Saturday, April 25, 2009

To write is to rebel.

Just when I think I know myself, I ask more questions. You might appreciate this one: Why am I a writer?
` The answer is: To assuage my burning discontent, to cry out in loneliness, to temporarily escape the constant feeling of imprisonment.

When I was four years old, starting to feel the friction of my dysfunctional family, I remember that I wrote little books on construction paper about the way I thought things ought to be. I wrote fantasy stories of animals, who had children, and they were nice to one another.
` Unfortunately, I don't think anyone knew what I was getting at. Sometimes, I would be made to sit around the table and be scolded about what I wrote, then my books were taken away from me and I never saw them again.

I stopped writing for a while. The abuse from my dad became even less tolerable. He would tell me that I was stupider than a horse because at least horses allow themselves to be broken. Why was he punishing me all the time? What was I doing wrong?
` He kept telling me that I did all kinds of things I didn't even know about and that the reason I didn't remember was because I was crazy.

When I started school, at Sydney Fenn Elementary, I got in a lot of trouble. I was even mean sometimes to my only friend, Tina LaFerrier, who was three years older than me. We were troublemakers and made up our own 'language' called 'Ma' (with an 'a' like in 'shadow').
` I remember fighting a lot with Hubert VanDeusan and I remember him scribbling on my paper so I'd have to erase what I wrote.
` My teacher, Ms. Solomon, was a trip. She said she was a witch who had magical powers and would use them on whoever was bad. Apparently her magical powers consisted of dragging my desk to the corner of the room, where nobody paid any attention to me.
` I went to the principal's office a lot. Sometimes he would threaten me. When my dad threatened me, sometimes I would cry and he would laugh at me because I was crying, and then I would start to laugh, too. Pretty soon, I started laughing every time I got scared.
` Once, the principal, Mr. Leher, made me sit in a chair and I was scared of him. He kept saying, "Look at me!" but my eyes were glued to the ceiling. Involuntarily, I started laughing and drifting away into some other place, and then he slapped me in the face and said, "Do you think this is funny? Are you having a good time?" I didn't know what to do. I was like a deer in a room full of headlights.

Soon after that, I was transferred to Garfield Elementary - coincidentally, so was Mr. Leher! I went to Special Ed for 'problem children' because I was everybody's problem. I was so bad that Mr. Peterson, a volunteer from the Baptist church, would drag me around in a laundry bag, even down the steps.
` Sometimes the principal would assist in dragging me down the steps by my hands and any rug burns I sustained were proclaimed my "choice."

I didn't even know what a choice was. Some "stupid hippie" term, I thought. And so was 'self-esteem'. That was a really bad word, my dad taught me. He said that the way they treated me was "stupid", too, but he never told mom because then she wouldn't let me go to school anymore.

I was about seven at the time. I remember that I went to music class and had to sing. I didn't really like most of the songs. Worst of all was Gospel music, but when I refused to sing words that made my palms sweat, like "God" and "soul", I got an 'X' on the clipboard and privileges were taken away from me.
` I hated most singing "All night, all day, angels watching over me." Were there really angels? I asked one of the teacher's aides on the way back to class one day. She thought there were.
` I looked around the hallway. I was frightened. I knew I was a bad person, and angels were supposed to get rid of bad things, right? I started to become terrified that there was an angel that was going to get me.
` But then who was I supposed to run to for help? I didn't even consider my parents, as they were no help at all. I wasn't sure I believed in the devil either, but I thought that at least I would not be in trouble with him.
` Then, in the classroom, what should I have but large pieces of colored construction paper. I think they were from an art project. So I started drawing angels, on winged horses galloping across rainbows and clouds, dropping bombs on devils. But wait, that was wrong. If angels killed devils, then they would kill me too, and I didn't want that to happen.

Well, what if they were wrong? What if bad was good? Since I was punished constantly for no discernible reason, I thought that maybe 'bad' was just what other people wanted it to be. It sure didn't have anything to do with my actions.

So I was bad, but I thought that I must really be good.

Soon enough, my angels turned to pathetic white laboratory mice, and the devils turned into large, powerful black rats. The mice had puny weapons while the rats were always scurrying underground and blowing them up.

This competition also gave way to Mu-loos and Dragons. The dragons were the ones I wanted to be - sleek, strong, fire-breathing, flying - while the Mu-loos were the ones I didn't want to be, the ones I laughed at.
` They had beaks and ate pine trees and each other's droppings and had horse hooves on the back feet and fingerless nubs for front feet. I came up with six types of Mu-loos, more pathetic than the last, as well as six types of dragons, each one having a different special ability.

Soon, I began turning little notebooks into story books, but used different creatures for these, ones supposed to be villains. I really liked them, but other people acted like it was a huge chore to even look.
` My dad didn't read them either but he said that while my illustrations were good, the dragon-like character representing myself was ugly. I didn't know why. I put a lot of work into drawing her fancy markings and tall hair - she always took the longest!
` I had a certain number of circles I put on her wings, and each segment of her tail had a different pattern in it! But he didn't like it - I remember showing him a drawing of the various characters, with the one supposed to be me on the end.
` He said, "Well, it's okay," and then he folded back the part of the paper with my character on it and said, "Much better!"
` I knew it was a stupid drawing, but something inside of me was hurt. I didn't know what it was.

I spent my last year of grade school, sixth grade, in a place called C-FIT. When I told people where I went to school, they laughed and didn't believe the name.
` I think it stands for Child-Family Intensive Treatment. It was very intense - they did things to make us mad, like watch Sesame Street, and when I would try to run away from being treated like a five-year-old, they would grab me and cross my legs and sit on my back! Pissing the students off was down to a science.
` Unfortunately, nobody ever heard of or believed this type of treatment until after I was gone, whereupon the school was shut down.
` During my internment there, I had a fascination with writing about cats who slunk about in the shadows at night. They had homes but a lot of the time they wandered around, stealing sandwiches and making fun of dogs.
` The cats gradually turned into superheroes with cool gadgets who were a great deal like Batman, though I didn't realize it at the time, but they still made fun of dogs and other animals who I identified as my enemy and were sometimes supposed to represent real people, like the kids who hated me and poured Pepsi on me.

I also drew special pictures of teachers, teachers aides and students in each year of Special Ed. Most of the students were depicted favorably while the others were terrible monsters or absurd creatures. Sometimes, my parents got called because of my drawings.
` At C-FIT, I drew very accurately the faces of the people who were supposed to be watching the twenty or so students who went there, but the rest of their bodies was quite different:
` Mr. Galbraith got to be a giant mushroom (like these scary mushroom people I saw in a cartoon) and Mike Swanson was part swan and part doughnut (because we weren't allowed to say the word 'doughnut') and the principal Anne Vaner was a rock with a bulging vein because she was angry, and Colleen the counselor was a Colleen Chevrolet Used Horse and Allison Rafter was some annoying thing or another that says "don't worry be happy", and Genette was a Flower Face (because flowers were plants' genitals) and Lauri was a Loris and I don't know who else.
` I remember one day, I told Mike and Mr. Galbraith about how I kept asking this woman at the mental hospital I'd just been at if she was videotaping me. She left the room for ten minutes, apparently as a test, so I did some things to prove to myself I was being paranoid, such as pulling my pants down and screaming, "THERE IS NO VIDEO CAMERA!"
` Before I could get to that part, however, they started laughing and said, "We were watching that!" I remember at that moment that they were standing very close to one another, as if they had their arms over each others' shoulders, and their mocking faces seemed to fill up my vision.
` I never talked to them about my problems again.

My constant lack of control in the world had long been manifested in obsessive compulsiveness, which got me in constant trouble. One instance was my set of three pencils that must always stay together because they matched. I was like that with a lot of things.
` Well, I wasn't allowed to have more than one pencil. I would keep them in my bra, but Mike and Mr. G would reach in and take them anyway.
` One pencil was not good enough, though. I kept throwing it because I didn't have the other two pencils and it was driving me insane. Mike grabbed it and put it in his desk. When I asked for it later, he took it out and then acted like he was handing it to me but instead dropped the end of a wooden pencil, the lead and the eraser both chewed out of it, and told me to write with the 'stump'. With no lead, I couldn't write. Then he said, "Well, you should have thought of that earlier."
` There was seriously no lead, though - it had been pulled out. I told Anne Vaner what happened and then tried to get my pencil back, and you know what he did? Took it out of his desk, then dropped the stump hidden in his hand, just like before! And she said, "Wull, Sara, there isn't anything I can do."
` They kept telling me it was my choice and my decision. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean. It reminded me of when my dad would scream at me, "Don't make me kill you!" or "Don't act like I'm going to hit you, because that makes me hit you!"
` Understandably, my pictures of them got more and more detailed. Sometimes, they would be taken away and I'd never see them again.
` I wrote a lot, too. I was also made to write things called 'compositions'. Once I had to write one about why I should be good. I had very little understanding of the subject. I recall writing the words 'I should act happy'. Happy was only a way of acting, after all. By then, I had forgotten what the word 'emotion' meant. All I knew was actions and facial expressions. Feelings did not seem to have a place in the world of emotions.
` One composition I was very proud of. But Mr. G. wouldn't read it because he was mad because he had to beat up another student - at least that's what it sounded like. Instead, he tore it up and threw it in the wastepaper basket. I tried to grab the pieces before my bus left at the end of the day, but Mike and Mr. G wouldn't let me! I cried and cried.

After I apparently failed horribly at school, I was made to stay home all day. But I couldn't believe my parents would just drive to work every day and leave me by myself. I was sure they didn't trust me enough. Instead, I was led to believe that there was a hidden video camera on me, like in the mental hospital.
` During this time, I was lonely, so I talked to what I thought was the camera all day. When my dad did something bad to me, I wrote it down in another little notebook. I wrote about his abuse, my thoughts, my attempts to undermine him, and what I thought of the world. It was a very sad little world, and I had nothing to compare it to.

For six years I wrote. Six long years. For the future. So I could look back on it with a different perspective once I was out.
` I was also writing a novel. It made no sense, I know that now, because I didn't know about how other people's lives were. Just mine. It was about a girl who saved the world.

When I was eighteen, my mom had enough sense to kick him out of the house. Unfortunately, he considered anything that belonged to me to be his. He took it all. All those hundreds of hours of writing. Gone.

I would never be able to see what I wrote. The fruits of my labor. The only thing I had done during those six lonely years. Those six years when I was frightened to see that my culture encourages smiling. Smiling triggered the worst feelings for me. "How can anyone smile?" I thought. "They are sick people."
` And all along, I learned, it was just me. The rest of the world was okay. I was the one who was sick.

Years later, I was starting to recover from the abuse, when something even worse happened. I was tortured and mistakenly thrown in a mental hospital and left to die.

I have written about my dad's abuse and the torture incident online before in great detail, so there is no need for that. I will bring them together with this item at some point.

Years went by. The flashbacks began to fade. Finally, I got ready internet access. I was trying to pull my life together. Finally, I started to write on a blog, specifically because I didn't like myself but couldn't accept that I was worthy of that.
` I just thought of it as a dull exercise to strengthen my writing skills. It was difficult to persuade anyone to ever read my blog, even the guy I called my boyfriend, who treated me like a small child and showed no interest in anything meaningful I had to say.

I wrote about science and various oddments, but I felt ashamed when I felt compelled to write about what had happened to me in the past. That wasn't right for a science blog. I did it anyway, with much guilt.

It was pretty certain that I had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder my whole life and was utterly ignorant of what most people considered 'normal'. Instead, I was treated as if I was stupid and lazy or else was being a sob story and using 'victim leverage'.
` I wasn't given any chances. I didn't know about what I could do. Even so, I felt like my future was grim because I had to marry this guy that I had no interest in anything.
` Whenever I showed curiosity to something new, I was told that it wasn't really interesting or was ridiculed for being a smartass. Whenever I did something Socially Awkward because I had never learned how to be an adult, I was shamed because I supposedly should have known better.

Worst of all, my therapists had all been jackasses and had no interest in talking to me, only reading my file and telling me that I was mentally ill like my father, so the only person I had to talk to about my problems was this guy.
` He told me that if I wanted to hurt myself that I should go right ahead and work through my problems, but if I wanted to get better, I should ignore whenever something triggered a memory and bury it deep inside.
` The whirlwind of memories in my head just spun faster and faster as I clung tighter to him. Then he called me 'needy' and made me feel guilty if I didn't say I loved him.

I was fortunate enough to get away from him, only wearing the special engagement ring from him once or twice, without even first having a physical relationship, and I quickly found my first Real Boyfriend, Lou Ryan, who just got home from playing 'Pinhead Simon' on 'Crypticon Idol'.
` He actually thinks my feelings are important, and my PTSD has since gone away. I learn by his example, but only things that he's better at than me. He doesn't always understand what my problems are, but I am patient with him. Usually.
` Just last April 1, we were going to Johnnie's show at Haley's, and I was telling him my homework strategy and he didn't understand how I was just trying to get my assignments done on time by pushing back other assignments to the days I didn't have anything due, and he kept nagging me about wasting time by cleaning and I wound up screaming at him that cleaning the house a little and making things in order and quieter was not a waste of time because it helped make my brain work better. Finally, he understood my plan and shut up.

I really hate it when people doubt the choices I make. It was only in January of this year (2009) that I finally started to realize that I am justified in wanting to help myself, and am competent enough to follow my instincts, rather than thinking that anything I feel like doing must be 'rationalized' by miles of mental gymnastics. No wonder I never did anything before.
` Now I go to school, and I've had a couple of jobs, too. It wasn't as terrible as I had thought.

It really used to bother me to be myself. Apparently, thinking through my past traumas - and there have been far too many for me to completely handle - was supposed to be bad for me, so I stagnated and closed up, and making myself better was wild, sporadic and painful because I 'knew' it was wrong.
` Now I know better. I know that working my way through the abuse and torture that I have suffered in the past is what I needed.

Still, my home environment is not as good as it could be. Living in a ghetto house is better than the scary ghetto apartment I used to live in. We're even having major victories over our crazy slumlord!
` However, the whole thing with not having a quiet environment for long... each day I have two choices. Use the lulls in the house activity - which are not very predictable - to do homework OR to write my screenplay that has been stagnating in my mind for the longest time.
` It is difficult because I have severe ADD, and earplugs are my only defense. I don't like taking Ritalin because it makes me focus so hard on the TV noise that that's all I know and I'm compelled to come out and watch TV too.

Right now, I have to cease and desist all activity soon because B-Gangsta wants to play the piano and fill the house with really loud piano noise because he won't put on the headphones. It is very loud and stressful and I won't be able to organize all my homework and other projects in my piano room, either, which was what *I* was planning to do instead - and it really needs it.
` I also won't be able to do my homework because of all the loud TV-watching going on in the other end of the house. It drives me nuts. I'm never able to relax when I have to hear it. I wish I had a choice.

So, now all I do is wear earplugs all day and hide in the corner. Ohhhh the TV! It is a huge terror. Lou Ryan still laughs at me because it affects me this way, but I don't know what else to do. I have a million projects that would make us all rich and I just don't have enough time to be ME.
` I need eight hours a day to do homework and do all my other things. Since I understand that working on my own things, like my websites, videos, screenplay, learning a very important language, etc is useless, I sometimes go hang out with other people. That is another way of being 'me', but it does not help me finish all these years of unfinished projects I have piled up in my piano room. Oh yeah, and playing the piano. I haven't done that for a really long time.

Sometimes, I just want to kill myself. Life isn't worth living if you have all these goals and other people won't let you attain them. All I need is an office. A place where I can go to be safe. The closest thing I can do is take a nap in the middle of the day and then be awake when no one else is, except Lou Ryan makes me feel ashamed of that because it's not a smart thing to do.

I tell ya, no matter how many times I escape, I only find myself in a larger cage.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At last... I believe I am ready.

After long periods of deliberation and discovery, I have decided that the best way for me to teach others about science and critical thinking is from the heart. In fact, I will use my own perspective as a demonstration, recounting how I have fought against my own ignorance and why I fight for the illumination of others.

In my previous writings, I have tended to write about what I have learned without mentioning my own desire to learn and to teach, nor the personal meaning I derive from it. This, I believe, is a mistake:
` Rather than just reporting the straight dope (as well as I can), showing people how it affects me as a person would most likely help others understand the reasons why I work to get these ideas across.

Such a personal journey may seem like a startling approach until one realizes that brilliant minds like Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan had been quite successful using similar methods. There's just something about learning from another human being who is in awe of the universe and our ability to learn about it that makes others want to be in awe as well.

And that is where I'll begin.