Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Child Abuse Legend- A Journey of Healing

I turn to you who have known pain and fear
And failure and despair,
And in your eyes I read companionship
And though your cloak be threadbare,
Half of it is mine.
You are my friend.
Lila Cabot Perry

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about as you look at this little lost dog who took a long journey far from home and wanted nothing more than to find his way?

Healing from child abuse is a journey. Along with the freedom to choose healing, we choose a journey that like any other will be filled with byways, hills and valleys. At times the going is easy and we celebrate our successes with joy. At other times, the going is hard and we stumble, even collapse, under the weight of it. Then we may cry out in torment to whatever gods may be for us: Why me? Why struggle? Why go on?

But at every step of the way we need to remember that any journey is a passage. From there to here, we do not make it alone. With every step along the way we are changed…and we change the world. Sometime we know where we have made a positive difference sometimes we
never know just how some little choice we make may make all the difference for another.

Yesterday I saw a little dog walking along the road…alone, lost and confused. It was later in the day, I was tired. A large part of me wanted to ignore her and her plight. But I made the harder choice and rescued her. No collar, no clue...I’d never seen her in the neighborhood. She was definitely a stranger in a strange land.

Which way to turn, to go to help her find her way home?

First things first, I thought as I picked her up and carried her to my house…give her water, food, and rest. She is so weary.

I understand weary...understand feeling lost, alone, hopeless. It is how I feel many times. I’ve been weary it seems since early childhood. A time filled with ongoing physical, emotional, sexual abuse and chronic neglect. Barely aware of death by age seven, I already sought death as my only escape from hell on earth. From my limited perspective on ways to kill myself, I plotted, schemed, planned and tried many ways but always some fear or something else, interfered. Swimming as far out into the ocean only to have the sea throw me back onto the shore, running to throw myself in front of a train but slipping on the rocks with my outstretched hands inches from the sparks that flew from the train, jumping into a canal known to kill children each year, running into traffic. My last attempt came when I was 15.

That night, I slashed my wrist twice with a razor blade as cold and steely as my determination to not fail again. Then, as blood shot everywhere, I lay down with my bible, at ease, prepared to die and sure that my God would welcome me home.

Anger flooded through me when I awoke. And searing pain. And quiet desperation. The mess was incredible…I had to get to my job as a car hop. No time to clean. Who would notice anyway? The wounds were bad… what to do? I ran to a friend’s house, her mother was a nurse. She cleaned and pulled the wounds together with tape to work as stitches, wrapped my wrist in gauze, found a wide Indian beaded bracelet to cover the bandage… gave me love and encouragement and sent me off to work.

As I walked along, head down, raging in anger at being alive, devastated that God didn’t let me escape to come home, instead of the weight of my life, I suddenly felt the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I looked up to see a field filled with white daisies and thousands of white butterflies flitting among them. Their dew drenched yellow centers glistened like gold. Rainbows were everywhere through the tears that flowed as I heard, “My child, it is not yours to choose when to come home. That is for me to say. But you are not alone- I am with you always. Now promise you will continue on and not try such things again.” And I did. And I did not.

There is no fairy tale ending. The story that was my life went on. Fifty years later the scars on my wrist remain to remind me of that night.

My brother, sneaking in my room in search of cigarettes, panicked at the bloody mess and told my parents. When my father pulled into the parking lot, my heart stopped. I walked to his car. He grabbed the wounded wrist and twisted it, yanked off the bracelet to expose the bloody bandage, then slapped me across the face. “You bitch…what the hell kind of stupid shit is this…just wait ‘til you get home. I’ll fix your ass for embarrassing us."

So when the little dog was rested I made a leash and off we went…blindly going we knew not where but knowing doing something is better than doing nothing. The walk was pleasant and we met many nice people along the way. But no one knew her. When she could go on no more, I carried her back and we rested. Then we drove around, stopping to ask everyone…do you know her, she’s lost and wants to go home. Then finally, once again, walking around, enjoying the setting sun, and the cool summer evening. So many people! So many smiles! Where have you come from little one, and where are you going?

Finally it was too late to continue. Her eyes beseeched me but she settled down to watch the door. Tomorrow, Love, tomorrow we will find your home…I promise.

Well the dog story does have a happy ending…
Nearly midnight I awoke to a pounding on my door. A family desperately seeking to find her had given up and returned home. The mother called a friend to talk about their loss and futile search.
“OMG! You won’t believe this,” the friend said, “I was visiting a friend earlier, and she had a phone call from another friend, and while they were talking, a woman came by, walking a little white dog, saying she was lost! Maybe it’s your dog.”

“How could that be? It’s so far away from here? But we will try to find her anyway.”
And so they did.

And so you will find your way, and there will be help you never dreamed of, if you choose healing and just keep going…and someday fifty years hence, you may even look at your scars and say…after all is said and done, Life is Good. Thank You God!

And please now let me say, although the words may sound trite and over used…as you choose healing, and go through the valleys, along the byways, over the seemingly endless hills...Enjoy your Journey!

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bullies Made Not Born? Child Abuse a Cause? A Result?

Evil becomes the incapacity
That is forced on one by his lack of training.
Bryan Short, 1997

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?

In my neighborhood new babies are celebrated, as they probably are in yours, and in so many other locations, with much ado and great fanfare. There is much anticipation and celebration before the birth. Friends and neighbors can’t do enough. Mother is feted with parties. Fathers strut and preen as proud peacocks do. Jubilation is everywhere in the air.

After the birth, beaming parents parade bright-eyed, trusting, innocent, eager-to-learn newborns around for all to see the precious additions to the community. The babies are all duly oohed, ahhed and awed over as the beautiful miracles they are conceived to be.

All too soon some of the babies are being referred to as demanding, spoiled, manipulating, brats-usually with colorful references to the other biological parent as the cause, whether said influence is in residence or not. Basic genetics at work? Babies born bad and soon to be meaner than junk yard dogs? So it would seem if one listens and believes.

By toddlerhood it looks like the bullies are in control of everything but them selves…brutally smacking and tormenting anything that doesn’t move out of the way fast enough…including smaller babies and bigger, cowering siblings, harried caretakers, and stunned strangers.

Watching this play out year after year, I wonder where each sweet, innocent, prized and precious baby went. Where did this little terrorizing tyrant come from? The answer is usually obvious to anyone who watches…and it has nothing to do with changelings and ghoulish goblins who “pushed their way in and pulled baby out, leaving another made of ice.” (Maurice Sendak)

Almost all relatives, and those living in the neighborhood, offer advice when the bullying characteristics appear…”you’d better beat the devil out of that one while you can or you’ll be sorry later!” And many will do their perceived neighborly duty. They will help by yelling and swatting the child at every opportunity. And there will be opportunities- many- as the bully-baby roams with little supervision and rampages at will.

Not yet verbal, he becomes an easy target for blame by anyone seeking to shift responsibility or attention… which increases the smacks, swats, and beatings…which increases the bullying behaviors…

The child learns…what he is taught…behind closed doors and in the open.

In time, the child learns new behaviors…learns to bully without witnesses-becomes adept at lying and manipulation…learns to bluster, browbeat, buffalo, bulldoze, coerce, dominate, lean on, lord over, menace, oppress, persecute, terrorize, threaten, torment, torture, traumatize and tyrannize.

And no one involved, who should have been watching, is ever willing to “…go outside over there to rescue her baby.” (Maurice Sendak)

Until…the child is dragged or pushed to a doctor, then drugged based on a caregiver’s description of the born-bad child and professional observation of a child obviously disruptive and lacking self-control.

The child, not yet grown, will teach as he has learned. Eventually, the child comes of age and will reproduce in his or her own image. Of that you can be sure.

But if the child is lucky, if you are lucky, if we all are lucky, perhaps there was one, who “never knowing, hugged the changeling and ... murmured: ‘How I love you’.”

And that one person...perhaps its you?... knowing love, and giving it, can make all the difference for the child born "good" who never would have been otherwise. Of that you also can rest assured.

Sendak, Maurice. Outside Over There. Harper & Row. 1981.



Please Stop Lauging at Me...One Womans' Inspirational Story
by Jodee Blanco
Please Stop Laughing at Us...One Survivor's Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying by Jodee Blanco

Less Empathy Toward Outsiders: Brain Differences Reinforce Preferences For Those In Same Social Group
“An observer feels more empathy for someone in pain when that person is in the same social group…”
Children Are Naturally Prone To Be Empathic And Moral
“The programming for empathy is something that is "hard-wired" into the brains of normal children…”
Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others In Pain
“Unusually aggressive youth may actually enjoy inflicting pain on others…”

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee