John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise IV

John Michael continues his series, reflecting on life and people encountered, with three new stories about grief, self-reflection and inner peace, and finding your authentic self.


Talk to Someone You Trust

I love Jesus Christ so very much. At my lowest moment on the streets, I saw a blue light apparition of him sitting on a bench across from me out in front of Chili’s at three in the morning. He looked so calm and peaceful. I have come a long way since then in my search for that peace I saw in Christ.

The hashtag #Metoo has started a wave. I posted about it for a minute and then took it down, because I did not want to take away from women, and I am so glad these things we try to hide are coming into the light.

Every Fall, I post about grief arising in me and each year I mention it less, but I am grieving tonight for myself and for all of us I imagine. If memory serves, Judo started in the Fall for me on the stage at a local high school. It was there that I was molested at age eight or nine by an instructor who I later found out was only sixteen or seventeen at the time. It was a very rough moment for me and I quit Judo the next day. Although I did go back once because of pressure from the other kids in the neighborhood attending.

Looking back, a lot of shitty stuff went down and I will spare you most of the details. However, we used to have a Judo tournament in Spokane and the Tri-Cities. Before the tournaments we would have a weigh-in at the high school. I remember being very uncomfortable in my underwear in line and then either going into shock or launching out of my body when we had to take our underwear off to be weighed.

I will say, the night I was molested, I felt completely dominated and without a voice. Also, just deeply ashamed of myself.

Men in our society and their patterns, especially maybe in working-class communities like this one, are granted and grant themselves little room to feel much of anything at all. Corey Feldman, God Bless him, had the courage to admit that he was surrounded by pedophiles in Hollywood. But I am not sure he ever said what happened to him or the emotions and scars these events created in him.

I am at a point in my life where I am semi-comfortable talking about this stuff, but I still have fears around it and shame attached to it. I have worked hard on forgiveness as Christ asks me to do for myself and the man that molested me and all involved. It has brought a deeper sense of peace. But I still struggle. I heard myself saying, I want justice, just this evening.

I do want other men to know, especially maybe those guys that grant themselves little room for emotion, if something like this happened to you, that you are loved and have nothing to be ashamed of. You have all my prayers and compassion as you move through your lives.

Shame can rob of us of our voices, and ideas about manhood can rob of us are emotions and our tenderness. I have more tears these days and am happy for them. If something like this has happened to you, do not be afraid. I urge you to talk to someone you trust about it; the emotions that come up may seem overwhelming, but it is part of the healing process.


The Kingdom of Heaven Is Within

I have done quite a bit of emotional work over the years and, for the most part, consider myself a happy, loving person. I do have my moments however, especially perhaps when it comes to my immediate family.

We have performed Carrie the Musical four times so far after today’s matinee. It was a great performance from the many vibrant young people involved. At times, no matter how good you are, you will get an audience that won’t participate.

I kept feeling for them and calling for them. But some people are so shut off from their own emotions, they cannot open up and feel along with a play as beautiful as this one.

Some of my family was there and I was driving a friend home and I said to him, “I can’t love my mom.” I continued driving and reflecting on all the heavy emotions in my heart. I then thought, Blame others, and the emotions in me started to shift.

After talking to so many homeless people, I started to realize I had some pretty decent parents after all. I was not beaten or molested by them and was not even yelled at that much. However, and perhaps everyone has some of this, I never felt loved for who I am.

Like many of you as well, I started changing myself to get others to love me. This manifested itself as me being a super people-pleaser. If I kiss your tushy, if I do everything you ask, will you love me then?

I was dreading seeing my mom because I knew what was waiting. “There were parts where I couldn’t hear you,” was all she had to say about my performance. Then she said it was not that humorous. There are some funny bits she no doubt missed, but it is not a comedy. Then she went on to gush about other people’s performances.

In the past when we would have these type of sessions, I would feel just a huge amount of rage well up. This would be followed by a week or so of self-hate and self-pity. My emotional reactivity was way down this time. I have my own thoughts, but I get some help from spirit at times. As we were talking, I heard in my mind, Listen to the jealousy.

Usually at that point in this long-repeated conversation, I would be so full of emotion that I could not listen to her emotions for even a minute. But there was indeed jealousy in her voice. That little girl in her that naturally wanted to perform maybe never got an opportunity.

The kingdom of heaven is within.

Blame others, as I mentioned earlier. I was blaming my family and many others certainly for me not loving myself. Can I blame my mom and dad for being jealous or for withholding love? How could I? I have been a jealous motherfucker most of my life and withheld love countless time from people I imagined hurt me or were not doing what I wanted them to do.

Shakti Gawain is a spiritual writer I admire. I read something she wrote maybe twenty years ago that touched me. “All the love you need is right there in your own heart,” she said. I knew that was true as soon as I read it. But our minds are so trained to look outside ourselves for validation, we forget to seek the heaven within.

But outside validation can be very helpful as it reminds us of what is inside. As we were leaving, an actress from the play smiled at me and said, “Nice job, John.” Now, I used to shrug off every compliment sent my way because I was not sure of my worthiness. Also, as a people pleasing flatterer myself, I often doubt others sincerity. But the heart knows when somebody is being real and when they are not. She meant it and it made me smile.

So, I can and do love my mom and dad, because I can and do love myself.


Join the Hunt for Authenticity

Our society has set up or evolved these systems, these institutions, including maybe family systems, and I hesitate to call them soulless, but they don’t seem to serve anyone’s happiness. I think many people struggle to find their hearts, their uniqueness, their individuality in the modern world.

I mean, we all seem to have agreed that conformity, greed, and getting your own no matter the cost to another is a good way we can play it, just because that is how things are. Anyone with some differences ends up in a home or an institution, or a hospital or on the streets.

These structures may crumble around us, we shall see. Nothing is propping them up except the false gods of fear and power. A spiritual life, an aware life, has many struggles. To be honest with yourself, with others, when no one is playing things that way, can leave you feeling lonely and apart from the world.

To let go of old patterns and ways of being, to discover your uniqueness, your true dreams, your real smile, and your true kindness takes time, guts, and patience. It helps certainly that God or the universe or what have you is on your side when you reach for these things.

But everyone and everything around you may appear to be working against you finding yourself. I must say, the struggle has been worth it on my part. A greater sense of peace and a deepening joy are the rewards.

If things are going to change without small apocalypses disrupting these shaky institutions and structures and creating much gnashing of teeth, more people are going to have to join the hunt for authenticity.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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