Leaving a Legacy: Part 2: Releasing the Past, Shifting the Present
[This is Part 2 of Leaving a Legacy. Read Part 1: Ritual of Devotion.]
Perhaps the stories I have found myself trapped within are not really mine at all…
In order to release a story that has a grip on your mind, get know it, feel your way all around it, and, when you know the way of it, wrap your hand around it to grip firmly, and uproot all hidden creepers at the foundation with determination and commitment.
In order to release the past that chokes out our present – our choice – through programming, those stories must come to be known and told.
I long to know my parents’ stories. I want to capture their stories. I would be so devastated if they died, and I didn’t get their stories, these stories I’ve been told again and again but can’t quite remember well enough, the stories of my ancestors, the stories of their lives, the stories that are part of me. Of my children.
And yet there are some stories I do not wish to leave as a legacy for my children.
There are some stories that I sincerely wish to stop with me.
After my Wild Devotion ritual from the day before, I thought I’d call my parents again. I called because I was teaching a class on empathy to some teenagers, and I had a kid in the class say they would never ever ask about their birth story, because “Ew. Gross.” And that had me feeling empathy for my parents because my dad couldn’t be at the birth because of work. My mom flew from Canada to the U.S. to be with family so she wasn’t alone when she was ready to go to the hospital, but she was alone for the actual birth.
I decide to call again because I want to find out more about that story of my birth from my parents’ perspectives.
So now I’m calling twice in one week. I’m sure they notice that it’s unusual. My mom thinks something is wrong. She is jet-lagged majorly after just getting back from India for a month. She hears me incorrectly and starts talking about how she can’t imagine how her mother (my grandmother) gave birth either, that she imagines it was very hard but she doesn’t know.
My dad, getting it but having his own train of thought, goes off into the fact that “folks then” just “took things as part of life.” He starts to tell me about his mother in the village (in India).
My grandmother, he says, had to work from childhood like all the children, around the house.
I visited my grandmother’s house once, long after it had lain vacant for decades. Partially claimed by the wild, the house became the focus of one last rescue mission of my ancestors things before it all got torn down. As a 10 yo, I was in wonder and awe of this museum of folks I knew were my ancestors yet didn’t know in the least. Yet here were there things. Photos saved by my mom. A delicate painted glass teal rose long, tapered-spout water pitcher with a brass flip lid that I plucked out from under a table. Who knows what my brother chose…the whole place was like magic and treasure to me, there in the light of the dust rising….
He tells me about life, love, parenting, sacrifice.
He tells me his biggest regret is that he never gave his mom much credit. “She was just a person in the background. She never demanded anything, either.”
In my mind, I recalled watching my aunt, my grandmother’s daughter working hard every morning and for hours a day just to feed us all when we visited. I saw my child memory through an adult’s eye and noticed that the women around me did not get to sit down and lounge during the visit as their husbands and children did. In fact, I cannot easily call up memories of seeing the women in my family sit down and relax.
In my heart, feeling my own work of Mindful Self-Care and Mindful Communication – knowing my feelings and needs, making space for them and asking others for support in meeting my needs and desires – I thought about these hardworking women. And I started thinking about setting healthy boundaries.
I joked how crazy it would be if she turned around one day and said, “I make all these dosas every damn day. No one ever thanks me around here.”
He tells me with brutal honesty, “If my mother had said ‘you don’t thank me enough’ we’d have all laughed at her. We would have. And we would never have given it a thought.”
I hear this. I hear his sadness and regret. I feel the devastation.
I see the story revealed, the way it flows down the line of women, my ancestors.
The story of self-sacrifice, of martyrdom, of thankless efforts, of pleasing others.
These are the stories of women I witnessed around me growing up in the United States and visiting family in India.
I knew plenty of their drive and determination.
I knew nothing of their desires and dreams.
I realize how radical it is that I live in a time and place and have made a space and agreement where I matter, where my needs and desires matter, where my dreams are spoken aloud and supported.
I now realize how radical it is for me to make all my work center around Mindful Self-Care. Mindful Communication, Mindful Shift, Nurturing You, Wild Devotion… all out of care for and about self.
I think about my ancestors. It is not lost on me. This story. This revealing. This honest pulling back of the veil of womanhood in my family.
Then, in a shocking twist, as we are hanging up the phone, my dad says, sounding teary, “thanks for calling again. this was really good. but no more of these things. you know, it’s good, sharing when the moment comes, but no more. not again, ok?” And I say “Ok. I love you.”
Knowing that his remembering is so very painful. Knowing the pain of seeing your mother sacrifice herself for you, yet wishing things were different.
That pain, for him, is what is “taken as a part of life.”
That he desperately loves and loathes that conversation.
That he loves and loathes that connection.
That connection is what I feel safe and open with, what I thrive on.
That connection is the legacy I want to leave with both of my children. My son needs Mindful Self-Care as much as my daughter does.
Some of my biggest pain as a mother comes from my struggle with workaholism, with doing. I have worked to sit with my kids, to play with them, to simply snuggle and listen and laugh. It takes much effort sometimes. The legacy of doing over being is strong. THIS is why my work is centered on mindfulness – Mindful Self-Care, Mindful Shift, Mindful Communication. I wish to switch from a place of programming, as Dr. Marshall Rosenberg would say, to a place of my choosing.
I hope to leave a legacy of care, of connection, of safety inside of intimacy, of space for and acceptance of feelings and needs, of deep being, of preciousness honored through pause, of softness and lightness and togetherness in the darkness, of wildness and courage, of clarity and peace, of ease, simplicity and grace.
Beyond it all, I want to leave a legacy of being a human who matters. This is what I want my kids to feel as they move through their days, even when I am gone. That they matter, deeply. That their feelings, needs, ideas, imagination and dreams matter. They are precious. That they have the power within them to help others feel that they matter, too.
These things I hope to learn, live and leave as a legacy to my beloveds, the next hearts in line. My hope for changing the world, one heartseed at a time…
What do you want to leave as a legacy to those whose lives you touch?