A direct, symbiotic relationship with nature is a fundamental human right.
As some of you know through my stories, when I was an infant my mother dehumanized me. Instead of maintaining physical and/or visual contact with me, she dissociated from me by routinely leaving me in my crib in another room of our basement apartment for hours on end, following an extreme interpretation of the cry-it-out method* that entered our culture as a result of my maternal great-grandmother’s PTSD during a plague in Sicily. (More on this in “Rose the Jew”.) As a general rule, my mother tended to me only if it was time for my bottle (Breast feeding is for sissies.) or if I needed a change of diapers. She used the television or radio to drown out my cries for her. Instead of hugging me to soothe my anxiety and hers, my mother smoked cigarettes for stress-relief, leaving me alone with the existential dread of being separated from my lifeline and unable to get her back. For all I knew, I’d been left for dead. When I managed to escape my crib and crawl across two rooms to be with my mother, she promptly returned me to my crib, eventually confining me in it with a carriage strap.
Our relationship would never recover from this austere approach to infant care. Without my mother physically and emotionally bonding with me or seeing me as a lovable, valuable, investible extension of herself, I was little more than a burden or an annoyance to her, especially in our patriarchal culture that viewed boys as way more investible than girls. (I touch on my mother’s lack of empathy in Pee & Circumstance.) By the age of five I had been subjected to emotional, spiritual and physical abuse. This abuse would continue throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Not only would my mother condone my abuse, and/or blame me for males’ outbursts of rage, on more than one occasion she actually aided in the abuse, e.g. helping to lock me out of the house and mocking me as I tried to get back in.
My mother’s early rejection of me and subsequent maltreatment of me left me believing that I was inherently repulsive. I carried a sense of self-loathing that was compounded by sociopathic humans close to me in my formative years and beyond who found that my negative self-perception served them well, especially when they behaved abusively and were unwilling/unable to look inward. I harbored intense anger toward my mother, that I spewed onto her as a teenager especially, and to a lesser degree onto certain other females.
Burdened with a visceral sense of futility and neediness, I was a soft target for abuse by anyone who held power over me. The mere notion of a rage-prone, über-manly-man entity, who I’d been raised to believe is a) omnipresent and b) omnipotent and righteously above criticism, had conditioned me for easy exploitation by manipulative, empathy-depraved aggros blinded by an insatiable need to dominate. Such aggros, especially male aggros, are able to feed off of damaged humans through just the type of early, repeated and sanctioned spiritual abuse to which I’d been subjected. I tended to shrink around forceful, negative energy, especially in enclosed spaces such as work environments, which often lack protective, nurturing energy. Attempting to obtain resources while removed from nature reminded me of my parents’ basement apartment and also my tribe’s house of worship, in which decorated adult males and boys run the show from an elevated platform while the rest of us sit or kneel down below, doing as we are told and repeating what we are told until we’re finally rewarded for our submissiveness with a taste of food and permission to leave. My desperate, reparative quest for mother’s love meant I was even more responsive to herd mentality than the average child. Being socially ostracized equaled death to me in a very real way.
Despite being an excellent student with an IQ in the top two percentile, I struggled to initiate and complete even relatively simple tasks in non-academic environments, due to debilitating performance anxiety that started with crib trauma and continued during decades of living with males who had hair-trigger tempers and performance anxiety of their own due to PTSD. This after I’d already learned that self-limiting was necessary for survival in the crib after initiating an attempt and successfully completing the single most critical task of my life: connecting with and obtaining resources from mother resulted in me being even further from that goal than I’d been before I made the attempt, and dangerously so. Until I reconfigured my thought process, I subconsciously associated giving my all with courting death, especially under pressure. I also had major focus issues in confined, unnatural environments which struck me as unsafe, coupled with a hyperactive response to stimuli, and difficulty discerning what information around me was necessary and what could be ignored.
At times my mother treated me as competition. Instead of being proud of my abilities and achievements, she seemed threatened by them. Likewise by any expression of critical thinking or my independent nature. It’s as though she could only tolerate me if I were perfectly aligned with her worldview and unable to leave, like an infant in the womb. When I was about to relocate across the country, she boycotted the family send-off from the airport and spoke derisively about the top university that I’d be attending. This was her sad, emotionally-stunted way of saying she didn’t want me to leave. That’s the most heart-wrenching thing about damaged people in our lives, isn’t it? They are incapable of treating us well even though they desperately want us to stick around.
It wasn’t until I enlisted the gentle guidance of a licensed psychotherapist that I was able to begin the healing process. It has taken over a decade of regular sessions just to be here now, writing about my mother’s mistreatment of me and how it affected me. I needed to clearly, fully, deeply understand that it was unnatural and wrong, and that my attempt to connect with my mother should’ve resulted in the reward of comfort and security, as nature intended, instead of the punishment of solitary confinement treatment that I was given instead.
I needed to explore the vast array of emotional issues and cultural forces that drove my mother to suppress her maternal instinct toward her own daughter who physically resembled her quite a bit. My mother was very much a product of her environment, severely compromised by pathological mental-illness that was exacerbated by a toxic, patriarchal culture which idolized male aggression. With my mother’s mother similarly damaged, the nurturing aspect of our culture had been decimated. (More on this in Rose the Jew.) Enter capitalistic influences. Thousands of humans near and far, alive and long dead, influencing her behavior on a daily basis as they reduced her to consumer, or viewer, or worshipper. Yet not one was incentivized to help her reconnect with her maternal instinct. The tobacco farmer in Kentucky, for example, was too busy providing for his own family the only way he knew how. I can’t begrudge him for that. It was the paradigm of modern resource procurement that failed my mother. I was collateral damage. My mother had been blinded to the fact that she could make a long-lasting positive impact on the precious little girl that she had already nurtured inside of herself for nine months. All she had to do was pull herself away from frivolous distractions and make herself available to her infant, an act that didn’t even require pure altruism. Hugs provide a mutual, natural high. Better than cigarettes or watching actors live out scripted lives on a screen.
Only through taking a deep dive into understanding the multitude of influencing factors was I able to forgive my mother for her neglect of and cruelty towards me. Through dehumanizing me, my mother dehumanized herself. She dissociated from the most beautiful, precious part of herself: the phenomenal power of a mother’s love for her child, and the power of nurturing energy in general, including its capacity to heal the broken inner-child of her own psyche.
Forgiveness has made space for gratitude and a wider perspective. The problem that my mother and I faced is timeless and universal. Had I been born in China when it was a one-child nation, for example, there’s a good chance my mother would’ve completely abandoned me like so many desperate, disenfranchised Chinese mothers did with their infant daughters when they felt that their own survival hinged on raising a son.
I am grateful that I possessed the tenacity and whatever else it took to survive my infancy, childhood and adolescence without nature’s intended nurturer and protector. That is no small feat, especially in NYC during one of its grittiest and most dangerous eras.
The bond between mother and her offspring, between Gaia and us humans, is sacred and should be treated as such. Unnatural interference from selfish and callous emotionally unevolved dominators is driving humans to dehumanize one another, which is dehumanizing the entire human species in the process. We need as many people as possible to do the work involved in healing from past trauma, getting back in touch with their empathy, and reconnecting to Nature. The future of humanity and the planet depends on it.
*Jean Liedloff making the case for Attachment Parenting.
Pasty little girl needed some sunshine. Bottom photo in Nice, France during a semester abroad.
About ten years ago I broke down in my therapist’s office. “Whatever it takes to make it in this world, I don’t have— obviously!” I blurted out between sobs.
For all intents and purposes I was a desperate, overeducated urban housewife. All I needed was a reality show with cohorts. I’d moved back to NYC just in time for a major recession, slipping into financial dependency on an increasingly abusive partner. My partner misconstrued my deep-rooted emotional issues around procuring resources as a gold-digging scheme against him. His contempt was eating us alive. “I tried being nice.” he said, as he moved us from a sunny brownstone apartment with a private balcony near Main Street to a modern shanty shack on the outskirts of town, with a ground-floor view of the parking lot. This moving-on-down came despite his six-figure salary with enviable job security. Through some depraved take on tough love, he had deluded himself into thinking he was doing it to help straighten me out. In hindsight the truth was likely more about him not feeling lovable at his core, and also having an axe to grind against his sister, who was favored by certain relatives and with whom he was extremely competitive. I was a convenient soft target. The daughter of a pathologically mentally-ill mother who subjected me to emotional cruelty in the crib and later double victimized me when I was abused by males in my tribe, I believed that I deserved it.
One night I was jolted awake by a nightmare in which I was walking toward our shanty shack alongside a snake who suddenly coiled up to strike my ankle. The dream was so vivid that I had kicked my leg behind me in my sleep. Too shaken to even attempt to fall back asleep, I found myself in the kitchen staring at the lineup of helpers I had enlisted to get me through the night: a bowl of Cheerios, a bottle of Pepto Bismol, and a bottle of Godiva Liquor.
The next day I was in my therapist’s office for the mental health version of an urgent care visit. In response to my outburst of utter despair, she was professionally and morally obligated to ask if I had been contemplating suicide.
Thank Gaia I find human behavior fascinating enough to balance out the emotional turmoil that psychotherapy dredges up. If not for my weekly sessions, and for the fact that it had been drilled into me since I was a little girl that it’s a mortal sin to leave behind any kind of mess for someone else to clean up, I might not be here today to blog about this.
My amazing journey since, dissecting my issues around resource procurement and independent adulting, has led me to some mind-blowing discoveries, not only about myself and my birth tribe, but about humanity in general. Here’s some of what I’ve learned, besides the fact that if your partner shows up in your dreams as a coiled snake then it’s time for an exit strategy.
It’s not easy summing up what it’s like to come around to mental wellness and independent adulting after decades of debilitating anxiety. It’s as though I have fixed a bunch of glitches in my brain. I’m hoping that my blogs might be helpful to any of you who’ve ever felt trapped or lost in your own life, as I felt in mine up until recently. Or maybe you’re just here to gawk. That’s fine too. Either way do reach out with a quick message through that blue button at the bottom right of your screen. Donations appreciated too, of course.
On top of the crib abandonment and trauma that I describe above, my brain had been hacked by my tribe’s sexist cult, the manipulative doctrine of which was written thousands of years ago by unevolved, misogynistic males with a very specific, limited agenda for MY LIFE, based on my body’s ability to procreate, and their inflated sense of entitlement to tribal resources, the female bodies of future generations included. If only they could get my pesky little brain out of the way, which unfortunately for me they managed to do by getting to me young, as my already damaged sense-of-self from crib trauma was still developing. They did it through pre-brainwashing my entire tribe, who were supposed to be my trustworthy guides to successful adulting. Even females in my tribe were mentally-enslaved collaborators in a sort of involuntary daughter-slaughter. All of us had been inundated with sexist fairy tales from a psychologically manipulative playbook on how to condition females to remain child-like even as they grow physically so they’ll propagate more brainwashed cult members yet remain dependent on males for survival, hence being too desperate to push back on aggro, controlling behavior. The mental-wellness of followers and the progress of humanity be damned. With countless self-limiting, self-sabotaging bad lessons being fed to me by my cult/tribe on a regular basis throughout my formative years, my intelligence and highly social nature actually worked against me.
By the time I hit puberty, I had a woefully atrophied sense of agency over my very being. I had been groomed to be attractive to aggro males who would bring home the bacon and conform easily to my tribe. Male tribal members felt it entitled to judge and approve my potential suitors based on whether he looked like them and shared their “values”. Each family gathering was an unofficial confirmation hearing of whoever I was dating at the time. If my selection did not meet the males’ approval, they had plenty of passive/aggressive ways to let us know. Death by a thousand paper cuts. To entitled males in my tribe, the goal of my coupling up had little to do with my contentment and everything to do with me producing offspring through with they could propagate the cult and its sexist teachings.
Two things saved me from my tribe’s oppressive master plan for me: childhood summers in a natural environment, and attending public school in an extraordinarily diverse neighborhood, where kids who looked nothing like me were part of my tribe as we regularly spent time together in a pleasant, collaborative space. We were like kittens in a mixed litter. We did things together. We grew together as a group. I learned about different religious beliefs as well as evolution and science. Each year I’d come home with a class picture, and each year my mother would sit with me and ask me to name every one of my fellow students so she could write it down in the space provided in the photo envelope sleeve. Through this simple exercise, my mother taught me that humans, in all varieties of skin tones and hair textures, are unique and important.
Being mentored at a young age by teachers who fed my hungry, growing brain with facts was a bright spot in my childhood. These positive female role-models led our classes with confidence, kindness, and discipline. Unlike ancient scribes and their archaic notions on what I should do with my life based solely on my reproductive equipment, my teachers saw me as a unique individual, and encouraged me to express myself. Imagine that. What I had to say mattered. I thrived in a nurturing environment where it was clear that those in charge had my best interest in mind, and where aggressive behavior was not tolerated. In contrast to the volatility I experienced at home, school was a safe environment. I rewarded my teachers’ investment in me with good grades and enthusiastic class participation.
In my mid-twenties I narrowly and clumsily escaped the first phase of my tribe’s master plan for me of marriage to a suitor of their liking, causing regrettable collateral damage in the process. A few years later I flew the coop solo to make my way to a more natural environment. My biggest challenge lay ahead: freeing my own mind from the cult brainwashing and debilitating anxiety that drove my self-limiting and self-sabotaging behavior. Burdened with a learned helplessness while still in diapers, this issue had been compounded by normalized emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse that marred my childhood and adolescence. As I write above in Rough Start, nature’s intended protector for me, my mother, had failed to bond with and invest in me due to a toxic combo of pathological mental illness, old-world patriarchy, and new-world capitalism, the latter two exploiting her emotional issues for profit and other selfish gains, rather than helping her heal and grow into the caring mother that would’ve greatly improved both of our lives.
As for me, instead of making babies I focused on healing the damaged child within. It took about twelve years of psychotherapy— and a lot of painful lessons— to learn how to be self-sufficient. Once a safe distance from my oppressive cult/tribe, I had to relearn the very act of doing, parsing it apart from the deep-rooted dysfunctional fear of my own power that had been enmeshed with it starting in the crib. I had to rewrite the false narrative that only when I erred were my powers suddenly supernatural, causing exponentially more harm than even the most egregious mistakes of my male counterparts. I had to learn to stay present even and especially as I struggle. I had to change how I perceive myself as existing in my environment. I had to change how I navigate through my environment, how I register stimuli, and how I react to it. I had to recalibrate the amount of energy I needed to engage with those around me. I had to get comfortable letting the energy of others in, but only the right others. I had to create healthy boundaries between myself and aggros, or damaged friends who could be great fun and even come through for me in my hour of need, yet due to their own unresolved issues around feminine power would become abrasive whenever my most competent and confident self manifested. (Sometimes the creation of boundaries sounds like Bye.) I had to spend time being fully present in nature every day: to smell dirt, to feel the bark of a tree. I had to cut way back on chemical stimulants such as caffeine and pseudoephedrine. I had to stop being mistaken for a speed freak. I had to find healthy energy boosts, like a song and dance break to let loose uninhibited. (Added healing bonus as I had been strongly discouraged from self-expression.) I had to teach myself to crave real food. I had to retrain myself to sleep soundly, indulging myself with extra sleep by reducing evening screen time and going to bed earlier. I had to find creative ways to motivate myself to do things that were unpleasant. I had to do things that scare me. I had to learn how to wait, and to just be sometimes. For me, the passing of time had been skewed by fear when my mother separated from me way too soon and for far too long, with an added layer of anxiety from being raised in a tight, doorless space with a male whose PTSD would cause him to rage out if we didn’t respond to his demands immediately. As a result of this early and repeated Trauma, the mere mention of a task for which I’d be judged would switch my brain into panic mode, causing me to dissociate and make mistakes, starting the tailspin into other, potentially bigger, mistakes.
I had to cut back on distractions and enjoy the natural high of being productive. I had to pause to acknowledge the positive results from projects that I initiate and complete. I had to get comfortable owning such accomplishments and sharing them without guilt and/or fear of showing up the males in my tribe. I had to prove to myself over and over that I am perfectly capable of obtaining resources and utilizing them wisely with my own Gaia-given sound judgement.
It saddens me that males in my tribe, like the ancient scribes who sanctioned female oppression, view feminine capabilities as an existential threat to be controlled with an iron fist. It’s too late for those ancient scribes, although I’d really like to bring ’em back to life just to let them know that they wrote one helluva sexist chapter book series that would enable the most depraved and destructive world leaders to rise to power, as many a manipulative male would selfishly exploit the false notion held by millions that an über-aggro manly-man is entitled to reign over Earth and all of Her resources, including precious human resources, with impunity.
Generation after generation of females being conditioned to idolize male aggression and shield males from accountability for their outbursts of barbaric behavior has thwarted all of our emotional growth and deprived us of a nurturing, emotionally safe environment needed for optimal functioning and human progress.
There are males who’ve played a major role in my life, who grew up with me, who were with me throughout my formative years and beyond. These males share my genes, share my blood. As delicately as I could, I’ve broached the subject of their abusive behavior. Admirably, the eldest have been the most responsive. They’ve got less to prove these days (and probably less testosterone now, too). The males of my generation however, have adamantly refused to look inward. They’ve deflected and raged out. Stuck in the role of infallible ruler of their own little universes, it’s all too easy for them to marginalize me since I have not raked in the big bucks by dominating droves of minions as they have. They’ve made “a killing” just as they had been groomed to do, acquiring dependents which include adult females who perpetuate the same dysfunctional shielding that their mothers and grandmothers before them overindulged males with throughout their formative years. This lopsided framework for family life will keep these males deflecting ’til their last breath. The only available role for me, being born with a vagina and all, was that of chaste worshipper with blind adoration, propping up our male saviors, who just so happen to be every single male in our tribe.
Seeing them as flawed humans, and myself as their equal, asking for nothing more than the same basic respect and civility that I extend to them, has them playing another familiar role in our cult: the role of martyr. I must be Judas in Jezebel’s clothing. No one but an evil betrayer would ever see that our saviors are flawed, or Gaia-forbid actually speak their flaws aloud.
After much deliberation, I’ve decided to love certain males in my tribe from afar. When I must deal with them, I will do so with civility. I understand that they too were emotionally hobbled by archaic gender expectations. I feel for them because of this fact. However, since their issues manifest as intimidation and aggression towards me, their damage affected me more deeply than vice-versa. Anyone who hurls snarky epithets such as “Self-righteous B#tch” who needs a “lesson in humility” has no place in my inner circle or my journey to reach my full potential. When emotionally evolved people express criticism from a place of caring with a true intent of helping you grow emotionally, such palpable contempt and name-calling is not part of the dialogue. The major life lesson that unevolved males who troll progressive females by spewing bile on them have not learned is that through forgiving females from their past who have damaged them, especially their mothers who did so when they were at their most vulnerable, they can free up that space for the type of healthy self-love that allows a positive and more appropriate response to their fierce and fabulous sisters. Humanity needs damaged males to do the unpleasant but necessary work of looking inward, to go through the process of healing so that they can focus their energy and strengths on more productive endeavors than attacking misperceived threats, like a dog barking incessantly at the mailperson day in and day out, never comprehending that with mail in their hand, these workers are only coming up the driveway to do their job and leave. Like us fierce females, they deserve to make a living without being attacked by a territorial animal.
The dysfunctional shielding I describe above is partly due to cult teachings, and partly due to something more primal: each tribe needs its physically strongest and most aggressive to protect resources and the tribe itself from annihilation by “outside” aggressors. However, the civilized world can no longer afford to allow the most unevolved parts of humans: tribalism, lack of empathy, selfishness, greed, aggression, as well as a dysfunctional, insatiable need to dominate any and all resources, including human resources, hold us all back and destroy the planet at the same time. This is why we need as many females as possible emancipating themselves from a child-like state of emotional and financial dependency on males so that they can live as independent adults with their own resources, and help leverage the type of positive change that feminine, nurturing sensibilities foster.
Since I started blogging I’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback from readers. I’ve even inspired a high-school buddy to craft her own stories. That’s what keeps me going. We who have transcended trauma not hating the world but sharing our journey with others are part of the nurturing movement that the world needs right now in full force.
Your support will help me spread my insights on how we can live more like humans again.