Reclaiming Wholeness- an essay on my personal journey


Recently I wrote this autobiographical essay on the power nature connection and conscious mothering have had in my life, and why I do what I do...11011564_10152854294048719_1107943943098580856_n

I recall very few moments of my young life, except those steeped in what is wild. After the madness of my mother’s descent into mental illness, I was placed in foster care. As the youngest child in my family, at age 5, I was separated from my sisters and left alone with strangers, every person I knew taken away.

I lost most of my memory (and childhood) then. Over the next 13 years, I was passed from home to home over twenty times. So many of my caregivers had good intentions and I am grateful for them all. It was simply the reality in my situation, that life became a drastically fragmented blur as it does for many foster children. I longed to be kept, to belong, and yet to survive, I also disconnected. So many goodbyes can make you stop wanting to say hello.

People will say to me, “remember when we….” and I nearly always say no. I was too busy surviving. And to survive I had to be practical. Like many children suffering repeated loss, I soon found safety in avoiding attachment and buckling down.

But what I do remember was that no matter where I went or what home I was in, the wild, natural world was always with me, and these are the moments I vividly recall. The golden grass canyon behind one home where I found peace while watching the wild horse run free and the ants climb up trees, the pungent scent of my grandmother’s fresh fig tree, sticky milk dripping from its plucked fruit, trekking through a patch of bamboo stalks that sliced my ankle leaving an inch long scar shaped like a crescent moon, and teaching myself to swim in the slippery, aquamarine water of my friend’s apartment complex. Always the elements. These little altars of aliveness reminding me that there was still vibrancy, peace and spiritual connection in a world that had become gray with fragmentation within a system I was breathtakingly helpless in.

The horse that foamed at the mouth when eating a juicy orange. The lemons I picked on the way home from school, intuitive aromatherapy to help me push past despair. The rabbit that plucked its fur and made a nest, then became too wild for me to hold because it was allowed to be free. I on the other hand, felt caged and caged myself further, finely honing my rejection radar, hoping and wishing that I could please my caregivers enough that someone would keep me. When someone would ask me what I wanted, I would try my best to ascertain, as most children in these tenuous situations do, what the other person would like me to say.

As an adult, I took this pleasing pattern as far as it could go, being the poster child foster care success story with award after award, scholarships to undergrad and graduate school. A journey that began in fourth grade when my teacher, Mr. Hollister said, “Life may be hard for you now, but you can change that by getting good grades and going to college.” I held tightly to these words, beginning right then. Carrying far too much stress about my grades at that age, but also the gift of perceived control and hope. I traveled these directions extremely well because I could, as academics came easily (though not a viable path for many foster youth). And I went on to please and work hard in my professional roles.

Then I became a mother.

And like many mothers before me, the wild mother bear arose, swooned and sank into reverie about this new life I would create, could create for my child. This family all my own. A new life that had very little to do with pleasing others and had everything to do with reconnecting to myself and of course, giving this child everything I didn’t have. (The universal longing for all parents it seems.)

Leaving my children for long days at work had to fall away. Defining my fragile worth by what I did, how I achieved, performed had to fall away. The crusty layers of guardedness and disconnection had to fall away. Settling for surviving had to fall away.

I rested into mothering and gave myself the gift of the childhood I never had. So much wordless healing took place as I gazed at my sleeping baby, lie on the grass watching clouds pass with my toddler, felt the tender grasp of my child holding my hand, looked into the sparkling eyes and wonder of a five year old, and listened intently to the rich wisdom of the unfolding soul as my children grew. Their innocence and trust cracking open the shut down places in my heart. And again, I felt that innate aliveness found when fully present in each wild and natural moment, when one touches the love and life that is humming all around. This helps heal trauma, and before I knew this, I knew this.

Even as I wept with longing for my sick mother, as a child I had rested in the cradle of my eternal mother earth and felt and remembered her aliveness. As a social worker in urban elementary schools, I  recalled this natural growth impulse in children and facilitated imaginative free play, inviting the wild spark within to guide them to their own healing.

And this time, my children, inherently connected to their wholeness, and my desire to reclaim my own, were calling me further.

Now I had the time and space to travel a deeper path toward reconnection. While I had been blessed to find a powerful spiritual healing process (Inner Bonding) at the age of twenty, that literally saved my life, now I was taking this wisdom and putting it into life giving practice daily. Stopping and moving at the pace of a child as best I could, I was finally experiencing what had only felt theoretical before. Yes, there is peace and grace all around me; in the perfect growth impulse of the seedling, the growing child and the bird that sings. Yes, there is a grounding rhythm to all of life, a time to be slow, a time to work earnestly, a time to feel the air on your skin, a time to rest, and not simply survive. Yes, there is a life to live actually, not just watch on a tv screen, pounding down junk food to numb the emptiness. Crazy, chaotic, scary and messy though it may be as one child is screaming and the other throwing paint all over the floor, this is vibrant Life. And yes, this drinking deep of what each day offers is a path toward finding my bliss and our bliss together.

Every mothering move became this prayer. I became devoted to peeling back layers of disconnection and reclaiming my fragmented life. I learned to discard the ‘out there’ information of parenting experts and tune into the intuition that is rekindled with birth, asking “If I lived in the jungle, what would my baby need?” This simple question reminding me to mine my inner wisdom, my Source and the collective wisdom of my ancestors, a practice which brought me home to the truth that we have and are all we need.

I kept asking, in general, anytime there was an end product, “What were the pieces that brought these to me?” “How am I participating in increased fragmentation or allowing my children to be?” And as much as possible, finding our way back to the simplest, most nourishing form of all things. Planting and harvesting the seeds to grow our food. Joining a CSA. Making bread, yogurt, sauerkraut! Letting go of the TV to tell our own stories. Making our own music. Singing our own songs. Learning primitive skills. Spending endless hours in our greenbelts, however tiny. Trading for skills and resources. Living simply. Making dirt! Laughing with surprise, as we found profound satisfaction in scooping mulch to cover our lawn and repurposing items instead of consuming. And simply breathing into each moment, moving far more slowly than most everyone around us. In short, peeling back through the muck and distraction of our lives to the innately whole and complete parts of ourselves and again and again, finding there a deep, sweet relief.

What began with discoveries like “Ohhhh so that’s what the top of the zuchinni is..part of the stem?!” and “You can make your own mayonnaise? “ morphed into hosting permaculture inspired events, developing a nature based counseling practice and leading conscious mothering retreats and circles in my Southern California suburb. While I dream of our someday homestead, I find solace and inspiration in bringing people together here for whom the return to wholeness is like water in the desert (literally and figuratively). The pervasive disconnect of modern society steeping us all in this unspoken longing and deep gratitude when we find each other.

The flip side of growing up in foster care, is that while bouncing from home to home, one gains invaluable and ultimately liberating insight. One learns that there are many different kinds of people and struggles, that you can do without belongings, that change and heartbreak are a part of life one can withstand, that independence truly does strengthen, that people will fail you but the essential will not, and that there are many ways to live. As a modern day orphan gliding on the edge of what feels to others an entrenched reality, one sees that there are actually many possibilities.

When we peel back the layers of disconnection and return to the aliveness in the wild world around and within us as I intuitively did as a child, and consciously strive to do now, we remember this too; the intricacy in the tiny juice sacs tucked all together in a sliced orange, the crisp caress of morning air, the ease and miracle of breathing, the tinkling laugh of a child, the birds chattering a party at midnight in the concrete laden suburb, the magnolia seed pod bursting with crimson jewels on the sidewalk, the greywater soaked grape vine climbing over and into every crevice…

Anything and everything is possible.

We are not meant to be caged, we are meant to flourish, extending in every direction toward what life will have us be, reaching our tendrils out toward the wholeness that sustains. We are all wild, and this is what will save us.

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