Family and friends reacted to the taboo question of domestic violence predictably according to their own subjective natures. My mom thought I looked like hell, but no mother I knew wanted to see her son hurt. I tried getting her to believe that as difficult as it was to see me like that I was on the right path. This was just a part of and not the final result of the journey. Still, given my history with relapse I understood her ‘once bitten, twice shy‘ attitude. Others were hush-hush. My sister bit her lip, but in doing so spoke the loudest. My first student said violence was a part of life though not the only way to get things done. I thanked him for helping me shine some light on such a dark topic.
Good friends told me outright to change my ways or they’d have to dump me. They didn’t want to; they had no choice. Squashing a ‘not-if-I-dump-you-first’ routine, I pondered the pros and cons of losing a twenty year friendship.
Sure their lifestyle was good – for them, but I’d met bigger and smaller fish in the sea of life who thought the same. So, it was all relative. Just because I didn’t have a job didn’t mean I was partying my life away. In spite of my HIV, drug use, schizophrenia, homelessness, paranoia and this and that ‘oia’, it didn’t stop me from reaching out and helping others. Everyone had issues – them too. So why did they make it sound like gratitude was dependent on their definition of work. I mean making money was one thing; making it the sole means to an end was almost mercenary.
Of all the jobs I’d ever had, untangling and rebuilding my foundations from the inside out had to be the toughest, most underpaid (monetarily) and least respected job around. Paychecks were just one form of validation, yet volunteering and donating time for ‘free’ were just as valid. The bottom line was although self–improvement paid so little, not doing so cost society even more! Maybe it really was a ‘cash from chaos’ system.
They use to say I gave others too much credit. Was the same true of them too? Jesus had said ‘let his who is without sin cast the first stone.’ While I wasn’t Jesus and didn’t want to be Him either, I was amazed at how family and friends automatically assumed they were in the driver’s seat. I wanted the chance to drive too just like they’d been given, but for now I was content to ride in the passenger side or back seat of our relationship vehicle. Without the responsibility of driving though, the view was better. But when they ‘road-raged’ over others, I really didn’t want to drive with them at all – no matter if I was getting a ‘free’ ride or not.
In a vision, I saw how relationship was like playing on a seesaw: both sides met and got on at the zero point, went up and down, had some fun then left to come back another day. But as a kid I recalled being asked to play by someone I didn’t know. At first it was fun until he stopped leaving me up in the air against my will. Sure the view was good from up there, but if he jumped off my ass would’ve had an even better view of the ground on the way down! After a while being in the ‘up’ position wasn’t fun and wasn’t how the game was played either.
I saw there and then how being ‘up’ wasn’t always such a good thing – it depended on who was in the down position! Although I disliked myself for doing so, I was put in the awkward position of resorting to manipulation to come back down to earth. “Oh my god, you should see this. Look! There goes a friend. Oh wow, there’s so much to see up here. Would you like to…?” It was childish manipulation for sure, but it was all I had at the time. And the best thing was it worked! But back on the ground I was put in the same position of doing to him what he’d done to me. Unable to trust him, I jumped off and ran for my life, leaving him cursing in the background. Oh well, he’d started the whole thing!
it wasn’t until later and trust had been established that we toyed with how to play see-saw. Being on the ends made feeling the rush of going up and down more intense. While moving inwards decreased its intensity. then, at its center I was able to stand tall and surf the ups and downs of other people’s see-saw games. Sure it wasn’t as much ‘fun’, but the best thing was I could just jump off and not hurt anyone else!
It was a metaphor used in the games of the weakest link, producer-consumer, rich and poor, more and less and good other-bad other. Who’d have thought that from such childish games so many relational and interpersonal skills could be developed? Was trust another piece of the jigsaw puzzle I had to learn?
I tried trusting them by caretaking their feelings, but sounded half mad even to my own ears. I knew if they were so evolved they’d see through my guise, but if I couldn’t be real – warts and all – in front of friends then where could I? Doubts gnawed on my fragile mind. ‘What was friendship? How would I know if they or anyone were still my friends or not? Had we ever been friends?’ Through it all though, at least I saw how being unable to express myself coherently was where I needed healing. To me was worth something.
Inside my heart and armed with my truth, I looked them directly in the eye daring them to make the final cut. Scared, but not afraid of being scared, I held court with my voices. ‘Would speeding things up make me miss valuable learning opportunities and impede my growth? Was handling them part of my test? But if I couldn’t handle them, how could I even hope to handle others? Was I supposed to let them go for passing judgment on me? I had something they didn’t, access to forces, people, places and things they couldn’t even begin to understand. Still, maybe the same was true for them too. No wonder it was so difficult to get along with people!’ But rather than bite the hand that fed me, I bit my tongue and nodded agreeably.
My life flashed before my eyes. Not used to not getting my way, my heart throbbed. Tears pooled behind eyes full of memory. Scared of letting one fall and opening the floodgates, energetic fingers played with the tap. My voices came to my rescue. ‘Do whatever you need to do, but be careful and true to yourself.’ Humbled, I wondered if they heard my voices or even had voices of their own. If they did they’d probably been drowned out by a ‘comfortably numb’ existence?
Whether they were wrong or right, I could take their advice for what it was and walk my own path. If they couldn’t respect that then maybe they weren’t my friends after all. Time would tell. It was the only way.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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