Throughout this time of Covid-19 lockdown, I’ve been giving even deeper thought to my life’s trajectory. Over the years, I’ve repeated the same patterns and attracted similar experiences and people, many of whom did not have my best interests at heart.
I’ve read that inner-child work (a technique to help resolve repressed emotions from traumatic childhood events like rejection, abandonment, or abuse) is a powerful tool for healing from dysfunctional patterns and psychological trauma. I get it—when I look at old photos of “Little Mary Monica,” it’s easy to feel love and compassion for her. She represents the part of my psyche that is still childlike, innocent, and just wants to be loved.
Over the years, various people have recommended that I do this work. Most recently, my spiritual advisor, who is also a therapist, suggested that I select childhood photos to display in a special place so I can remind my sometimes-judgmental self to love, cherish, and take tender care of that sweet little girl.
For decades now, I’ve been peeling layers of the onion with different modalities and therapies to uncover secrets from my past and understand myself better. The best tool yet has been writing my memoir. Through this pandemic, however, I feel about as far from being emotionally balanced as I am from the earth’s core.
Quin, my sensitive twenty-six-year-old son, visited the other day and thought the photo display was a great idea. He selected his favorites. I was three years old in his first pick, wearing a red sailor dress while waiting to catch a glimpse of President Eisenhower in the Anchorage parade. It was the summer of 1960, less than three years after my adoption and a few short months before we flew to Canada to bring home my adopted baby brother.
My son also liked the photo where, at fifteen, I’m posing with my white pet rat while he munches a hunk of cheese on my dresser. I hid pink-eyed BB in my room for months before he escaped and my mother saw him. She screamed, “Rat, rat, rat! I have a rat in my house! Get it out now!” Besides my mom, BB was my only loyal friend during the months when I was also hidden in the house before giving birth and relinquishing my baby for a closed adoption.
But my heart softens the most at pictures of a naïve and innocent preteen. These were taken before most of the trauma happened. I find it easy to love her fresh pink cheeks, delightful smile, and wide-eyed innocence. In one picture, she sits on the couch wearing the pinkish sweatshirt she cut into fringe around the collar while she was at Girl Scouts Day Camp. In the other, she sits on a ’70s flower-power bedspread playing solitaire.
But the photo that brings the most emotion is of my brother and me on my sixteenth birthday. We are squished into the green living room recliner and I am just about to blow out my candles. I recall that my brother said something funny like “Who cut the cheese?” just before the photo was taken. There is a smile on my lips but sorrow in my eyes.
I was probably no more depressed that day than I had been since giving birth to my baby girl a few weeks earlier. I just remember my birthday most clearly because turning sixteen was supposed to be a big deal, but I couldn’t have cared less. I even made a sarcastic note in my journal: “Sweet sixteen and never been kissed… Ha!” My family didn’t talk about my grief. No one asked how I was feeling, and I never went to therapy.
About eight years ago, on a whim, I met with a psychic who knew only my name. He said, “Someone you thought you could trust just showed you who he really is.” Maybe it was a coincidence, but I saw the psychic three days after my boyfriend of ten years betrayed and dumped me.
I also remember what the psychic said about my early teens: “You were all alone and forced to grow up way too fast.” He suggested I make a practice of envisioning my adult self standing in front of that scared and bottled-up young girl. “Tell her you love her, you’ll never leave her, and you’ll always take care of her,” he said. I tried it once but felt silly attempting to console someone I could barely envision. I never did it again.
Like so many, I am going through a difficult emotional time right now. In addition to everything that is happening in our world, I recently ended a relationship with a man I deeply loved. It was an act of self-care. I realized that what Little Mary Monica deserved in a loving relationship was lacking in this one. My heartbreak is compounded by the one-year anniversary of my 94-year-old mother’s passing on October 9th. She was my anchor; she always took my side, told me it would be okay, and showed me that I am strong and will get through it. I miss her so much. Even though I feel rudderless without her, I’ve stepped up to take care of that little girl who just wants to be loved.
So I’m thinking I might finally give this inner child stuff a deeper look. Once I decide which photos to frame, I plan to set them on my dresser along with my crystals, statues, and other spiritual mementos. I’ll light a candle, and after I finish my morning meditation and prayers, I’ll look into that child’s sweet face and promise to always protect her and give her the love and care she deserves.