On Sunday, for my birthday, my mom sent me an email reminding me of a few things about my birth, 32 years prior. Namely, that my father got to cut the umbilical cord, and how elated it made him to be a part of my coming into the world in this way. I had forgotten how proud of this he was, and memories of him telling everyone, “What a thrill!” whenever we talked about that day, came flooding back. It reminded me that my father was proud of me simply for being born, that he saw my worth before I had even been alive an hour.
A friend on Facebook gave me another important reminder, to “bask in all the love you receive today.” It really changed my perspective from feeling a little nervous about having a party filled with people wanting to talk to me to feeling blessed to have so many kind friends that would come out to celebrate my birth and life. So I decided to bask, to soak in the love like the hot California sun that beat down on us, warming my skin despite the windy San Francisco weather.
And it’s a really, really good thing I did. That love and the overall sweet perfection of that day, has been carrying me this week, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.
In the therapeutic world, there is a lot of discussion about one’s Family of Origin, but I think in the intake, there should also be a deep inquiry into Place of Origin. Where you come from is just as important as where you end up. When people ask where I grew up, I always say New England, as it is the region that I resonate with more than my particular state.
When you grow up in Connecticut, you usually spend at least several weeks out of your summer in one of the neighboring states, New Hampshire or Massachusetts chief among them. In school, you learn the history of the entire region, and field trips are usually to Boston or Sturbridge Village. The states that make up New England share a football team, and we root for the Boston Red Sox in baseball season (I know Yankees fans exist in New England, but I try to just forgive them and move on).
In any event, when someone blows up a cultural event in New England, it feels like a part of my history has been attacked. It’s even deeper than that. If we see Place of Origin like Family of Origin, it’s like a close cousin of mine died. The Boston Marathon is so inherently New England, with all its quirky traditions, and a history almost as long as California’s statehood itself. The fact that such a good-natured, traditional event was chosen as a place of intentional mass violence feels sacreligious. The number one word I have read in the responses of the people I know is “heartbroken”.
My family was not big on crowds, so we never went to the Marathon, but my husband went every year with his father, stopping off at the Museum of Sciences on the way home. A friend of mine who went to Wellesley was just yesterday morning telling me about her exploits in the famous kissing line, where students line up all day to kiss the marathoners as they go on. I think there should be more spontaneous opportunities to kiss people for encouragement, don’t you? It would be sad if people stayed away now due to fear.
Last night, I squeezed my daughter well, and felt grateful that we had had such a good weekend together, since her behavior has been really off, like she can feel that the whole nation is upset and is following suit. I thought about all the love that the 60 people who came to Joel and I’s birthday picnic showed us, glad that it had filled up my reserves in the belief that people are caring and good.
We need to keep filling up those reserves now, in the days/hours/weeks before finding out who is responsible for these attacks. If we are so full with the love and kindness of others, perhaps our response will be less reactionary, and do more good in the world rather than just adding to violence and escalating old grudges. In the waiting time, before finding out motives, let’s remember where we’re from, that we are a people of strength and love, and then drink deeply from that reserve, in the days to come.