Burning or Befriending The Monsters In The House
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Max and I have started talking about having children and all that encompasses it. I'm excited, nervous and heavy with the responsibility that we would be undertaking to bring a being into this world. While I bask in the joy it's going to be to weave new magic into this world, this is not for the faint of heart. Max already has a leg up on me; he said he was "future-proofing". He buried himself in literature, history books, music, debates, stories and experiences of others for years and still does. I, honestly thought it was a waste of time when we were in college. Partially because I was immersed in my school work, also because I was kind of jealous that his mind worked so fast to process such a vast array of knowledge. I know the cranial nerves, and only because of a very dirty acronym.
I am in awe and perpetually catching up to him. He can see farther than I. What I see now that I shouldn't have brushed off so harshly years ago was that Max, my highly analytical, conscientious, charismatic and sensitive husband was learning to tap into his intuition. He has been gathering data, processing his own traumas and dismantling his beliefs to be able to subconsciously calculate the best way to handle a situation based on his internal knowing, not reasoning. He knows so much more than he will take credit for. He's a great human, and he'll be a good dad. For me, I have a lot of shit to burn.
I am so fortunate in that I had a beautiful childhood. My parents were models of love and hard work, my siblings were steadfast on their path and my peer groups were ever fluctuating, emotionally taxing and great learning experiences. My dad championed me and encouraged me to realize my worth, my strength and how I am magnetic and able to attract my goals and people that are worth my time. My mom taught me the tangible skills to nourish myself and others, perseverance to get the results you want in your endeavors and to trust the process. My parents, with caution, left me alone to discover the world through my own eyes, get hurt, get in trouble only to discover the true magic that is this life.
I can't say that I had experienced trauma in a deeply disturbing sense, or experienced a high level of anguish or upheaval. But as I get older, and as my community has gracefully shown me is that the small moments of struggle can be just as impactful as the big ones. Regardless of magnitude or circumstances, the journey is always the same. We examine those moments and get curious about what we're feeling, we process it until we find its truth and practice our truth until it becomes inherent. For decades I have been unlearning old, self-limiting beliefs to better serve my purpose, my joy and my impact on this world. It's hard work, but necessary work.
I didn't choose to be afraid
You may have heard of the cherry blossom mice experiment in 2013 where researchers had trained male mice to fear the scent by exposing them to a mild electroshock each time the scent wafted into the cages. These male mice developed more smell receptors in order to detect the scent of cherry blossoms in lower concentrations. Ultimately, these male mice's offspring and their third generation inherited the gene responsible for the increased smell receptors and therefore developed the same fear of cherry blossoms that their flower-hating dads had.
While this can be used to further understand the role genes may play in metabolic and physical disease like obesity, cancer and kidney disease, it may play a role in how we express our emotional behaviors and that of future generations. I have a deep rooted fear of being judged that stems from an institution (which has largely remained unchanged for centuries) that scrutinized my every move. I get scared about walking down the street by myself because my parents lived through times of martial law in the Philippines. I get anxious about being abducted, raped, maimed, isolated and ridiculed (which I mean, are pretty valid fears) because my great-grandmother hid in a chest during Japanese occupation. These are the stories that I have been told, and told myself. These are not MY stories, and certainly not MY fears. The beautiful thing about each and every one of our lives is that we have the ability to change. Change our beliefs, our priorities, our stories and our fears. We need to give ourselves permission to do just that. The mice learned fear but, if we're brave enough, we have the conscientiousness to unlearn it.
It's been a challenge and a privilege to examine the moments in my life that encouraged fear and judgement. Fear is not a bad thing, it keeps us safe and sharp. When you're dangling by ropes 80 ft above a black, unexplored pit, fear is valid. But most days, it's the emotional Nancy that screams at the top of her lungs every time we try to step out of our comfort zones. I am learning to become Nancy's friend. I am acknowledging her and the discomfort she gives me. I hear her reasoning, her defiance and negotiations but I do not take on her problems as my own. Learning to discern my fear versus my intuition has been an exciting journey inward. I am moving at a slower pace and tapping into what my body knows to be true; Friedrich Nietzsche was right, "there is more knowledge in your body than your deepest philosophy".
How do you feel the difference between fear and your intuition?
I have found the best way to build a better relationship and understanding of my self has been through breath. When I need to make a decision that is out of my box and brings up fears, I turn to breath. My closest thing to a godly experience came when I first discovered yoga, pranayama and meditation in high school and more profoundly in college. Finding my breath was the direct channel to connecting with my inner thoughts, deepest desires, most visceral pain and eventually my most whole-hearted "yes's" and "no's". Breathwork (though I'm still very fresh to it) has unlocked a lot of pent up emotions I didn't know I still harbored. It clears a lot of trash so you can sink more into your body, beyond the fear that you are unsafe in it, beyond the anxiety, beyond your thoughts so that you could simply acknowledge and feel it all. It doesn't have to take long either! A quick 3 min session is all you need, longer if you have the time.
Pranayama might be more accessible to people that may suffer from various conditions such as uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disorders, glaucoma, detached retina, cardiovascular disease, or any physical, psychiatric or medical disorders which may affect the intense physical/emotional release.
Ask the Visceral Questions
Once I have tapped into my slowing heartbeat, the tingles in my fingertips and the warmth in my gut, I will ask myself definitive yes and no questions and see how they sit. "Is my name Iola?", "Do I like socks and sandals?", "Is Chris Hemsworth sexy?". It's a weird and fun exercise to feel all the feels. Eventually I ask the real questions and immediately see how they land in my body: do I feel openness, expansion, lightness, laughter? Or a heaviness, a sinking feeling, a tightness in my chest? Does the outcome always make sense? God no. But inadvertently drawing on my previous experiences, past and present beliefs to calculate the best next step is way better than reacting from an emotionally fueled fear-based Nancy.
Be Kind and Patient with Yourself - But Do the Work
I've seen dark days and I have been a part of many. Sifting through all the clutter and differentiating between what I feel and what I was told to feel is a struggle, painful and exhausting. I try not to sit under this dark cloud for too long. It will take longer to unweave the tangles of my own trauma than it was to fabricate it. Most times, I don't know what I'm doing or how I'm feeling, and that's okay. Tomorrow is another exciting opportunity to listen and create better stories!
Show Up and Do Your Chores
Walking into our moments of pain and hurt can sometimes feel dangerous, but the process of regaining our footing in the midst of our ongoing battle with ourselves is where we trial our courage and forge our values. It's been a privilege to pick apart familial beliefs, truly listen to different perspectives and feel the collective joy and hurt. It's given me the unique and profound opportunity to see, understand and respond to people by their bruises that have not yet healed.
If we want to move beyond our fundamental fears, inherited shame, memories that don't tell constructive, poignant stories than we have to do the work. We have to acknowledge the house we are living in. Take stock of how we've built it and furnished it. And sometimes, when the space no longer brings you joy and it's too broken, battered and unsafe for anyone else to live there, you take your most precious belongings and burn that shit to the ground.
I can't wait to have kids with him. We both come with a lot of baggage but I refuse to let our traumas, our parents issues, our siblings hurt, our friends and families drama sully my kids human experiences. They will feel uncomfortable, they will experience everything, they will know their parents stories but they will not identify with it. I will inevitably screw them up, but I will hopefully teach them resilience, and the ability to do the same housework that I am currently sweeping through. And if they find monsters under the bed, I'll leave them to decide what to do with them from the doorway.