Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Grandmother's Words.

My Grandmother's souvenir set containing oil, incense, soil and holy water from Jerusalem.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, depression, etc. This entry may be triggering for you. It may also be cathartic. If you were bullied growing up, came from a hostile or toxic home life...etc. The same thing may be true. I want to "trigger warn" anyone coming by because I really, really, don't want you to hurt over my hurt. I want to you be free of your fears and suffering. I want you to be happy. I want to be happy. I want to live by my Grandmother's words or rather the meaning behind them. 

This is not, on the surface, a woo-woo post.  This is also not an attempt to declare a change in my religion.  This is me cleaning out an old wound, and making some thinly-veiled commentary on bullying.

My Saturn Return started when I was in my early twenties. It loomed on the horizon like something out of Lovecraft (accompanied by blasting trumpets and screeching metal) and impressed upon me that it was about to mess me up so profoundly that by the time it was over I wouldn't even recognize myself. I took to heart its message and made grand, drastic, changes in my life to sweep a path for it to pass without injury. Except that an entire decade of the stuff means you can't keep everything out of harm's way and focusing on trying to save it all means you often save only the most precious things, or realize their loss in the aftermath.

Un/fortunately, among this was nascent work to do spiritual and mental healing. It was taking apart things that I'd carried around and discarding the nonfunctional or toxic pieces. It involved work like "soul retrieval" (god how I hate that word). It took me a few years to get back to it, and to have the breakthroughs that I wish I'd had then (or, better yet, in my teens). Among the realizations was that I have the full permission of myself to be myself and not to temper who I am for others - which is a big deal considering that like most people who were born with their generative organs on the inside I was raised to meet a certain set of criteria, among which was a certain amount of "be seen and not heard." and "you are communal property." And Saturnus was right - in the end, I am a very different me.

I always look back on related experiences when I write a post, because I like to establish the same pattern for the reader that I have experienced. I like to show you all why I came to the conclusion I came to, and what the weight of it means. This is in no way an attempt to sway anyone to my belief system, but rather... food for thought about your own and after all something meaty and decent to spend your time reading. 

In my teens I was a master of ignoring people.


I lived in a hostile home environment at the time and had developed an almost supernatural ability to be cognizant of my surroundings but have zero reaction to them unless I had to.  It was a defense mechanism to shield myself against an unending onslaught from within and without, and the constant brace for metaphorical blows is something I carry to this day.

So, there I am at the ripe age of something-teen standing in the "new age" section of my local bookstore. I am looking at The Necronomicon Spellbook when someone behind me makes a discourteous sound and tries to get my attention. In this store the New Age/Witchy section and Christian section are for some reason piled on top of one-another. My fortunes did not smile that day. At the sound my senses explode in that way anxious people will understand. I became hyper-aware.  My heart rate had already gone from resting to Insane (tachycardia plagued me in my teens), and was so loud in my ears I thought everyone must have been able to hear it.

You are engrossed in your reading material, and do not notice the person making sounds at you and slowly, surely, invading your personal space. You have every right to be here. Oh god they're getting closer. I'm not doing anything wrong please just leave me alone. Go away. I just want to read my book. I don't want to fight. I am so tired please don't make me fight. I don't want to because no matter what I say I'll be wrong. Please. I come here so I don't have to deal with this. Please don't berate me. I just want to be left alone. Can't you people just leave me alone? Please just go away-

"You're going to hell." she says. The world collapses around my ears into a cold, steely, shaking, nightmare. She says it like she's reading it off of a guest list. She says it like it's a vow. She says it like it's a solicitation. She says it like she's asking me to throw a punch. I stare fixedly ahead at the little book.  

"Didn't you hear me? You're gonna go to hell." No negotiation then. There is no offer of help. I'm stepping off a cliff and I deserve it. She's not pointing out my mistake, she's celebrating it. She's spitting off the edge to see which hits first. This is an inevitability. I've earned this. I deserve this. This is my reminder that I don't belong. I don't get to be a person. 

She gets closer. Closer. She's now only a couple of feet away. I can smell her perfume and shampoo. "You had better listen when I speak to you." She bristles, she's angry. I ignore her. I hear every single word, I see every single gesture and bit of body language. She is screaming retribution for this perceived slight of my existence. I do not react. I slowly turn the page, my hands are shaking. I am not reading. I am pretending. I am playing the part of a deaf mute. I am playing the part of a sentient statue. I am a ghost. I am not here. Not in this place, with this woman, saying these things.

I hear my Grandmother's words in my heart. It is the devil who sews enmity between brother and sister. It is the devil who makes us hate each-other. These words this woman is spitting at me are poison. There is nothing in her words but her own pride. There is no hero this day. I have no clever words, not even those beautiful ones. I keep my head down, I stare fixedly ahead. She continues to berate me about my trip to hell until she grows bored at my lack of response and leaves. I put the book back on the shelf, I stare fixedly ahead, I walk into the women's bathroom, I shut myself in a stall.  I cry.

It is not the first time, It won't be the last time. 

It's years later. I'm in a different store with a similar topic-location problem. I'm hunched over trying to balance my green tea with a blue, mammoth format, book on paganism. You know the one. It's precariously near Halloween, and I'm doing something that day or night because I'm in a festive seasonal getup with a tiny pair of horns glued to my forehead. The world's cheapest costume. I feel someone hovering a few feet behind me and to my left.

While time and age have worn a few of the corners off of my habit of locking up like a wild rabbit in the face of conflict, it's still there. I go hyper-aware, I whale-eye, I ignore. But I can feel the intent.  The internal monologue is smaller. The tone is anger rather than sheer panic, though my heart is hammering in my chest: Oh fuck me. Not this shit again. I have every fucking right to be in this store. Seriously? Goddamn. This fuckin' asshole is gonna bother me and I just want to be left the fuck alone to get on with my fucking day and drink my fucking tea. Can I not be bothered? Can one fucking day go by-

"You're going to hell." She says. A different She in theory, but in practice I tend to feel they're all the same She. It's all the same tone, the same intent, the same meaning. It is the same prideful malice burning my ears. It is hate and spite and nastiness for it's own sake. It is self-congratulatory assholeism.

"You are interfering with my shopping experience, leaving a negative impression of this place and this company and therefore costing this store money. You can either leave or I can get management." I respond. It is a rote, bottomed-out, routine. It is a script I wrote in my head every day since that first harassment, re-wrote, fine tuned. Rehearsed and tried out. It is without flaw. I don't even turn around to deliver it.
"Didn't you hear me? You're gonna go to hell." No impact. This is how it's going to go. I am Bill Murray, this is groundhog day. No matter what I do we are destined to play out this absurd fucking tango until one of us drops or I run headlong into the wall, knock myself unconscious, and start the fucking loop over again.

"I heard you just fine. I am not interested in discussing your personal theology. See yourself somewhere else." I turn the page, I have not turned to look at her. I am shaking, but I'm exhausted with the game of being small. I am exhausted by getting tinier to make others feel larger and unthreatened. I puff up. I threat posture. I wave my arms at the bear to make it think I'm menacing. I dump a milkshake over my head to look nutty.

"I'm going to get the manager!" She says. I am elated. The manager knows me. Every customer nearby has seen me standing here for the last half hour quietly reading. When the manager arrives I state that I was minding my own business when this woman started cursing at me ("hell" is a curse word, after all). A nearby patron backs me up. The woman is asked to leave. Another takes her place, this one focused on why I had to ruin someone's day like that. I repeat my first response. I smile to myself as they walk away.  I hear my Grandmother's words in my heart, but I don't say them.

But, It's Never Quite So Easy.

I am in my Mid-to-Late 20's. I am standing hunched over a book in the "New Age" section, looking up a reference from some mass market paperback or other on the occult and I hear the sound that has chilled my spine for the billionth time in my life. The sound of someone preparing to get righteously Christian on my heathen ass while I'm minding my own fucking business.  I prepare myself. I am a stone in the ocean, the waves may beat upon my back but I will break them. I am entitled to the space I occupy and entitled to go unmolested within it. Blah blah blah. Brace for the blows.

"You're going to hell." Why is it never a plea? Why is it always a victorious cry? Why is it always pride layered with self-hatred used to mask their inadequacies as a person? Why must they make others small to feel larger when each of us is made in the image of God and of the dust of dead stars? I ignore. I ignore it not because I am afraid (except I am afraid - my blood has run cold, my heart rate has skyrocketed as it always does and everything has that air of surreality), but because I don't fucking care anymore.  I just don't care. This is so old, this is so tired. This is so stupid. This is a thing I could have done once or twice, but dozens of times? Really? No thank you.

"Didn't you hear me?" She asks. This is gonna go the way it always does. She's not going to be satisfied until she's messed up my day. She is doing to me what she would do to a Barista who forgot the extra foam on her Late. I am tired of this shit. I am just done. We ain't gonna dance this dance, 'cause you ain't a fuckin' daisy.

I put my book down. I turn around. "I hear you trying to speak God's words, but it is the Satan's voice you speak them in. It is the Satan himself who spreads enmity between brother and sister. I won't hear those words. You think you are holy but he has you. He has you so deep you cannot see God's light from the hole you're in. I rebuke you Satan. I rebuke you in God's name. I won't hear you anymore." It erupts from me. It is righteous, and angry, and as tired as I am. It is filled with bitter disappointment and yet also with love. It is not me speaking, it is my Grandmother's voice and my Grandmother's words.

The woman looks positively wounded. Her expression goes from prideful triumph to Hollywood-Headshot confusion. Something in her eyes changes. Something in her body shifts. "I... I'm sorry." She says, and it is finally her voice I hear. She turns around, and leaves. I am as shocked as she is.

From then on every time it happened... those were the words. My Grandmother's words. Spoken from the same place within me as she had in that moment where she cut through and spoke to defend me. Righteous anger, but also love. I don't tolerate bullies. I won't hear those words. I won't hear them anymore.