You are a link in a chain of causation that stretches before and after your life for a thousand generations. ~Rev. Chris Michaels
Last summer I tore the pages of my journals into shreds … pages I used to remember the details of my story chronicled in A Long Awakening to Grace: a memoir of loss and discovery … pages containing years of suffering.
Shredding them released gratitude for how far I’ve come.
Friday evening, my friends, Diana, Prema, and I gathered around Diana’s fire pit where I ceremonially burned them.
As I tossed the remains in the fire, we celebrated the healing of generations of trauma those shredded pages represent.
- The courage of female ancestors who left homelands and traveled to a new country with a language foreign to them in search of a better life. The hardships they bore in the process.
- My paternal grandmother’s loving curiosity and ability to quietly be true to herself within her limited domain.
- My maternal grandmother’s courage, in the 1940s, to divorce her violent, alcoholic husband and raise six children alone. Life was hard for this uneducated single mother.
- The strength of these women who lacked opportunity.
- The internalized trauma, unhappiness, and bitterness my mother carried to her death.
In those pages, I wrote and wrote until I found an opening to carry me forward. Writing served as a form of meditation … pulling me toward some unknown destination … someplace beyond shame, guilt, anger, unhappiness, bitterness, and victimhood. Diana, Prema, and I acknowledged a compulsion each of us carried from a young age … an urge to grow and evolve. We find awesome the idea that we contribute to the healing of generations before and after us.
As Diana tended the fire, we spoke the names of women who came before us, who saw something significant in us, who called us forth to more than we imagined for ourselves. For me there was:
And then we each tossed pages of rough draft copies of my memoir – two full boxes – eight years of work — into the fire.
During those eight years of writing, wisdom emerged after the pain was fully expressed. And so it was that I found my way beyond the shame, anger, bitterness, and “victim of circumstances” of my linage.
For example, my 2014 weekend solitary writing retreat didn’t go quite as planned. I went with the intention of deepening my story. I forgot the cord to my computer. The Universe had a different idea for how I could fulfill my intention.
As I walked the land and journaled about the messiness in my life, what emerged was a whole new view. My eyes opened to my children as my greatest spiritual teachers. The shame I carried about their behavior dissipated.
My life at last made sense. The revelation of a story that could benefit others transformed me.
As those drafts of my memoir went up in flames, Diana, Prema, and I celebrated the growth and healing each of us has experienced on our life journeys, the ways in which we have evolved as human beings, and the difference we see that making in our relationships with our descendants.
My daughter is the only remaining recipient of my growth. Learning how to love her has made a huge difference for both of us. It is my hope that, even with her limited abilities, the love I consciously extend to her now will make a difference on the hard road ahead of her after I am gone.
Diana’s extraordinary grandchildren benefit immensely from the wisdom she gains on a daily basis as she consciously increases her understanding of life and holds in awe the Mystery at the center of the Universe.
Prema’s courage and strength through recent difficult life challenges, the healing she has experienced in her relationship with her daughter, prepares her to leave a valued legacy to her first grandchild due in September.
I could have disposed of the journal fragments and memoir drafts in another way. I could have run them through my shredder and thrown them in the recycle bin.
But these papers contained the most significant part of my life, healing, and growth. In a way, they were like sacred texts to me. It seemed only right to honor them with a ceremonial burning.
I felt lighter as the last of the pages disappeared in the flames. I felt loved by my dear friends, Diana and Prema, and many others who have and continue to support me along the way. It is really true that it takes a village to grow and evolve and become the women, mothers, and grandmothers we aspire to be.
It is as though the goddess within arose from the ashes of my life. I journey forward. I know not where or how. But my load is lightened. And I trust the process more than ever.
…everything that happens in life can result in a deeper connection with the sacred. ~Carol Lee Flinders