Allowing, or letting go, and experiencing our inner voice and expressing it.
Cicadas chirped. Birds and butterflies fluttered. Gravel crunched under his Buster Browns. He smelled the perfume sweet honeysuckle smell in the air, and the fresh cut grass of his neighbor’s lawn too. His Spirit sang the happy Song of Being, as the sun shone down on him from an immaculately blue sky, dotted with small fluffy cotton candy-like Cumulus clouds. He was made of Love and smiles, and an equal measure of contentment, excitement, unrestrained giggles and delight. Nothing had shattered his makeup yet. Oh, there was a tentativeness, and uncertainty that wasn’t in him previously, and there had been cuts and bruises, colds and stomach upsets, times of mild admonishment, and other small losses. Of course, to him, every small loss at the time seemed gigantic and forever, and he would cry with all his heart.. But when they were over, though, they were not revisited. He had not learned to do otherwise.
His mother was in the house, doing whatever she always did in there, when she hurried him outside to play. He didn’t really know what she did in there during the day; he did know that she cooked and cleaned and did dishes in their little five room bungalow, but what else, he didn’t know. All he knew was that she didn’t play, because he had asked her to play with him any number of times until he learned not to ask. He learned very quickly, he was very smart.
He had a “well oiled” imagination, rich, vibrant, detailed, and nearly as real to him, as the world he really occupied. His imagination was a wonderful tool, because he spent long hours alone. When he was outside, both his body and his mind were there. When he was playing in his room, that’s where his mind and body were. When he decided to, he used his imagination. He used his imagination to go to places he couldn’t go to, and to do things he couldn’t do, and everything in his imagination made him happy. He had not yet learned to use it in any other manner. His imagination was probably the best toy he owned, although he didn’t even question having it, or using it. It was just a part of him like his arms and feet, and everything else.
He couldn’t tell you how he felt inside, how he felt about himself, and how he felt in the world. But if he could, he might describe feeling smooth and clean and fresh, happy, and a part of everything he saw, and experienced, especially the sunshine and the beautiful soft blue sky that wrapped around his head and body when he was outside. He would tell you that he just felt like himself, how could he feel any other way? He didn’t question his perceptions, his awareness, his feelings. He felt neither strong nor weak, neither good nor bad. This way of being, this way he experienced his world was completely natural to him, and he didn’t know it, but it was his birthright.
© 2011 Ken Scully and Lowcountry Survivors All Rights Reserved
In Life, I notice that there is tension, and there is release. The tension builds and builds over time. The tension is need. Need for a change. Need for something to be created. Need for a fulfillment of some form. Need for action. Tension, tension, tension, tension. Then “Pow!”, the arrow flies to its intended target.
My life seems to operate this way. Am I the bow? People tell me to be the Archer. Am I the Archer, or the bow?
If I am the bow, who is this Invisible Archer, that wields the bow, applies tension to the string, then releases that tension to allow the arrow to fly to its intended destination. Who is the Archer?
I only find the Archer, and who He is, as I willingly allow myself to be the bow.
My Heart sings
At the Beauty of the Sunrise.
With great affection, He kisses my forehead
And says “Goodmorning, Son”.
My Heart sings
At the Beauty of the Clouds, white brush strokes
Upon the Canvas of the blue sky.
A touch, She says, “Goodmorning, Son”.
My heart sings
At the Beauty of the Melody of All the Voices of the Earth
They sing together, a chorus, The Beauty of the Earth.
A warm embrace, They say, “Goodmorning, Son”.
My Heart sings.
At the Beauty of My Life.
One part of Many parts.
One Life and many Lives, We sing
The Beauty of this Life.
Richard paced exuberantly about the room, as if he were pursuing a parade that was yet to be. He looked and sounded like that British correspondent, with the same first name – Richard Quest. You know, that boisterous and flamboyant, almost manic correspondent for CNN that all the other CNN anchors don’t quite know how to react to? Teeth so big, that you just know they were made for smiling. Even his own name describes him. Quest. Well, this Richard says to his family, “Let’s go on a holiday!” Grinning in amusement. Eyes wide open. His whole demeanor makes some folks laugh in amusement, other folks laugh in derision. Still others just cringe, because they are in such unfamiliar territory. “We’re going on vacation!” he sort of sings. “A holiday!” he says, drawing out the words as if following a hidden melody that only he hears. “And we’re all going to walk!” he says, as if it were the biggest, most pleasant, special present, that he had just opened for all to see. He might as well have left a “steaming heap” in the middle of the living room floor, what with the looks he had just seen on their faces.
His family sat stunned. They had become enamored with Richard’s exuberance. After all, they were his family, and he part of theirs. His daughter Paprika, and his son Chipotle were the first, however, to jump on his “bandwagon”. His wife, Charlotte had, at first hated the names he had chosen, but curiously, they had grown on her in each case, and they had been in agreement when it finally was time for them to make the choice. It usually took her some time to make decisions, she didn’t just jump right in like Richard was used to doing. The names had turned out to be descriptive of their unique spirits. Paprika was gentle, with a reddish hue to her blond hair. Her personality had a tentative quality about it, and her approach to life was a subtle touch rather than anything more aggressive. Chipotle was much more “fiery” than his sister, but tempered. He loved the outdoors, campfires, and storytelling. Eagerness showed on Chipotle’s face. Paprika looked tentative and slightly amused. Charlotte looked like she had just accidently swallowed a frog.
“Where are we going, Dad?”, Chipotle asked excitedly. “I…don’t….knowww…!”, he disclosed, drawing each word out, as if he were savoring each one and grinning the biggest grin you ever did see, as if it was the biggest, most funny joke he had ever heard. “It’ll be an a..d..v..en..t..u..r..e!”, he said, once again drawing out that last word.
“But Honey”, Charlotte said. “We’re supposed to be adults. We have responsibilities. What will the neighbors think, when we trudge by their homes, dragging our belongings with us, like some homeless vagabonds?!” “I know, Love! Isn’t that great! It’ll be one big hoot!”, he said. Silence. His smile disappeared for just a moment, and then was followed by a different one. This one carried the look of someone who had just discovered something that made him happy. “Alright, Love. We’ll go out the back door, and we’ll travel light. No neighbors. We won’t look like vagabonds to anyone who sees us, we’ll look like we’re off to the park for a picnic, and decided to walk.” Charlotte looked unconvinced, but she no longer looked like she had swallowed a frog. “Now get your things together”, Richard said. “And don’t forget to pack light!” “It’s off into the U..k..n..o..w..n!!” he sang, as he went downstairs, to retrieve their gear. “Yaaahooo!”, Chipotle whooped, as he went off to his room. Charlotte and Paprika looked at each other. Paprika had an amused look, her eyebrows drawn way up on her forehead. Charlotte looked like she had finally digested that frog, bones and all.
I want to tell you a little about what I know about letting go. When I first heard about this process, (and for me, it does seem to be a process), I was terrified by what I was told. In retrospect, I see that fear was not really warranted, but certainly understandable. I was told about this process, first in a 12 Step Group, flavored with its particular philosophy and agenda, later by various individuals who saw letting go through the lens of religion, native American teachings, new age teachings, probably even other ways that I don’t now recall. Certain ways of seeing this process were less scary to me than others, but all of them attempted to describe something that is very real and natural. I will attempt to tell you about letting go, without those prejudices, or diminishments, as much as I can.
This morning I went for my morning walk. My morning walks are exercises in letting go, in relaxing into the NOW, into forgetting for a few brief moments, all the ways I can see myself; you might say that I’m taking off all the different “hats” I wear at various times. I followed our dirt road out into a very open area. On the way, different things would catch my attention – a squirrel here, a bird there, each vegetable area in my garden, a brief glimpse of blue sky and puffy cloud through the trees, the texture of the gravel under my feet, wild grapes hanging from the live oaks, each holding my attention for a moment each time, while I was still aware of the totality of this setting through which I walked. I walked as slow as a little kid who had much shorter, weaker legs than I have. I didn’t force that, it just came natural. I quit thinking about all that was going on in my life, pulling my attention back gradually to just take in my surroundings. Gradually I settled into the NOW.
I arrived at the field, where I usually “say” my morning prayers. Displayed before me was a beautiful Robin’s egg blue sky, clean pure white puffy Cumulus clouds, that entirely wrapped the scene before me in every direction above. Below that was a still well defined layer of fog, thick, textured, grey, and soft looking. Below that I could see a denser landscape – an uncut summer hay field, horses staring back at me from a farm on the far side of the field, far off farmhouses, barns, fences, the entire landscape wrapped in tree lines of live oak. Depending upon where my attention was, I could say that it was overcast, foggy, or clear with a few puffy clouds. Each would be correct, but only a part of the reality that was true. I experienced the whole scene without prejudice or dissection, just taking it in, seeing the beauty, feeling myself within that landscape, and experiencing a wonder that I cannot quite put into words . For me, all that is part of the experience of letting go and entering the NOW. Along with my sense of wonder, was the knowledge, that the landscape before me represented the Truth about this Life we live.
One might say, “That’s beautiful! It feels like what you say is true, but how could I live my life that way? I have responsibilities! I have a job, and a mortgage, and bills! People will think I’m a loon! I can’t do that! I’m too screwed up! I don’t have time! People depend on me! I wish I could do that, but I can’t!”
I have said all those things, and asked all those questions, and felt all those fears. I was looking at a final destination, rather than a journey. I saw it as something I had to do; something that I couldn’t do, rather than a process I was entering. In truth, “not letting go”, is what we have done to ourselves throughout this Life; that is where “the doing” is. “Letting go” is not about “doing”, although within the process, we may have lots to do. It is more about accepting, awareness, absolute honesty (even about the layers of deception within ourselves that we and others put there), a process of grief for our losses (even the loss of how we have been seeing ourselves), and contact with others going through the same process.
I spent many years in group therapy. I was looking for answers, looking for resolution, looking for a way to be “okay”. I changed and healed more in that group, than I had in all my previous years of “one on one talk therapy”, or all the years of my own effort. The two leaders set boundaries to help us feel safe, but they controlled nothing. That environment helped some of us to practice “letting go”. “Letting go” was necessary to get to our injuries in ways that were experiential rather than just intellectual. Miraculous things seemed to happen on a regular basis. By “letting go”, I was able to find a lot of resolution for my many injuries. Others doing the same, helped me to let go. My “letting go” helped others. Our injuries as well as our indiscretions scream at us for attention, for resolution. They grab and hold our awareness, and pull it from the NOW. In my case, my “Caretaker” role (one of the many hats I wore), and my role as “The Black Sheep” in my family of origin, enshrouded my True Self. Attending to those needs and dishonesties that were vowing for my attention, has allowed me to have a quieter internal environment. It’s easier to let go now, after that practice. I attempt to continue to do what I learned in my group. In a nutshell, I relax enough to let go of my need to understand, and follow my spirit.
I remember during my “crazy days”, where I was most out of control, my friends and I would smoke pot, and listen to an improvisational comedy group called “Firesign Theater”. We’d laugh like loons at their silly antics, and crazy sayings. I’m sure most of us remember some of those episodes. One saying that stuck in my mind, in an odd way was “Everything you know is wrong.” Everything in our culture or society, praises “not letting go”. We are expected by family and friends to “not let go”. We praise control, and see “letting go” as giving up. They are not the same. Jesus said that we must lose our lives to gain them. There is wisdom in those words, because the lives we have built, are based on “perceptions” that are not true. Those “perceptions” are not perceptions at all, but constructs that have been taught to us. They interfere with true perception, true awareness! “Everything you know is wrong.”
You might say, “how can I do this “letting go thing”, when I am married? My wife and I fight, and I don’t want to give up my marriage!” I only have answers within my experience, which work for me. I’m sure you will find those answers that work best for you. However, let me tell you a story. Sometimes my wife and I have difficulties. We get lost in stuff that just isn’t true, despite our best efforts to remain honest and caring, and non-blaming. Relationships are difficult. We have had many ups and downs. During the “down” times, I’m sure we have each wondered if it is worth it, and have despaired. During the “up” times I’m sure we both don’t question whether it is worth it at all. We both were abused terribly when we were young, so we have had significant issues, to say the least. Recently, each time I have experienced one of those “down” times, I have felt some pretty intense feelings of despair, despite a part of me knowing that my experience of despair would pass. I strove to see what we were doing, what each of our reactions was, what was really true, to the best of my ability to know, noticing anything petty or untrue within me about our difficulty. I also saw I had NO ANSWERS, other than my understanding of our interactions. I did not know how to fix what was wrong. I can change what I do, but not others. Many options lay before me, but which one was the “correct” one? So I prayed to choose the “right” way of handling the situation. To my surprise I received no answer. Or so I thought. Each time, I sat with my wife, relaxed, knew I had NO ANSWERS AND WOULD HAVE TO JUST WAIT AND SEE HOW IT ALL CAME OUT (perhaps it wouldn’t come out the way I might choose, and I had to be willing to allow that!). I’d keep my attention on her, not on solutions, or my fears of finding none. My mind would be a blank, until the words were there. The most honest words. The most honest feelings. The most honest unpolluted awareness of us and our situation, because it was all there in the NOW. It all was just there. I don’t think I can find any words to really describe it. It has “happened” many times. It has developed over time from all the little things that I have done along the way, and also, because of all the things that have happened to me along the way as well.
I told a friend recently, that during the “hard times” we let go more, and during the “easy” times, we let go less. Those of us that choose this path of “letting go” may recognize the truth of that. I have noticed in me, that I do that, but I also notice that there are far more areas in my life that I do not control anymore, and am allowing more areas of my life that are like that. I also see that sometimes we will suffer, when we DON’T let go. Suffering is optional.
The stories of our Lives start and restart at many places during our years on this good Earth. Each is a complete story within itself, as well as a part of the whole story.
My story starts in 1951 in a suburb of Philadelphia, although I have only just a very few details of that, and don’t even know the name of that suburb. My story also starts in Trooper, and Linfield, and Randy Run, Royersford, Spring City, Pennsburg, and Sumneytown, all in or near Montgomery County Pennsylvania. My story also starts in Unionville, part of Steuben Maine, just miles from the Canadian border. In that remote corner of the country, my wife’s story, and my story merged, making a larger more detailed and dramatic story that belongs to both, even though we still “own” our original parts. Finally, the story of my life, in a very real sense starts in Ruffin, South Carolina. That’s where my wife, Susan, and I live and love, where we sometimes struggle with Life’s dilemmas and have to lick our wounds.
Ruffin is where we grow vegetables and flower gardens, and continue to grow and heal ourselves. Here we walked my faithful dog Goldie, before her story ended, unleashed on the dusty sand of Rogers Lane. Here in Ruffin we have made many changes in our lives, learning to eat healthy and to exercise in order to control our diabetes, as well as to just feel better, and so that we might live longer healthier, happier lives. We live directly below the Winter migratory flight path of countless bird species. For weeks, tens of thousands of their members completely filling the evening sky just before sunset looking for a safe place to bed down at night in the numerous horse pastures just to our South. My wife and I have “settled here”, and that’s far different than “settled for”, because we love our home here in Ruffin, and although many things will probably change for us here in Ruffin, we don’t plan to move ahead. We don’t see Ruffin as one of those horse pastures that the birds use for just a time before moving on once they are rested, even though there have been many of those “resting places” in our Lives. We feel this is our home, and the last stories of our lives will be written here, many and happy, we hope, becoming part of our larger stories.
A mother who loves her children.
-is a mother who beats her children with her fists?
-is a mother who screams like a wild animal while she beats her children?
-is a mother who calls her children “rotten sons of bitches of bastards” while she beats them?
-is a mother who continuously tells her children that “there is something wrong with you”?
-is a mother who tells her children that she wishes they were never born?
-is a mother who continuously tells her children that they are “disgusting”?
-is a mother who tells her children “you make me sick to my stomach”?
-is a mother who beats her son with a metal vacuum cleaner pipe?
-is a mother who ties her children to a chair?
-is a mother who tells her 9 year old son that she’d kill him if she could get away with it?
-is a mother who unleashes her unbridled rage on her children, and blames them for it?
-is a mother who does all these things countless times, while pretending to be the victim?
Honesty demands that we say “No!”
Honesty demands that we acknowledge that a mother, who does all those things to her children, does not truly love her children, perhaps through injury, she cannot.
All those things are Not Love.
originally published in Downeast Coastal Press by KS in Dec. 1989
Christmas is the time that we have set aside to celebrate the birth of a very special child. Religious concerns aside, this holiday has much Power. Spiritual Power. The Power that we sense in myth and metaphor. The Power of this season brings us closer to our children-both internal and external.
The Christmas Season is a celebration of the child, and the Power of the Child to set us free. It moves us from our little world of daily concerns, disconnection, practicality, and rationality, into the larger world of Trust, Intimacy, Awe and Wonder.
The Special Child that was born 2000 years ago was not accepted (no room at the inn), had no place of His own, and had humble beginnings close to nature. It was not safe where He was, so He was taken to Egypt by parents whose most important task was to love, care for, and protect this Special Child.
My imagination tells me that His parents allowed him to develop, or unfold, at his own rate, knowing with certainty that His Power was inside Him, a special gift from God. No control or manipulation would bring that Power out. The timing and nature of His unfolding was left to God.
In the beginning, vey few recognized the Power that was inherent in this Special Child, except for his parents, and a few others called Wise Men.
According to the Book of John, in the New Testament, one of the first miracles attributed to the Power inherent in the adult named Jesus, was the turning of water into wine at the marriage feast in Canaan.
A few years ago, the Power of the Christmas Season touched me fully for the first time in my life, or at least for the first time since I was a child. It was the first time I was totally alone on Christmas Eve. Snowflakes had fallen throughout the day, reminding me of the magic that I used to feel as a child in anticipation of a “White Christmas”. That feeling of “magic” escaped me, however. Darkness had fallen, and thee was an “emptiness” that emanated from the corner of the living room, where the absence of a traditional Christmas tree was evident. I also had an emptiness in my heart, that did not just come from being alone. My radio was tuned to a Public Broadcasting Christmas special that was offering readings of traditional Christmas stories.
Slowly the stories that were being told lightened my spirits. With each one, I felt a bit more alive, a bit less depressed. Finally they read “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”. I had heard it before, but its meaning and power had somehow escaped me. But not this time. The sobs that burst from the deepest part of my being could never be described. The words “the Eternal Light with which Childhood fills the world would be extinguished” echoed in my mind. The “Child Within” me was emerging more fully than ever before. The emptiness in my heart disappeared and was replaced by a “fullness”.
With the fullness came a deep appreciation of the timelessness and beauty of the stories I was listening to, as well as a recognition of the deep and hidden meaning of some of those stories. I will never forget that evening.
Years ago, my own Special Child, or Child Within, was not accepted and had to flee to a place deep within me in order to survive. Later, even I continued to abandon him, and he stayed imprisoned. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my Child Within has re-emerged, carefully testing to see if it is safe, retreating if I or others mistreat him.
Like Joseph and Mary, my most important task is to love, care for and protect my Child Within. As I learn to do this, I can do the same for my sons.
I am learning to allow the Child Within to develop or unfold at his own pace, knowing that no control or manipulation will aid his emergence. As I learn to do this, I can do the same for my sons. And finally, just as Jesus turned the water into wine, the Power of the Child Within turns the watered down experience of practicality, disconnection, and rationality, into the Wine of Trust, Intimacy, Awe, and Wonder. Ever so slowly, the adult and the child become one.
This Christmas, take time to remember the children: our sons and daughters, as well as the children we were (who have been internalized within us). Take time for those special stories and other rituals that are a part of the season, and allow yourself to feel their transporting Power. And if you hear or read “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”, let yourself feel the import behind the words, for that is the Power of Myth and Metaphor, the Power of the Season, the Power of the Child.
I believe one of the most important things in this Life, is learning about ourselves, and wondering what God wants for us. Who does He want us to become? How do we become more than we are?
I also believe that to move forward to become the person He wants us to be, sometimes we need to look back, to see where we have been injured, and to heal those injuries that keep us from becoming more. All of us have been injured, many have been injured gravely.
I believe, that to heal emotional injuries from childhood, we often need to revisit those injuries with others, revisit and share the sadness, or anger, or terror with others, and find some personal resolution within ourselves. For many of us who were gravely injured, this journey takes a lifetime.
I spent my childhood in a very rural area. We lived in a large farmhouse, built before the Revolutionary War. Behind the house were three maple trees, over a hundred years old, too large to climb, although those were the trees I always wanted to climb. They had trunks about 30 inches in diameter, deep ridged bark, the first branches more than 20 feet up. Close to these trees, and adjacent to Brownback Road, hidden in the underbrush, was “The Wine Cellar”. Obviously it was built when the first part of the house was built, but separate from the house, and forgotten for a large number of years, hidden away, waiting for discovery. Covering the outside of this tomb like structure (it reminds me of the story of the tomb that Jesus was in, where he rolled that huge boulder away from the entrance) was an almost impenetrable barrier of Osage Orange. Now Osage Orange, if you’re not familiar with it, is the most lethal thorn bush around. I don’t mean lethal, like it is poisonous or something, but lethal, like a sharp knife could be. Thorns two inches long, needle sharp, and woody strong. Folklore attributes this plant to Jesus’ crown of thorns. This “wine cellar”, that’s what we called it, although it was, in fact, a root cellar, was built with expertly placed stone, to form a Quonset or arch shaped underground room, made entirely of stone. Inside, hundred year old mustiness, the smell of dry leaves, which had found their way in over the years, left over spoiled apple smell, mold, and wet earth smell, like the garden, were prevalent. The stones, perfectly fitted, were kind of white, like quartz or limestone. I kept expecting to find stalactites, or stalagmites, but I never did of course. In the very back of the “Wine Cellar”, about 20 feet back, was a perfectly built stone wall, with a square opening 2ft by 2ft, halfway up the wall. When I was most courageous, I would jump and shinny up until I had my belly on the ledge of that opening, and I would peer down a deep stone lined well, which reminded me of pictures I had seen in fairy tale books. I could see the water at the bottom even though every time I got the courage to look in, I expected to find monsters.
I remember this one time, my father spent a weekend cutting the Osage Orange back, and burning what he cut. It grew right back, though, and he gave up, never trying to keep the entrance to the Wine Cellar clear again. He abandoned it. It didn’t matter that it represented the artisanship and way of life of the past. It didn’t matter that out of the whole property, the “Wine Cellar” had the most character of any structure. It didn’t matter that it was built to last forever. It didn’t matter that it had an aura of mystery and power. He abandoned it. I didn’t. I carry it, and what it represents to me, inside myself. I keep pruning those thorns back, and I’ll never stop like he did! I’ll keep pruning them back so I can keep going down in there, to see if I will find monsters or treasure in that well.
After years and years of “revisiting” my childhood, I am still surprised at how powerful my feelings are when I look back, and at how much I have changed, and at how many “confining” rules I have broken in order to change. I was 35 when I had my first “flashback” of the abuse I suffered as a child. Here I am, sitting in my own computer repair shop, almost 1500 miles from where I started my Journey of Healing, and I am almost 53 years old! My two sons are grown, and I have remarried. I have changed so much, and I yet, I have so much still to change!
One of my three earliest memories is of myself at 4 years old or so. My grandparents, who only visited a few times each year were visiting. I was told to go to bed. Of course I didn’t want to go to bed, and I remember crying, and asking for water, and pleading to stay up. Eventually, my mother beat me because I kept crying, and I remember feeling such a huge rage inside of me. I could not hit her back. I could not protect myself. I could not get what I wanted. I remember biting the sheet on my bed, and growling and screaming with my teeth clamped down on that sheet so they wouldn’t hear my defiant rage. And in my rage, I yanked that sheet, and accidentally pulled one of my own teeth out. When my mother came in and saw what I “had done”, she beat me some more, telling me there was something wrong with me, that no normal child pulls their own teeth out.
Well I have to tell you, that no normal mother beats her child like that, or tells her child that he’s not normal. I believe it was one of my last acts of defiance, with only a few exceptions surfacing until I was 40 years old or more. My defiance was beat right out of me, along with any incentive, creativity, or willpower. I became compliant, and all the “Life” went out of me.
The Hexter Brothers taught me to put a stone in the middle of a snowball. I was 4 or 5. I was so proud of my new talent, and having been shown a secret process in confidence, that I showed my mother the first chance I got. She beat me.
The other “earliest memory” was not too long after the tooth incident. Since we moved when I was 5, I suspect I was 4 1/2 or younger, living at that same house. I had followed Chuck Hexter and a bunch of kids down the street, and we ended up playing in the open basement of a house that was being built. Now I realize that, but at the time I was too little to understand that. When they decided to leave, Chuck’s older brother told me I had to stay there or he would beat me up or something. Even after they were long gone, I stayed there. Finally, my mother came looking for me, and beat me when she found me. She beat me to make me compliant, then beat me because I was compliant. How crazy is that? I also see how she set me up to fail even then. What parent leaves her 4 year old child outside and unattended? What parent would blame a 4 year old child for wandering off, instead of blaming herself for not watching the child?
When I look back, there are things other than pain. There is also irony. On one side of us lived the Hexters. On the other side were the Beulah’s. You could say we lived between Heaven and Hell, but from my perspective as that little 4 or 5 year old kid, I didn’t have to die to go to Hell, I was already there.
We hear adults talking about self esteem. You talk among yourselves, and say that We the Children must have successes in what we do, to feel good about ourselves. You equate what you do, with who you are. We wonder why we were not welcomed and accepted fully, when we came into your world. We wonder why We the Children should have to do anything in order to be loved. In truth, your love was dependent upon what we could do, and you taught us to do the same thing to ourselves! You taught us to love ourselves, according to what we could accomplish! How could you do that to us? To be accepted and loved just the way we are, was God’s plan for us here! We came here to follow our deepest inner promptings, for the good of all, but those promptings are lost to us if we are constantly self monitoring, in order to receive your love and acceptance, and later, our own! How wonderful our world might have been if we had been allowed to unfold, becoming ourselves, instead of what you wanted us to be! We the Children wonder if we were not allowed to become ourselves because you were not allowed as well. You believe that the children you once were are gone. That is untrue! We still exist! We were forced into hiding, some of us deeper than others, but we exist! Indeed, some of us were forced very deep into hiding by the violence of adults. When we the Children saw that some of our caregivers would choose to inflict physical pain, while witholding their love, the horror of such a notion was too much for our gentle and sensitive spirits! Now we reside behind a protective psychic wall within you, whispering to you in moments which you often consider “weakness”! Like angels’ breath, our voices speak to you from deep within your secret heart. We speak to you of hopes and dreams, and connections lost or yearned for. We are your connection to desire, emotion, and intuition. We help you to connect to that part of you that helps you know what’s true, and revels in the artistic and spiritual. We are your potential, waiting to be. We are the children of God. We the Children live inside of you. Listen to our voices. Acknowledge our presence, and protect that same presence in those who are children in body, as well as spirit. So much is at stake!
1996 Ken S.
(previously published in the Dissident, 11/96)
My name is Kenny. I am nine years old. I have a dog named “Happy”, (he’s my best friend). He’s my only friend. He smiles, but I don’t, because when I do, I always get in trouble. He has real short white hair, that’s never out of place, and I’ll lean against him, and hug him, sometimes when I’m sad. I’m sad alot. He listens to me, when I need to tell someone how sad I am, and how mean my parents are. They hate me. They tell me that there’s something wrong with me. They tell me that I’m stupid, and that no one could love me. They beat me, and scream at me, and tell me what a worthless piece of crap I am. Alot of times I don’t know whether I can stand it anymore. I know that Happy loves me, but I wish I had someone else too, someone who could hold me, and comfort me, and tell me that I’m smart, and that I’m valuable, and that I’m OK just the way I am. I want someone to tell me that I am lovable, and to protect me so that at least sometimes I could smile. I need to be safe, at least for a little while. I want somebody to tell me that I’m OK, and that I shouldn’t give up, because someday I will be safe. I want somebody to tell me that someday, people will love me. I want somebody to tell me that someday I will know that I’m OK. I want somebody to believe me when I tell them I’m hurting. I want somebody to tell me that I deserve to be treated better, that I don’t deserve to be hit, and screamed at, and shamed. I want somebody to tell me that I don’t deserve to live with so much fear all the time. I want someone to show me that touch doesn’t have to hurt or feel yucky. I want somebody to tell me to have hope, because sometimes there are heroes and happy endings.
Riding bikes with my sisters. Rainy day, indoor tricycle marathon. Around and around, how fast can we go? Through the kitchen. Multicolored dots on a blue-gray background, the linoleum gives the illusion of speed. Around the corner, often nicking the white trim of the doorway, and into the small utility room. Past washer, dryer, and gray double utility tubs. Through the doorway, and into the long skinny hallway. Black tiles, twelve inches square form the road surface. Soft green latex paint on porous particle board paneling is our landscape. Past the bathroom on the left, the door is always open. past the door that we don’t use to the basement, always shut. Nailed shut. White, even the hinges are painted white. There is no doorknob, and I always wanted to open it, just because we weren’t allowed. Nearing the end of the hallway, the highway widens, as the stairway over the basement door empties into the hallway. Forbidden territory on the left, THE DINING ROOM. Access to the living room on the right. Dead end ahead if the door to the front porch is closed. We called it the front porch, event though it was on the back of the house. That would have confused alot of people, but we did alot of things like that. A hard turn to the right, brakes, and tires, and vocal cords squealing, then another hard turn to the right, just inside the 24 by 16 living room, the kitchen just in sight. Slower going, off road carpet driving. Past the alcove on the left, where we kept all the books that no one read, past the fireplace that we did all like to use when the fighting wasn’t going on. Past the other alcove with the built in desk. Through the eight or ten foot wide access to the kitchen, back onto the speckled linoleum. Breathless! Excited! Forgetting, especially, any fear or sadness, (and there was enough of both!) Wanting more and more of this drug called fun! Breathless abandon, giddy, don’t have to make sense feeling. Laughing, pretending. Anything possible. Temporarily powerful! YOU KIDS STOP THAT BEFORE SOMEONE GETS HURT! ROTTEN SONS OF BITCHES! I’LL BE DAMNED IF YOU KIDS RUIN TODAY LIKE ALL THE OTHER DAYS! BUNCH OF SCREAMING FILTHY ROTTEN BRATS! STOP ALL THAT DAMN NOISE! YOU MAKE MY LIFE MISERABLE! SONS A BITCHES! ALL YOU DO IS WANT WANT WANT! STOP THAT NOISE! IF I HAVE TO COME IN THERE SOMEONE IS GOING TO HAVE TO PAY! SO HELP ME GOD, I’LL TAKE ALL THOSE DAMN TRICYCLES AND BURN THEM IF YOU DON’T BEHAVE!
KA knocks her head on the doorway, and starts to cry. I’m right behind her. I’m the one who is gonna pay. All Hell breaks out.
I am being propelled backwards. My throat hurts, and I want to choke, where my shirt is pulled tight against the front of my spine. My feet get tangled in the tricycle, and it falls off to the right, knocking over the trash can. Kathy is forgotten, the sound of her crying, mixes with my own, and I am in a land of terror very different from the utility room, I just was in. Pain in my shoulder as she twists me around. Terror squeezes me out of my own experience. I am dimly aware of the excruciating burning on my rear end, but I am very aware of my fear that this time she will kill me. I live with that fear, for an eternity.
YOU GET UPSTAIRS TO YOUR ROOM! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! GOD-DAMN YOU!
THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU! GET UPSTAIRS BEFORE I REALLY GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!
Up in my room, I am alone, outcast because of my defectiveness. I despair, because I know that this will never stop happening. Nothing will ever change. There is no one to comfort me. I am scared of everyone, and everything. I believed her, when she said that I deserved to be hit. She is right, and I am wrong. She is good, and I am bad. If I am lucky, I quietly cry myself to sleep.
You live in my throat, my chest, my belly.
Where you are, there is a lack, a pressure, a tightness, a blockage.
Where you are, there is fear, shame, sadness, confusion, not knowing, not remembering.
Who are you, and what did you take from me?
You wake in dreams, and keep part of me asleep in Life.
Who are you and what did you take from me?
You block my love, my courage, my knowing, my serenity.
Who are you and what did you take from me?
You are an eater, a bury-er, a banisher, a ruin-er, a stain-er, of little boys.
You ate my innocence, buried my memories of what you did, stained my sense of purity, wholeness, and wholesomeness, and went on to savage other little boys.
Who are you, and what did you take from me?
You are the evil one, in a thousand guises.
Visiting young boys when they are most innocent.
Visiting young boys when they are most loving.
Visiting young boys when they still own their feelings.
Visiting young boys when they still own their lives.
Visiting young boys when they still own their bodies.
Visiting young boys when they still own their souls.
Visiting young boys when they still own their history.
Visiting young boys when they still own their future.
You tried to take from me all that was given me.
You tried to take from me what was my right to have.
But you never took ME!
Not even Love to keep him company.
No more ideas to get Love
At least with Them.
Too Hard to get Love from Them.
Too Bad to get Love from Them.
Too Smelly to get Love from Them.
Move, Feel, and Talk too much to get Love from Them.
Can’t Laugh or Cry and get Love from Them.
Can’t Be and get Love from Them.
No one to Listen.
No one to Protect.
No one to Soothe.
No one to Stroke his forehead.
No one to Hold him.
No one to Be Close to.
No one to Stop Them from Hitting.
No one to Stop Them from Screaming.
No one to Stop the Bad Touching.
No one else.
All Others Hurt.
Want. Don’t Want.
Do. Don’t Do.
Give up, Die.
Don’t know how to Die.
Can’t Stand It.
A Psychic Chasm.
But also Waiting.
For the unsuspecting Adult
To Stumble through the Barrier of Pain,
And into the Chasm.
The Extent of his Agony,
And the Measure of his True Strength.
I love you as an act of faith and hope
In a world where there seems little of both.I Love you for the safety you provide,
And for that which I can provide you.I Love you for your strength in withstanding immeasurable pain
Even though you sometimes see yourself as weak (we are the same in that).I Love you for your smile,
And for the opportunity to make you smile.I Love you for your tears,
And the opportunity to wipe them from your face.I Love you most of all for your tender Heart,
A Heart I would give my life to protect.I Love you just because I do, Love chooses us,
And for me, Love has chosen You.
Some days I feel like I am lost.
The Love is gone,
The burden’s tossed Back on my shoulders.
Where has It gone?
Where has Love gone?
I know It’s here,
It’s all around.
It never leaves,
Only hidden by my fears.
How can I feel It?
Oh, how can I feel It?
Then a “Softness” comes
And disolves my fears.
Washed away Through a flood of tears
Is my sorrow.
No more sorrow.
1990 Ken S.
Falling leaves was the most beautiful, vibrant young woman in the Tribe, at least Red Squirrel thought so! They were very much in love; a giving love, not a taking love. He appreciated her spectrum of colors; she appreciated his gentleness, and loftiness. They lived an idyllic life, a few miles inland from the ocean, on a tract of land bordered by woods, fields, and a small river. There was no hiding among the People, everyone met each other’s eyes, whether sad, or happy, or even angry. All eyes sparkled, as well, whether young or old. Their valley, and the bay nearby, provided everything they needed. Small excursions afield provided diversity in both their diet, as well as their social life. They trusted The Great Spirit in all things, and in all situations. Nowhere, ever, was there a happier, heart-filled people! Red Squirrel always looked at Falling Leaves in wonder, when she spent time in play with the children of the tribe, teaching them games that she had learned as a child. She was so comfortable and free with them! When he watched her with their own little one, he thought his heart would burst; mother’s love like a peach colored sunset seemed to envelope them. When he lay with her at night, he felt humbled that The Great Spirit should have chosen him to be with her, and her with him. It was that kind of love which had brought forth their first child. They named her Eagle Feather, a living symbol that their love was so lofty and powerful. The day she was born, Red Squirrel had witnessed the mating flight of two eagles, and watched a feather float to the ground. He knew his daughter from that moment, and knew the love from which she sprung. Red Squirrel did everything he could to make it easier for Falling Leaves, while the baby was so young and tender. The other members of the tribe laughed good-naturedly at him, as he carried huge armfuls of alder wood for the cooking fire, for they remembered themselves doing the same thing, when their mates had given birth. Falling Leaves and Red Squirrel had grown up together, inseparable from the start. Everyone in the tribe seemed to know that they belonged together; such things were not uncommon then. Both had a depth of perception and emotion that was uncommon, and they would go off alone together, even at nine or ten years old. They had a favorite place that they had shared, and vowed that it would be their secret place, for all eternity. A stream ran through the center of their camp. It provided a steady supply of freshwater for their every need, as well as an abundant supply of fresh fish. It also provided transportation to the bay, where they collected clams, muscles, whelk, and saltwater fish at certain times of the year. Overlooking this stream, at the edge of a field, was their secret place. It was a huge pine, with branches all the way down to the ground, and they would disappear just as soon as they climbed the first few branches. They’d sit for hours, in those branches, watching birds, squirrels, and sometimes even deer and moose, if the wind was just right, and didn’t carry their scent to them. Their pine hideaway became a place of kissing and secret rendezvous in their teen years. Even after their Ceremony, they would escape to their secret place, alone, for contemplation and renewal; or together, to relive in amazement, how good their lives had been for so long. Red Squirrel was with Falling Leaves when she gave birth. Doing so was not specifically forbidden, but it was highly unusual. Red Squirrel knew that he could not forgive himself if anything happened to her at the birth. He knew that the midwife, and The Great Spirit had things under control; still, he had to be with her. When Eagle Feather came into the world, Red Squirrel’s head and upper body felt as if they were immersed in liquid sky, so powerful was the Presence of The Great Spirit! His attention shifted from the wondrous new being who was his daughter, to the smile of Falling Leaves, which seemed to fill the room in the same way that The Great Spirit’s love did. Red Squirrel knew that he was on sacred ground. He wondered why more of the men of his tribe refused such an honor, for that is what it is to witness such a miracle! Miracles were accepted in just the same way as one would accept a sunny day. Such was life in Red Squirrel’s tribe. In fact, when they were younger, Red Squirrel and Falling Leaves felt that they should wait until a sign from The Great Spirit told them that what they felt, could be consummated in Ceremony. They waited together each day for the sign, not knowing in what form it would appear. It was the most difficult wait that young Red Squirrel ever remembered. He loved Falling Leaves so much, that for the first time, he was having trouble keeping an attitude of acceptance in The Great Spirit’s plans, whatever they might be. He thought he would burst by the time the answer came, but come it did. The wait had taken its toll, not only on Red Squirrel, but on Falling Leaves as well. Both, without the other’s knowledge, had decided to slip off to their secret place, in Grandfather Pine, to raise their spirits. They met each other about half way. Falling Leaves looked sad and vulnerable, like a scared little girl. Red Squirrel’s heart went out to her; he hated seeing her hurting or afraid. He was very protective of the little girl that he saw in her eyes and heart. As they neared their special place, they discovered that they both were interested in seeing whether the eggs had hatched in a nest, high up in their tree. They had each noticed the nest on different occasions, having come to their tree separately. Suddenly, having spotted two intruders, Mother Sparrow Hawk took off in obvious resentment. Red Squirrel looked high up into the tree on the North side, while Falling leaves stared up on the South. In unison, they realized that there were two nests, one for each of them, but together in one tree! They didn’t have to question the meaning of this great and powerful sign. Together, in The Great Spirit they were one! Their Marriage Ceremony was magnificent! The sound of water gently flowing over a small rock falls, the little chirping noises of the chickadees as they chased each other through the woods, and the noise of small children playing quietly, all blended to create a mood that took one back to times of deep contentment. Deep golden sunshine, the reflection of white billowy clouds and turquoise sky on the rippling stream, and the flickering of sky and sun behind Spring-new oak leaves, all added a feeling of reverance and timelessness. Marriage Ceremonies were always held under the double oak – a single base and root system, but complementary trunks and crowns. It stood here, at the junction of Earth, Sky, and Water, as did Falling Leaves and Red Squirrel. Screeching Owl, their Medicine Man, stood before them, the stream to his left, the place of the rising sun behind him. Neither Falling Leaves, nor Red Squirrel were nervous, so powerful was the Presence of The Great Spirit, warmth and vibration in everyone’s chest. The very air sparkled! Silence decended upon their valley, as the words of the Ceremony were pronounced. Even the birds seemed to follow the Power that was called forth, only the stream kept moving; hearts beat to its rhythm. And so it was that they came to be joined.
This piece is about how I felt as a child, and how I felt about her as I began to see the full scope of her abuse of me.Â Now, I see her as someone who was emotionally unbalanced, and just a sad woman, wasted by her own anger.
She controlled every part of my life, every part of me with no letup. None. Ever. She beat me, and belittled me, and shamed me, and hated me, because I existed, and sometimes I existed only for her sadistic violent pleasure. In me she could find all she hated about herself. In me she could find everything she despised. In me she could find excuses to hurt, to make the hurt in me, not her. She sacrificed me to her god of violence and hate and hurt. The monster god that I saw in her eyes and mouth, and fists. The vengeful god that she paid homage to through her violent rituals that she acted out on my body. Rituals of pain that she embraced. Rituals of pain and hate that had no rules except that I would be the one to feel the pain, she the one inflicting it. She welcomed this monster god into her heart, and embraced its power. The monster god, that is always ready to break free, too large to be contained. She used a communion of pain and blame and shame, to put her bastard monster god in me. It wasn’t enough that she welcomed it into herself. She had to sacrifice me to it too. It demanded its just due. It fed on the fear and weakness of others. Meals of little boys and little girls, so that the monster god could grow. The monster god was everything, we were nothing.
1998 Ken S.
Once upon a time, there was a puppy with long floppy ears, a tail much longer than his body, and legs so long that he constantly slipped and stumbled. He spent most of his time in the corner of the room, staring at the one wall of long metal bars, shaking in terror. He didn’t know his name, and remembered no existence prior to his life at the pound. He really didn’t know much other than sadness and terror, and hunger, (even though he didn’t feel very much like eating). He felt utterly alone, and without hope, even though the pound was “home” to nearly twenty other dogs. None of the other dogs seemed as terrified as he, although once in a while, he could smell their fear, as one of their number was taken from them, never to return.
As time went on, he did leave his corner sometimes, but usually the larger, angrier dogs would send him scurrying back. He was so distracted by these angry, vicious ones, that he rarely noticed the metal bars anymore, or anything else, for that matter. He could never let his guard down. One would nip at his long floppy ears, now in tatters. Another would knock him off his feet, as a third would grab and yank his tail. There seemed to be more vicious ones each day, and these vicious ones would often lead the other dogs to attack him too. Somewhere, deep down inside him, he knew that he couldn’t stand it much longer, that he would go crazy from such sadness, terror, and despair. Finally, one day, all the dogs were after him! He was yowling, and howling, and yiping in terror and misery, stumbling and running in circles. His mind had finally reeled at all the violence, a blank, except for the certainty that they would kill him. In thoughtless terror, he leaped toward something shiny on the wall.
A tremendous crashing sound stopped some of the dogs, and brought them to their senses. Glass shards fell to the floor; some of the dogs already yelping in pain from stepping on the slivers in their frenzy.
Although completely unaware of it, he had landed on something soft and green, after knocking over the metal trash can, its contents spilling out onto the lawn. And then he ran. He ran and ran, and then he ran some more. He ran until he had to give up, exhaustion finally overcoming his terror. He lay, and he slept. He whimpered in his sleep, his sadness coming to the surface in spite of his exhaustion.
Two gentle hands picked him up and stroked him, as they would stroke him ever so gently many times during the next few days…..
He woke on something soft and warm. Someone stroked his ears and forehead, and smoothed the fur on his back. He sniffed and could smell no fear, nor sense any danger. He felt something new and warm in his chest, which seemed to come from his master. He didn’t know the word “master”, of course, or any other words, for that matter, but he knew this one always fed him, kept him warm and safe, and had rescued him on that fateful day. He had grown quite a bit since his escape from the pound. He loved running in circles on the green grass, happy for the grass, the sky, and his new home. His ears had healed, and he liked the way that they would flap and fly as he ran circles around his master. His master smiled at him all the time, and that warm feeling inside kept growing. He was glad that he had such a long tail now, it made bigger ripples of gratitude in the air than other dogs could!