April 3, 2006

I started out this series of posts on Struggles because I saw the movie Jim in Bold at my church a few weeks back. Jim Wheeler was a teenager who ultimately took his own life because he simply couldn't cope with what his life had become. As I was watching the movie, I became struck at the similarities in Jim's life and my own life as a teenager. The most fascinating difference to me, though, was that Jim apparently had a very good home life � his trauma was over the fact that he couldn't really cope with being "teased" about being gay.

For me, it was my home life.

But in both cases, it was a secret we felt compelled to keep, some distant something that was wrong, that made us different from those around us, and was not something to be talked about. And on top of that, it wasn't something we could figure out how to change.

To complicate matters for me, I had those memories that littered my room, things like the episode with the stuffed animals � and then I had these fleeting, ghost-like fears that I could not explain � those things that fear for my safety and the chemical trauma wipe would just not focus into clear images for me. Things in my room, monsters in the closet. (And now maybe you see why one of the early posts in this series was The Closet ? )

I would spend hours locked in my room as a teenager � well, I didn't have a lock, but you know what I mean � listening to records (yeah, remember actual vinyl?), writing the beginnings of novels, sometimes deigning to do my homework. Once in a rare while, I'd go full-blown teenager and yak on the phone for an hour.

Since I didn't have a lock and I was a teenager, I was of course, obsessed with figuring out a way to either lock my door or at least set an alarm on it so that I knew if my parents were spying on me. I developed elaborate booby-traps for my door, but the best was the simplest of these: I balanced an action figure on my doorknob and put something under the doorknob that would make noise when the toy fell.

That was while I was awake. Every night when I went to sleep, I listened for footsteps. I was sure that the "bad guys" (whoever they were) were going to enter the house at any moment and I had to practice "constant vigilance!" if I was going to save the family from these unknown murderers.

I would hear odd noises in the house at night � sometimes overhearing my parents' quiet arguments � sometimes hearing the slap � sometimes � sometimes �.

And then the chemical wipe comes in. Convenient isn't it? Can you see how living with that constantly, this fear of an unknown with so little substantiation that you can trust � how can you ever be certain that your situation, is indeed, "not good"???

I said that I wrote a lot of novel beginnings during this time period. I saved everything (almost everything � I know I destroyed one story � more on that in a bit). I have long recalled that many of these stories were about some kid who acted as detective or cop or something along those lines. I started to call them Hardy Boys stories, but really they weren't anything like my beloved Hardy Boys. First, the main character might have a best friend, but that best friend was certainly more of a Chet, the bumbling "fool" who is simply a kid. The main characters were always highly logical and completely fearless kids.

I dug some of those up the other day, just out of curiosity. And I was stunned by what I found. As it turns out,

    Staring at the blank page before you
    Open up the dirty window
    Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
    Reaching for something in the distance
    So close you can almost taste it
    Release your inhibitions
    Feel the rain on your skin
    No one else can feel it for you
    Only you can let it in
    No one else, no one else
    Can speak the words on your lips
    Drench yourself in words unspoken
    Live your life with arms wide open
    Today is where your book begins
    The rest is still unwritten

As it turns out, staring at the elementary school print in the college rule notebook was very illuminating to me. I found multiple stories that had to do with the main character being abducted � being held against his or her will (I write a lot of male protagonists and not too many female ones). I found either outright reference to situations of sexual abuse or very obvious veiled fears of the same.

I found more parallels between that which I suspected happened to me and the stories I wrote.

Only you can let it in � no one else can feel it for you � no one else can speak the words

And of course, the conundrum here is that I've been a storyteller since I was four when I first got an entire nursery school to sit around me while I wove a tale for them.

But what fourth grader writes so consistently about not just abduction, but specific tortures, not the general ones usually thought of at that age? Some general stories, sure � but every story talking about either horrible parents or parents who were dead and the child had to deal with everything alone and abandoned. By sixth grade the stories changed to kids in mental hospitals who couldn't remember what had happened to them.

No one else can speak the words on your lips � drench yourself in words unspoken.

You see, when you live through that kind of trauma, it all gets shoved way back in the back of the darkest closet in your mind.

Open up the dirty window � let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find � reaching for something in the distance � so close you can almost taste it � release your inhibitions.

It's hard to reach back into that closet and pull those things out because they've changed since you shoved them back there. They're like bits of fax paper exposed to heat � you know the blackened paper once held the history but now you can only make out the vague details � like scraps of parchment half crumbled in a clay jar.

And what does any of this have to do with the movie Jim in Bold?

We all, at some point or another, find ourselves treading water in the middle of the ocean, alone and without sight of land. We can give up and drown � we can strike out for land and miss � we can strike out for land and hit Hawaii � or Mexico � or Easter Island. We don't know where we're going and we don't always know where we've been.

Feel the rain on your skin � no one else can feel it for you

But if we don't share what we've been through, if we don't talk about it, write about it, communicate it in some way then we never really find out how similar we are even though our specific circumstance might be very very different.

And if we only dwell in our own indecision and consternation without really feeling the rain on our skin, without digging the parchment from the clay and trying to piece it all together, we crumble and fade away � half lives, half-lived.

The rest is still unwritten.

Posted by Red Monkey at April 3, 2006 6:18 PM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Cat said:

Incredible. This touched me deeply, ender. Thank you for pouring your soul into the keyboardand your fingers and allowing us a peek into your past for just a moment.

I'm very glad you shared this and you're so good with the words you choose.

April 3, 2006 7:35 PM


Red said:

I work every day to feel the rain on my skin. I so totally get this.
Ender, your words are wonderful, very expressive. Thank you for being brave enough to share some of the things in your closet. It is healing not only for you but helpful to those still trying to reach in to their darkness and turn on the light.
Well said my friend!

April 4, 2006 6:25 AM


seawave said:

The eloquence and beauty with which you speak of such pain is so expressive and so deeply touching. Your courage in sharing your struggle with others will undoubtedly help countless people who are too fearful of their own closets to ever let the contents see the light of day. Splendidly written, as always.

April 4, 2006 4:15 PM


Cat said:

bysshe liked your poetry

April 5, 2006 3:04 PM
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