Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The butcherwoman of Phoenix - III

Part I
Part II

Sometime shortly after we hit the city limits, my aches subsided in conjunction with an epiphany. In the silence, as I was sitting in the shame, my mind ran through old childhood memories. Unpleasant ones. Ones, I’m assuming, that comprised the lens through which I was viewing this fight.

I’ve been “on the path” for over ten years now, and I have done a lot of work on my relationship with my parents. Forgive my parents? Check. No longer need to try to change them? Check. My happiness is no longer tied to their opinion of me? Check. And yet, I noticed a lingering and inappropriate anger response I still had to certain situations. This inappropriate anger response signified that there remained a lingering pocket of anger towards my parents that I had yet to locate and release. I hadn’t been able to find it. Until, as I remembered the butcherwoman of Phoenix slapping me across the face; my enraged father ripping the passenger seat from our family car while my mother and I cowered in the back seat; my father kicking me under my sister’s crib; and my mother scrubbing my skin raw in the bath, screaming over and over that I was a dirty girl; I finally also saw the others who had allowed my childhood abuse to go on. Well meaning aunts and uncles who took me in for the night with pitying eyes, but who never reported my parents to social services. Schoolteachers too harried to notice a little girl who preferred to play by herself and made few friends. Friends’ parents, who thought my family odd but who never saw anything dangerous enough to move them to interfere. My own beloved grandmother who, once or twice, tried to break up my parents’ battles by shushing my father as if he were not a virile and dangerous man of 30, but still a child in grade school - God bless her ineffectual bravery. This was the hidden pocket of anger that was still controlling my behavior. With each memory, my anger swelled until I could name its entirety “The World’s Apathy.” And then it miraculously subsided.

Connecting with and naming my anger was only the first step. Once the anger was named and my aches subsided, grief replaced them both. Grief feels like the common cold. My nose runs. My throat is sore. I am tired and achy and all I want is sleep. If shame is the hardest emotion for us to feel, grief is the second hardest. And I am, literally, sick with it right now. As children, we’re supposed to view the world as a benign place and feel secure and protected against its atrocities, at least until we become adult enough to protect ourselves (provided we’re even conscious of those atrocities at all). But that worldview was ripped from me early. While other children played in stupid unconcern, I kept turning from my Light Bright to look over my shoulder lest the next horror the world launched caught me unawares. And that sucked. I hate that I was always different, that I never got that simple childhood that so many others were allowed.

So I grieve the loss of my childhood: of never having had a period of my life when I viewed the world as benign and harmless and, since I never owned that worldview, my subsequent barring from the club of normalcy. I’ll probably still be grieving at the end of the week. I will potentially be grieving for the rest of my life. It would be a wicked pisser but for my brilliant body. By turning my grief into sickness, my body gives me the excuse I need to care for myself; to stay home and nurture myself with warm blankets, TV, hot soup; to turn off the phone and shut the door on that mean, evil world, and to replace it with a kind and sympathetic one, the one my parents should have given me. Only now, Belle, the adult, gives it to me. It’s called “parenting” myself, and this is how I heal my grief. This is how I teach myself that my childhood is over and that I am capable of turning what was once a dangerous world into a safe and hopeful one.

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