Love Letters to My Grandchildren

Guardians, by Gaian Bird (watercolor on 140 lb. cold-pressed)


I discovered Instagram last year or so. I began using it as an alternative to Facebook and discovered that I had a lot more control over the appearance of toxic waste in my online feed. I keep Facebook out of necessity–it reaches the most people when getting the word out about events, causes, etc. I get my news from other sources. Instagram opened a social media world of artists, writers, and other creatives that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.


At last count, I have 980 posts. I’m no different than others. I post images of food, memes,  flowers, plants, selfies, poetry, and tea–lots of tea. I post moments, freeze frames of life in a broken body. There is my Bitmoji mini-me, Grumpy Gaian who steps in when I’m at my worst in chronic illness land. I’ve created a landscape of sorts, laying out my day to day life in frames. It’s been an experience with rich mining nodes for examining my motivations and desires.

For instance, Toni Morrison says,

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can.”

Her words are a persistent itching inside my mind. “Why are you posting bean soup and cornbread?”  “Nobody cares what you made for supper.” “It’s a squirrel for fucks sake.” I don’t post EVERYTHING, to be fair. There are countless sweet or sad moments in my life that I simply live without documenting. Still, 980 is a big number and a lot of invested time. What is really going on? I am definitely fulfilling a need I have.

And how is my Instagram habit tied to the effects of white supremacy in and on my life? 

Think Intergenerational Trauma, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, internalized oppression, white washing, erasure, silencing, self-hate, assimilation.  (Google is your friend.) Now, apply these conditions in total or in part to how they might express through the actual lived experience of a young Black womxn who was so completely lost and unaware of the existence of these imbalances within herself. She chooses and marries behind those same imbalances, has children and raises them within these same systemically imposed conditions. Her children internalized her unresolved pain, silence, erasure and self-hate. Time moves. The generational pain continues and plays out in their lives and the lives of their children. The young Black womxn is now an old Black womxn with awareness, awakeness, and still all of the pain.  Here is a truth about “doing the hard work.” You still get all the pain. You learn to live through it.

They are out there in this world, my children are. They went into the world with all that I could give them, not all of it bad, but so much of it useless and broken because I didn’t know what broken looked like, yet. Their lives reflect the brokenness they were given. I don’t need to list the ways. If you’re reading this, you are intelligent enough to know what brokenness looks like. Whatever you may imagine, the answer is yes. And always life finds a way in spite of our brokenness or because of it and so there are grandchildren.

Today, I got another mind itch in the form of words that exhorted people to stop taking pictures and go out and live. I feel guilt and somewhat sheepish knowing that I often take several pictures a day of the most mundane things. I am scratching this itch, because if I look at the reasons why I keep the Instagram feed going, I have to face the truth.  I have to open the lid, allow the raw anguish of my Ancestral Trauma to sit on my chest with its full weight.

Some people write letters to the little girl they once were. They tell their inner child all about the love they deserve and will give to them.  I take photos and put them online in a place where they may be seen, by children who can no longer see me and grandchildren I have never seen. Some day, if there is time, I will write letters to all of them, but first I have to find a place for the pain. The photos are a breathable filter for the torment. I can hold a piece of me in pixels and perhaps they can see me a little and maybe a little of themselves.

Compensate Gaian Bird, Writer

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