1990’s Total Recall, dir Paul Verhoeven is a mind-bending action film by one of the 80s-90s best action directors. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a man in the future who works a boring job. He visits a business called Rekall that implants memories of vacations within your mind. Something seems to go wrong in the process, and suddenly Schwarzenegger’s character finds himself living the life of a spy, and on an adventure that has him questioning his own life, and wondering what is real.
I have been going through an admittedly less awesome version of Ahnold’s journey. But I’ve finally figured out some important things about myself. Some I have never connected, but still form the basis of this piece here. Of me.
I have always said I felt like my trauma begins around three or four years old. But I never considered asking why. Why not? I dunno. Traumatic memories are often repressed as a defense. But the only way to heal is to find those memories, see them with compassion, and reintegrate them into your story.
And so I was filling out the childhood section of a life story journal, and the question was what where I lived as a child was like. So, I described what I remembered of this old Swedish built house in South Jersey. The dock on the creek, the black goat that stood on the picnic table and scared me. The endless rows of tall green-leafed tomatoes in our garden. Watching my brother walk the long lane to the school bus from what I guess was standing in my crib, and waiting for him to come back. And then a new thing I had to be very careful with, love and take care of, a sister.
And then I paused because 3 or 4 is when we left that house. I was in a car with my sister. My brother wasn’t coming. Neither was Dad. My parents patched it up after a brief separation, but I guess that was enough to shake the security of a child aware enough that her family was breaking up. That she didn’t understand. She knew that her sister looked helpless and dazed. That Mom cried a lot. That Dad was still there sometimes. That brother was gone. That she wanted everyone to be happy.
That realization blew my hair back. I think I stumbled a bit walking from my porch into the house after writing that. Remembering that. And realizing how much a part of myself still existed exactly in that moment of fear, confusion, and guilt. I felt I ought to do something. That it was my fault somehow. Whatever kids think when parents and families split. And for once, I felt compassion for that little girl. Her and her big smile and bigger cheeks. Piggy tails.
I had a really sour stomach and was depressed for about a week recently. It was in my stomach, and just below. It was where I was holding my pain. I kept thinking something terrible would happen. It already had.
My social media, including this blog, was recently scoured as leverage over Stan. The parties even wanted to tell me or have Stan tell me to take down a post. Well, Stan being wise and self-protective, convinced the individuals concerned that was a poor idea. It felt like being trapped by my evil tickle-uncle who called me “wop,” “greaseball,” “dago,” you get the idea. One day I learned the word “NAZI.” But it was a violation.
And then there was Friday. Was that only just last Friday? The day I realized I had less rights than before. That I was not considered equal under the Constitution. Well, if you’re speaking of the original, we don’t get a mention. Enslaved black males get 3/5ths. But, didn’t Jefferson say something about how one shouldn’t wear his childhood clothes as a man, and so we cannot predict what future needs may arise for the law to address? Anyway, all I know is it hurt.
All those realizations sort of gathered in my stomach, until a body scan meditation found them. Then I was able to drag them out, name them, feel them. But bye-bye!
It was powerlessness. Feeling like I didn’t matter. Worse, my voice didn’t matter. And what is an artist without their instruments? One unhappy tummied artist, I can say that!
But accepting that these things are just kind of there is fine. The memories have less power. The feelings become unknotted. *Mumble mumble* year old me can handle and understand far more than 3 or 4 year old me could. And those feeling don’t need to control me. I have my power. I have my own sense of meaning. I am moving closer to a more authentic me by letting all the monsters out, one by one. It won’t all be so simple. But at least I know this is real life. Right? This is it, huh? For realz? I dunno but here’s OK. The real is OK. I am OK.
– JL ✌🏼💙💛🖖🏼🌈
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