Thursday, October 12, 2006

the first time I was called a bastard

I was quite young
Dad took me with him
in his heavy red boat
He handed me the oars and told me
how to position them to row well


"Row!" he told me
I tried hard
But the oars were too big for me
So was the boat

Being too small didn't count for anything

Dad grabbed an oar
and flailed
away at me
as I cowered in the stern
as far away from him as I could get

But he failed
to make me bigger and stronger
that day

He railed
at me

For the first time
he called me a bastard

I was a bastard
because I was too small
to row his big boat
with its big oars.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

my bicycle

My nice new bicycle was stolen this last Sunday. I had ridden it to the grocery store two blocks away to get some medicine. I chained it up at the bike rack outside the store. I was in the store for about 30 minutes. When I came out it was gone. It took awhile for the reality of it to sink in. Then I went inside the store to report the theft. The store personnel were very helpful and sympathetic. Yesterday I called our city crime report center to tell them of the theft.

How do I feel? I feel sad. I feel some grief and loss, even though a bicycle is only an inanimate object. My wife and I spent a fair amount of money on our new bicycles so that we could ride together and get needed exercise.

I think I am reacting to the theft in a better way than I would have in the past. I'm not obsessed about it. I'm not thinking about it all the time. I'm not imagining ways that I could get revenge on the thief if I could ever find him (or her). I recognize that my loss is the same that occurs to many others who get their bicycles or, worse, cars stolen in our city. I don't feel any different. In the past I might have felt like what happened to me just confirmed that I was a victim, destined to continue to be victimized. But vicitimization is not my destiny. I am believing the truth more and more, and that is progress in my recovery journey.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

John Mark Karr, Duane Morrison, Charles Carl Roberts, Mark Foley, and me

This last week has had difficult U.S. national news. Duane Morrison sexually assaulted girls at a high school in Colorado and then shot one of them to death before killing himself. Charles Carl Roberts shocked the nation when he entered an Amish schoolroom, tied up several girls, shot several to death and then himself. Mark Foley resigned immediately from the U.S. House of Representatives when it became public knowledge that he had been emailing underage pages in Congress with sexually explicit messages. And we still don't know what will happen to John Mark Karr, who claimed to have killed JonBenet Ramsay, but didn't, but remains in jail on child pornography charges. And then there is me.

What do each of these men have in common? They each experienced something so difficult and tramautic when they were young that it left a lifelong scar. Unresolved trauma and pain from child abuse almost always finds a way out of our being, sometimes crippling us with fear, as it has for me, or pointing us toward abusing others as oneself has been abused.

God spoke to this issue (Exodus 20) in one of the Ten Commandments, when he said:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me
Because I grew up in a family where there were generations of anger and dysfunction, I sometimes thought about this concept of generations affected by ancestors' sins. I have come to the point where I do not want to believe that this was an inevitable curse upon future generations. Rather, I think there is a psychological principle, that unless you break out of generational dysfunction and get help so you can recover, you will keep passing on the dysfunction. And it can often come out in various ways, including depression, lack of self-worth, addictions, violence, and abuse.

I was abusive to my wife and children but did not know it. I thought I being a good father and husband when I would lecture my family about "being careful," "trying not to have a car accident," etc. My lectures would go on and on. Our children would tell me, "Dad, you've already said that."

I thought I was free from the cycle of abuse which I had received at the hands of my father, but I really wasn't. I was almost proud of the fact that I never hit any of my family in anger. (I never hit them when not angry either!) But my family lived in fear of my lectures. They did not feel safe, free to make mistakes which really are a normal part of life.

We all feel shocked when a man such as Charles Carl Roberts enters a one-room Amish school and kills innocent girls. But he had a secret simmering inside himself for twenty years. He was living with guilt and inner turmoil. He "took care" of his problem violently.

There are many walking time bombs out there. It's not just suicide bombers in the Middle East. There are many in the U.S. and Canada and elsewhere around the world with secrets simmering inside them.

Our schools, churches, synogogues, mosques, and other institutions need to be more proactive to help hurting children before they hurt others. Can this be done without violaint people's civil rights and privacy? I would hope so. We owe it to each other to help each other. But we can't help unless people tell us their secrets. And people don't want to tell their secrets because they are ashamed or because, as in my case, I didn't think it was relevant to the rest of my life which was pretty good. But I was wrong.

When the next shooting occurs, or the next violation of little girls or boys, it is almost inevitable that a little searching will turn up that the offender was himself or herself violated and had not yet dealt with it so that he or she could begin the painful road of recovery.

Oh, before I end this, I want to make it clear that I do not believe that everyone who has been abused or experienced some unresolved trauma will become a murderer. But I do think that unresolved pain usually finds some way to affect us negatively until we address it and begin recovery. I did not become violent from the abuse I experienced, but I lived with fear, sometimes paralyzing fear. I was prickly, self-protective. After therapy started I sank into a terrible depression, perhaps one which had been with me for years but which I had covered up with busyness, work, and achievement. Unresolved pain often leads to difficulties in relationships, including marriage.

When will we begin to make it safer for people who have been abused to get help?

I hope it won't take three or four, or seven generations, before someone intervenes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Domestic abuse Violence: The Facts Behind the Myths

This floats my boat!

Our son called me today and asked what I would be doing at 4 pm. I forget what I told him, probably something about getting some more work done. He said he had an idea for me to go canoeing with him and his son. Well now, that sounded much better than work! We had a good time. It was Memory Making. And therapeutic for me, getting to do something with my
family and there were no abusive words. I even was able to sit in the back of the canoe and paddle it so it could be steered. I assumed because our son is so athletic (he far outshines me) and because he's done a fair amount of canoeing that he would have mastered the steering motions, but he hadn't. I didn't gloat but it made me feel good that there are still some things I can teach my son. We took supper in a sack with us and ate it along the bank of the river where we beached the canoe for awhile.

This was one of those special gifts that God drops into my life every once in awhile. It meant a lot to me. Our son *wanted* to do this with me!! Maybe I'm OK after all. My head sometimes tells me I am. I decided with my therapist that I am. But it is still difficult to drop the old feeling, from the child abuse, that I'm not OK. I'm trying to be patient as I disconnect from that old lie. Old lies die hard!

It's time for bed,
my canoeing muscles are sore