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.
“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)