The Day My Life Changed Forever


It was after dinner, and everything was cleaned up.  The rest of the time for the evening was mine.

In my tiny attic bedroom, quiet, alone, and free from my 7 siblings, I sat in the middle of my bed with the oversized book across my folded legs.  I leaned over and stared at the full-colour pages glowing under the eerie beam of the small reading lamp.  The moment flushed warmth from my face; and then a large teardrop raced gravity to fall below perfectly into the middle of the bright yellow sun.

weather-supercell-by-Sean-Heavey“No way…” I whispered to nobody else.  And then – time actually felt like it stood still.  No sound, no smell, no breath – not even a thought.  I noticed myself looking around the room without moving my eyes.

Up to this point in my life, I have never experienced anything like this from reading information.  I had never read anything more baffling and completely life-rocking – except maybe from some passages in the Bible or health class.  I figure the only thing that would be worse, I thought to myself, was to actually hear someone tell me that what I was reading was true.  My world was immediately tossed like a leafy dinner salad with just the very possibility.  “…No way.”  I shook my head.

If there was something I thought for sure I knew, even at this tender age of 10 years old, is when I am being duped by adults.  After all, I’d already been abused in many ways and many times by every authority figure I ever trusted in my short life.  All of a sudden, I am reading a book that was putting into question THE last refuge in which I had placed myself to gain and maintain any kind of sanity and hope in my life. Now, it too, shattered?

(I know, I know.  It’s a little heavy thinking for a kid, right?  Yet, at the same time; my life was already tested from the abuses, foster homes, continual trauma, and my (first) medical near-death experience a few years earlier.  These things change a person – even at a young age – whether I knew it or not.)

***

As a little guy fast growing up to quickly (or ‘forced-up’ as little adults, how I always explained it), I was already gaining a reputation in my family, with friends, and within my close community as a “Whyz-Guy”.  I was very extroverted and loved being around people older than me.  With them, always wondering, asking questions, and always asking why gave them a feel-good moment.  I was so fearless back then (and it’s because I didn’t know any better), I would even stop strangers on the street (I still do), and ask them why – or how (my second favourite question).

(Check out my earlier post on “asking why” called: “Asking Why Without The Stress, and have a look at the “WhyzAss Creed”.)

Was it curiosity? Getting an understanding? Being nosey? A vice or addiction? Or maybe a psychological response to other issues?  I know now from an incident a few years earlier, I felt I lost my father’s trust.  So maybe I was trying to prove my worthiness to him.  Who knows?

All I know for sure, is that if something caught my attention – and it happened often, I had to know the answers.  I was, after all, having fun learning all this stuff too. I discovered that life is interesting and can be filled full of excitement all the time if we wanted it to be so. It is just up to ourselves.  I guess that is why I have been to so many schools, training programs, and educational experiences – to keep having the fun! (And just to let you know – I was never geeky or a ‘know-it-all’ towards anybody.)

So, back to the incident and it’s foreplay.  In response to my personal angst, I decided to create a plan for myself to protect me and help me get through these years of continual pain and trauma.  What I did was to I build these emotional and social walls around my world.  I designed a lifestyle for myself that gave me a sense of safety; and a lot of it had to do with a solitary lifestyle.  Not knowing so, but I am an introvert by nature already, so it wasn’t a big stretch for me to be comfortable with the aloneness.  (Where I had the problem was in the loneliness.)

I had already been exposed to too much of life.  For example, I was travelling (on public transit) downtown on my own six days a week and saw some of the darker sides of inner-city life and survival.  I already had my first near-death experience (as memorable now as it was 50 years ago). The emotional and physical abuses at home compounded the secret trauma I was already experiencing from several incidences of sexual abuse by several adults (of both genders) – and that really messed me up that I could tell nobody.

What made it so difficult was the contradictions I saw and experienced about life, family, love (yada-yada).  Because of my treatment by my parents, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing healthy ways of child-rearing and relationships; and I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the same kind of lifestyle in my upbringing.  “Why wasn’t my family nice?” “Why was I always afraid?” “Why is it different?”

In my plan, I decided to keep things pretty simple.

Other than escaping to my little cave in the attic (my bedroom) to draw, paint, and read; I also hung around two places outside the home: the local recreation centre – the place that saved my life and molded my ethics, morals, and values; and the library – the window of escape to anything I would ever want to know as a kid.  If there was another thing I was sure I knew – the recreation centre was safe, friendly, nurturing, and fun; and the library was a place where I can trust the information and the people who were responsible for it (the librarians).  I volunteered at both places often there and participated in a lot of great intellectual and personal growth games and challenges.  The library is where I got the book I was currently reading (and causing me great stress!).

As far as I could tell, it was a good plan.  I stayed out of sight like my parents wanted it.  I stayed out of trouble which my parents demanded.  I stayed in line and obeyed everyone.  I thought it was working (even with the acknowledged abuses) because I was getting through it day by day. (How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time.)

At school, I tried my best and did well (much to my peril).  At church, I was an altar boy and went every day.  With recreation, I can always be found at the Rec Centre.  At home, I played the piano (Conservatory scholar), did my chores, and stayed away from controversy.  Alone, in my attic refuge, I usually listened to the hockey games on the radio while I drew, painted, and dreamed of better days.  It was just a matter of time.  I believed that because I was told often.  Patience.  Reward.  Penitence.  Humility.  These were all the things I could look forward to in my young life as I exercised the best logic in my daily habits.  And still …

***

So, here I was on this evening, under the dust of yet another crumbling psycho/social pillar that held my life together; I too, broke down, cried, and shook away certainty once again.

All I want is HOPE.  If there was anything I could count on, it was at least my future and it’s possibilities.  I knew enough from my varied learnings that at least I had some kind of control over that.  (Like I said, I had already seen and done too much; so my level of thinking was more survival-mode than anything else.)

Here I was – reading a book – and now even the possibility of future inner peace and happiness in my life was questioned.  I knew I wasn’t happy, and I wanted to be.  Was I placing my trust yet again in more lies and deceptions?  I felt my life sinking into the pit of misery.  But how could this be so?  All I had to do (according to adults) was to get a good education, go to church, raise a family, and lead a life of compassion towards others.  Now this was even being destroyed – and I put all my trust in this “plan”.

Never in a million years did I ever think that astronomy would be the defining wedge that would shape and direct my life for many years to come.

***

(More tomorrow. K)

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