Sunday, January 21, 2018

Stephen King's It

At the moment I'm only half way through the reading of this book, and yet, I already understand why it was forbidden to me. It makes good sense now, and there is something terribly freeing in the flick of pages, passage of words, and growth of characters as I continue to pass through the lives of people in Derry, Maine.

It was probably somewhere near the mythical 1985 that I first read a book by Stephen King. I was around 10 years old and I was a ravenous reader. I went easily from Scholastic book of the month selections, to Tolkien, to King. When dragged along to things I didn't want to go to I'd find the place free books could be found and I would stock up on everything good I could get for whatever small change I had in my pockets. I was fairly good at this. How I came to read King, I couldn't tell you but I still remember Carrie and the Gunslinger while I was at the bright and shiny young age of 10 or 11.

Carrie taught me about orgasms, the Gunslinger made evil real and from there it was all Misery, and The Shining, and collections of short stories of gypsies, tramps, thieves, children adults. I was aware of the book It around the age of 12. This was the only story that was forbidden to me. El diablo Madre told me in no uncertain terms I was not allowed to read the book.

In all the things I fought her on and outright defied her on, for some reason, I gave her It. Oh, I read the Stand, and I would read the next three Gunslinger books, I'd hunt down old copies of King. My friends who were also readers helped me uncover his titles publishes as Bachman, and then puberty was well into full swing and I got a bit distracted by Johanna Lindsey and trying to survived my last few years at home.

It was forgotten.

Perhaps because there is a remake of the film that is rather everywhere, perhaps it was because King mentioned that "you could always read the book to see how the story ends", perhaps it is because I have been mentally working through a variety of things lately, that I decided I can/should/would read It now.

Half way through a thousand or so pages I suddenly found myself understanding exactly why this had been forbidden to me as a child. Goodness knows it's not the scary or erotic content. I was easily given Carrie, for goodness sake, not to mention a pile of Dean Koontz that did a lot more for my nightmares. I'd thumbed through the copy of the Joy of Sex more than a hundred times by the age of 10 and those good decision makers of my upbringing let me watch Fatal Attraction with them when I was 8.

No, it's wasn't the content, it was almost certainly the characters. Children who become adults in the most realistic way that you can see the connection between the child they were and the adult they would become. The line between making decisions, taking control, defying parents, doing the thing they needed to do to grow and become humans who, later, might have to make very difficult decisions as adults after having already made very difficult decisions as children. In short, the story of it (mind you I'm only half way through) is almost certainly a roadmap for autonomy written in clear, precise language and executed brilliantly in a way that I most certainly would have connect with. Living in a home where the need for complete subjugation, be it through fear, drugs, or alcohol, any kind of path to autonomy would be have been anathema.

Fortunately for me, I developed a strong path to autonomy anyway and managed to avoid the drugs and the booze that was easily supplied in the household. Unfortunately, I'm not without deep scars from the various other types of manipulation and control. In the end, it didn't matter, I found freedom and have never been blase about what it cost me.

This is, perhaps, the connection I have with the story I read now. A young girl how was forced to do adult things, an adult woman who sometimes is so very haunted by a past she can't quite recall despite all her other successes. I cannot say. What I do know, is that I'm glad I have finally put to rest a wall that has stood in my mind for over thirty years. Let those old barriers continue to fall away.

Let the peace on the other side stand taller and stronger.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dig Deeper

Since 2004, a part of my almost daily life is exercise. It was a hard thing to start at first but it has remained a constant. I work out hard. It hurts and I’m rather in a constant amount of pain because of some of my routines, but I will do them because of all the benefits.

Being able to lift 200lbs, for example, or not being a constant basket case of emotion, thanks the increased serotonin and the endorphins I get from a good workout. It’s not easy but I love doing it. 

When I started traveling a bit more constantly, I had to work to reprogram myself from the gym to the workout video. Flexibility was the key motivation for this switch and it has been a worthwhile switch. My first workout video love was Billy Banks and Tae-bo was a wonder to me. 

After about a year, feeling less than challenged and wanting more, I stumbled upon the Insanity series, with it’s lead Shaun T. That was that. I love the series, even if on the first day I realized I couldn’t do half the exercise. 

Push-ups? Nope. 

Jumping Jacks? Nope. 

Straight leg kicks? Well, thanks to Billy I could kick without to much trouble. 

The reality, though, was the first three months I spent doing Insanity I could barely do Insanity. My first goal: be able to complete all the moves. It took about three months, but eventually I got there. Then I completed the series, then I looked for me. 

Through it all, I fell madly in love with Shaun T. As a coach and am motivator, I find him to be inspiring, thoughtful, and even through the punishment, honest about what he is trying to help others work towards. I still get angry at Tania though, she always seems to get all the praise. 

I found out at some point last year, that Shaun T was visiting Chicago in January and decided to get a ticket to go. Everything that could possible go wrong managed to, but I showed up at the event, which was half therapy sessions half speaking, and all very much about the book Shaun T had just written exploring transformation. 

This is all important and useful stuff, and as an instructional designer while I could have provided some modifications to make the self reflection stations work a bit more smoothly, overall, it was excellently well done. 

It was just before the event that I read the jacket cover for the book that would be released, where it is made very clear that you will learn about Shaun’s early years, his own struggle with weight, and how he came to be the person we know today. It also makes it very clear that Shaun T was sexually abused as a child. 

In the event, waiting in the downtime, I read the better part of the book, and the part that was in so many ways relevant and painful for me to read. There was so much in it that mirrored my own life, my own childhood, and my own abuse that I found myself being completely overwhelmed by emotion. As I listened, an audience member rather than a stage presence, I found myself consoon the verge of tears. They why for me is simple: I know what I’ve been through and I know not only did I come out the other side of it but I have, in many ways, excelled. Here was a man who had been through similar things and come to similar achievements. Here was another soul proving that it’s possible to be on the recieving end of some of the worst things a person could ever experience and be okay. 

When I find others who suffered daily, systematic abuse by people that were supposed to be gaurdians, the experience always resonates. When those others have also managed to come through it and be stronger for it and good examples of how possible it is to carry on, I feel such a sense of overwhelming camradire. A need to gather together all of us, successful, thoughtful intelligent people that had to turn inwards and rely on ourselves to escape, to bring out all our stories and show the world loudly: it is possible to be more than the sum of that experience.

At the end of the even there were pictures and a book signing. I held my book open for the signing and Shaun looked up, signed walked on. I couldn’t speak. My heart was in my throat. I wanted to hug him, hold him, tell him that he’s been the man in my life at 5 a.m. for so long I can’t imagine a world without it. Tlel him that I know what it was like, the thing he went through, because I went through it, too. I wanted to thank him. I wanted to say anything. 

He walked on. 

No faullt of his. I was choking on words and had no way to express them. I tried to turn on my public persona, the mask that I step into when I have to do difficult things, the shell that can be fully without emotional response. This allows me to be very good at what I do, but I couldn’t hold onto my normal public self and I was on the verge of sputtering and fading out. 

I rallied as best I could for the picture taking. I said what I needed to say. “I was an abused like you. Five years. I really appreciate you sharing your story.” 

We hug. I manage to choke back tears. 

“You keep at it. You keep working through it. Don’t ever give up.”

“I’ve lost a lot of weight,” I respond. 

“That’s not what I meant.”

I wish I’d had more time to tell him that I did more than hear him, I felt it too my soul. He was right, I was doing a thing I let myself do for a long time; hiding behind the fact that my body is big as the root of all evil, the reason for all the work, and the source of the most pain. 

Here is a thing about constant systematic abuse, the abuse is difficult to deal with so many of us find other ways to hurt that we can manage. Weight, drugs, booze can all be shields that we wrap around ourselves when it gets to be to real. 

Shaun T didn’t know me from anyone, I was just another fan girl, but with those words he cut right to the core of it and I knew. He knew. I made eye contact and turned and fled to the bathroom to cry because I couldn’t control it. There was so much emotion. 

“The first step is embracing being uncomfortable.” 

This is one of the truest things, regardless of the goal. Success requires being willing to be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is so much more than a bodies pain, the weight, the pressure of a thousand bad memories that sometimes want to take the spotlight way from the millions of good ones. 

Trust and Believe is probably one of the best known Shaun T-isms.

And I do. I trust and believe in my ability to keep working on being me, working on getting through the hard things and the dark days, and keeping up the push-ups, no mater how much pain there is. 

I can be uncomfortable. 

I can dig deeper. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Touch Me

It's been freezing in Chicago and the cold is starting to impact me. I want to write, I want to created, but the cold is freezing it all out.

I talk with Calembour "The words are hidden behind pieces of me and they won't come to the surface." 

"Those are good words," he points out.

In the end I decided the only thing is to go out. I've been complaining for days that I want out. 

"You'll be gone soon for almost two weeks!"

"Yes, but..."

The Publican is full of people and warmth and loud conversations. I don't know anyone here and this place is not nearly like the Lonely Hearts Club, but it's becoming a regular part of things I think of like home. 

My home. 

To me it matters.

There is meaning in that. 

Sitting, reading a book, living, in this now, in this political moment. I was watching as every various parts of culture sits and starts burning itself down. It's almost as if there is a thorn under the surface, one that you know is there but it's too deep to come out on it's own and you are too busy to deal with it. 

It's in that moment, sitting and reading, and generally enjoying not being in my house that the stranger standing next to me, who is a stranger, who is someone I do not know, who is certainly not someone I have met before, who is standing next to me puts his hand on my shoulder. 

This is nothing. 

This is such a small thing. 

This doesn't really matter. 

Just a guy being friendly, be nice. 

This is the moment, the political moment, the thorn moment, the all moment, the moment when you are watching everyone trying to burn it down and wishing you could hold them and tell them "just, breathe."

We are so far away from breathing. 

Here I sit and a stranger touches me and I practically slide off my chair into the floor to get away from his arm, but I don't slap it away, and I don't yell. I turn back to my book, my little world in my little black box. 

"I'm trying-"

"You're touching me inappropirately."

"What, no, I'm sorry."

I half smile. I turn back to my book. He apologizes thirty more times. I smile, I keep looking at my book. 

"I just, I'm sorry, I come here all the time, I feel like I know everyone, I'm sorry."

Finally I relent and absolve his concious, "It's fine, okay. I'm reading my book."

I could be angry. 

I could be offended. 

I could be hurt. 

The moment demands the absolute deconstruction of any inidividal who steps out of line. 

Get out the thorns with a nuclear bomb. 

It solves no problems, but everyone feels better. 

So I sit here thinking to myself, "It really is fine. 

Touch me. Give me your hands and your thoughtless gestures. Give me your shitty pick up lines and your horrible behavior. Lay it here, lay it all here."

I think this in my head. I'm willing to take those offhand, unthinking, momentarily embarrassing moments for you so the lynch mob will pass you by. Touch me, like Lamb's blood splashed above the door, and I'll keep you safe for the night. 

You and the others, and the others, and the others. 

If you must, touch me.