I don’t remember much of my childhood. If I took all my childhood memories and laid them out, what I recall would barely fill a Ziplock snack bag.
My childhood was difficult. I had two emotions — fear and anger. They were my shield and cloaking device. I used both emotions to protect my fragile existence, and to be invisible.
Fear taught me how to be cunning and a mental acrobat when I sensed harm or danger. Anger was my weapon when I didn’t want people to see my insecurities or how scrambled my young life was. If life gave an Oscar every year, I would have claimed the golden statue for several consecutive years. Best Actor. Best Animated Feature. Best Director. Best Original Screenplay. Best Adapted Screenplay. My early life was mostly fabulously forgettable.
Recently I’ve been thinking about one of my memories. It takes place on a unusually mild Fall day in the Windy City — Chicago. I was ordered to rake the leaves in the back yard. The yard had the dimensions of a professional football field — from a six year old’s perspective. I used the oversized rake and collected the leaves into a foot high pile. Not much, but enough to give me a lesson on verbal self-defense.
I went into the house and got a book of matches. Back in the early 60’s parents seem to hide few things from children. Matches was one of those things in my household. I was suppose to know the consequences of touching matches. On this day, I didn’t care.
I took a match, swiped it across the striker and got a flame, just like I witnessed my dad doing. I took the burning thing and tossed it into the pile of leaves. They started to smolder, and smoke crept through the leaves. I stood mesmerized at the smoke, and the faithful scent of burning leaves. My hypnotic state was startled when I heard a man yell, “where are your parents!” I looked at him and I noticed his brown fedora hat, opened tan trench coat, and that finger pointing at me.
“Where are your parents,” he sternly repeated. Then I did it. I lost my truth virginity to a stranger. “My dad just went inside. He will be out. I was told to watch this fire until he comes back,” I said. The words flowed out of my mouth and persuaded some part of the man to keep going to his destination.
I often thought about that incident. I never focused on it until a few weeks ago. Answer to why I did what I did came to light.
I realized I was scared the stranger would knock on the door and tell my dad what he witnessed. Lying had just become my fortress. I absolutely needed to lie to protect myself. I didn’t want another beating. Maybe that is why I was convincing, or maybe the man heard the plea for mercy in my voice.
The lying didn’t stop. Every time I thought danger was in the area, my creative explaining rushed to the front. Another successful fortification built to protect me.
My youthful inexperience wasn’t much of a counselor or therapist. Truth dominated when I felt safe; lying was the commander when a threat was imminent.
The beatings caused me to fear and distrust everyone. My mother tried to protect me. But there were only so many black eyes, bloody noses, and puffy lips she could endure. So, I became invisible. I stayed out of sight to avoid the fist of fury.
Eventually they divorced and he was forced out. Psychic damage was done by his departure date. I graduated from being fearful to being angry. That anger didn’t have any boundaries. The older I got, the more I released the anger hounds. My anger was expressed in put-downs, sarcasm, verbal attacks, and self-directed anger. You name the anger and I probably practiced it.
In May of 2012 I experienced the cumulative effects of anger, and some other factors. I had five Ischemic strokes in seven days.
It took me nearly a year to admit what probably contributed to my life threating elevated blood pressure. My diagnosis — anger. I still have residual effects from the strokes. One day, I started to feel the strokes were one of the best things to happen to me. I started to tell myself and everyone I am grateful for them.
Since 2012 I’ve struggled to manage my anger. I had a revelation on April 10. A situation that would have stirred up some negative forces didn’t manifest. I was calm, loving and able to observe what was happening. Instead of thinking things that were not there, I only thought of the outcome I wanted. Seconds after expressing my desire, I realized what had just happened. I was proud of how I responded.
Saturday, April 11, I had another opportunity to “go off.” Instead calmness, love and courage took over. I expressed how I felt and moved on. Later that day the person I talked with apologized, and talked about how calm I was. They told me my calmness made them think about their behavior, which resulted in an apology.
I contribute this emotional change to Master Key lessons, and applying the lesson into my life.
I get a sense of tranquility from,”I greet this day with love in my heart.” Telling myself, “I love me,” has given me confidence and self-acceptance. Understanding that life does not happen to me, but for me,” has helped to remove cataracts from my distorted reality . Sitting has allowed me to absorb and apply the lessons. Once the law of cause and effect penetrated my marrow I had two simple formulas for internal change.
The first formula: change the cause and I will change the effect. Formula two: find the effect I want and do the cause that will create the effect.
My childhood anger is probably piled up in some corner. This time I will do my best to use the skills I’m learned to avoid putting a match on the pile.