Chapter 52 SPECIAL
I awoke well before dawn today, as usual, but with the words of this book literally running themselves across my mind like the words on a karaoke screen. I’ve been watching them disappear as I wonder if I can ever get them back once they are gone.
I went to the car for this trusty old laptop, hoping to retrieve them. Like pulling on the string of a very large kite way out there in the sky, I pull now and the kite approaches. Tied to it is a very long tail of words and thoughts that drape themselves over the stony crags of the mountain across the highway from where I am staying, and this knotted old kite tail stretches out of sight, and I know it is miles long.
But of course nobody but me can see it, for all of this rests in the crags of my own mind.
I spent the night in a nearly empty warehouse with beautiful pressed tin circular patterns painted white far above me on the ceiling. I am here at the mercy of a lady who has offered me two free nights of sleeping in exchange for scraping and painting two bathroom ceilings in her boarding house on the top floors of this building. I needed this because the campground I have been staying in has been reserved this weekend for an entire group who wanted their privacy.
But even there I am staying at another woman’s mercy, who allowed me to transplant the remnants of my beautiful houseplants, who just spent the summer being battered by the weather and neglected behind my sisters barn in Texas while I wandered around up north for the summer, and I traded these resurrected plants for a week’s free camping worth $15 a night at her simple yet beautiful Arizona hot springs.
I am, you see, quite homeless, jobless, and very nearly broke. I am not quite at the bottom, but I can sure see it from here.
But none of this is what my mind intended for me to write about this early dawning morning. I wait for the sun’s first rays to cast some light somewhere upon these craggy mountain peaks as I look within to find those words, which earlier before dawn came so insistently filled my thoughts.
But of course now that I am prepared to capture them, the words have vanished and lie no doubt quite frozen and hidden somewhere just beyond my reach. I have to be patient for them to find me again. I cannot chase them. They are like wild children hiding in the hills, and will only return again once they fully trust me. I know that much about them. We have been playing this game for months, only lately, these past two weeks while I have been feeling quite lost, frightened and desperate myself, I have abandoned them to wander without their connection to me and to this book I am writing for all of us.
What I most wanted to say is that this book is not being written for the “experts.” They will not be willing to listen. They float around up there at the top where the cream is thick and so luscious. I suppose their biggest fear is that if they move around too much, and let anything new come into their minds and their lives, their cream might accidentally turn into butter!
Not so for the rest of us. Not so for those of us down here at or near the very bottom of the can where flecks of rust speckle what’s left of the thinnest of milk down here where nobody else wants to be. Down here where nobody even wants to look. We are supposed to stay here sullen, forgotten, ignored and judged.
You see, I wanted to take what I’ve learned over these past many months I have been reading these brain books, these months I have taken to understand what it means to have been so abused as an infant, and turn this information into community workshops that might qualify for a grant with a deadline barely two weeks away. What I had thought is that I could design four of these trainings: one for mental health and other practicing professionals, one for paraprofessionals like child protection workers for the county, educators, and child care workers; one for the most needy identified high risk young parents, and one for the general public.
But what I have found in talking with professional mental health workers in the area is that nobody wants to hear what I have to say. This doesn’t realy surprise me, but it sure enough does disappoint me. It makes me feel like a single voice yelling in the wilderness.
Now I am thinking the only group that I would want to prepare a workshop for on this information would be those on the bottom that surely do need it most. I know they will hear me because those others that they have to trust to help them will not be able to do so. And this is why.
In looking at the consequence of chronic and pervasive infant abuse on the developing brain, mind and self of people we have to consider and talk about what is called by our society “mental illness.” Yet I have learned very quickly once I got my head out of THE books and my book, and went poking around on the ground among those who are mandated by profession to be there to help US, is that they are most secure as long as they can think that they are superior to those of us who just happened to be born DEFECTIVE!
I personally don’t buy that. Those of us on the bottom – those of us with diagnosable mental illnesses, those of us in the battered shelters and those who abuse us, those entwined in the criminal justice system, those homeless and on the streets, those jobless and underemployed, those who suffer constant changes in their lives and can’t seem to stop all these vicious cycles — will in the end know more than all these stuffed-shirt professionals put together. We will know what happened to us, and we will know that no matter what we found within ourselves an ability to survive it. And talk at us all they want, most professionals do not have a clue what this means. But I will tell you that any one of them would have ended up exactly where we are if the same things had happened to them that happened to us. My guess is that if we had not had these supposed “defective genes” within us to fall back on in order to survive the unsurvivable, we would, quite simply and quite finally, not be here to even wonder about any of it.
But be here we are! And in my mind we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, no matter how grievous, dire and miserable our situations might appear to be. WE ARE ALIVE, even though most of time we can’t quite figure out if this fact is a blessing or a curse – and more often we consider it the latter!
Let me back up a moment and give you an idea of the picture we are looking at. It has to do with something foreign to most of us: attachment theory. All the mothers and fathers in the field of attachment studies have always know that forming an attachment to a caregiver ensures the survival of every vulnerable and fragile infant that is born. It has always been this way for the human species because we have to be born with only one sixth of our brain developed or we would never get out without killing our mothers. We wouldn’t fit!
But what scientists know now very clearly (and believe me, the professionals don’t want to hear a word of this because it upsets their apple carts and stirs up their creamy world) is that HOW our brains actually build the next five sixths of their capacity from birth to age 18 months is literally by using the interactions an infant has with the caregivers in its world. These interactions FORM the circuitry, pathways, structures and govern the operations of this tiny brain as it forms itself.