In my twenties, I didn’t think much about self improvement. I would have laughed at anyone suggesting a self-help book. I read little on spirituality, and honestly didn’t have a clue where I fit in. I figured I was who I was by that time and I had to learn to endure the faults, the neurosis, and the walls that I had built for myself. What I did dwell on were the negative parts of my childhood. I couldn’t seem to move passed them, and I felt like I would need to muster all the strength I could to move on down the line. I also clung to the good parts of my childhood. They stuck to me – bittersweet, moments of bliss that were only to be glanced at here and there.
After becoming pregnant with Deladis, I realized that life was much more than existing in a past you can’t change. I realized that there were things I didn’t want to pass on to my daughter. Things that can be excused in families. All ___ (insert family name) are mule headed. Oh, you get that temper from your Uncle ___. You’re always depressed, just like your ____. Things that are chalked up as inherited personality traits, that can very well be negative if given the right circumstances, but given a different environment can be worked with and made into positives. Instead of saying, that’s who I am, it’s in the blood, we can work to stop the scars that are passed down through generations in families. Those scars don’t have to be a curse. The fact is, you don’t have to live with them anymore the moment you choose to see them for what they are and no longer choose to accept them. Not that it isn’t hard work through them, but acknowledgment that there is no power there to hold you.
I didn’t completely understand my great desire to become a better me after becoming a parent. I would catch little thoughts as they passed through my mind that would hint at why. If you keep losing your cool, your relationship with your child will erode. Do you ever want her to wonder if she is loved? Then, there is the whole aspect of parenting daughters as a woman. Stop downing your physical appearance in front of your child. You don’t want her to spend her whole adolescence thinking she is an ugly duckling or not feminine because she doesn’t like makeup or spending too much time on her hair.
Eli, The Good the most recent novel by the eastern Kentucky author Silas House came out in September 2009. My grandmother went to North Carolina to hear him read and to buy me a signed copy of the book. I thought that pretty dang cool of her considering she was supporting an independent bookstore and she was buying me the best kind of material present I could ever receive. Silas House is my very favorite author.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect of this novel. I had heard him read an excerpt at the Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writer’s Workshop evening readings over the summer. I appreciated the segment he read. I soaked in the frankness of the tone and took up the imagery, making a movie in my mind, as the best books do for me. I relished in his audible voice, true to his accent and unapologetic. The kind that makes you even more proud to be who you are because someone molded from the same clay as you is making a difference in the world. I was ready for this book.
I opened it and began reading, noticing immediately that this novel was very different from his first three (a series with the same family as characters). It was different in feeling and much different in tone. It was told from the voice of a ten year old child, Eli Book. While the setting was obviously the mountains, it was more universal. It felt like it could be many places. Immediately, I felt like that child could have been me.
I went through the first half of the book wondering where it was taking me. I didn’t grasp it fully because at times it was a very uncomfortable place to be, but as I moved onward I understood that was exactly the point.
By the end of the novel, I felt like I had been on a life transforming journey. The kind that is a one way ticket. You go from beginning to end and never look back. The end of the novel held the juice for me. Eli’s father dealt with demons brought back from the Vietnam war. A war he had gone to fight still being only a child. Eli’s mother clung to the love she found with his father because she had not known love as a child. There was Eli and his sister both feeling the very same way, but coming to the understanding that what they were feeling was not the reality of their life, but the feelings that their parents were carrying with them and projecting out onto their lives.
But then he saw me. I just stood there, feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness wash over me. I had felt alone all my life, had felt as if my parents only saw each other as they moved through the world, thought they loved each other so much that there was no room to love me. But now, by the way Daddy looked at me, I knew better.
His faced is what convinced me. He was so hurt to see me there, to know I had seen all of this. So I knew, once and for all, that he did care if I existed or not.
– Eli, The Good by Silas House, Chapter 25, pg. 265
It was that moment in the book that sealed the deal for me and my commitment to becoming my true self. The self that is uninhibited by my circumstances or past. This was the point that gave me hope. The hope that despite my shortcomings and my personal pitfalls, my children will at some point be assured of the fact that I love them and I love having been a part of giving them life. They will know it because it is true.
All the things that I am doing are not only for myself at this point, though I believe looking inward is important for people in all walks of life. It is for my family. From the choice of Waldorf inspired education, to moving up in the head of no where, to making our traditional culture a daily part of our life, those choices were made to help my children experience childhood. We can grow up so quickly. My spiritual studies, my yoga practice, my writing and reading, making the choice to become a childbirth educator, are all part of ending a cycle and embracing my natural state of well being. Disease is not our natural state. It is dis-ease. Feelings of inadequacy, depletion, and blaming are not natural. These are things that can be healed. These are things that with mindfulness can be made whole in beautiful ways.
I want to bring my children up in a healing environment. I want to do all I can to insure that I leave little baggage for them to carry into their adult life. Any baggage they will have will be theirs, personal and part of that which helps us become independent of our parents. It will be the stuffs of a beautiful life and the tools to make it a complete one.