I’ve been thinking about my lineage, and specifically my matrilineality—the women I come from. If the healing process, both cultural and personal, is about getting curious, then I’m stumped in wonder. I’ve had some thoughts that don’t quite fit into a neatly trimmed post, and it doesn’t feel right to not bring up these thoughts because I never know when something will resonate and be meaningful for another person. It feels a little uncomfortable to present this blog as is, but in the spirit of not perpetuating the idea getting well, figuring things about ourselves out is straightforward and easy, I’m being transparent here about the processes of my personal evolution.
My mother’s side and what I embody through the hers. First, some context: I was born in a Polish American family. I’m fourth gen Polish American, so really just American. Catholicism was birthright. I don’t think I could have escaped baptism or communion, but Sunday mass got to be optional when I threw enough of a fit, or when someone didn’t want to go, or someone didn’t care enough to go. Church wasn’t a meaningful thing for me then; it was just a thing. And: I have always held the notions that religion and God were different and that religion didn’t necessarily have to do with my connection to God. I have always held a connection to “something else,” something I now call a divine presence, and yet, I still grew up unable to put the feeling of connection into practice, even with church in the periphery.
I didn’t understand the journey to strength took weakness, and vice versa.
I started to consider my matrilineality through the lens of spirituality, and when that, focused on my maternal grandmother. She was a devout Roman Catholic, and she always had prayer books always by her side. I’m named after her.
Recently, as I spent some time post meditation and journaling, I went through a few boxes of pictures. I came across some of the prayer books packed away in boxes with pictures. When I hold these prayer books, I feel connected to her. It’s a reassuring connection and feels nourishing, despite the fact that she’s been dead for thirty years, and that I have only fleeting memories of her while I was toddler. (Curly gray hair, and the way that she peeled apples for me are what stuck.)
There are other things in those photo boxes. One of these relics is a great old photo of Anastasia, a snapshot of her standing on a country road that is flanked with wooden telephone poles dotted with glass receivers, looking like the wind is going through her hair, looking like she’s going somewhere. It was the 1940s. I wonder where it was taken, but I can safely assume it was the New Jersey-Pennsylvania area. No one is really sure.
I wonder who she was with. Second-gen Polish American women at that time didn’t do stuff like that on their own. I used to think that all the women of her generation were more fearful than anything in their life; this is because the domestic space of a Polish American working-class family in the countryside was fraught with God-bearing-down-on-you-always fear, and insularity, and anger, the kind that snuffs you out rather than propels you.
I’m named after a woman who was afraid to drive. I’m bothered by this part of the namesake inheritance, and I am, because part of wondering means I have to accept the embodiment of her anxiety. What do I do with the narrative of a woman whose prayer cycles defined her? A woman whose association with the God was part of daily life because the religion was forced and full of fear?
Anastasia’s favorite movie was “Rebecca,” a film made by Hitchcock and based on a 1940s novel. The protagonist, the namesake, doesn’t appear. Her lack of appearance, and my namesake’s lack of appearance, and influence, haunt me in ways that I’m not sure even I understand yet. The weight of absence creates significant presence.
I came back to church in my mid-thirties because I wanted to belong to something. I wanted to put my connection into practice. I was at the end of a path of spirituality that narrowly involved seeking enlightenment. I wanted service. My spirituality drove me to seek community, and the faith-based community I found in a local Christian church felt right to me. But I felt uncomfortable fully stepping up on the path when I realized that there was a gaping absence in my story about belonging to church and having moved away from church, a practice, at a young age.
I wonder how it comes to be that I feel liberated enough to seek a connection to God in a church, despite an equal need to resolve the really shitty things that the organized church has supported. I’m curious about the ways in which I carry the matrilineality, in this #metoo moment, in this rising goddess hashtag femi—errything. I’m curious about all of these converging influences. I am drawn to question the disconnection between my maternal line and my own connection to the Christian church. How can I in-body this disconnection? How can I embody my belief, spiritual evolution, and duty to my sisters who are smashing the patriarchy? I’m not sure, yet. Somehow, the weight of the absence of an answer to this question is calling my presence.. Somehow, connecting to the spirit of women who needed ritual out of weakness, and not strength, feels like I’m arriving on the other side of that weakness by coming back to rituals and association that gave them strength. I feel like I’m emerging as a more powerful, solid version of myself when I put light and not darkness into the matrilineality that I embody.