The circle of love
When the ‘Rona first hit, I was smack in the middle of leading my Root to Rise course. Luckily, holding sacred space with a group of fierce women was exactly what I needed to ground myself in these scary, harried times.
But things quickly went from weird to WTF during this pandemic my mom was rushed to the ER in the middle of the night because she couldn’t breathe.
“She has Covid!” my family thought for an excruciating 36-hours when we couldn’t get much info from overwhelmed doctors and nurses and my mom was whisked away to a highly protected intensive care unit.
Mercifully, the tests came back negative. My mom had pneumonia, not Corona, but still, I felt a grip on my heart. Pneumonia was more familiar than the destructive novel virus, but still scary AF.
“Please, ancestors, please God, please don’t let my mother die alone in that hospital” I prayed ON MY KNEES.
I hadn’t seen my mom since last March. We usually see each other a few times a year, but 2019 flew by in a flash. I saw a lot of her in 2018—the year I quit my corporate job and embarked on a spiritual journey. In all of my earnestness, I had tried to bring my mom and sisters along for the healing ride, but quickly learned you can’t force anyone to change or evolve, especially on a timeline—or in a way—that works for you.
I thought about all of this—time, healing, boundaries, and forgiveness—as my little sister and I drove 28 long-ass hours home to Texas (listening to the Beastie Boys audiobook and sleeping in the car) to be with our other two sisters and stepdad. And to wait for our mom when (if?) she came home from the hospital.
In the Root to Rise course I had just taught; I had guided my comadres through the Four (cardinal) Directions to help them on their healing journeys. The Four Directions are honored in many native cultures, but in my earth-based, medicine tradition of Curanderismo, we also have a Fifth Direction: community.
The Four Directions create a container for healing, and the Fifth Direction—the center—represents connection, unity, and oneness.
In this direction, inside this circle, we hold each other up and we allow ourselves to be held.
If my three sisters and I were my mom’s four cardinal directions—her East, West, North, and South; how she oriented herself in the world—then she was our fifth: the center of our being. The piece that held us together.
And now she needed us.
When I was young my mom had held me and my sisters. Then my dad died when I was 13 and lured by her grief and susto— she left us. And later, in different ways, we all held her, too, until we were each called away by ego, obligation, anger, addiction, and the need for our own uninterrupted evolution.
Growing up in trauma, in a family blown apart by the grenade of cancer, and grief, and generations of susto passed on like poisoned heirlooms, I wanted things to be different. Arranged in a way where I wouldn’t have to feel the ache of what the Aztecs call the “joy-pain” of life.
So, I ran away into busy, and hustling, and failing, and hiding, and drinking, and posturing, and achieving, and still, it all just hurt so fucking much.
But in sobriety, in healing, in parenting, and rooted in the medicine practiced by my great-grandmother, I’ve learned what I was running away from was life. Yes, I’ve retrieved my soul and calmed the susto, but life is still full of joy-pain. That’s why the Aztecs call it “slippery slick.” ‘Cause you’re walking along all peaceful and growing and proud of yourself, then a killer virus knocks you on your butt and you still get that scary text saying your mom is in the hospital.
So, what do you do then?
You don’t run away, because you will for sure fall again. Trust me, I know this.
Instead, you try and root yourself by staying present, by digging your heels into the moment exactly as it is. You breathe, you call out to the ancestors to guide you, you steady yourself on a tree, you notice it’s perfect beauty. And slowly (and not always steadily) you find your way towards your own center.
When my sister and I pulled up to my mom’s stucco house San Antonio, a miracle happened. My family was in unison. Instead of our endless fighting, we four sisters were pulled together centered on my mom’s recovery.
We gave her house a good limpia (physically and energetically) opening windows, cleaning floors, and moving the winds.
And two days after our arrival (eight days after she was taken away by an ambulance) she came home.
My little sister and I stayed on two more weeks, while all four of her daughters took turns caring for my mom: holding her hands, holding her up when she walked, just holding her. One night she thanked me for taking care of her and I replied “Olive (my oldest daughter) will one day do the same for me. It’s the ‘circle of life’ mama!” I said making a light reference to the Lion King.
“The circle of love,” she said quietly, mishearing me. Or maybe not.
Wherever you are, and however you are experiencing this crazy time, I send you the protection of your ancestors, the rootedness of a tree, and the hope that you are being held (and are holding back) in a circle of love.