Resiliency / An Origin Story

Resiliency / An Origin Story

“Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken.” - Warsan Shire

A few months ago I stood on the front porch of my Aunt’s house late one night as she spoke of resiliency. “We come from a line of tough women,” she told me. I knew the patterns: love, babies, divorce—but I hadn’t thought deeper. I hadn’t considered the implications on the individual women involved—betrayal, grief, single parenting, second jobs, homemade bread, hand-me-down everything. I hadn’t considered the anger. I hadn’t considered the tears. I hadn’t considered the sleepless nights wondering, “why me?”

And I hadn’t considered that they kept going, despite all of the grief.

Resiliency. I’m positive these women fought to the bone—first for their marriages, and then for their children and their own selves.

I knew my mother’s mother experienced this. Her mother experienced it as well. And last week I realized that her mother—my great-great grandmother—also experienced it.

As I researched my maternal line, I found Grace, my great-great grandmother. I read a story detailing her deep love of a man, despite her parents’ disapproval, and her willingness to leave a life of luxury for him. Together they traveled the world, made tents and houses into homes and grew babies into children. However, very shortly after the birth of Grace’s fourth child, her husband left her for another woman. Knowing what I know of my own self now, and my own self in the context of this line of women, I can imagine a portion of her deep grief, though surely not to the extent that she lived it. She raised her four children alone. He disappeared.
Peony Study Print by Pencilbox Art & Design / Katie Stratton

I then dug a little deeper and found information on the other woman. Their relationship didn’t seem much better either. He died when she was still young (there was quite an age difference there). She remarried, and she and her second husband grew old together—both living past the age of 100 and dying within 3 months of one another. That is a love.

While it does not seem that Grace ever remarried, I can attest that her future generations—my great grandmother and my grandmother—though also suffering through the grief of broken marriages and raising children alone, both remarried excellent, incredible men.

“Choose your love, love your choice. - Thomas S. Monson

Somewhere deep in my bones, there’s the belief that men will leave. And they have, both in my own life, and in the lives of my ancestors. There is a concept called “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance” that states that memories such as anxieties and traumas can be passed down from generation to generation, seemingly in one’s DNA. This concept was briefly mentioned by a professor once in the context of the lingering intergenerational effects of the Great Depression, but I believe it applies here as well. Beyond the genetic “memory” of trauma and abandonment, my own limiting beliefs—sculpted from life experience from childhood to now— confirm that this is true. Grace’s story lingers with me, touching on the fears in my heart, and mirroring some of my own experiences in a way that aches deeply.

This is who I am, my fears tell me. They will always leave.

But will they?

“There is a curse that will be broken.”

There is the trauma, but there is also the resiliency. My grandmother, her mother, and her mother found joy and passed that onto their children. They taught hard work, fighting for what you want, sacrificing, building, and growing—together. I think of my mother, my aunts, my grandmother and great-grandmother—the women from this legacy who I know personally. I think of their deep love for the people around them and how they live their lives passionately, full of integrity, grit, joy, and resiliency.

There’s a picture of my great grandma Mary on a sailboat with her second husband, Jack. The sun is shining and they are happy together. Even years after Jack’s passing, she still receives Christmas cards from both his family and her’s.

I think of my Grandma Judy and her husband Gerald, sitting in their respective lounge chairs in the living room of their home. They have a garden in the backyard and a faithful dog beside them. Grandma Judy still sends me handwritten cards for every holiday. Grandpa Gerald gives the best hugs and always tells me how loved I am.

And I think of Grace. She made this. She endured through the deepest of griefs and this is her legacy: strong women who love deeply and endure.

The curse will be broken, though sometimes I forget that in the midst of griefs and unknowns. But it will, if I merely remember: the blessings are deeper than the curse. The trauma may be in the bones, but the strength and light of my predecessors is in my whole soul, and renewed with every breathe I take.
- By Allie Barnes, Contributor,