Healing what was wounded 51 years ago today

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States of America, was shot on November 22nd, 1963, as he rode next to his wife, Jackie, in the back seat of an open-topped limousine through the streets of Dallas, Texas. I was three years old. I remember this day. It is, in fact, my earliest childhood memory, and even now writing about it brings up intense emotions and tears.

Like many children too young to be in school during this time in American history, I was home with my mother. We had a TV; maybe it was on, maybe she got a call and turned it on, I don’t remember which. What I do remember is my mother standing in the doorway to the kitchen, something in her hand, looking past me to the TV in the living room where I was playing on the floor. And I remember – actually, my body remembers, the indescribable shock and horror in the room at the awful sight of President Kennedy literally having his head blown apart, right in front of us, all of us, a nation – likely a world.

After Kennedy’s death, emotions were high for some period of time. As the investigations went on, and speculations started, even Jackie Kennedy’s actions during the assassination were discussed and analyzed. The detail I remember is that of her crawling onto the trunk of the limousine after the shot that shattered JFK’s head. Apparently, there must have been some talk that she was trying to escape and the very notion of that brought my mother into an irate tirade. She knew exactly why Jackie had crawled onto the trunk. It was a pure instinct of protection and love, and completely non-rational, to try to grab the piece of her husband’s head and brain that went flying with that rifle shot. Our most primal instinct is not, as some would have us believe, self-preservation; it is love. Most parents could easily illustrate this, as could soldiers who have seen battle, and a young wife who had already lost too many loved ones.

Interestingly enough, I have no memory of my father’s reaction to the event. He may not even have been around, as much as he was gone as a military officer. My mother was alone during many difficult times, and was certainly alone that afternoon, in any case.

I was not conscious of the emotional impact of this event on me and my relationship with my mother until recently. I knew that this was my earliest memory, vivid even half a century later. I can call up the image without effort. Not so clear is the emotional impact of seeing my mother so terrified and horrified. It was so threatening to me as a little girl that I pushed it into my body, where it was held.

Fast forward to the year 2013, almost exactly fifty years later, and I am lying on a massage table, working with a healer who does counseling and energy work. I had recently been to a gynecologist for the first time in years because my naturopathic doctors were concerned when I had my first menstrual period in nearly a year. They told me that post-menopausal bleeding is linked to uterine cancer, among other nasty conditions. The gynecologist had given me the options of a needle biopsy, an ultrasound, or wait and see if I bleed again, strongly encouraging the first choice. I had no intention of submitting to needles and machines and instead opted for her least favorite path. I would wait and see, in concert with healing work that I find more valuable and more respectful of my female body.

After I had explained the medical details to my counselor/ energy healer, she put her hand on my lower abdomen, on my womb. Somehow the memory that came up immediately was that of being with my mother during the assassination. The tears flowed as I described my mother’s feelings, the incredible fear and grief that hit that day and stayed with her, and many others for so long. And as I talked, heat flowed from my abdomen, so much that my body went into a mild state of shock, with chills, fatigue and a cloudiness in my mind that lasted for some time. I had to sit in her office for another half hour or so just to collect my energy and thoughts enough to go home. As we talked about the experience, my healer also remembered being at home with her mother at the time of the assassination; she was close to my age. We wondered together how many others are out there carrying this memory. I have had no further bleeding since.

Once I spent some more time remembering the events of the day of the assassination, and the feelings that came up during the healing work, I realized that I had internalized my mother’s emotions to a very deep degree, but that I also had my own, triggered by her reaction as well as the reaction of a nation. My sense is that what was rocked off its foundation that day, when my mother lost her bearings, was my own fundamental trust in life. At three years old, I received the message loud and clear that the world was not safe, and even my mother couldn’t keep me safe. The pelvis, as our “root”, is where our sense of stability and safety is moored, so it makes sense that my healing would be centered there. I have had other difficult memories ‘stuck” in my body and released through healing work. This particular one, though, must be shared by many people my age, and I wonder how many of us have had the same opportunity to heal.

I have questions but no answers. I am grateful to have had the time and the opportunity, as I’ve said in earlier posts, to poke around inside and release some of these old scars. I know my health is better for it, at the level of body as well as mind and soul. Despite the occasional bouts of fear over the future, the fact is that I have a much stronger sense today of security than at any point in my life. It has nothing to do with external circumstances: the knowing comes from inside. Fifty one years after the event, I have reclaimed some of the true security I lost through my mother’s horror at Kennedy’s assassination.

Honestly, truth is so much more interesting to me than fiction these days!

Dark heresy

I have been feeling somewhat out of sorts since posting that last blog piece. I’ve had lots of conversations about it, and they have ranged from unconditional support, to admissions of like feelings, to concern for my well-being, both professional and personal. Through it all, I have had the sense that I broke a taboo in writing about my personal financial fears, fear itself, and generally showing my very human vulnerability in public. I find myself alternating between despair and rebelliousness: despair over the sense that one person’s pain is so difficult for others to hear, and rebelliousness because I am more determined than ever to expose the negative stuff that our culture wants to ignore and cover up and push away.

The word that came to me in the dark of a recent night was heresy, so I looked it up. Heresy is described as a “provocative” belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs. It certainly seems heretical to talk about fear and show vulnerability in public. And although I would like to pin this on mainstream culture, it is often just as prevalent in spiritual circles. All this focus on “manifesting” and light and all things to feel good and holy and “spiritual.” The plain fact is that life is made up of joy AND pain, courage AND fear, strength AND vulnerability. And how could it be otherwise in the human realm anyway???

I did not set out to be a heretic, although one of my current inspirations and mentors proclaims herself as such. I write to share a small piece of a human experience, a full human experience, as truthfully as an imperfect medium will allow. Fear is part of my experience. Vulnerability is a fact of my life. And we haven’t even gotten to shame, which, to me, feels about the worst of all and is absolutely rampant in our culture. I am sure there will be posts about that on this blog, but meanwhile there is Brene Brown’s well-researched and very insightful book about it called Daring Greatly, after a much-admired Teddy Roosevelt speech.

I know that I am no longer “mainstream”; I have experienced too much that is discounted, ignored, or outright shut down by our culture at large. The fact that I worry almost not at all about meeting someone else’s definition of “professional” is only one very small example of my cultural incorrectness. Perhaps more heretical is my embrace of, even revelry in, the experience of the metaphorical dark. In truth, I am enjoying this process of writing about deep, dark things such as fear. I have spent a big portion of the past year wallowing, essentially, in fear and shame and other lovely emotions, some of which were buried pretty darned deep. I did not set out to do this! Between the bodyworkers and other healers I spent time with last fall and winter, the illnesses that worked their way through my body, and other factors, these emotions have showed themselves to be seen and embraced, allowing old wounds to finally heal. I have looked at fears such as that of being truly seen (i.e. vulnerable), limitations of aging, and even failing in various vocational endeavors. I have also faced shame in a number of incarnations, whether around simple human body stuff, or foundational aspects of being a woman and more, to be covered in greater detail at another time and place.

And I would not trade one second of this time spent in the dark. In a way that perhaps the mystics can explain far better than I can, this time in the dark has made life so very much more rich. Not only can’t I push it away anymore, I don’t want to, and I don’t want to be complicit in anyone else’s attempts to push it away, either. Our cultural insistence on staying in the light has had untold effects on our country and our planet, not to mention each of us as individuals. My sense of urgency around giving voice to the truth to the best of my ability is all the greater after learning of the tragic death of a woman far too young this past weekend. She was experiencing some kind of darkness. Would it have helped to feel a little less alone with it? I don’t know. Grace has shielded me from that level of despair, at least to this point in my life. But I can share what darkness I do experience, in the desire that it is as healing for others as it is for me.

Dedicated to Jen, whom I did not know well but loved all the same.

Financial limbo Part II: There is nothing wrong

By the way, if there was an impression given in my last post that there is something wrong, there isn’t. The blog post is a snapshot in time, and the closest description I know how to give of an experience in time. But I was reminded by one of my soul sisters that being in limbo implies being stuck and static, and life is neither. As with all things, the situation and experience will pass. The experience has already shifted, and the situation will resolve in one way or another.

Today I have a sense of wonder – in all senses of the word – about life and the gifts that I have, the support I am honored with, and curiosity about what happens next and how I will respond. As I said yesterday, I don’t know what the future holds for me on this or any front. Yet, without a little suspense, life would be like one of those boring B rated movies where you always know what is going to happen to the characters.

And my new favorite saying, from the same soul sister: Live life like it is rigged in your favor!