A share in property, a pearl ring. A faith, numerous recipes, photo albums. A sum of money, a way of life.
Emotional baggage, mental illness, genetic flaws, undesired physical traits…
Our lives are an inheritance from our parents. More than the expectation of financial resources and assets when they pass away, we can count on the passing down of themselves on a daily basis.
How many of us have said, ‘I will never be like my mother when I become a parent’ or as a child we determine ‘I’ll let my kids eat ice cream for every meal if they want.’ And then, we wake up to find that we look remarkably similar to the ones we were trying so hard not to emulate.
We are not independent of our ancestors, with defined boundaries between ‘me and them’. We are tied together in a complicated, dynamic system of genetics, spirituality, values, pain, and hope.
I have of late become so much more aware of my inheritance from my parents. What I once thought were quirks unique to me have suddenly revealed themselves to be analogous to those belonging to my family. My deep seated hurts, fears, joys, and personality are not isolated occurrences. I have been shaped and formed through lives lived before me, and have as little say in what has been passed to me as I did in being born.
My initial tendencies are to recoil in horror….there are characteristics about my ancestors that I love and am proud of, but many that I despise. It horrifies me that I have no control over the mental illness and generational ‘curses’ they have passed down to me…..I want to be in control of who I am and what I become, yet I find myself involuntarily intertwined with them.
Over time, my revulsion to so much of my inheritance has tempered itself. Anger is replaced with empathy; understanding takes the place of frustration. I embrace the idea that I am not an isolated event in this world, and am thankful that I am grounded through the humanness of generations before me. Though I have no control in my inheritance, I have control in how I respond to it, how I seek to hang on to the good and replace the bad where possible…to offer hope and healing to others when I have found it myself.
Finally, I realize that I too will pass on an inheritance to my own children, and am aware of the need to teach them to be able to learn to receive the good and bad, the wholeness and brokenness passed down to them.