Her heart was golden, deep as the ocean
And then this one man, he came and broke it
I almost died twice before I was even born.
The first would’ve been via abortion. In her own little form of divination, my mom said that she planned on getting one, and if the doctor told her it was too early, she was going to keep me. He did, and so she did.
The second was during birth.
My mother said she needed to have an emergency Cesarean section, because my umbilical cord had wrapped around my neck and I had defecated in my water sack. As a kid I remember being intrigued that there was a fancy word for “shit.”
I came out of the womb shitty and nearly suffocated.
It’s funny how birth is mythologized in our culture, and it’s usually presented as something gorgeous and feminine. And of course the concept is, but the act of it is gruesome and potentially deadly. Birth is beautiful, but giving birth is not.
And I managed to be born anyway.
I wonder if the drama of giving birth is God’s first way of trying to tell us what life is all about. A chaotic affair of pushing, heaving, and laboring–resulting in something beautiful if you manage to survive. A play of births and rebirths.
I’ve since been split from my mother a second time. This time as an adult. This time, the suffocating came not from an umbilical cord, but from her mothering. And the shit was the fallout. Ironically, for someone who wanted to kill me upon conception, my mother became quite overbearing.
Enmeshed and codependent are the popular terms. My mother never seemed to know where she ended and I began, and this left us in a Tasmanian devil-like cyclone of dysfunction and boundary violations. My mother was both love-notes in a lunchbox and out-of-nowhere whoopings, “I’m so proud of yous” and “fuck yous.” Sometimes she was all consuming, and other times she was neglectful just when I needed her most.
I think I’ve spent my entire life trying to find a manageable distance from my mother. I hovered in and around her orbit, and as a result, was never quite sure of my own sense of gravity.
The drama of birth unearthed itself again on the eve of 2020, where, frustrated on a stairwell, I had merely asked her to stop sending me passive aggressive texts. This would lead to a stratospheric amount of arguing and nastiness.
This time there was no doctor to mediate the severance.
Despite conversations, email, voice memos, patience, grace, and serenity my mama seemed resigned to the reality that if our relationship couldn’t be on her terms then she’d rather not have one at all.
We haven’t had a real conversation in two years, and I can’t tell if she finally got the abortion she always wanted or if I’m getting the birth I actually deserved.
The lotus flower is a symbol of rebirth.
It is associated with the Sun, because it dives underwater at night, only to reemerge in the morning, when the Sun is rising.
An Egyptian myth surrounding the lotus flower suggests that when it bloomed, the Sun god Atum, or Ra, was born. Before he was born, everything was just a dark and wild chaos. This of course parallels the creation of the world as documented in Genesis, and the idea of baby Moses being discovered in the Nile. (The Nile, in ancient times also used to regularly flood–perhaps a nod to the Great Flood outlined in the Old Testament–another cycle of destruction.)
When I was born, the Sun was in Scorpio, the sign associated with the Eagle, the Scorpion, and the Phoenix. All signs of rebirth, transformation, and self-destruction.
It’s like my lot in life is to self-destruct in order to bloom again.
Origin stories seem to be rife with this cycle of chaos and then peace. And I think this is the purpose of myth, to suggest that form comes from chaos. And what better reason to believe in God? Other than to believe that the dark waters of our suffering will split into sky and land and light and love?
I like to think I’m going through a personal origin story.
I’m piecing together a few of my birth myths.
One of my favorites from Hellenistic astrology is the idea that at the moment the light of the Sun came up over the horizon was the exact moment that me and a group of souls bounded to earth all at the same time. One of my favorite mystics suggests that we all choose the beings we interact with in this lifetime based on past karma.
In short, I chose my mother.
And the corollary is that my mother chose me.
Perhaps we were rivals in a past life, and we wanted another round. Or maybe in another life we both felt subservient to others, and we said we’d team up in this life to guarantee our independence. I might be lying to myself, but it makes me feel better to think that my mother and I are on some sort of cosmic journey rather than me just being dealt some bad cards. And if it is a lie, it’s a lie that helps me remember my mother’s humanity rather than her cruelty.
Maybe myths are nothing but lies we tell ourselves to feel better.
Here’s the myth I have so far: an older wiser me, eons old, said that he wanted to come back to earth in a Black gay boy’s body. He would be an Aquarius rising, Scorpio Sun, and a Capricorn moon. He would be wild and weird and always feel like an outsider. He would choose a difficult family, and a difficult mother. And he would be this way because he wanted to get closer to God. And thus, he needed experiences that would get him there. And it would be hard at first, but then it would get easier. And as it got easier, he would have language. He would bring form to the chaos, and thus help others to do the same.
According to the lotus flower myth, when Ra was born, he created two gods: Shu and Tefnut, and when he did, they swam away from him into the waters of the Nile, but they came back, and he was so overjoyed that he cried, and those tears became humans.
The poet Nayirrah Waheed once wrote that being in love looks like “everything I’ve ever / lost / come back to me.” Ra didn’t create humans from separation, he created them from the overwhelming relief of being reunited with his lost children. Humans aren’t the result of separation, but rather of reunion.
2020 definitely feels like it split me open into scattered pieces. But if I’m prayerful enough and patient enough, I will put back together everything that’s been taken away from me. It’s the putting it back together that matters. It’s the reunion that matters. And somewhere, in the space between being shattered into a million pieces, and the slow drudgery of putting myself back together, I will find a God, overflowing with tears that I came back to him, only to be reborn all over again, and again and again.