My husband held me back with a force he used as a defensive lineman in high school. His face was intense and I didn’t care. Our next-door neighbor was screaming at me and his words lit me up like a prairie fire. As quiet and kind as I can be, this man evoked a rage in me that my family and friends seldom see.
It all began over calling the police to deal with his daughter’s boyfriend who crashed into our friend’s car. He swore he would pay for the repair and our friend’s insurance company said she had to have a police report. Our friend went with the insurance company rather than our neighbor’s promise. When the policeman arrived, the fireworks began.
Dan held me back from an escalating brawl and a likely arrest, but at the moment, I didn’t care. I come from a stock of Texas bred, frontier women and once you cross a deep invisible line, I roar.
The scientific findings of epigenetic research show that early life stress, addictions, anxiety, depression and fear conditioning are passed down up to two generations.* I can’t help but ponder the lives of my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
My great grandmother lived through hearing about Texas Indian raids. My grandmother became a young widow during The Great Depression. My mother, as a teenager, was expected to raise her brothers while her mother traveled throughout the county as a social worker.
My great grandfather, grandfather, father all began doing adult male jobs at age ten.
My father had morning and afternoon paper routes from age ten through his teenage years. My grandfather told me about their next-door neighbor who asked him if he could have Paul’s paper routes. The Great Depression was rightfully named. My grandfather had to say no to his request. After high school my father hitchhiked to California and began working for Lockheed Martin building airplanes. The company discouraged the men from enlisting because our country desperately needed those planes to be built for the war.
My father eventually chose to enlist in the Navy and served on two destroyers and then on mine sweepers in the Mediterranean Sea. Once his minesweeper was hit by enemy fire and was engulfed in flames. The whole crew jumped ship while my dad raced to save the radio. He was the last remaining person on board. His Lieutenant shouted directions for how he could climb above as the ship was sinking! My dad listened to the instructions and did as he was told and was able to jump off through flames to safety. He valiantly held the radio over his head.
It is correct to say that their trauma and resilience was genetically passed to me. There is much harm that has been passed through our DNA, contributing to the unique struggles we each face. There is also tenacity, resilience, and chutzpah that is part of our capacity to dare our world to be different.
Tom Brokaw has called my father’s era the Greatest Generation. They faced hardship and danger that was unique to the world, but I shy from saying they were the ‘greatest’. How about the Dough Boys who fought WW I? Or the men and women who fought valiantly in Korea? What do we say about the civil rights generation that upended Jim Crow and segregation laws? I laud the courageous feminists who named rape and sexual abuse in the late sixties.
In naming one generation great, we lose sight that we have been written for this day by our Author God.
God has written us to wear the sorrow of the past as a defiant flag to dare our world not to repeat the same madness again.
What is your traumatized DNA stock that enables you to say, “Hell no, not on my watch?”
One way to discover that is to ask where your heart breaks and your hands ball into a fist. Every time I see an African-American stopped, questioned, threatened, or harmed for merely being black, I light up like a burning bush. Every time I read of another woman taunted, preyed upon, and sexually violated my body rises like a Viking warrior. Dare I jump into a burning ocean after my wooden minesweeper has been shot out from under me? Heaven, Yes.
*Rachel Yehuda and Michael J. Meaney, “Relevance of Psychological Symptoms in Pregnancy to Intergenerational Effects of Preconception Trauma”, October 10, 2017 http://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych. Biological Psychiatry Vol. 83 Issue 15 Jan. 2018 Pages 94-96.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of almost 40 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!
Oh Becky … this is so so good and you have put words to what I am living into and seeing how much I got this from my mom… she is 93 and we just set up hospice… she played golf two weeks ago… she is still living alone… all the medical people have been marveling …. she defies the numbers and scans they are look at… they just don’t match… she is balance of independence ( and by the way… we could never see this in her… my dear dad took up so much space … he died 3 years ago) and grace…. she is not so independent that she won’t listen to anyone… but independent enough not to be dememnding … a decade ago when I turned 50… my motto became… aging with gratitude, grace and grit… and until these last few years… i would have never known how much I got this in my DNA from my mom!!!! Thanks for helping me see and process more clearly… just a sweet gift at this time!!!
What an amazing mother you have. I want to be like her. How great that you have her genes and her love. What a sweet gift of time you are having with her. I was reminded last week that hospice care can last years. I pray that your mom stays alive with joy and family around her.
Cam you give the Biblical reference for your comment: “God has written us to wear the sorrow of the past as a defiant flag to dare our world not to repeat the same madness again.” Thank you!
Bonnie, I do not have a verse. I think God intends for all sorrows to be redeemed either in this life or in the new heavens and new earth.
Becky, this reminds me of the groans that we are encouraged to listen for in this podcast. https://renovare.org/podcast/episode-131-trevor-hudson
Grateful for the grit of your groan and your willingness to share with us. But, surely I am not the only one who wants to know the rest of that story, although we can assume you weren’t arrested! Warmly, Melodie
Melodie, I think what happened is we went inside and eventually my neighbor revealed to me that her husband had prostrate cancer. I felt that his reaction was venting anger at his medical reality. He died while we were still neighbors and our families were at peace with one another. I remember taking over a cherry pie after his funeral and I realized how kindness can be offered and past sins erased. Diane and her daughters remained friends with us.
Your voice of courage, deep care for the human condition and fierce desire for justice going back to the harm that occurred before our time, is such a breath of fresh air. My deepest longing as I stepped over the threshold and entered the Seattle School, was not only for my own healing but to redeem the story of the generations to come. I was 60, and now 15 years later I continue to grow in my freedom to say and I quote you, “hell no”. I join you in your call of the viking warrior. Thank you Becky for loving yourself well.
Thank you Marie. You are one brave and joyous woman! To go to The Seattle School at age 60 takes enormous courage. I trust that your work and desire are changing the generations. I love your “hell no”! You encourage me greatly.
Coming back to the PNW after 43 years has me pondering this anew. Cellular memories swirl. May the generations that live in me of silent women and “hard” abusive men be broken in this one.
I love the work you do to come alongside women of all kinds. Bless you for your good heart to help women who have had hard and abusive men in their lives. You are a valiant warrior for the hearts of many. You inspire me!