Cutting the Umbilical Cord
A 57 year old woman is writing these words on June 11, 2016. Her fingers on the keyboard are adept at tapping out a cadence that connects her organic brain to the cyber brain of the computer. Thoughts pour forth that span the distance between this moment and October 13, 1958. On that day, she made her entrance into the world. Her parents eagerly awaited her arrival. The night before her birth, they had gone out to dinner and her mother had a fudge not sundae for dessert. In the wee hours of the morning, she thought she had indigestion. Turns out, it was the beginning of labor. Hours later, as she was pacing the floor of the maternity ward, she found herself standing in front of the nursery where newborns were sleeping in their rows of cribs. She took note as a doctor checked on the wee ones. As he stepped in front of one of them, she was aware that this little boy was still. The doc took off the child’s diaper and he began to cry. My mother let out a laugh in relief, her water broke and I was heralded into the world in that way.
When my mom told the story, when I came out, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my ankles. She used to say, “Be glad it wasn’t your throat.” She also related that while nursing, I would often fall asleep and the nurse told her to ping me on the bottom of my feet to wake me up. As some infants do, I lost a pound or so and at 5 pounds 4 oz, there wasn’t a whole lot to lose. Another message that came through in my childhood was that I had weak ankles. Sadly, I believed it and accommodated it by breaking one ankle once and one twice. I had flat feet and pigeon toes that required clunky red orthopedic shoes. Just what a preteen girl wants to wear when her friends are decked out in penny loafers or sneakers. Blessedly, with visits to a podiatrist, foot exercises and determination, I was able to develop an arch in my feet and could don whatever shoes (or preferably be barefoot) I wanted. I was a feisty kid with a ‘watch me’ attitude in the face of challenges. I became a competitive swimmer with free-style and the more challenging butterfly as my favorite strokes. This was recommended by our family physician as an antidote to asthma that often had me huffing an puffing to keep the pace.
A dedicated student, I would read copious amounts of books and was insistent that I give my schoolwork my best. I thrived on the praise from the adults in my life which fed my achievements. In addition to developing my brain, I was also cultivating my heart. Growing up in a loving home with parents who were affectionate, a large extended family (my maternal grandmother was one of 13 children), I never felt a lack of attention or approval. I thrived on it. Even at a young age, I was the go-to person and listener for my friends. The funny thing is, I had not yet set my sights on the counseling profession. Unlike most little kids, I didn’t fantasize about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
My relationships with partners over the years, including my husband, were tinged with co-dependent tones. The caregiver emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people and practiced ‘savior behavior’ was in full force.
As life would have it, I was called on to walk my talk; heeding the same advice I offered clients over the years, with regard to self care. A series of medical challenges lined up before me, beginning in November of 2013. No surprise that the onset of shingles that spread across the left side of my face was the second anniversary of my mother’s death. In the service of maintaining a high level of functioning, I played the role of social worker who spoke with the hospice staff, home care company, insurance company, medical supply folks and then once she passed, I was the minister who performed her service and executor of her estate. I had the skills to accomplish it all, rising to the occasion. Unfortunately, I neglected the needs of the grieving daughter, whose body would have none of it for very long.
What followed in close succession was a heart attack, kidney stones and adrenal fatigue. Each was a louder wake up call that brought with them the crucial reminder that life is fleeting and I have a choice about how to live it. I don’t have the luxury of taking any moment for granted.
The once emotionally vigilant woman has now morphed into a fully feeling ‘human becoming’; rather than a human doing who was frantically spinning her wheels to prove she could keep up with the other kids.
Lately, I have been tripped up by my own need to glean approval and acceptance by those I value. My work in the world makes me vulnerable. I find myself becoming increasingly transparent, as I share more of my inner workings, in the hope that it helps others as well as myself. I have plagued myself with the insidious disease of ‘not enough,’ as I tormented myself with the thoughts that I can’t ever do enough to have the kind of life I desire. I fear I will always miss the mark.
Yesterday, I found myself listening to the long distance wise words of Victorea Luminary who is a highly intuitive transformational teacher. As I was lying on the sofa, she led me through a series of inquiries and meditations that addressed the aforementioned developmental dynamics.
The first thing that occurred to me that had not previously crossed my mind, was that the function of the umbilical cord is nourishment. What that meant was that the structure meant to feed me was also holding me back. She asked me how the newborn felt at that moment. What came to me was that I liked it in the womb and didn’t want to leave. I was being expelled and restricted from moving ahead simultaneously. The Gestalt dialog with the little one had her saying she didn’t trust the unknown that awaited her in the world and she would much prefer to go back inside, thank you very much. Victorea asked me what I wanted to do. I replied that I wanted to cut the cord myself and so I did, symbolically. I kicked it off and noticed that I had simultaneously uncrossed my ankles.
She asked me to focus on the asthma. I explained that in the midst of breathing challenges at night, I would wake my parents and my mother would take me into the bathroom, turn on the shower and I would breathe in the steam. I sometimes felt like a burden as a result. As we were speaking, I began to cough and she encouraged me to hack it out, offering it to Pachamama (the Earth mother) who could take it. I had this thought that I never wanted anyone to take my pain, so I held it in. Back then, I also had a fear of exhaling, since I didn’t know for sure that there would be another inhale. Victorea then invoked this idea from her spiritual tradition: “Allowing Mother Earth/Pachamama to support you and transmute/mulch the heavy energies. Then Father Sky/Inti Tayta to flood you with sunlight/golden white light (of God/Creator/Source).”
The next insight was that I never felt satiated. Not so much about food; but rather emotional nourishment. I was often seeking it from the outside. Constant craving. So as not to feel needy, I adapted to the world around me and offered what I wanted from others to others. Sometimes I would feel disappointed if they didn’t respond in kind or in ways that I would have had they offered to me what I did to them. Not something I am proud of, but my co-dependent leanings at work.
Rather than seeking the love and acceptance from the outside in, she asked me to focus from the inside out. I questioned how it was that I offered love to others, but wouldn’t accept it from myself. Her response was to ask me to envision myself standing in front of me and offering love. I saw myself deflecting it and not taking it in. She countered with, “When sending a stream of love to yourself in front of you, you couldn’t receive it. It was deflected. You asked the self in front of you, “How can you accept this love I’m sending?” Answer: “Don’t judge what you send, (don’t judge self).” I smile ruefully as I admitted confusion about why if the love I was offering to others was genuine and heart felt, that I wasn’t willing to receive it from myself.
Her response, “Self-love is key. Even though you have no doubt you are lovable as evidenced by all the love you have from family and friends, there appears to be a part/piece that does not believe/feel that you love yourself. So, your homework is repeat a mantra of “I am okay” as you slowly you’re your own time) build up to where you can say and truly feel “I love myself.”
Victorea closed the session by suggesting that I do mirror work, in which I stand before myself in the mirror and communicate with words of love and support, as well as doing the work of Ho’oponopono, which is a Hawaiian modality that focuses on inner peace. The four statements that are to be repeated are
Please forgive me.
I love you.
In this way, I am allowing for the nourishment to flow in from all sources and in all forms. I am permitting myself the gift of receptivity as I maintain my life sustaining connection to creation itself.
As you have read these words, I invite you to see if any of it resonates for you.
Weinstein, E. (2016). Cutting the Umbilical Cord. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/about-relationships/2016/06/cutting-the-umbilical-cord/