Years ago, I walked into the office of a healer, and before she placed her hands on me she looked into my eyes and asked, “Why are you so sad?”
I recall being offended. I had not felt sadness that day, but rather excitement for this new experience I was about to try. But she was right. Sadness lives inside of me. It always has. This sadness, I am realizing, more and more, is something I need to address rather than ignore. Grief made a home inside of my cell before birth. Some of us are born into loss before we realize we have lost anything. And, so I need to begin at the beginning. I need to begin at the origin of cells finding union before separation.
It was never a secret that I was an unwanted pregnancy. My parents were too young and unprepared to have a family. Yet, first my sister was born, and then I. Sometimes, I find myself wondering what words and emotions my body molded into being as my cells became tissues, organs, and bones. A human molded into form without the tightly woven threads of love to support her came into the world as a girl named “truth.”
Rejection did not take the form of abortion, but of unwanted birth. And in those days before sonograms warned us of sexual organs, I was expected to be a boy. But love found me in a complicated way, and I was not given up. Instead, I was wrapped tightly inside the wants of my mother, who never seemed to understand that I had wants of my own.
And so I made her my everything, as all babies do who have the privilege of a mother-bond. I followed her through the leavings that became losses as grief began to make an uncomfortable home in my growing body.
The first leaving left everyone I knew behind except my mother and sister when I was two-years-old. That was the spring and summer we went into hiding with the Hare Krishnas. I never knew what it was like to wear PTSD in the body until four decades later when I was in a mantra class for yoga teacher certification. That day, while practicing the “Guru Mantra,” the traumas of the two-year-old girl living inside of me cried for release as my body shook and my mind swirled into the past.
“Why are you so sad?”
The words haunt me with their call for recognition, and so I follow their story and watch a two-year-old girl leave behind her father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. I watch her struggle to unravel the structure of DNA until her genes float unmoored inside of her wondering where they came from. Wondering why there is nothing to tether them home. And, I see her longing grow into a wave that she swallows over and over again until she can no longer swallow it because it has become her.
Grief is the manifestation of lost love, and I now realize how much it has become a part of my cells. It is the ripping apart of connection. A boat unmoored from its anchor, floating alone on the sea. Yet it is a human condition, and not a metaphor.
And, so I return to the two-year-old girl and watch her cling to her mother and the tangle of her wants. I watch her follow the only bond she feels she can cling to as they travel across the country to form a new extended family. Here she finds friendships. Some of which become the untethered loss named grief. Here she also finds new grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, yet their love is complicated, conditional, and not woven tightly with the strands of DNA.
But it is this DNA that complicates their union. Her mother has chosen to love a man that is her cousin’s son. The cousin is her father’s nephew, but they are of the close age that they lived together as unhappy brothers for many years. I have been brought into a family that is not wholly welcoming because of the strains that can be imposed upon DNA. It is a tethering without want.
Yet, love finds me. I grow to love my stepfather who has made himself the sun in our small system of orbiting planets. I dutifully cross out the name of origin that belongs to my father, and learn to separate the strands of DNA inside of me without realizing those strands are beginning to tie knots of ache inside of my belly.
And I learn to love my new cousins that come into being, and their grandparents. Even the one who has a hard time looking at my face, as well as the faces of my mother and sister. I call them my own. All of them. I have a new father. I have a new large, extended family through which I share birthdays, holidays and the long weekend of Labor Day on a tiny island in Maine. But I will lose all of those connections. Another choice made by my mother.
“Why are you so sad?” The words tangle with my grandmother’s “Why did she give you up? Why did she choose him over you, and your sister, and her grandchildren?”
Because she made him our sun.
But I tried to stay in his orbit. Oh, how I tried, even when I watched unhealthy patterns that I experienced as a child take form in the grandparent-grandchild connection. I tried until I could try no more, but long before I let the orbit, my mother decided to disconnect from the family she married into, and so, by this law of attraction I have with her, so did I.
When I left the orbit, my mother stayed.
I have come to realize that reconnection after separation of these genetic bonds we carry inside of us in the form of family is like trying to reattach a limb with nerve damage. But I am trying. The loss of my mother, stepfather, and step-family has come with a re-connection with my birthfather, and some of my paternal cousins, aunts, and uncles. The love we share has deep roots, yet its unearthing exposes the grief of all the losses. All those birthdays, holidays, and celebrations not shared. All the words never uttered, the hugs never felt.
But, how grateful I am to have this reweaving.
I have learned, through grief, to love from afar, even those I have lost forever, because I know forever loss does not exist. In each loss that has led in a death of the body, I have found the reunion of the soul-connection. Each of these soul reunions have felt blessed as they do not carry with them the burdens of hurt. They carry only the light of love.