I’ve known for some years now that my maternal grandfather had been taken from his white Canadian Mother, as a very young boy, to live with his Chinese Father in China in the late 1920’s. In retrospect, taken may be an understatement, kidnapped by his father might be a more appropriate description. These historical details were told as fact to diffuse the actual trauma of the reality of this situation. Like other horrible things that come to pass, with time the wound begins to close and eventually heal; stories become old and less raw, each time told with more indifference by each generation. The disconnect widens. Every now and then some curious kid will ask What’s that scar from? and the facts will be regurgitated to satisfy the wonder.
My most recent research into my own wellness has lead me to the groundbreaking work of Mark Wolynn (Author of It Didn’t Start With You, Director of The Family Constellation Institute and The Hellinger Institute of Northern California, Mark is North America’s leader in Inherited Family Trauma.) His trauma work is based on the concept of epigenetics.
Epigenetics tells us that you and I can inherit gene changes from traumas that our parents and grandparents experienced. It goes like this: When a trauma occurs, our bodies make a physiological change to better manage the stress…This adaptive change can then be passed down to our children and grandchildren biologically preparing them to deal with similar trauma. This can be a good thing, unless, of course, the inherited changes create even more stress. (markwolynn.com)
Sigh…more stress…sure thing. This unfortunately makes a lot of sense to me right now. Unfortunately because my mole hill I’ve been widdling away at…guess what it just became in the past few days?! Maybe it would be easier to just take a daily, simple, little pill making all these pesky symptoms dissipate?! Down the rabbit hole we go. Bombs away! Either way Alice has to pick a door; one comes with a pill to fit the tiny constraints, the other with a strange, forgotten world hidden beyond its frame.
It’s kind of been a dark few days for me…challenging to say the least. I don’t do well with uncertainty and well…it abounds…in the broken English of my Grandmother and the broken memories of my Mother. The oral history of my maternal Chinese family is far from methodical and my cousin and I have been trying to piece what little we have picked up in casual conversations over the past years to compare notes and facts.
The epigenetic theory has encouraged me to crack open some of these generational stories, to begin piecing together a bigger narrative that goes beyond my own sense of trauma and health issues in this lifetime. (I know, I know…voodoo and magic shit, but I gotta say it’s quite compelling). I not only consider this for my own recovery, but to stop this cycle of trauma and dis-ease within my current family of origin and specifically, perhaps create a reprieve for my son. Could I be so bold to hope for a clean slate? It’s just that what I am certain of are these “symptoms” are no longer serving their purpose to keep me “safe”. Something – genetically, spiritually, chemically – needs to be shut down now. IT’S EFFING TIME, OK?! WE ARE SAFE! THERE IS NO ABDUCTION, THERE IS NO CHINESE CIVIL WAR…I AM JUST AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER LIVING IN ONE OF THE SAFEST, HEALTHIEST COUNTRIES ON THE G.D. PLANET!
So then why am I stricken awake by a panic attack? A moment of realization came slowly building over 4 or 5 days, taking in the words and research and patient stories of Wolynn. Writing in response to the research and exercises in the book. And then at 1 am Saturday morning, the fear and very specific words “worried sick” woke me from my sleep. My head was spinning, my stomach was in knots, my heart laying on the floor of my chest broken into blood-letting shards like smashed glass and my leg, oh my leg, cramping (just my right for some reason). It was an unbearable state and a super shitty way to wake up! It is amazing to me now that I lay there like that for nearly 30 minutes, paralyzed with fear or confusion like a prey animal in headlights. When I collected my senses enough to understand this wasn’t going to pass with my ignorance, I rose from the bed to be with it more closely. I tried to attune myself deeper into this channel.
Walking into the bathroom, I passed silently by my son’s bed (who had just recently cried out in his sleep – not unusual) and felt an overwhelming sense of loss that passed almost as quickly as it had come, like a fist to the stomach. In the washroom, I sat in the artificial light and hum, promising anyone who might be in my head with me at that moment, that I was paying attention. I suddenly understood (at least a fragment) of the pain my great grandmother must have felt upon realizing her son was gone and she may never, ever see her baby boy again. Grief blanketed in devastation. She was right, she would never be permitted to see him again and he would be raised by other women, wife 1 and then wife 2, who he would call Mother in Chinese.
Another chapter is unfurling and I cautiously step through this door into some very uncharted territory, bringing with me my genetic past to the present. Because I understand now this is who I am. This is a deep rooted part of me and how I came to be. I have been ignorant to think I was immune to this history. It is not just my Great Grandmother’s story or my since passed Grandfather’s story…it is collectively our story and in kind, my story. I hope my readiness to face it will bring me and my present family peace. I know I am not alone in this seeking and am grateful to those who are also asking important questions to find healing with me.
As for those who are bracing for impact, you don’t need to do this for me. I remind myself again, as equally as I remind you:
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose