Intergenerational healing? Papu, Mum, Me… Freedom.
This week was all ’business’ and I have a lot of research+writing (which I enjoy) to do this weekend, in addition to life maintenance activities (every now and then these kinds of weekends come along, don’t they?). I can report, however, that I did get a chance this week to sit down and chat with my mother, in order start getting down the family tree and stories. Why is an individualist progressive doing this?? Because I came to the realisation last year that this was something that would be a good and healing thing to do – as documented in the post ‘Discovering Rabaul’.
Well, holy shit. This “little” personal project is going to take a long, long time (which I anticipated it would anyway, but for other reasons than those I discovered this week). Drawing out information from interviewees can be tricky, due to the number of conversational tangents (albeit hilarious tangents) that happen when someone is probing/rediscovering their own memories. In addition, there are, shall we say, intergenerational communication challenges. It’s all good, though. We just have to be patient with each other, as always.
And I can already see that we will unearth some personal gold here – some great stories. I will also come to know who my grandparents and forebears were, and, in the process, come to understand why my parents are the way they are. And, as things flow on, how this affected who my siblings and I are. I must confess, that I used to think who my grandparents or parents were/are had nothing to do with me – that I am whomever I choose to be today (that is TRUE, though.). However, I also kind of believed that I had been shaped by the things I had experienced in life alone – and not the experiences of my forebears.
I know now that is not strictly true – because there are significant things that are passed on, albeit unconsciously, from generation to generation, that one needs to become conscious of, see clearly, in order to individuate and heal. I’m a sensitive person, always have been. From a young age, I sensed what I could only describe as a painful or “heavy” energy around my mother. That energy obviously had nothing to do with my own experiences – after all, I was new to the planet. But I absorbed all those feelings, and so they became a part of my experience too. Later, of course, my own individual experiences added to that dam of awful baggage, and I am working positively to drain that dam once and for all (a good solid laughter attack works wonders 🙂 ).
Finding and utilising healthy and progressive ways to reprogram myself, and overcome certain patterns of thinking/emotional responses that are ingrained in me, is thus a life priority area (I must emphasise here that I am not blaming anyone – those patterns are mine to overcome). But I guess I want to understand where the “heavy” energy came from, even as I creatively and mindfully release it. This week, as I began this personal endeavour by talking to my Mum about her parents and siblings, I realised that finding out about my Grandmother, my “Papu”, and her relationship with Mum, might illuminate more about our complicated (yet still close) relationship.
My Papu died long before I was born. In 1937, whilst she was living with her husband (my Grandfather) and little daughter (my Aunt) at a mission station away from her village, Rabaul suffered an under water volcanic eruption, which created the volcano Vulcan (Kalamanagunan) – a volcano essentially on my Papu’s village. My Grandmother’s entire family – father, mother, and four younger siblings – were killed in both the eruption and the tsunami that was created. The devastation and trauma to Rabaul, and to my Papu, was severe. In the days before birth control, it took her 14 years to fall pregnant again.
In that 14-year period, Papu also lived through World War II with my aunt and grandfather, hiding in caves, suffering serious wounds, trying not to go hungry or die with food scarcity and no medical service. I asked my mother what she remembers of Papu’s temperament. Not much, she said. She remembers going to the garden everyday with her, collecting firewood and food, occasionally hand rolling my Papu’s tobacco cigarettes for her as she worked – before Papu died of lung cancer, when my mother was 10 years old. Mum unfortunately doesn’t have any memories of her being around people, or her laughing, or anything like that.
So. I think now about that legacy, and about Mum losing her mother so young, then becoming a mother herself 9 years later, as a naïve and vulnerable 19 year old. I think too, with empathy, about the trajectory of my Mum’s life – particularly her emotional life and the way she responded to those challenges, for better or worse. Suddenly, things are starting to make a whole lot of sense.
Now for a random clip.
My utterly useless/fascinating reading on Cinema Studies finally came in handy – I actually understood what Key & Peele were heckling about here ;P The hacky, “black people at the movies” stereotype joke turned on it’s ass in this skit:
“Has this dude ever heard of mise en scène? Put some information up in the frame, bitch!” – Quotable.