Monday, October 12, 2009

One Dyslexic's True Life Story

What happens when your biggest dream becomes a re-occurring nightmare?

Imagine you are in first grade and more than anything in the world you want to learn to read and write, unlike the other kids, you know what you want to do when you grow up.  You want to write books.

 So you stare hard at the blackboard as the teacher writes a sentence in white chalk. Everyone in the class seems to be able to read it, except you. The girl sitting beside you leans over and whispers, “It says . . . See Jane run.” You concentrate hard, but no matter how long or hard you look, it doesn’t make sense.  None. Not one wit of sense.

All you can see is a series of sticks and squiggles.  Symbols that in your mind have no meaning.  It doesn’t take long for you to figure out that you are not getting it—that you are not one of the smart kids.

 Had you known then what kind of determination and resiliency would be required to fulfill your dream, there’s a pretty good chance you may have hid in the pale pink tunnel at the edge of the playground and refused to come out for the rest of your life.  But, you were young. And innocent.  Back then, life stretched before you like a freshly paved asphalt road before anyone had a chance to paint the yellow lines. There was not one ounce of caution or resignation in your six-year-old bones.

Today, over forty years later, when you see letters or numbers or sentences written on blackboards, or even when you pick up a pen to write, your stomach still leaps with that familiar panicky feeling and the fear rises around you like an invisible vapor coating your pores with shame and inadequacy.

What if everyone gets it, except you?

This deep burn in your belly, you know, in your mature adult-self, is the price you have paid all of your life for the odd ability to see the world inside out and upside down. Most of the time, if you slow down enough, take a deep breath, and concentrate on the words, the dark feelings leave of their own volition. Yet, over the years, the memories have lived on in your cells and you do not know who you would be without them. So, you’ve learned to adapt, to slow down, to enunciate your words, to write them out when necessary, and to let yourself dream in spite of the ugly fog that threatens to swallow you whole.

In spite of your own shame and inadequacy.

In spite of other people’s impatience, frustration, and judgments.

Like that time in second grade when you were called to the nurse’s office to look into a special machine, to test your eyes. Inside, there was a picture of a small town with a stop sign and a cow.  The nurse asked, which came first the cow or the stop sign. You picked the cow.  This disappointed her.  She switched the plates in and out of the machine and asked you to pick again. You picked the stop sign, because you wanted her to be happy, but as it turned out she was even more disappointed than before.

Or that time in third grade when you wrote the spelling words on your arm like Jake Munson, but you got caught and had to stand up and apologize to the entire class for being a liar and a cheat. 

Or that time in fourth grade when the teacher made you stand in a corner and hold the weekly reader against the wall with your nose, because you had refused to read aloud to the class. She did not believe that you did not know these words. She said you were being obstinate and sassy and acting dumb just to draw attention to yourself.

Then, in college when you confessed to your best friend that you had always dreamed of being a writer, and she laughed so hard that the beer bubbled out of her nose and she convinced you that a business degree would be a far better fit because she wasn’t going to type any more papers for you and no one could read a damn thing you wrote.

As any dyslexic will tell you, there is something about seeing the world differently that makes you want to see it even more, that makes you want to try harder, that makes you want to master this unruly part of your self. So you keep at it, ignoring the naysayersl and one day, perhaps just to torture yourself a little more, you find yourself signing up for night classes as a “special student” and taking courses in typing, grammar and poetry, taking all those courses your friend had convinced you would be way too hard.  Staying up late, typing your own papers or pressing the pencil so hard on the pages of your journal that it would break off into a run across the page lead flying in all directions as you dared to dream even bigger. 

Novel sized-dreams.

And when the night course ended the teacher asked you to say after.  The fire in your belly roared in your ears as she walked over and handed you a stack of papers, your papers, dripping with red marks. 

“The parts I could read were stunning. You have a gift, I hope you will learn to type and go get an MFA.”

Many, many years later, your son starts sixth grade, and finally, with a nudge from a kind writer friend, you apply to a Writing program to pursue your MFA, even though you feel certain that there is no way in hell you’ll be able to keep up, much less get in. 

But, you do.  In fact, you receive a scholarship for your essay application. 

And now, here you are, three novels, countless short stories and many poems later writing reflecting back on your own definition of resiliency, thinking that some true story problems may take an entire lifetime to answer.








Monday, October 5, 2009

Group Healing:A Word to Wise


            My eyes were closed.  I’d been laying on the table for over an hour. I could hear voices around me. Nine energy workers, some certified in multiple healing modalities, others with years of experience, all with good intentions, at least, as far as I knew. Yet, my heart wanted nothing to do with them. It had placed a force field around my body, as if it were trying to protect me from something.

            But what? 

            My body knew, in that moment it just wasn’t telling me.  I could hear them talking: You’re not letting us in.  She’s blocking.  It’s not working we should break for lunch. Lunch won. The healing session had stalled out. I agreed; they couldn’t do what they’d come to do. So they left. I laid on the table feeling as though a team of surgeons had taken my heart out and sewn me back up.

A cloud of shame engulfed me as, one by one, I listened to them leave. I felt awful.  I felt guilty and worthless.  Somehow, it felt as though I had disappointed them even more than I had disappointed myself.

            Later, I realized that a group ego had emerged during the healing session, overshadowing the will of its individual participants, and it radiated anger, frustration, even, disgust. My friends and fellow energy workers could not read my energy, my body-consciousness was not allowing them access, but I could read theirs, individually and collectively. Each and every one of them had surrendered their personal will to this collective ego, which was being fueled by some strange combination of compassion, control, and competition. 

             Depleted. Defeated. Unable to move, my spirit did not deem this situation safe enough to surrender to the vulnerability that such a healing would require.  And what was my role here? Had I disassociated? I didn’t think so, I simply felt to awful, and I had set an intention not to abandon myself, not to leave my body. I was there, with my eyes closed, fully present to the pain.

A few minutes after they left the room I heard footsteps circling back to the table.  “Are you okay?” A familiar voice asked. A friend.

Reflexively, I nodded but like the healing session, my heart wasn’t in it. They had given up on me. They had abandoned me. The thought ran through my head that perhaps I was beyond healing. That’s what it felt like.

It felt as though someone had broken an unspoken contract, was it me or them?

One of my greatest fears has always been that I may be too damaged to heal? And, in that moment, the firing pins in my brain began to bombard me with a freight train full of negative thoughts. Was it them that wanted me to die or was it only that damn debilitating sense of shame and failure I had carried with me my entire life? I’d done enough healing work to know that sometimes you feel worse before you feel better but if I were to describe the feeling I had as I lie there on that table, I would say it was akin to having been energetically gang-raped.

            What the hell was going on? What had triggered this overpowering sense of self-hatred? These were my friends, fellow healers, light workers, I loved them all, but I had no words for the intense sense of violation and betrayal that vibrated through my body.

In Alice Miller’s book “The Drama of the Gifted Child,” she explains that people who have suffered trauma or abuse as a child often have a difficult time discerning “safe” situations as adults, hence a child who was victimized will grow up to recreate the same imbalance of power in her adult relationships.  She will unwittingly invite more opportunities to be victimized, and she may even believe that this is love.  But, for adults who want to heal these wounds and patterns she says we must learn to trusty our bodies for our bodies never lie.

And my body wanted nothing to do with this group of healers, friends or not.

But why? 

It took me weeks of introspective prayer, meditation, and intense discussions with other healing practitioners to figure it out, but I did. Whether my friends had formed a group with “no leader” to avoid contamination of any one person’s individual ego or to tap into the higher vibration of a well-intentioned collective or for some other purpose it no longer mattered because what I experienced was perfect illustration of how a healing can go awry when the collective ego overpowers and obscures the goal of the greatest good and healing for the person who is on the table.

So a final word to the wise, before you bare your heart and soul to any group, friends, colleagues, even seasoned professionals, no matter how well-intentioned, make sure there is someone there, someone you trust, someone who will sit with you, stay with you, advocate for you.  Because if something does go wrong, you will want to know ahead of time who is willing to skip lunch.