Saturday, May 16, 2009


When I was a boy of about 5 years old I already knew that I was different. I also knew that difference was punishable and that punishment could be meted out by anyone, at any time, for any reason. Punishment could come suddenly, it could come in any form, it could come from any one. Trust no moment of joy for the next moment could just as easily be one of pain. Trust no sunny day for the next day could harbour storms. Trust no one who pretends friendship, because pain lay waiting in the shadow of their smile.

I remember once being at the small park in the small town where I grew up. It was the typical sort of park with swings, slides and the teeter/totter. I was swinging away on the swings. I loved the swings, I loved the sensation of flying and I loved the sheer solitary nature of the pleasure. Other kids were playing in the park. Only 5 I knew to be careful of other kids. I was already 'fatty fatty two by four can't get through the kitchen door'. Avoid. Disengage. Invisiblize.

One of the boys came over and offered to push me on the swing. I needed no such help and said so. To my surprise he didn't do anything. Instead he got on the swing beside me and joined my activity. My heart burst with hope. He was doing something with me, not to me, surely, maybe, a friend.

Then done with the swings he suggested the teeter/totter. He got on one end and I the other. We got it going, even with our weight differential, he managed to go high and land low. He was smiling and laughing. So was I. Until... clouds came. Suddenly he stopped. I was suspended in the air, he was firmly on the ground. He called his friends over. Why i hadn't asked myself about where they'd gone, I don't know. I was 5, I guess I hadn't learned all the ways of cruelty yet.

They stood and laughed at me up high. They joked about how much it would hurt if the other boy just jumped of and left me to plummet to the ground. I imagined it before I felt it. It hurt more in my imagining, it hurt more in my heart, it hurt more in my soul, than it did in my body. It hurt me deeply. So deeply that it's a memory that I've never forgotten.

As such I've grown into adulthood wherein I don't trust much. Last night I woke to a panick attack. Sense of worthlessness flew round me. Sense of despair overtook me. Sense of hopelessness filled me. And the day before, I had such a wonderful day, I had an audiences firm applause, I had people with disabilities and their families thanking me. I had moments that I treasure. But they didn't matter. I had risen high and was simply waiting to be brought low.

It's like a playground lesson has run amok. It's like I need to get on a teeter/totter with someone I trust and ride it through till we both get off, equally, no pain, no fall. But I'm too old for that.

All I know is that sometimes I'd like to ride on the teeter without bother of the totter. If that makes any sense at all.


Belinda said...

It makes total sense.
I'm in a group that has been uncovering some of the messages we heard as children and all of us have been shocked at the pain in one another and ourselves. Normal everday people who look so "together." It has been a journey of healing to let it out into the light of day between us, in a safe place. I never expected the difference it would make.

Children are tender, the world can be very hard and people cruel.

You are not as alone as you might think.

liz said...


Leslie said...

So much meanness out there and in our memories. Knowing the worth of what you do and who you are doesn't help in the middle of the night with that kind of pain either. I'm sorry you went through it, wish none of us did - you remind me of my own painful playground memories and the ones I've tried to prevent happening to my own kids. sending you hugs.

ivanova said...

I think sometimes after we do the most amazing things and stretch ourselves as human beings, we become the most vulnerable to our fears and traumas. Being amazing is kind of scary too. It's like some part of you is saying, "Wait, can I really be that amazing? I brought my public speaking and teaching to a whole new level? No, I must just be the same worthless crumb they told me I was when I was a child." I'm honored that you trust your readers enough to tell us about your middle-of-the-night despair. I wish it could be as consistently obvious to you as it is to your readers that you are a magnificent human being.

CJ said...

Dave, I know the feeling well. Mine came at the hands of my mother.

Can you imagine that? One's own mother.

I was vicious and cruel.

That leaves a very special kind of pain.

Sumithra said...

It makes me so scared to see how cruel acts at a tender age could haunt for a lifetime. I could feel the pain and the panic of the young boy.

I'm afraid too. Not for myself but for my son. My son is about ten months old and has down syndrome. We're moving to our new apartment very soon. And, soon enough he is going to be growing up. But, apart from the excitement of moving to our new home, there are moments of fear. If my son will be accepted and treated equally by other kids. If my son would be respected by other parents and saved from any mean remarks. I don't know anything of the battle that lies ahead. I just know that no matter what happens, I would be there for him.

My son is being loved by everyone today. I just hope it remains the same all through his life.

Shan said...

Vicious, puerile bastards.

And people wonder why I homeschool. "What about socialisation?!" they chorus, and, finger wagging, "you can't shelter them forever!"

No five year old needs that kind of socialisation.

CJ said...

I meant to say "it was vicious and cruel."

It's amazing how much pain we can do to each other as human beings.

Mauzy said...

Except we all know the teeter totter does not allow one that is much heavier in weight to be held/suspended above one lower in weight.

I don't trust much either ;)

CJ said...

I guess you must have never been on a teeter totter.

Sheltered life?

Baba Yaga said...

Far too much sense, once I'd worked out that what I call a seesaw, you call a teeter totter. ;-). Those childhood lessons, casually inflicted, stay.

On the Pollyanna side, something allowed to transmute those lessons into the work you do now. It's a sort of alchemy.

Whatshername? said...

Bah! Those damn medium-sized people!

They tease the profoundly skinny, too. They even tease the most medium of the medium sized. Don't even give those people a second glance. They're usually the same people who bug people with disabilities, though, so at least they're a common enemy, so to speak.
There are more people that the jerky medium tease than there are the medium itself. You're not alone, you're the majority!

(Of course, when I say 'jerky medium' I mean the people who are average at everything and either hate people for different than the medium.)

lisa said...

When people say to me "don't you wish you were a child again?" I tell them "No, I am much happier being an adult where I have some control over things."


CJ said...

Lisa, I'm with you. I would never want to go back to childhood.

However, I heard something most gratifying from my 11 year old son.

He said that he loves being a kid and is having a wonderful childhood.

Music to my ears.

PatriciaJH said...

I used to go from highs like that to lows like that. Once I came to expect and predict the crashes -- and had a few years of predicting the crashes -- they mostly leveled out. "I'm high today, crash likely for tomorrow."

But I hadn't realized where they came from until reading this. Wow. Thank you.

You know, though, it was because there were bullies there.

Cynthia F. said...

Dave, I think it's pretty brave, and valuable to the world (and I hope to you) that you took in all those messages that you were worthless and instead became a person who is the opposite of worthless - who is contributing something unique, and of great value, to others. And who loves Joe, and Ruby, and a few others I imagine, so fully and so deeply and so vulnerably. You could have gone another way, been abusive, cruel, destructive. But somewhere you chose not to.

ShiBear said...

And the key lies in the message by Cynthia F. "But somewhere you chose not to." We grow up being abused, bullied, molested, sick, disables.... And finally at some point in our lives we choose how we will deal with it. Will we in turn bully, abuse, molest... or will we instead that other path. In the end, it isn't what life has handed to us that makes us what we are, but what we choose to do with those lessons.