Our construction plans screech to a halt, everything changing under our feet like the desert sand. Stop, drop, sit, wait, watch. More going on. We knew we had to get out here to fully understand the situation and what the need may be. Living close to family, living on family land, and sharing a house and every meal with family are all different things. We were prepared there would be hard work. Moving again so soon wasn’t one of the items in our plan, yet now rears it’s head as a distinct possibility. We haven’t had to go through caring for an aging parent before, so the surprises keep showing themselves, one by one. It’s possible we may all need to actually live together, in order to help take care of someone who has started not taking care of herself due to a variety of health issues since her cancer diagnosis and seeming recovery last year. Eyes open, crossing a new bridge into the realm of aging and results of living a lonely life.
In older cultures where people stayed close to their roots, the old didn’t live off by themselves, removed from family. Those who were more lively, could keep an eye on their habits and choices, and not leave them to fend for themselves when the desire to live was beginning, slowly, to loosen its grip. In our culture here, the aged are expected to live on their own, feeling disconnected from the loop of daily living, feeling gradually more useless, until they are moved into a care facility. There is nothing more sad. This happened to my Grandma at the end of her days, to the dismay of many in the family. The medication she was on checked her out so far she didn’t have much interest in engaging. I didn’t have any say. I would have pulled the medication just to let her die at home as she wished with all her heart.
I showed up every day at my mother’s side when she ended up in the hospital, for nearly a month, and we had a healing around vulnerability and care. It’s the only way I was able to move onto her property last year – because of that healing moment, the first of its kind in 30 years. Over a year we lived with her it was tough as hell, but we went through many more cycles of healing, something my ancestors needed… so I went to bat for all of us, the whole dang tree. If my mother and I couldn’t learn to love each other in the face of our differences and co-exist without the reactive patterns of the past, then the family tree would continue its cycles of being broken in relationship, love, and vulnerability. I did this for all who came before, and all who come after, reverberations forwards and backwards in this tree. It’s not over, but it provided an enormous opportunity to learn to stand strong in myself in the face of one who knows how to get my goat and tear me down, that I ran away from frequent contact with so many years ago.
So fast forward a year and a half, and it’s my partner’s turn, to navigate his unique situation that he left 25 years ago. We have both chosen turn around and look back at our family of origin with care and concern, and want to heal the old strangleholds that once were in place with physical proximity.
Something I learned recently in my family therapy coursework was the psychological terms for energy I’ve been expressing and helping others with in healing work – emotional cutoff versus differentiation. Removing oneself from regular contact with one’s family, or suppressing one’s emotional truth and/or experience in order to bear to be in the presence of family, is emotional cutoff. Being able to stand as your own unique individual self in the presence of your family – with all your feelings and unique expressions of who you are – and not react to how they react – is differentiation. I was intuitively called back to relationship with my mother two years ago for bringing a deeper level of healing doing just this. I’d been practicing for decades and now it was time to do it every day without a break, rain or shine, good mood, bad mood, lack of sleep, before coffee, after a long day, you name it… living in my family of origin again, Round 2. It’s super big work. And now, it’s Travis’ turn, and its my turn to be the loving support.
With this work of the final steps of true differentiation, the two of us find ourselves shifting into greater consciousness around what it means to be in deeper relationship to family, community, and the natural world.
Hold us in your hearts as we make big decisions to hopefully help heal with this family tree here and all our ancestors. It’s a time of surrendering, not of willfulness- we already explored the latter we know how to do that. Sometimes it’s about letting go into what would be the most profound healing possible, even when that is a difficult path, and to be able to stand strong within it. To let our roots grow both deep and wide, and to let the shoulders of our ancestors carry us.
— Image and writing © Mardi Storm