Are beliefs inherited?

Last Sunday I was struck down with gastro flu, a distinctly uncomfortable illness which saw me running to the bathroom in between snatches of feverish sleep. By Monday I recovered enough to sit up in bed, read a little and think a lot. Naturally I pondered on my recent illness and I called my Naturopath for advice on recovering.

I rely more on my Naturopath / Homeopath than I do on my doctor. Why? I’m not sure I can answer satisfactorily. However, once I was back on my feet and again researching my family history for my manuscript, I was interested to discover aspects to my grandfather – my father’s father – which concur with my beliefs. Or, do I agree with his?

Long ago my mother told me my grandfather was an iridologist and a homeopath. He did not believe in conventional Western medicine. There were two incidents, related to me by my mother and confirmed by my father, which point to his beliefs being unhelpful and perhaps destructive to his family. My grandmother suffered from asthma and, according to family lore, my grandfather refused to have her treated by conventional doctors, preferring to treat her himself with homeopathics. She died of asthma in her fifties. The other story recalls the time my father had appendicitis. My grandfather would not take him to a hospital until my aunt intervened, rushing my father to the only hospital in the area with a doctor willing to operate on him at so late a stage. He nearly died.

After these two episodes you would think my father would embrace Western medicine. Not so. He did not take kindly to doctors and, even in his last years, would reject their advice and the medication prescribed to him. But he didn’t like taking any medication – conventional or otherwise. My mother, on the other hand, self-medicated on vitamins but kept all her options open by taking prescribed medication as well.

What about me? What do I believe?

As a child I was often sick, having inherited my grandmother’s asthma. My mother took me to a myriad of doctors. As I grew older and, even before I knew about my grandfather, I was drawn to alternative medicine. I also believe there is a strong connection between mind and body, I use affirmations and I am attempting to learn meditation. I believe in a spiritual universe which can affect our health and well-being. My parents certainly didn’t influence me in those ways. Both were Christian, with my mother overtly religious. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my grandfather was a follower of Anthroposophy, a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner. This philosophy believes in the existence of a contactable spiritual world and uses meditation as one of the means of inner development. My grandfather knew Steiner and sent his eldest daughter to one of his first schools. He was also a seeker of knowledge, attempting to discover the secrets and mysteries of the universe, using the philosophy of Theosophy. I can relate to my grandfather’s beliefs and, despite never meeting him, knowing he had similar thoughts, makes me feel closer to him.

So, did I inherit my beliefs from my grandfather, or is it simply a random coincidence? I am not sure. I have heard of scientific tests which prove beliefs can be inherited, but perhaps James Baldwin had a point when he said: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”

Mother’s Day

Every family celebrates special days in various ways and Mother’s Day is no different. Some families gather in cafés for breakfast or brunch. They might meet in restaurants or pubs for lunch or dinner. Other families get together in their mother’s home, or they might bring their mother into their home. Outside my front window this morning I’ve seen several cars, filled with children and flowers, unloaded by their parents, who watch the kids run to their grandmother’s front doors.

My mother wasn’t big on Mother’s Day. She cherished the handmade cards I toiled over in every year at school, even when they were still sticky with glue and the glitter came off on everything it touched. She loved the flowers and plants I bought her in later years. She even appreciated the breakfast trays I carried in to her, carefully balancing the cup of tea, together with the plate of slightly burnt toast with jam. But she also felt Mother’s Day was too commercialised.

We were a very small family. I am an only child, my mother was an only child, my father’s family all live in Europe, so at our largest there were only my parents, my mother’s parents and me. When I was ten my grandfather passed away and left four of us. Ten years later my grandmother slipped away in her sleep and our family shrunk again. While I stilled lived at home, Mother’s Day was much like any other, apart from the gifts I hoped Mom would like.

I can’t remember ever going out for a meal on Mother’s Day. I did sometimes make breakfast for her, but she always made the dinner and, while I would help clear the dishes, she always washed them. Nothing much changed when I moved out, except that after dinner I would go back to my own place instead of my old bedroom.

I have fond memories of Mother’s Day celebrations when my boys were small. I loved the cards they made me and the presents they chose from the annual Mother’s Day stall at their school. I loved the way they jumped into bed with me in the morning and snuggled under the covers. I valued those moments then and I value them even more now, with two of my boys on the other side of the country. I was lucky enough to have my youngest son and one of his friends drop in for brunch this morning. Together we skyped my eldest son, who was holding my gorgeous grandson and I couldn’t stop smiling. Nowadays I treasure the grabs of conversation I have with my boys.

It is those moments, those windows into the lives of my boys, the times they tell me what they have been up to, their smiles, their hugs and the messages I get from time to time, which mean more to me than any one day designated because I happen to be a mother. Any day which includes some contact with my boys makes it a special day for me. And that’s just the way it is.

What is my writing goal?

After years of writing followed by months of rewriting, cutting, pasting, more rewriting and changing direction in my manuscript numerous times, I have asked myself what I want to achieve from all of this effort. What would be the ultimate happy ending for me and for my writing?

It isn’t an easy question to answer. Of course I want my years of hard work to be published, but in all honesty I want more. I want the manuscript to be polished, with every word thoughtfully placed and meaningful. I strive to use words I think will capture the emotion of the scene as well as the description. I want readers to feel the same moods, reactions and sensations I experienced throughout my journey; from the anger I had toward my dead father for leaving me with so much clutter and mess to sort through, to the astonishment I had with some of the results of my research. In short not only do I want to bring my readers along with me as they read my story, I seek to transport them into every aspect of it.

It isn’t an easy thing to do. I am constantly doubting myself. And in all honesty, it is quite possible that I am failing. Only time will tell.

The more I read through the words I have written, the more I doubt their power to do anything wonderful and the more I question my ability to create something remarkable. But still, somewhere deep inside me is a little voice encouraging me to keep going, keep writing, keep whittling away at the paragraphs and chapters, keep telling my story. Maybe one day I will do the impossible.

Great writers, and I aspire to being a great writer, are often full of self-doubt. Sylvia Plath, in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, wrote “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” And I can very much relate to William Goldman’s quote “Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.”

However, as much as I wish the Demon Doubt would disappear and leave me with my laptop, thoughts and words, I have to admit he is there for a reason. Without doubt I would most likely not work as hard on trying to reach perfection, or as close to it as I can. In Colette’s words “The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen.”