Learning Love From the Simple

I always loved Charlie Gordon just the way he was.  From my first reading of Flowers for Algernon, Charlie captured my heart. Just the way Kenny did.  His simplicity was pure, his smile captivating, and his vulnerability huge.  It was easy to hurt him and the general population felt no bones about doing so.  He was fair game — for hurtful names, pranks, teasing, manipulation.

I’m not sure what it is that makes people think that the Kennys and the Charlie Gordons of the world don’t feel pain.  Maybe it’s because they don’t hurt back.

Frustration comes easily when rote tasks are struggles.  It’s embarrassing when your peers are studying algorithms and you’re studying how to read a bus schedule and count change.  But if you fall, the Kennys and the Charlie Gordons are quick to extend a hand; if you miss the ball they cheer you on…because they understand that.

It was hard not to like Kenny if you took the time to know him. His smile was infectious, his heart was huge, and his hugs were wonderful.  He loved, he trusted and he followed.  And that made him prey, ultimately costing him his freedom and his life.

I’m angry with those who took his life but the greater struggle is reconciliation with those too impatient to wait, too lazy to teach, too unwilling to sacrifice. Those who said “I love you” but used him for their own good, left him when it was convenient, drew him near when it paid, and in the end threw him to the wolves.

I want there to be a special place in Hell for those who torture the simple but Kenny wouldn’t like that I feel that way.  He’d tell me they don’t really mean it. I still have much to learn from him.

I always loved Kenny just the way he was.

Self-Harm Awareness Month: Someone Tear March Out Of My Calendar

The scars beneath the Love

This is self-harm awareness month. I was reminded by a Facebook post on my daughter’s wall and by a teacher friend who mentioned self-harm awareness day in a text to me on the first of the month. I was glad that I wasn’t eye to eye with either of them because I wouldn’t want them to see me flinch.

Every day used to be self-harm awareness day in my house. Cutting is an addiction that crept into our home like evil smoke oozing under a door.

I don’t see anything.

It’ll go away.

Open a window and air it out.

Turn on a fan.

Go out another door and stand in the fresh breeze.

I tried it all. But the smoke kept coming.

It made me choke. It made me cry.

It made me look foolish as I flailed against it with my hands trying to push it away only to find that I was spreading it throughout the house.

I understand, yet I will never understand. My mind comprehends the literature but my heart cannot comprehend the reason. We love our kids. They know we love them. We are good parents.   How can this happen here, in a good home, to us? How could we not know? What did we do wrong?

Pain stops pain? No. Just stop hurting yourself. What do you mean it’s not you that’s hurting you. I want to understand. I’m trying.  Relief?  In open wounds and blood? You’re finding relief?

You may not shave, you must use Nair!  I still had exacto knives in the craft cupboard? I thought I’d  . . . .

The physical pain stops emotional pain. I hear you, really I do, but you’re wrong it just masks it.  That’s good enough for you? You know it’s temporary and you still do this to your body? Why? Stop yelling. I know you’re angry. I know you’re hurting.  I’m trying.  How can I be trying too hard? Come back. I care. I care.

 Blood soaked tissues wadded into cotton balls sharp enough to cut my heart populate dark corners of the house.

Encounters with emotional pain stipe your arms, your belly, your thighs.

I hear your cries for help but cannot answer. I am mute with the very pain you are fighting.

Stop for me….please. You’re right. It’s not about me. It’s your battle. But I’m here. I’ll always be here.

There is hope  –   for us both.

It’s self-harm awareness month.

I am aware

and I love you.

Both of Me: The Art of Being Shy

I grew up in Camelot.  I was lucky to live there long enough to discover rock n roll with the same kids who threw sand at me in kindergarten.  I could see both grammar school and high school from my front steps and walk to the beach where sun, sand and surf made up a little piece of heaven.  It was a cloistered world of white gloves and hats where crime would never think to go. The milk man let himself in and donuts and bread rolled up to the curb in a yellow truck wafting sweet aromas. There is a part of me that still lives there, unable to let go and move away. But move away I did, with the ire of a protesting convict banished from the city for being too happy by parents succumbing to the lure of bigger and better.

Attending three high schools was a challenge for a pathological introvert. My mother forced me into “charm school” to draw me out of my shell (which is why I’m so darn charming now I suppose) and then into a mini career in modeling.  I loved the runway because I could leave myself backstage and enjoy an anonymous persona in the limelight.

Later I got a clerical job and moved into an apartment with my best friend.  Before long we were both married with children and going our separate ways.  She headed north for Silicon Valley and I went south to Orange County, a hotbed of Republican conservatism, where I tumbled through the looking glass into local and national politics.  It was both macabre and magical.  I was painfully shy and mingling with the beautiful people and the movers and shakers was somewhat this side of a blessing.

Being an introvert of this magnitude is physically painful. Muscles tense and everything hurts. Sometimes it’s hard to move like it was the first time I found myself in a room full of celebrities and a president and embarrassed myself by having all the animation of an ice sculpture. I’m sure I made a wonderful impression, dressed to the nines standing there feeling like I’d melt if I had to make social small talk with someone I didn’t know except as a myriad of characters on the big screen. I don’t do small talk. Not even at neighborhood functions. Like pumping my own gasoline, it’s a skill I never wanted to perfect.

I like people, I do. There’s even a part of me that would like to do some public speaking. Not the part of me that feels like she will throw up on her shoes if she is in a group larger than three – the other part.

When life exceeds fiction

     The pressure’s off.  I quit.

It seems like forever that I’ve been expected to write a book.  I freely admit to a love of writing and I’ve courted the idea for a long time. Of course by book I meant a book, not a novel. I don’t live in a world with room for make believe. My life has been surreal enough that I don’t need to add to the cadre of events with conjured up problems.

Don’t misunderstand. I want to be a writer. I have always wanted to be a writer. I think it’s who I am. (If it’s not, this wouldn’t be a good day to bring it up.)

To write fiction one must read fiction. That seems plain enough.

My attempts to hang out with the characters of Danielle Steele or David Baldacci never seem to get beyond one sitting. At the next reading I generally pick up an alternative selection from among the how-to books or better yet a magazine that allows me to pseudo-read and escape the novel I live in.

I have to read How Children Learn so I can be a guiding hand in the fuzzy world of learning disabilities. I have to read The BiPolar Child or A Bright Red Scream to find out why children want to harm themselves or others. Why, oh why, would I want to spend countless hours creating fictional people only to give them dragons to slay?

Well, write about your own life they say.

I can’t. It’s too unbelievable to be fiction.

Once upon a time I did write a book on a disability and it could have been a good book, a great book, if only I’d been willing to listen to the editor, but instead it sits as a box of typewritten pages. That’s a story for another day.

A year or so ago I bent to the pressure and tried writing a novel (which by the way is not a good way to start a first-fiction experience – the old eat an elephant one bite at a time adage, yada, yada, yada).

I have a requirement to overthink things.  I read how-to-write-a-novel books (that was fun) and bought multiple writing software programs that had me so wrapped up in structure I forgot I was crafting a story.  Learning new terms was great, but there was a continuing expectation in these programs that I fill blank spaces with fictional ideas.

I tried, I really did. But I’m done.

From now on I will sit in front of this glaring screen or in a waiting room with a notepad for at least a little time each day and require myself to write something. A paragraph, an essay, rambling thoughts, insightful musings.  It really doesn’t matter – I’m just going to write. But take heed – some of it may end up here and I can’t tell you what topic you’ll find.  But it won’t be a novel.

Life just isn’t like that.