, I pulled her closer. I asked her to express her emotions and honored them, even if they were hard for me to take in. I held her as often as could and wore her for as long as I could – through the age of five, because our bond was so close.
But that anger, self loathing, fear, loneliness and sadness were strong inside her. I did not know how to help her. I never worked through that pain myself and developed many unhealthy tools and behaviors to cope and lost good ones, like meditation, in my journey through self destruction. I could not offer much other than “breathe through it” but the words had little meaning and thus effect. People told me not to worry, that she would grow out of it, but I knew that only meant she would find her own ways to cope. It would not end the cycle of violence. The molecular scars ran too deep.
At the same time I could not deal with her emotions for too long. It triggered me and brought up my issues. And I could feel other mothers, my friends, my family judging me with her endless violent outbursts, her fear and my inability to cope. I was judging myself, my past, my inability to love. I was incapable of dealing with both myself and her emotions.
Then one day I was asked a very pivotal question: Would I want me as a mother? I sat back and felt the weight of that question on my heart. And what emerged was a lightness with an answer I did not expect from myself. Yes. Yes, I would want me as a mother.
The universe was talking to me, had been talking to me for a long time. Finally I listened. I inherited and passed down patterns for stress, anger and violence but I could change those, not only for me but also for my daughter. I worked with energy workers, body workers, guides and sacred medicine. I witnessed the many layers of armor, chain mail, thorns and barbed wire I had erected around myself in order to not deal, feel or live. I felt my guides and ancestors helping to heal and support me. As I learned to listen to the wisdom my body held and the stories it wanted to tell. I found my inner child(ren) running around directionless, frightened, scared, numb and alone. I had never grown up. The child, me, at age three wanted to be hugged, loved and soothed. She was frightened but she was silly, playful and shy. The seven year old was terrified, unsure and scared to be held or touched. She desperately wanted to be hugged and loved unconditionally. The 12 year old was isolated in her own world, awkward, scared and chasing cheap thrills to feel. The 15 year old put a black box around her heart and controlled every detail of her life. She became a robot of perfectionism and was scared to be anything other than an image. They needed a mother. They craved a mother’s love. A love I was given conditionally when young, every so often trough my middle years but never as an adult.
Mother’s day this year was very difficult for me. I finally grieved and felt that pain of not having a mother. She has been there for me in the ways she could, but she herself is a child. She loves me, but she has not taken care of herself emotionally and mentally which prevented her from loving herself and now has become a burden on herself and those around her. She chooses day in and day out to live in fear, project her issues on others and protect herself with toxic positivity. She emphatically, almost maniacally, declares “Everything is good. I am good. Just be happy. Just love God.” We children have had to parent her. And as soon as I had my daughter, I did not have the energy to take care of my mother anymore which made an already strained rocky relationship an estranged one. I share pictures of my daughter with my mother but now that I don’t take care of her, my mother has not reached out to me on her own in over four years, except for the few times she sent me articles to show me how I was a bad person, mother, or ruining my life.
In ceremony with scared medicine, grandmother, shortly after Mother’s Day in May, I learned how much of my life I was living as a mental image of myself. That image I began constructing as a child and propagate to this day. I have been hiding behind a mask, watching my life as an observer, never allowing myself to live, because I was refusing to feel. I worked with my mind and asked it to let go of control just a little and allow myself to feel. Just try it out. And suddenly, in ceremony, I felt the grief of not having a mother. I felt it in my heart, in my lungs, in my womb. I found myself scared, agitated and I was physically moving around, twitching, shaking, unable to stay still. I felt sick, alone, unsure. I did not know what to do, scared to ask for help, not sure what to ask for. And then I became an observer of myself, consciously stopped myself from moving, focused my mind and breathed. The second I centered myself, I saw her clear as day. It was my three year old self acting out. She was the one who was agitated. She needed comfort and security. I pulled her into my arms, held her, cradled her and rocked her like the small child she was. And then my seven year old self came and joined the cuddle puddle in my lap. I held them both to my breast like I would my own daughter. I became the parent, the mother, I needed, the one I never had. And in that moment I realized how much of who I am today had been trapped in that three and seven year old that had never received love they needed.
My entire life, I did not allow myself to feel. Feelings were not safe and could not be controlled. Feelings had been a scary disappointment in the past, but now in the moment I mothered myself, I felt a relief. A lightness, a playfulness. I could feel, work through the sadness and pain and then feel the joy of letting go. And suddenly, in my minds eye, in my emotional body, my husband and daughter were with me. I recognized that I had created a universe of love around me, that I was protected. I was surrounded by so many people in my life who supported me in my journey and would catch me if I fell. I was no longer that scared child that had no one to turn to, no love or comfort. I recognized that my husband and daughter, the friends in my life, the family I built – they wanted so much to love me, but I was not letting them in, letting love in. I was holding all this tension and pain in me refusing to let go, thinking that I could not depend on anyone and I had to be in complete control just like my mother. In trying not to be like her, I had become her in the masks I wore. Slowly I became aware of each place I was holding tension, let it go, and relaxed into my own body. I told my mind to try to also relax, it was OK to feel whatever it wanted to feel, I was not alone.
The feeling came on subtly. Slowly. I saw her face and touched her silky hair. I caressed her cheek. It was my sister. And then I felt it seeping through my body. That pain. Sadness. Grief. I missed her. Oh Goddess I missed her so very much. I had always wanted a sister. I had her and I lost her. That divine female energy in my life was gone. I know I never truly lost her because I have felt her presence in my life but for the first time I was finally able to feel that pain and sadness in my body, in every cell. I cried with all the agony my body felt. Nearly thirty years after her passing, I finally mourned the loss of my dear sister.
And then in my energetic body, I felt my daughter’s arms around me, her head on my shoulder. Comforting me. Loving me. In that moment she was not only my daughter, but my sister. She was holding space and love for me in the way that sisters do. My sister. My daughter. They were one in the same.
Life is nothing short of a series of never ending miracles. From a sperm that swims a marathon in the ocean to penetrate the barrier of an egg that has been released in a timely sequence into a space that has been built so the egg can implant, rest, be supported and grow. This fertilized egg begins a synchronized dance of cell division to form a little human body that grows everything from a lens in an eye to refract light, to a valve in a heart that functions in concert with other valves and muscles to pump blood to the entire body, to tiny little finger nails that cover the most sensitive part of fingers and toes. This being almost too big for a woman to deliver yet too small and underdeveloped to survive in the world alone makes it out of the body of another and breathes. It latches and sucks to eat, develops sensory and motor neurons and muscles that learn to function in a year’s time transforming the body from a weak newborn to a mobile infant. And then life continues every single day. We learn language and communicate across the sea and land, build roads and use our legs to cross streets, we get colds and recover, we grow food and eat it. Each aspect of life is a series of countless miracles. I never wanted children and I felt that I had rolled the dice and tested the fates by having one healthy child. I did not want any more. But as I am learning, the universe is vast and limitless. There are many ways to have children in your life.
I now have several children and they are all forms of me. I am parenting myself while parenting my daughter. Life is not a linear story and we play many roles on the stage of life behind the curtain that is the fabric of space and time. For the first time, my inner child, at various ages and stages of life, finally have the parent they needed. And I have a sister. My daughter is both an amazing older sister and a playful younger sister. I not only am a mother capable of giving love to her, she provides me with the love I need as a daughter, a sister, a student and a friend. I just need to surrender to it, receive it and allow it to nourish me. I am learning to feel into my body, learning to receive love that surrounds me and allow myself to be supported.
My daughter is a sensitive little one, deeply in touch with her feelings, just like my biological sister was. Her capacity to feel and love astound me because they are the exact opposite of me, of who I became as I grew older. She continually teaches me and reminds me of who I am becoming, who I want to be. I could live out my narrative of sad, sacred, fearful and stay stuck in a loop like my parents choose to do, or I could choose to take a different road – one in which I release control, drive with the top down and my hair blowing in the wind. I may swallow some bugs and cough, perhaps I will not enjoy the fumes in the air along the way at times, but I will also feel the cool wind, the sun’s warmth and the joy of life. Life can be sad, painful, and uncomfortable but I cannot block those feelings. Only through allowing my body to feel, process and release the hurt can I allow know what it is to feel the unbridled joy, enthusiasm and spirit of a young child full of wonder, curiosity and delight. Only then can I experience the miracle of life. I am choosing to feel and to live life vibrantly in color.
She was right. I did not understand how much she felt. I bent down to her level, held her hand, looked into her eyes and told her she was right. I myself was just learning how to feel and that I did not understand how much she felt. But that I was proud of her for telling me. For teaching me how to love and to heal. I told her that her sensitivity, along with her hugs, her compassion, and her ability to love were her superpowers and she was showing me by example how I could learn to feel more. I centered myself, breathed and felt into my pain – why was I angry at my husband? My inner child was reacting to not being heard and feeling judged and misunderstood. She was feeling a lack of control in what she perceived to be a male dominated situation. She needed a voice. With my adult self guiding my inner child, I was able to express my feelings and my husband was able to hear her.
I am truly blessed with love and support in my life. I can give love, be loved and receive love. I am not alone. We are not alone in this game of life. Share, feel, connect with others, do the inner work and always choose love.