While it is true I kept a journal for many years, I did not begin writing Phoenix of Faith until the day after I discovered my daughter was getting married and I was not invited. I was devastated. What kind of monster had I become that my daughter had to distance herself so completely from me, her own mother?
I believe a man at the beginning of his marriage does not willfully intend to treat his wife badly. Likewise, a man at the beginning of fatherhood does not set out to hurt his daughter. But spouses and parents frequently carry emotional baggage from their respective families of origin. If the father’s behavior is dysfunctional as a result of unhealed wounds of his psyche, his daughter may go on to follow her mother’s example. She may choose a husband resembling her father — a man to “fix.” Depending how well or poorly the young couple’s patterns interact determines how happy or miserable that marriage becomes.
Unhealed wounds of parents are often absorbed by the child — frequently introjected into that child’s self-concept. In this fashion the wounds are passed from generation to generation. Compounding this cycle are cultural and religious institutions which many times reinforce the wounds and impede healing.
Is it possible to transform such dysfunctions? In my own case, was I permanently molded by virtue of being born into a particular belief system? The teachings of the family religion were all I had ever known. Could I change my beliefs enough to change my desperate reality?
I look back now and wish I had left my marriage after three miserable years, when I still had a safe exit point, instead of letting myself be assimilated by a religion that openly enabled and even encouraged all the dysfunction of a marriage like mine to carry on. I know now, if I had left the marriage after three years with my children, I would have found other healthier tools to help me survive. Tools I did not know I had at that time — tools I now know I possess. I could have taught my children some healthier examples and they would still be in my life today.
If I were to ask the leaders of my religion if they believed they had abused me, they would have stated an unequivocal “no.” They believed they had my best interests at heart. My father too, would have become offended, had I questioned his parenting style. My ex-husband would have laughed and reached for another beer. These are just the pattern types. What lessons might I have learned had I been more aware of the religious and social forces influencing my life?
Once I started writing, I filled journal after journal. As I wrote, bit by bit, the cracks in the edifice opened and glimmers of light shone through. The circumstances of my life became less controlling as I examined my wounds, considered possibilities and gained perspective. But as I made new choices, separation from my old world — my possessions, my marriage, my siblings, my friends, my faith and my children — became inevitable.
However, I am not writing this book just to tell my “story.” I say that we can let go of the story — and that the way we were raised is not necessarily who we truly are. We can heal the wounds and release the past, because those memories are just the “story.” The wounds no longer serve a useful purpose in life. It is safe to let go of the wounds while on the life journey.
I asked myself some obvious questions such as: Who is directing my life? Is it my parents? Is it an addiction? Is it a religion and it’s elders? Is it a demon? Is it the production of my parents? — Or is it my soul?
Thus it is that a half a lifetime is obliterated and reduced to ashes. But these are the only conditions under which the phoenix can rise.
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