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1 (855) EMPATHY

Life and communication coaching for women.

Crossing the Bridge


Crossing the Bridge

Marina Smerling

Today, a short but potent tale:

My partner and I recently took a trip to Savannah, Georgia, which, you might not know -- as I hadn’t a clue myself until we were approaching from 100 yards away -- is home to the world’s most frighteningly steep bridge.

The kind of bridge that you have nightmares about – where you’re driving along, thinking all is well, when suddenly the bridge turns into a roller coaster, and then your car is spiraling out of control, off the tracks of the so-called bridge and plunging rapidly toward the sea… at which moment you likely wake up, grateful to be in bed, not on the world’s scariest bridge.

I didn’t think these kinds of bridges existed outside of dreams, but much to my shock and plummeting stomach, I discovered that they do.

As we approached, my body froze.  Luckily, by the grace of the frontal lobe gods, I managed to recall how to keep my hands steady on the steering wheel.  And then a memory flashed before my eyes: that of my own mother crying while driving us across a bridge while on family vacation many, many years ago, myself clenched in the back seat, hoping that crying mama could also steer and could also brake if need be.

I knew we had been to Savannah once upon a time, and wondered: could it have been the same bridge?

At the end of our trip, I called my mom to ask.  Sure enough, she recalled the Savannah bridge and the fear it had struck in her.  As it turned out, my mom in the moment I called her was just completing a “mediumship” training, whereby people connect with the spirits of dead folks and pass on their messages to the living.  (Incidentally, if you believe in this stuff, my mom is a ridiculously talented medium, and I highly recommend her if you’re looking for other-worldly insight.)

At her training, she had received a message from her departed mom, telling her that the grief and heartbreak my mom had been feeling for so many years was not her own, but her own mom’s undigested heartbreak.  My mom was deeply impacted.

Back on the earthly realm… when I shared with my mom my fear of this ungodly Southern bridge, she said:

"It's not your fear, Marina. It's mine. It doesn't belong to you. I'm responsible for it and I take it back."


Not what I was expecting.  Tears came, and with them, a sense of deep and abiding relief and softening of my body.  I thanked her, and we got off the phone.

As it turned out, we had entered Savannah from the North, which required going over the ungodly bridge, but were now headed south toward home, meaning no more bridge.  But I was determined.  At the last minute, I asked my partner if he would mind if we took an extra trip over that bridge, just to see how it felt.  He graciously obliged.

Sure enough, we approached the bridge, and as I felt into my body, the fear was gone, replaced with a palpable joy and excitement and sense of fun.  Suddenly, we didn’t “have to” drive over the bridge, but we “got to,” got to experience the roller coaster-y ride of it, the eager ascent, teeth biting joyfully into lips, and the ecstatic descent, hands up toward the sky (well, just one of my hands, as I was still driving).

We went over it twice, back and forth, whee-ing.

It wasn’t my fear.  It hadn’t been all along.  It had been my mom’s.  I had kept it for years in my own body without knowing it, a way to stay close to her, to stay loyal, to have a sense of continuity and connection with my family.

But that day, a new inheritance was granted: one of freedom, self-responsibility, freeing our offspring to be themselves – and the highest version of themselves – rather than a stuck and contained replica of our own fear-based behavior.

I now have a new way of connecting with Mom, one which allows for enjoyment of steep bridges and a whole host of other scary things, without any of the sweaty palms.

So many of my coaching clients struggle with limiting fears and beliefs that didn't originate with them, but that are inherited.  I want for my clients, and for all of us, to get experience a sense of being freed from not just our own past, but from our parents and ancestors’ past, and all the fears and beliefs and close-minded wracking of our hearts and minds against walls.  I so long for us to share a sense of being freed to breathe and to sing and to ride bridges wide open, alive and unimpeded.

I know that, for many of you, your parents are departed.  It’s too late to hear them say in physical form: “I take that back.”  But it’s not too late to imagine it, and I believe with every fiber in my being that these imaginings can be just as powerful.

And so I invite you to reflect, to notice: what are the feelings that have persisted in you in this lifetime, and did they originate with you?

If you have even the slightest sense that you are not the original source, you might visualize those who were, or who passed these feelings down to you from generations before.  You might see them look at you with love (whether they were capable of this or not in their earthly years), and hear them say to you:

“That was never yours.”


“I take it back, now and forever.”

“May you be free.”

May this be a practice that you can come back to – again and again and again – reminding yourself of the freedom that is your essence, the openness to life that is your birthright, giving back what was never yours to hold in the first place.

May we all cross that bridge and come back Home.

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