LET’S BEGIN WITH THE NEGATIVE
There are those for whom their roots – their past - do not provide any of that succour or support. Especially those who were abused, and more so if their abusers were their parents; or those whose parents knew of the abuse but did nothing to prevent it continuing. Sadly, there are many who fall into this category and I have had the privilege to work as a counsellor with some. For those of us who are loving parents, and maybe still hold to the ‘stranger danger’ way of thinking when it comes to abuse, I can assure you that in far too many cases both of these scenarios exist far too regularly. This means that too many people endeavour to cut off the memories of their roots to free them up in order to move on with a life rid of horrific rememberings. Alternatively they take the huge, brave step of having therapy to support their move from surviving through to thriving.
Then there are those who were adopted. Yes, they can have had a wonderful life with their adoptive parents and extended family, but for many there remains a very strong need to find their biological parents. They want to know about their biological roots, for a whole raft of reasons.
ONTO THE POSITIVES
I am a great believer that it is not what we ‘own’ or how we look that is the most important aspect of our ‘self’. Rather, it is what is inside, the who that we are, and how we respect others, our planet and ourselves that are the most significant indicators of the type of person that we are. It is far too easy for us to lose track of many aspects of that self in this hurly burly world of ours – whether we feel that we are wrapped up in said busyness, or are a spectator on the outskirts, watching others in their seemingly never-ending motion.
I have a feeling that the enforced slowing down that happened for many during lockdown may have led to people spending time endeavouring to find out more about their roots. Maybe they used an ancestry site, or they were able to trace long-lost relatives via links on social media. I was lucky to be able to trace a cousin of mine that I had lost contact with nearly 50 years ago. I then used information that we shared to link back further into my roots and trace great uncles and aunts never met, but still, though hidden away, forming a part of the network of my roots. My task for the winter months is now to endeavour to find out more about these people.
As the branches formed by my close relatives are few, I feel that ‘getting to know’ my ancestors more will be a positive step for me. How I wish that I had known, or at least known of my forebears when I was younger. It probably simply didn’t enter my mind to ask the necessary questions. This could be why I am making a book for each of my granddaughters; included is my history and that of our shared ancestors for when they are old enough to actually want to know such stuff. By this time, there will be nobody to recount the stories, share family happenings, so I am hoping that this information won’t be lost, buried somewhere deep in those roots never to be retrieved or even looked for. I can only hope that it will be accepted as something that is worth cherishing and maybe sharing with future generations. A gift not just from my generation but from earlier ones too – and I will have enjoyed the searching. Though no doubt I will have continued to hit many dead ends, false leads which necessitated the removal of some of those roots! This pruning is all part of life’s rich pageant. A shame that I haven’t been able to encompass some of the people at the end of one of my false trails. They do say that your friends are your family that you have chosen, so maybe I could choose some ancestors too!
GOING BACK TO OUR ROOTS IN OTHER WAYS
This is something about which I feel very strongly and something that I have been making every effort to include as an integral part of my life. What do I mean by this? Well, there’s the cutting out of as many plastics and chemicals as I possibly can, using manmade fibres, recycling things and clothes – ie making use of charity shops whenever I can and happily accepting swaps from friends. I feel that by doing my part to help others and our planet, then on a more personal level I am physically strengthening the roots that are currently being formed. The roots which will be going on to support the future generations of my family. I hope to share my thoughts and my skills with my granddaughters who until a few days ago had lived in Asia. I really hope that they will bear with their grandma and be willing to learn from me. It gave me a huge lift when one asked, before her return, if she could do things with me – what a silly question!!! She then went on to say, can we start with making jam. Bliss, though sadly, COVID stepped in. But, the jars are boxed away ready in the garage and we can always begin with autumn fruits rather than the originally planned strawberries once we are free to no longer have to maintain a very frustrating separation. The thought of wonderful smells filling the house along with shared ideas and hopefully plenty of chuckles provided me with many smiles during my lockdown.
WHAT OF LAYERED ROOTS?
I recently stumbled across the concept of place layering. A concept talked of in an article about our roots and identity, considered as part of a largely business world view of this small island of ours. A world that, as John Till says in his article, often sees Manchester and Liverpool as one! Better not let football supporters from either city hear that one! He finishes with a rounding up sentence saying ‘...And that makes me happy as a Lancastrian on the edge of London that I can still lose at darts in Longridge!’ As for me, just like him, I have brought along my experiences, feelings, beliefs, core values and added to them with each move. But at heart, I remain a Mancunian, proud of my northern accent, no matter what circles I mix in. I am afraid though, that I too would lose at darts, no matter where I may be.
Some people move only a short distance from their place of birth; though this is not as common as it used to be in this (usually) mobile world of ours. Then there are others who have called many different houses, locations, countries their ‘home’. I have transplanted many plants and some – smaller – trees. It is doable, so long as you treat those roots with lots of TLC. But what of our personal roots? How are they affected by moves rather than being consistently settled in one place?
No matter that I have had over twenty homes (not counting brief sojourns back with parents), my roots have always tagged along, unseen, uncomplaining - rather like the rest of me I guess. However, each change, each move tagged on experiences that added to the strength of my roots rather than stunting their growth, as I guess could have happened for others. Here, my thoughts turn to those who have had to flee war, famine, natural disaster often only with the clothes they stood up in or a small pack of grabbed belongings. What of their roots?
Fortunately amidst so many moves, my original root growth, developed throughout my formative years, gave me a good level of stability that I was able to share with my sons. I set aside my career and grabbed whatever work was around to fit in with their playgroup and school hours in order for me to be their stability when surroundings and friends were changed so much. It was what I felt I needed to do, and I very much wanted to do it. It was my effort to give them a healthy early root formation too.
I have been transplanted from city to town to village. The latter is my location of choice. My roots are free, not having to push up tarmac or paving stones in a bid for space. Just as trees are now believed to be linked to those of the same species by their root systems, sharing water, sharing nourishment and apparently sharing communication.In my version of a woodland setting – a village – I feel able to do likewise. My roots are able to flourish, I am able to give back to others around me, my community and simultaneously, personally thrive.
Our roots support us through our changes, as the essence of our vital core – grounding us, reminding us of just what makes each of us a unique individual. Simultaneously, we need reminding of what we have in common with family and friends; ancestors; fellow country people; fellow human beings no matter what their colour, creed, gender,ethnicity. A commonality that seems to be difficult for many to remember, with their focus being on difference and the divisions that this can cause. Oh that we could prune hatred out of all human root systems .....
If you have concerns about your roots, please do get in touch.
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