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Posts Tagged ‘Betrayal’

I would be stuck

Sitting at my desk

With a piece of paper

Unable to write

Not knowing what to say

Or how to say it.

I felt like a painter

Sitting at an easel

Not knowing what to paint

Not knowing how to make

That first brush stroke.

 *

I knew I had a writer’s block

I just didn’t know what

To do about it.

I finally managed to gut it out

And began to write

I wanted to write a book

So I hid out in a library

Way at the back

So no one could find me

Or ask me

What I was doing

It seemed pretty weird

At the time.

I just didn’t know why

I needed to do it that way.

Finally, I finished a book.

Then it was time

To send it to publishers

That felt more scary

Than writing had been

I still didn’t know why,

But I managed to gut it out

And sent my book

Off to publishing companies

*

Then I had that most amazing

Phone call.

A publisher called me back.

“I loved your book.  I spent

the entire weekend reading it.

I couldn’t put it down.”

You’d think

That was really exciting news

For a writer.

Instead – I was terrified.

Crippled with fear.

It seemed pretty weird

At the time

I just didn’t know why that was.

 *

Then a second publisher was interested

I tried to gut it out

And keep moving forward.

I couldn’t do it.

I told myself

“I’ve just lost touch

with the project.

I need time to reflect.”

I walked away from the book

And the publishers.

 *

I got so frustrated,

That at one point

I wrote a poem about it.

*
“The desire to express,

I was taught to repress

Has caused me a block

I wish to unlock.

 *

I pick up the pen,

I start writing again,

I feel the flow,

And then I stop.”

 *

I went on my way

For a number of years,

Then felt led to write a second book.

It was to be a novel,

About a part of

My Dad’s healing journey.

Writing that book led

To a grand adventure

That included

Working on wheat harvest

To explore my Dad’s path.

I came home

I managed to gut it out,

And wrote that novel.

Again,

Publishers were interested

And I felt déjà vu

As the whole thing happened again.

I walked away from that book,

Saying

“I’ve lost touch with the project,

I need time to reflect.”

 *

By this point I was so frustrated

I decided

If I couldn’t get past this whole

Writer’s block,

I would just take up golf.

And at one point,

I did just that.

I bought some golf clubs

Determined to leave writing behind

Forever.

 *

But the desire to write

Was just that strong

I had to keep going.

It led to a most unexpected place.

Back to my grandmother’s house

When I was eight years old.

I remembered something she had said.

She had asked me

What I wanted to be

When I grew up.

With the joy of a child I said

“Oh, I want to be a famous writer.”

She frowned, and said,

“Oh no, you don’t want to do that.”

Puzzled, I fell for the bait,

And asked: “Why not?”

With an evil grin on her face,

She said,

“Because if you do that,

They’ll call you crazy

And lock you up.”

*

So there it was

The reason

My writing

Would get locked up

The reason I hid in a library

To write a book

The reason I wouldn’t

Let my books

See the light of publication.

 *

Now as an adult,

I could write off

What she had said

As the ramblings of a somewhat

Nutty old grandma.

But when I was eight,

I couldn’t figure that out,

Especially when she told me

“Don’t talk about this.”

 *

And later I remembered,

She hammered the nails

Of her evil intentions

Into my heart

With extremely vicious

Lies and actions

Abusive and cruel,

Which built a wall

Around my writing

That I couldn’t overcome.

*

But by bringing to the surface

What had locked up

My writing for

Forty five years,

At least

I had something

To work on.

It led to a lot of hard work,

Releasing the pain,

Overcoming what had been

Burned into my soul.

I knew I had made

A lot of progress,

When I published my first book.

 *

Now I am writing

My next book

The story of how Grandma

Tried to poison my soul

And my journey

To overcome the writer’s block

She gave me.

I will expose those lies

To the light

And let them wither up and die

Like lies deserve to do.

**************

Photo Credits:

Images From – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection

“Pen on Paper” Completed in 2004 to serve as the basis for the publicity of a retreat for authors entitled Writers Refuge. jlseagull @ flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Attack of the Lunesta Moth (cropped)”; original by Maxintosh @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait, Walking Away: On one of the jetties at Gräsvik” Misteraitch @flickr.com Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Mud Golf on Orcas,” by wiselyb @ flickr.com.  Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

“Scary_04″ Aliwest44 @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Locked Up” Derekskey @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Big Chain” Shaycam @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

Book Cover copyright by Dan L. Hays

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I vowed to myself

“I will never be

Like my Dad was

Toward me.

I just won’t!”

I wanted to have

Nothing to do with him.

His path

Was not mine.

*

Then one day

I read a poem.

*

A poem I had written

When I was

Fourteen years old.

*

The poem read:

A fiery, bubbling demon

Against the sky.

The huge volcano.

Lava pouring from its lip,

Like angry words hastily spoken.

It seems to be making fun

Of someone below it.

Or trying to shame a person

For doing a wrong.”

I was astonished

At how early

I had realized

My Dad’s

Venomous tongue.

I said to my mentor,

“See, that poem

Is about my Dad.”

*

His simple response

Is tattooed on my heart.

He quietly replied:

“Is it?”

*

I was stunned

As the truth

Of his words

Clutched my soul.

I had become

      Just like my Dad

*

My Dad at age 19

Me at age 19

My words had

Been harmful

To many people.

I constantly

Had to make up for

The damage I had done

With my sharp tongue.

*

It gave me a task –

To uncork

My own volcano.

Find out

What fueled

Such deep anger.

It became

My commitment.

My life’s goal.

*

It was critical

That I do so.

Imperative

That I solve this problem.

I was watching my Dad

As his health suffered:

Heart attack,

Open heart surgery,

Colostomy,

Not following doctor’s orders,

Overweight, still smoking

And just

Sitting on the anger.

I was watching my Dad

Commit slow suicide

By stuffing

His own anger.

He had sobered up

But the past was the past

And he wanted no part

Of figuring it out.

He would not deal with it

Or even admit

How angry he still was.

*

So he sat on white knuckles

And it was killing him.

My Dad at age 43

I knew my Dad

Would die early.

I knew that I

Would die early too

If I didn’t do

Something drastic.

That’s why my task

Was so necessary.

To not be like

My angry Dad.

*

It led to

A lot of hard work –

Uncovering abuse,

Healing wounds

Releasing anger –

But without hurting anyone.

First, do no harm.

I became

A completely

Different person.

Calm, alive,

Safe for other people.

The venom purged

The volcano disappeared.

*

Then years later

I had a flash of awareness.

Had my Dad

Not sobered up

He would have died

Many years

Before he did.

It was a paradox.

Even while sitting

All that anger

He helped many people.

After I delivered the eulogy

At his funeral.

One man said to me

“Your Dad

Saved my life.”

I knew from his look

He meant it literally.

*

Then I put

All the pieces together.

My Dad –

Who abused me

When he was drunk,

Illuminated my path

To healing

By his example

By his journey of recovery.

And in that way,

I want to be

Just like my Dad.

Me at age 58 at a high school reunion, after a night of dancing!

*******************

Last Saturday night I read a new poem at an open mic event.  The next morning I got up and wrote three new poems.  “I Just Won’t” is one of those poems.  I will read it this Saturday night at the open mic event!

Photo Credits:

Don Swanson via Wikimedia. Creative Commons via Wikimedia.

Pictures of Dan and his Dad, Copyright Dan Hays. All rights reserved.

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How My Writing Got Locked Up.” An author writes an inner child exercise, and discovers a horrible incident with his grandmother when he was eight years old that locked up his writing for many years.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credit:

“Locked Up” Derekskey @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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“I Can Have You Committed!” An author writes an inner child exercise, and discovers a threat by his grandmother when he was eight years old that locked up his writing for many years.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credit:

“Henry Hobson Richardson 1870 Buffalo State Asylum Buffalo NY 1332″ Bobistraveling @ Flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some Rights Reserved.

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This letter was written in response to a bogus intervention, as chronicled in the post “The Betrayal.”

What I did to deal with my anger is written in the post “The Anger Contract.”

My sponsor in one of the 12 step programs, after finding out the details of the night the group took me to Denny’s, encouraged me not to be silent – but to confront the offenders, in an appropriate way. I was so angry I didn’t feel safe trying to talk to them in person.  So I began to write a letter to each of them.  I wrote and discarded 4 or 5 versions, each a little less angry and confrontive.  But they helped me get some of the feelings out of my system, so I could write a more appropriate version.  I let it sit for several days.  Then I had several people read it to ensure it was a balanced response. I hand wrote and mailed a copy to each of the six people who had been at Denny’s and saying things to me that night.

The letter follows:

August 12, 1988

Dear ______,

The time when the group of you came to my house and took me to Denny’s has been a devastating emotional experience for me.

That day I had been in great pain.  I came home (from the party) because it was right for me.  I was vulnerable, and I needed space.

When you all came to my house, you each looked so agitated, I was mistrustful.  I felt invaded, unsafe.

When you said you were doing this out of love, but what I felt was your fear and anger, I became confused, disoriented.  My child ran and hid.

I felt attacked, accused, with no one to support me, protect me, defend me, affirm me.  I felt alone, so alone.

I felt betrayed, rejected.

When I looked in your eyes and it seemed you didn’t believe what I said about my reality, it hurt me deeply, and I later cried like my soul was dying.  That really hurt.  I did not feel heard.

The message I received was that you did not think I could take care of myself.  I felt discounted.  I was insulted.  I found out later that what fueled your action was talk at _____’s party that I might be at home contemplating suicide.

I was humiliated.

Then I grew angry!

VERY angry.  How dare you, etc, etc ….

I am angry still.

So I say, I love you, and I am angry with your behavior.

I believe your actions were inappropriate, impulsive, and improperly motivated.

But so have been my old anger reactions.  I am working hard on them, and I pledge to you to do my best to give you no cause to fear my anger.

And this means:

— I will look at you, but not with “The Look” – my angry face.

— I will say hello and acknowledge your presence.

— I may not be able to hug you.

— I may be very quiet for a while, so not to speak in haste.

— I may or may not be able to approach you, but you are free to approach

me if you wish.  If I withdraw, it is because I grow angry and need space.

— I may look sad – seeing you brings up the pain of that horrible lonely night.

— If you wish to express feelings to me, I will listen, but will not respond or

react.  If I am not in a place to receive it, I will tell you so.

I say again, I love you and I am angry with your behavior.

Love,

Dan

—-

Note: In the time since the Intervention and the events that followed, only one of the participants has ever talked with me about it.  He was the prime motivator behind it all.  He owned his part fully, and that what they did was terribly wrong.  “No one deserved what happened to you that night, Dan.”  His words were enormously healing.

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This Anger Contract was my response to the events chronicled in my previous post, “The Betrayal.” A bogus Intervention had been done to me, and had forced me to get in touch with deep anger that I had been trying to release for several years.  I knew I needed to do something radical to handle the situation, to be able to process my anger, yet not hurt anyone in the process.  I had prepared contracts as a part of my job, and it suddenly occurred to me to prepare this contract.  I knew if I committed to this document, I would honor it.

I had the original of this document signed by two people as witnesses.  These two people knew all the participants, and had been involved in the party that led to the event.  They were also the two people in whose arms I cried deeply about the horror of that evening. Heartfelt thanks to those two people – you know who you are.

I adhered to this contract for 2 years.  The full events of that time will be included in my future book, “The Tiger Unveiled.”

DAN L. HAYS

ANGER CONTRACT

AND

SELF COMMITMENT

August 1, 1988

County of Harris

State of Texas

Whereas I, Dan Hays, attest that the following conditions and circumstances exist and did occur.

1.  On the night of July 23, 1988, a group of six people came to my house late at night, woke me up and got me out of bed.  As a group they took me to Denny’s and did an Intervention on me.  The stated purpose was to confront my pattern of backing away from friends.

In the course of this Intervention, these people did express issues for which they were angry at me and hurt by me.  Each of these persons was in a high state of personal distress.  They projected numerous of their own personal fears upon me.  They cast numerous accusations at me, which would only appropriately be addressed with each person singly.  By nonobjection by the group to said accusations, the group gave power and group approval of and acceptance of those accusations.  They gave me no positive feedback, and no support for what I might be feeling.

I later discovered that the basis of this action was a rumor which had been spread – publicly to a larger group, to my embarrassment, that I was at home contemplating suicide.  This rumor had no basis in reality.

Another party who was not present for any of the previous actions, and had not been around me for three weeks, called my sponsor and alerted him that I was in a critical state of emotional distress.

All of the above parties, those who came to my house, and the one who called my sponsor, will hereinafter be referred to as The Abusers.

2.  I have had a pattern of verbal abuse of people in the past, caused by low impulse control, which manifests itself as “angry words hastily spoken.”  In this pattern I use my intellect, my ready access to words and verbal expression, and my anger to abuse and hurt others.  My mouth goes off and my brain shuts off.

People have learned to fear me because of this pattern.

3.  Another pattern of abuse I have had is one of “the silent treatment,” in which I will not speak to a person, but my great personal anger manifests itself through “The Look,” and people actually fear my anger.  They fear the time when my anger will explode and lead to the verbal abuse.  I suspect people even fear me physically.  I know it because it was the way I feared my Father;  I know how it feels, and have seen that fear in the eyes of others, toward me.

4.  In January I did a 5th step on my anger toward my Dad.  I continued through the 7th Step and asked God to remove that anger.

5.  I recently read before another person, in the form of a grief therapy matrix what I call The Gun Incident.  I had remembered the incident in January, and in it, my Father beat and abused me severely, threatening to kill me with a hunting rifle with which I had seen him kill deer.  The number one listed loss I suffered from that incident had been my belief in my right to be angry.

6.  I had been working with a sponsor for two and a half years who was familiar with my pattern of avoidance of direct anger toward my Father, and who felt after hearing the full details of the Intervention incident that I had a complete right to be angry about what happened, and encouraged me to begin to express my anger in appropriate ways.

7.  In my opinion several of the Abusers were angry with me prior to the Intervention for issues I had with each of them singly, and wish to have me express my anger so they can feel justified in expressing their anger.  I believe anger was also a motivation for the Intervention.

The Abusers have in my opinion begun in subtle ways, and may be expected to continue, to provoke my anger with regard to the Intervention incident – with provocative statements, and even in one case, directly trying to get me to say I was angry.  The subconscious purpose of this is to expiate their guilt and shame with regard to said Intervention.

Given that all these conditions exist, I am experiencing extreme anger.  It is my sincere desire to only express that anger in appropriate ways, to not give any person further cause to fear me because of my anger.  Yet also, I have been one who has expressed anger, and no longer wish to express anger for the group, thereby allowing and enabling them to repress theirs.  I’m tired of carrying this group’s anger.

In an anger slip with happened several weeks ago, I hurt someone I loved, very deeply;  it affected me deeply, because for the first time I saw and felt the pain I had caused, in the eyes of the other person.  Behavior of that kind is unacceptable to me on any level.  I am willing to go to any lengths to stamp out this anger and verbal abuse pattern, yet while unburdening myself of the anger I still carry.  I know much of it is about my Father; he is dead and I can’t hurt him with my anger any longer.

Yet The Abusers are alive, all people whom I still love very deeply, and though I have a right to be angry, hurting them through compulsive patterns in response to my anger is unacceptable, because I lose – by letting my anger rule me, and by possibly causing irreparable harm to relationships.  I too, fear myself and my anger.

Because all these conditions exist, and are alarmingly volatile to me, I hereby make a commitment until August 1, 1989, at which time I will renegotiate this contract, either to extend it, or to terminate it.  The conditions I commit to are:

1.  I will not speak to any of The Abusers about the Intervention incident until it doesn’t matter any more.

2.  I will not knowingly put myself in any situation where I will or may speak from anger.  If I find myself in such a potential situation, I will remove myself immediately.

3.  I will not share in meetings about this incident, unless I can be clear that I am not indulging in hidden agendas of divulging my anger, by sending messages indirectly to any of the parties involved.

4.  Should any of The Abusers wish to talk to me, and it becomes apparent that they wish to talk about The Intervention Incident, I will request that I be allowed 10 minutes before hearing them.  During that time I will attempt to determine if I am in an angry state, and if so, will decline to listen.  If I agree and I begin to experience anger, I will immediately withdraw from the situation.

5.  Where necessary, I will remain completely silent, and hereby put a “gag order” on myself, rather than continue the abuse.

6.  Insofar as it is possible for me, I will attempt not to wear “The Look,” or to express anger by the silent treatment.  If I discover myself doing so, I will withdraw myself from the situation, and process the anger.

7.  I will use all methods now learned by me for appropriate expressions of anger, to dissipate this terrible load of anger I carry.  This includes angry letters not to be mailed, beating on the bed with the racket, yelling in the truck, further 12 step work if necessary, the boxing gym, yelling in the presence of a neutral observer at an empty chair symbolically containing the object of my anger, and any other methods which my Higher Power reveals to me.

8.  I will talk and keep talking to appropriate people about the past abuse I endured, the Intervention, which is still a hideous hurt for me

9.  Should I wish to waive any conditions of this contract, I will wait 5 days, and talk to at least 3 people about my reasons for feeling it necessary to abrogate this commitment.

I have been badly damaged and hurt by anger, both by my Father, and by The Abusers.  I have a right to my anger, all of it, and it is fully justified. But that anger does not justify the hurtful and damaging expressions of anger to which I have resorted in the past.  Those patterns are unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.  Let it end here.

I hereby solemnly agree and pledge to abide by the conditions of this self contract.  Signed this day,  _________________, until August 1, 1989.

____________________

Dan L. Hays

WITNESS:

_______________________

WITNESS:

_______________________

I next responded to the people in an appropriate way, in “The Intervention – Response Letter.”

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My next several blog posts are all related to the same topic.  They deal with something that happened to me in July of 1988.  My Dad had died the previous Thanksgiving, and I was still in the grief process over that loss.  As well, I was still involved with a 12 step program for people who had grown up around alcoholism.  That group had grown to be like a family for me.  Yet I had seen several situations where I needed to back away from people in that group, because the dynamic wasn’t healthy for me.

Then something happened that was one of the shocking turning points in my life.  I have given a brief description of it in my blog post “Talk of Tigers/The Tiger Unveiled.”  A group of people did an intervention on me.  It wasn’t the kind of intervention where there is advanced planning, careful preparation, and a professional is retained to keep the process on track.  Instead it was a testimony to the frightening power of codependency, and to the scariest aspect of a group working themselves up into a frenzy.  In that state, things happen that normally would not.  Those things happened to me.

This event will be the focus of an upcoming book I will publish entitled “The Tiger Unveiled.”  These posts that will follow are several of the key components of that book.  They don’t tell the whole story, but give greater depth perception to it.  For some reason, I am being led to share these pieces right now.  I think because it’s time to speak out, confront the sickness, and how the offenders can be protected and sheltered by a family system.

But I must also share what I did in response, which was a key to my whole recovery process.

My next three posts will be:

1)    The Betrayal

2)    The Anger Contract

3)    The Intervention – Response Letter

The Betrayal

(Written April 10, 1990)

Part One

July 23, 1988

As they sat down in a booth at Denny’s, what went through his mind was, “Oh, my God, this feels like an intervention.”  There were six of them, and one of him.  They had gotten him out of bed that night – he’d gone to bed early – and said they wanted to buy him dinner.  From the first his intuition was that something was wrong.  The people who came to his back door didn’t fit together – some of them didn’t even like each other.  And they wanted to buy him dinner?  This late?  But he had gone along with them – because he trusted them, gave power to their words – in a sense they were like family.

He had seen these people earlier in the evening at a party.  He had been in a lot of pain – because of grief over his Dad’s death, but also the pain of knowing that he must move on from some of these people.  He loved them dearly, but he had to detach from them, for his own well being, to save himself.  So when it got too emotionally crowded at the party, he went home.

Now as he sat in the middle of the booth, against the wall, surrounded by these people – trapped in a sense – his thought was:  listen to what they have to say.  Give them the benefit of the doubt – don’t get angry and get up and leave.  Trust them.  They began talking.  They told him they wanted to confront his pattern of backing away from people.  That felt strange.  Couldn’t that have waited until tomorrow?  They said they were doing this out of love.  As he looked at them, they looked frightened, agitated.  They made statements that sounded reasonable, but in some way sounded angry.  The things they said about him could have been true about them as well.  It sounded like they were describing themselves, but they were saying it was about him.

He grew confused.  For years these people had been praising his steps toward health – now they were saying he was sick.  They told him many things he “should” be doing.  That was more confusing – some of these people weren’t even doing what they were telling him to do.  It felt like nothing was good enough, or right enough.  He began to feel that he could have been a complete saint and not have measured up in their eyes.  He felt crushed under the weight of their expectations.  He began to feel a sense of unreality.

Then came the talk of fear of him committing suicide.  He grew more confused – where had that come from?  He tried to explain, to tell them he knew what was going on with him, he was OK.  As he looked at each person, he could see that they doubted.  They had already decided not to believe him.  It hurt.  It hurt a lot.  He began retreating, hiding inside himself, in a corner of his mind.

Their words grew more hurtful, more demanding.  They were accusing him of things, diagnosing him – telling him how sick he was.  Some of them grew more angry, more insistent.  Other statements sounded loving, but underneath was a passive anger, an attempt to rob his reality, to take away the essence of who he was.  He picked up on several statements of his that had been warped out of context.  They brought up things that he had said to one person in confidence.  He told them he did not feel it appropriate to tell them everything – it should be discussed with some of them privately, when he was ready, but not in front of a group.  But they went on.  Hammering, pressing.  And he was alone.  Against six people.  There was no neutral person there, and he had no allies.  He was alone.  The weight of the numbers bore down on him, crushing him.  He grew numb, withdrew into a shell. They mentioned love again, and took him home.

Part Two

Two days later it hit.  He cried deeply, and for a long time, in the arms of two friends.  His inner child cried out, “They tried to kill me.  They tried to take away all I was.  Someone protect me from them.  My God, I was so alone.”  And so he sobbed.

Several days after that, he found out the truth.  They had spread a rumor about him at the party.  That he was in deep emotional distress, and that he might even be at home contemplating suicide.  It was not true.  Had he been suicidal, he would have done it that night after they took him home.

But things began to make more sense.  He began to talk to people who had been at the party.  They gave their feedback.  Two people mentioned the talk of impending suicide.  Others used phrases like “mass hysteria,” and “little secret talking sessions.”  One person had encouraged them to wait a few days.  One person he had been talking to recently and who knew his emotional state had wanted to go along, but had been told “there are already enough people going.”  His one ally had been denied him.  It began to have the feel of a mob scene, people whipping themselves into a frenzy.  He began to think back.  He had seen each of the people when they first came to the party, and he now remembered that each looked agitated and strange even then.

He began to feel the violation, the irrational insanity of it all.  He grew angry.  He said so.  You got the wrong guy.  You got the wrong guy!

Part Three

And then – they turned their backs on him.  The rest of the family closed in to comfort and protect the offenders, clean up the mess, and hide the evidence – which was him.  So he got the closeout.  The big chill.  Gradually they made it clear he was no longer welcome.  A curtain of silence began to fall over the incident.  He said it didn’t bother him, it didn’t matter.  But behind his masks and walls he was a deeply sensitive young man, and it hurt – in some ways it hurt more than the original violation.  He hadn’t experienced this before.  He had been popular within the family;  now to be an outcast was a terrible, cruel punishment. He checked it out with people, to validate his reality.  It was confirmed – no one mentioned him much any more.

He went away for a time, to lick his wounds, to let the hurts begin to heal.  He began to deal with the deep anger welling up inside him.  Gradually he grew stronger once again.  He cleared out some of the hurtful messages they had burned into his brain.  He came back and began to reclaim those things they had tried to take away from him.  His sense of safety.   His ability to trust.

And he went on.  But he remembered.  He would probably always feel a twinge around that incident.  It left a scar.  He tried to make sense of it, to understand it.  He used words – soul rape, emotional incest.  They helped him see.  The family had betrayed him.

And left him to clean up their wreckage.  He wasn’t the first.  Doubtless not the last.  But he would bear witness.  In some way he would give testimony.  He would no longer remain silent before the concept of – The Betrayal.

Note: I later got in touch with the feelings of that night by watching the movie “The Accused,” where Jodie Foster played a young woman gang raped in a bar.

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(Written August 8, 1990)

It was June of 1969.  I had just come home from my freshman year at Texas Tech.  I had not declared a major except for General Studies.  I liked my psychology and sociology courses, and thought about going that direction for a major.

We lived in Fort Worth, and during the school year a lot had changed.  My Dad had moved back in with Mom, and they had moved in to another house – on Spurgeon Street.  I was leery of this arrangement – too many unresolved hurts and angers, and a deep mistrust of my Dad, even though he had stopped drinking.  I didn’t know why consciously, because I didn’t remember much of the hell of the last four years of his drinking.

Subconsciously I did not want him there.  Yet waging war against that – the internal proddings of my inner child who was screaming “this man is dangerous, get him away from here,” – was the deep seated need to have his blessing, win his approval, do something or be something that he could be satisfied with.

So I took the protective course, though I didn’t know why. There was a large attic with a partially finished room in our new house.  I made that my bedroom and moved up there, to be as far as possible from him and to have what felt like an island of safety.  He couldn’t just walk in on my like he used to do – drunkenly heaping abuse on me.  I could at least hear him coming.

So I began my summer job, and warily explored his renewed presence in my life.  I was bonded to him by the abuse, and though I didn’t know it, he had a total power over my life.

I had begun taking Russian classes the previous spring, to satisfy my language requirement for general studies.  The previous Christmas he had suggested he’d always wanted to take Russian; that was enough for me, so I ended up in Russian class.

Now I was taking the second semester by correspondence over the summer, to be able to take the second year on schedule.  It was rough sledding, trying to find time and motivation to study, while working and hanging around with my friend during off hours.

I was studying in the living room one night, trying to finish the first lesson.  He came in and asked what I was doing.  I told him, and gave my reasons.

“So what are you going to major in?” he asked.

“I don’t know yet.  I really liked psychology and sociology, and I’m thinking about going into one or the other.”  I said it almost with a query in my voice, seeking his approval.

He thought for a minute.  He seemed to be in one of his ugly moods – reminiscent of the drinking days.  I knew the signs, but didn’t know what to do about them.

“You know,” he said, somewhat reflectively, “if you had any sense, you’d get a business degree.  You can do more with it, get better jobs.”

I just sat there, stunned.  I took it in, but once more my inner child quailed and screamed inside me: “No, I don’t want that.  I hate business.  That’s your path.  I want something else!”  The something else I wanted was English, writing, but he had taken that away five years ago and I could not even bring that thought to the level of conscious awareness.

He sat for a few more minutes, then picked up his coffee cup, and went into the kitchen.  But he had left the seed.  By this time, in my mind, it was like a royal decree – I hated the thought, but could not ignore it.  It had total power over me – just like he did.

It stewed inside me for a week or better.  He made no other comments – he did not need to.  I dropped the Russian course and changed my major to business.  I told myself it was because the Russian was hard, and business curriculum had no language requirement.  that was not the real reason, though I didn’t know.

I decided to go into marketing.  He was a salesman, and through my freshman year the one thing I didn’t want was business school, especially nothing dealing with sales.

So I was doing the thing I hated.  I hated it all the way through getting my degree.  I took a literature course once, as an elective, my inner child yelling for sustenance, but I could not break free of the path which had been ordained for me.

I was afraid to get a job – he had threatened to kill me if I thought I was better than him for getting a job, at a time when his drinking had bottomed out and he was about to lose his own job.  So I went to graduate school in business, stifled and hating every minute of it.

His comment was to determine my path for the next 20 years as I tried to fit into the businessman mold.  I was successful, but each time I began feeling the success, I tripped myself so not to threaten him and thereby threaten my existence.

I was trapped, imprisoned in chains clamped on me by a chance remark of someone in a bad mood, covering his pain and hurt by inflicting some on me.

I hated him with a passion that had begun when I was 12, and which by now had blossomed into an obsessive hatred – linking my destiny even more firmly to his.  But unaware, always unaware.  Unable to hear the roarings of my inner child over the conscious awareness of the simple line: “If you had any sense, you’d get a business degree.”

So I sold my soul – so as not to appear stupid.

 

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(Written October 1988)

“But why are you leaving?” she asks, seeing the struggle written in his face.

He glances at her, looks quickly down, stares blankly at the coffee cup in front of him.  He picks it up, sips, sets it down carefully, slowly.  The waitress stops at their booth and freshens their coffee, customers pass by, but they are all alone.  Outside the plate glass window the day is grey and lifeless and cloudy.

“I’ve got to,” he says.  “We’ve gone as far as we can go and I have nothing left to give.”

A tear rolls down her cheek.  “You know, sometimes fear makes us do the opposite of what we want to do.”

He looks confused, shakes his head as if to clear it, hesitates.  “Maybe I’m running, I can’t tell, but I know this is what’s right for me.  You seem to want to have Bill and me both, and I can’t live that way.”

She looks down, puts her hand across her forehead.  “I’ll leave him, I told you, there’s nothing between us,” she says, not looking up.

“We’ve been through all that before.  You won’t see me any time he comes to town, he doesn’t even know about you and I.  I feel like . . . like a secondhand doll that entertains you while you’re not with him.”

He stares vacantly into his coffee cup, sighing deeply as his shoulders slump.  His face wrinkles into a grimace as if feeling what he has just said.

“I’ve caused you pain,” she says.

“No, it wasn’t your fault.  I chose to stay.”

“But what I did hurt you.  I’m sorry.”  Inside, she subconsciously feels glad.

They sit in silence for long minutes, each lost in their own thoughts.  She reaches out, tentatively touches his hand, withdraws.  “I have a feeling there’s something more you’re not telling me.”

He studies her face, searching into her eyes, peering intently.  She looks genuinely puzzled.  He glances down, back at her, shakes his head again, stares outside.  The clouds are growing darker.

“I don’t know how else to try to say it, to make you understand.  We’ve been through it so many times.  Like Julie told me, you don’t have to fight to have a good relationship.”  He pauses.  “Something’s just not right.  I need some space, but I have to work it out for me.”

She brightens, “So there’s still hope for us?”

“No, I didn’t say that.”

“I’ll change, I’ll be who you want.”

He bristles, “You’ve said that before.”

She leans back, “You don’t have to get angry.”

“I can if I want to.  I have a right.”

Nothing is said for a long moment.  His shoulders straighten, he picks up the check, scoots out of the booth and stands, looks at her briefly, then looks away.

“Goodbye,” he says.

“I’ll see you soon,” she replies.

He hesitates, drops several coins on the table, steps away, as she remains sitting quietly, looking outside.  It has started to drizzle as storm clouds darken the sky.

He pays the check, his heart aching, yet also with a sense of relief.  As he walks to the door, he knows he hasn’t said all he felt – the sense of betrayal at finally seeing the truth about the other man, the missing her that’s already started.  The anger, the sadness, all of it.  But it’s all been said before, many times.

At the door he stops, looks back, then turns and steps out into the bleak and chilling rain.

Sometimes . . . sometimes there comes a point where there’s just not a whole lot left to say.

 

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