Happy St Irish day Expression Monkey’s (For those who did not hear I changed the name to better reflect the change in tide) So I want to thank you for coming with me on this adventure of memoir sorting. I’m not ending the challenge for myself, but I am taking it “indoors”. You will just have to wait until it comes out in paperback, though this is going to be a long term project so I will post chapters periodically throughout the years. I am hoping, after a long recovery, to start again on my spoken word album. I have been very gunshy to get back out there and look for people to work with who I can trust and not take me for a twisty icky ride to line their own and laugh at my back, but that said I must always get back on the horse and do my duty to myself and to all my readers who make it worth getting up each day. Thank you and Of course I will still be posting my words….. No matter who does you wrong always keep Expressing MOnkeys…… I love you….
ok expressionist… this piece is a work in progress… SUFFER IN SILENCE. this topic my next writing challenge for the next few month as I piece together my memoir.. I ask that you overlook any grammar or spelling errors as I go through my first live draft along with releasing my somewhat lesser childhood trauma of being an A student all the time (not that I was but I certainly was an over achiever) and proving my intelligence through not making any mistakes. As writers in general our culture looks for ways to make one superior over the other in the world of smarts. I will also be playing around with sequencing under the inspiration of the book “Color of Water” and “The bonesetters daughter” MLK said it best that not every one can be great “smart” but all can serve. I use my life to serve others who are wiggling in the mud to carve out meaning. Join me if you want and write about how you or someone you know “suffers in silence”..TBC
I am standing in the dark of “Suffering in Silence” It came out of a very disturbing interaction that I had with my Aunt, who is in her 80’s. I have been in intensive recovery for anxiety and trauma the last year (and all my life) and I am surprised by how much comes up and out through the body as I release old behaviors and beliefs on the regular. My aunt; however is old school and did not grow up in the pressure cooker of new age brain re conditioning. She grew up in a world where it was not only preferable to suffer in silence but necessary. The thing that amazed me is that the trauma never goes away unless a person actively releases it. Now I knew this to be true for myself but I assumed I was a special case. I compared myself in a way that put me in more need of healing than the average other. I attributed this to not only the abuse I suffered from my childhood but also being open to people’s energy and problems in my fields of work which puts me in very intimate situations with the public.
This experience has opened a window into a, I will call it, philosophical perspective of denial and how suddenly and oppressively shocking events from the past can reap its ugly head at any time, even decade later. I have been facing it this last year in many different ways and none have to do with Covid, Trump or world collapse; though it presses upon me deeply. I have had many severe challenges in my life that I overcame superficially but not buried far within my unconscious memory system until now.
I respect children. Not many people do but I respect children. Hyper active. Hyper manic. Add. ADhbsD. All the labels put on biology and pure natural expression that stops grown ups in their tracks to cover it up and pack it in ice and some… more medication before writing them off as out of control and every man for themselves because, as the saying goes “my child doesn’t act that way”. I’ve also heard the age old “kids are not your friends” and the polar opposite of do not disturb the angry child and let us all put a bubble around them acting out and crying out “why you lookin at me”.
We live in a peculiar time. One where the system is failing and we all know it but have no energy, motivation and resources to change it. Every song on the radio and great poem wails and moans about the disconnect within the fabric of our sophisticated way of life but this does not translate into anything tangible. I first noticed in after college graduation during my first real internship in New York City. I did have a viable internship at a local radio station in the small Connecticut town where my school resided. It was a well known and reputable station but if it wasn’t in the city I wasn’t interested. The internship was at the Fox news station back when it was run by liberals’ and they were fighting with Ted Turner to get the next big 24 hour news station carried on the local cable station. Something that proved to be harder than it sounds since Ted Turner owned CNN, the other brand new 24 hour news station. It was the day of the Timothy McVey trial and all the young producers at the time where hyped up about getting the scoop; though with the new running all day I found it strange that it was thought to be a breaking story. I sat bored watching each assistant busy themselves with perceived anxiety as if they were about to great the president. It seemed odd to me that our show segment which aired at 7pm would be the shocking headliner when every episode before it said basically the same thing. Is this what I really went to school for? It was a foreshadowing of the chaos in which we have seen unfold through the dismantling of our televised stream of meaningful content. Luckily, after many days of crying in the bathroom, I left that job with a longing for more meaning and substance.
My parents are from the aptly named Silent Generation. They are on the cusp of the boomers carrying both the attributes of outspoken youth of the sixties with the remnants of second, maybe third generation immigrants. I say maybe because, as the generational name suggest, their linage is silent as if their life story was meant to be encapsulated like a James Bond movie. My mother is of German origin and my dad is of African descent. I like most mixed raced and brown paper bag ladies and gentlemen was sold the story of Cherokee grandparents and the idolized image of being one of the native free spirits that were guardians of this virgin land. Come to find out that our precious warrior, wigwam and papoos wearing ancestors had nothing to do with the black slaves and most of us cream and coffee colored people wear the mark of the slave master and not the chieftain. Growing up I could not get enough of this story and continuously pressed my dad for detail of the tails his supposed Indian grandmother survived; however, like all wide eyed off spring of slave blood, I was left with bread crumbs to fill in with my own image of how I got my high cheekbones and my sister got her “good hair”. It is, needless to say, a great disappointment to know that the only wars waged in my bloodline where the ones of rape and oppression. In fact the native people, especially the Cherokee, kept as far a distance as they could from the black slaves instead assimilating themselves amongst the white westerners.
My mid life crisis started when I was in my late 20’s until 45. I thought it odd too since all the new age seminars such as Landmark forum, Nlp, Agape and a myriad of self help and other worldly books under my belt I had a fantasy that I would be melted into a pool of forever bliss by age 32. Needless to say that didn’t happen. What happened instead was a slow series of painful shedding’s of skins I wore through all the different roles I was desperate to bring authenticity to. In college my quest was one of fun self actualization with my roommates as we played with the pendulum figuring out who was going to be a famous talking head after graduating from the broadcast communications department. My questions had more to do with will I ever find a boyfriend and how do I wiggle my way out of this plan be diploma and create myself as the next Halle Barry. Broadcasting was a fun pastime and the only major I could take along with my theatre classes but it did not fulfill my long held vision that I can accurately say I knew since I was 7, maybe younger. I was what you called an avid doubting believer. In fact my young innocent mind got a certain sense of satisfaction from my secret assuredness amongst the linear thinkers that were preparing me for the real world where acting and theatre did not exist in any tangible way. “Unless you know someone” or “got discovered” none of which I was directed to take seriously, though every trip to the big city found me posing in a coffeeshop with my feet swinging carefree from the round stools facing the window to the bustle of the sidewalk. Every urban legend promises of a “IT FACTOR” of some kind if you just smile enough, wear a cute outfit and embrace that magic moment when the humble producer taps me on the shoulder.
A year after graduation and after I left the pretense of network news I did my part to play the game of life in a good corporate job that made all the scruffy looking men that wander throughout high school to feel accomplished by the required tie and suit; along with our own personal cubicle. I threw myself into this with gusto, glad to have a private space of my own. I am one of 4 kids and personal space was a luxury that my smothering mama did not respect. I was required to present my journals to her well past normal parental concern of wild behavior and rabble rousing. During my interview I should have known this job would have been short lived when the manager asked me “how are you with monotony?” This was Nielson Monitor Plus and it paid a whopping $8.25 and hour so you better believe I was ok with monotony. The Nielson name was a golden goose in the communications world and even though I had no long term interest in being in the field I was still obsessed with proving to my parents that I was not going to “fritter” my life away, so in my mind the title was worth the sacrifice. I occupied my boredom with lunch time power workouts in the basement gym and found a comfortable rhythm joining all the other real world people ordering their coffees in the morning from across the street rather than the office cafeteria. My new act of rebellion was now laid upon coffee room chats about how we would never be caught dead picking through the floppy lettuce at the salad bar. I felt a sense of familiarity as if I was the cool kid in high school who was invited to eat outside with the brave outlaws that go against the grain.
High School me was hardly a rebel. My focus, as a middle child of two educators, was to get in the least amount of trouble possible, maintain an A average (which I failed at) and fantasies on how to graduate with honors as a group 2 B average student who never even took an honor’s course. My act of defiance felt more like playing the part of caring about being the top of the class in order to keep the concerned looks of all the serious teachers off my back. I was in on the joke, knowing that reality did not put me anywhere near the “nerds” and other weirdos who had an innate ability to travel together in the exclusive brain club. It fascinated me only in wondering if I could ever make it in life without being anointed as future Mensa. Nobody in my family was particularly geniuses but the drive of 1980’s education wall about being labeled “gifted class” by the 3rd grade or else it is all catch up from there. My inside life certainly felt like catchup starting in the 5th grade and the feeling hasn’t quite left me yet; however I was lucky to have been born an artist, which in high school give a bit of leverage around needing to be Shelton Valley-vid-torian. The pressure I received had more to do with being a “Miss Valley” contestant but I had zero confidence as a black girl in a white town thinking I had the gwall to even audition. I wouldn’t have put myself in that humiliatingly vulnerable position if I was paid yet I did long to be a girl who did have the confidence to be in the pageant. A super girly girl on the inside but not allowed to show too much of it around my white schoolmates in order to not think myself entitled to the beauty parade. I understood in the 1st grade that my beauty was 3rd tier default as a women of mulatto, zebra, Oreo cookie and a head of nappy loose curled hair in which gave me a free pass to at least commiserate about it with my bff’s of the moment.
I became the family enemy during the latter part of my 44th year on earth. I wasn’t the first, my eldest brother was cut out about ten years earlier and my sister has vacillated between on the triangulation outs and smack dab in the middle. Still after all this time I am scared to write about it in case, somehow, I may get cut off and out more than being cut out and cut off, as if that is possible. Can one be doubly dead or just a little pregnant. I probably should have left the toxic design of my family order a long time ago but I had a serious mission. I had a niece and two nephews and if I were to prove to myself that family patterns could be broken; something that I studied, conversed with and entertained myself with, then the rubber must meet the road and I needed to show up or shut up. It wasn’t too hard since children are the delight and blessing of the world and whenever I feel stressed or treated unfairly I always found peace and presence in the eyes of a child. In the 5th grade I enthusiastically volunteered to be a kindergarten helper and grabbing the dimples off that curly head cutie and the soft but sharp giggle sound that only comes out of a 5year old kept me able to sit still at my desk on those soap opera days.
His name was peanut and second only to Christmas was my excitement that one week a year in which I was entrusted to his care. This was a big deal in my house and set me up with venom and jealousy from my siblings who would never be able to get away with having any animal in the house other than a few short lived goldfish. The desire for any furry friend in our house had to be kept close to our heart and to bring it up brought out the same fire and brimstone as admitting one believed in god or worse that we believed in Jesus. It was no secret that my parents hated dogs but not as much as cats so I pulled that thread the only way a tiny person could, through whining. I came to the understanding of the depths of their loathing years later when I had my own tail between my legs after my epic fail out west and had to move back home the first time. It took me two more times to get my lessons and even though the neglect and eventual death of my precious princess pachamama I still had to dig into their hearts to find a glimpse of love. I realized I pushed it too far when my third, and final, homecoming left me limp on the concrete basement floor grasping for my broken glasses as my dad lay on top of me. I was less shocked at my father’s violence towards me, it was only a matter of time, and more upset that in my state of financial challenge he did not offer to replace the spectacles in which I only possessed for a few months.
Each day I took great pride in walking the little tan colored chihuahua to the back yard “way out back” to do his business; grateful that the little marble size poops needed no scooper. I would visualize myself as the perfect mother by my committed dedication to waking up early to beat him at the door. A week was enough, not because I didn’t want more, but the relief of not needing to do the eye roll dance at all the reasons why pets are evil. I loved Goldie but the satisfaction of picking out the right vacation food pellet to throw in the tank was divided amongst the four kids. Peanut was all mine and I was glad that not even my sister wanted to care for him. She was totally obsessed with cats and to admit to enjoying a dog felt to her like a betrayal to her kin. My only other “safe” friend at that time was an old apple tree that never produced fruit that anyone could actually eat but I still diligently scraped the grass hoping to find the one holy grail that contained no brown spots. It never happened but as a kids I cared more about the scavenge than the prize if it did not involve candy or unnatural colors.
“Marty is dead literally” the moment I heard it forever branded in my mind. It was the day after my 15th birthday. It was my first tragic death and business as usual lead me back to my task of sweeping the walkway at the church camp in which I spent my summers working. It didn’t feel strange at all that the adults of the center kept up appearance and ushered all the teenagers to carry on serving the meals and cleaning the rooms for all the families about to roll through for the following weeks conference. I especially did not find it strange that my parents made no mention of it when they arrived for their vacation week a few days later. Death was not something we allowed ourselves to wallow over. My mom hated funerals and I had to follow suit since, as she claimed, “I went to enough funerals in my life” I blamed myself. Silly to think of now because I did not put up the joke noose, nor was I responsible for Marty’s best friend taking his own life a year earlier; but the night before his death I did not say hi to him. I actually don’t remember if it was me that ignored him or was it he that ignored me but I am painfully aware that in my head, that very night, my puberty thought it was a clever game that put me on his radar and the imaginary drama would payoff by the end of the summer.
We got the official news many hours later when they gathered us all into the dining hall. The shrieks and cries jolted me into a hyper awareness that I have yet been able to recreate. This vortex of presence lasted a minute maybe two until I realized that I was the only one who was not crying. At first I felt a strange pride that I memorized my lesson of “No one to care for, No one to cry for” family motto until an uncomfortable warmth overtook my body that left me feeling caught in a giant floodlight of Wrong Wrong Wrong and what in the world is wrong with you. The shame of not being able to cry over a beautiful life lost has been my own cross to bear deep in the back of my mind. I made the conscious choice to fake cry in order to not stand out as a cold hearted bitch. My brain hasn’t quite made it past it’s dissociative flashback that leaves me feeling like fraud each and every time I cry authentic tears, not knowing if they are coming from the crocodile or drama queen. I was a very sensitive kid and I surrendered to the drama queen label early on.
It’s funny how the only guarantee in life is death yet it is the one thing people don’t like to talk about. Not only do folks not talk about it but they tend to get quite angry when somebody does. I never understood it and as a person who has faced many losses I had no choice but to become a poet. Writing seemed to be the only place where a life filled with death is not only an advantage but a requirement. I never could stand those poets who spoke endlessly about their cats and flower beds. That is not art to me, at least not to my secret desire to be a goth girl trapped in a band uniform. As an adult I now long to have nothing to write about except flowers and birds. As a kid it gives you instant belonging into the mysterious cool club but as a grown up it just sends people running the other way. “Uh oh here comes a tragic case” I’m not sure at what age this label flips, though I believe strongly it hangs more on whether or not said grown has made a boat load of money of being a “tragic case” I’ll play along with my own game and assume it happens around twenty-eight, which coincides with the development of the frontal lobe, marriage, babies and getting a suitable career.
There was always something about Grandma’s jewelry box that kept me mesmerized for hours. All the items were either costume or clip on but at that time I don’t think I even knew what a real stone looked like, it was all sparkle to me. I was never close to my grandparents, that wasn’t even an option to ask for or expect but my favorite vacation was our day after Christmas road trip to Dover New Jersey. Three days of my mother being on her best behavior and laughter and stories made me feel less like a visitor to my own life. As long as I didn’t ask for too much or eat too fast I got to participate in the evening entertainment of Uno games and dessert. supposedly I came from a very large German close knit family; though I can honestly say I never actually spent enough time with any of them to recall their names without searching through a family tree. Staring into the myriad of ghetto gold and paint chipped pearls I felt as if I came from apple pie and hot cocoa. Grandma Peg was not a talkative woman but I always felt a welcoming warmth in her presence. I struggled to find the violence in her eyes that once cast pain and abandonment on my mother but I could only do so in imagination. From the time I could remember, I deemed myself as the redeemer meant to house all my mother pain to guard her against internal malice or suffering. If I could morph my naïve imagination into the photos on the wall, I would magically be wisped away into the past in order to set things right so that I could realize my dream of one big happy family.
It was no secret that the German side was less than thrilled by my African, not quite blue black, but glow in the dark teeth black father. My Aunt, my mother’s older sister (the middle child) found clever ways to sneak out of the house and past her disapproving husband to pop in for our post christmas meal and give her secret wink of solidarity. The story goes that my cousins would get the wrong idea if they become to close to me and my siblings and I grew up at a time when no thought went into shielding the kids from adult squabbles. I was considered my mom’s surrogate so every bit of gossip and heartbreak was recited to me as if I was a mini counselor and I took my job very seriously. I knew I would find the answers in her bright colored room that had no signs of anything out of place or even a scrap of dirty laundry on the floor. There was a welcomed peace in that house filled with clean floors and made beds that only existed on television and a far cry from our sticky door knobs and mixed matched pillow cases. “there is calm to be found in this family” viscerally entered my body and that must translate to my car ride home “doesn’t it”. It didn’t but it would take me many years to discover this reality and many more years to retire myself from being the hero to find it.