John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXVIII

(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered. Here, he shares how he tries to overcome his shadows and fears.


I spent my childhood accumulating shadows and fears and stuffing them somewhere in my subconscious. I spent much of my adult life running from, hiding from, and trying to bury those shadows. Lord God Jesus, you don’t have to make me normal, but please let me appear normal for all the world to see. What can happen if a human psyche gets filled with too much fear and anxiety? Well, you know, take a look around, as they say.

I cleared many of my shadows and fears while homeless. All that time talking to no one with no schedule was apparently just what I needed for some healing. I have often wondered, Should I have stayed on the streets until fully healed? Or perhaps for this entire life? However, having a consistent environment, even though it is in the family and town where I accumulated all those shadows and fears, I have found some routine healing and helpful.

At times, I get thoughts I’m not used to having and they help focus or show me where I need to do some work. About half a year or so ago, I had the thought, Face rejection. And that seems to have been a central theme of my work since then. What do I mean by “work?” I mean, dealing with life in an authentic way as it comes along, and dealing with your emotions in an authentic way as they come up.

I could also call this section of my personal work, “I can’t get a date to save my life.” Now, in the past, I would have shrugged my shoulders, swallowed some aggression and bitterly proclaimed, “It is their loss.” If you take a larger view, and by that I mean one that is beyond your own hurt feelings or your feelings in general and examine the person who you believe is rejecting you, you begin to understand that what we call “rejection” is never really personal.

The other person has their own shadows and fears, and their own busy, stressful, life experiences going on as well. To not love them, or to pity myself, just because they told me “no” or “later” or “maybe” seems a little ridiculous.


I spent my childhood accumulating shadows and fears and stuffing them somewhere in my subconscious. … I cleared many of my shadows and fears while homeless.


So, now that I have faced rejection and found it lacking, a new thought came today and that was, Face abandonment. This may be the most difficult issue us humans have. Many of us stay in relationships that are not healthy for us because the thought of no relationship is too much to bear.

The short version of my story is: I abandoned myself and this world after being molested at age nine. The world from then on was filled with potential predators who might have appeared kind for a minute, but only to serve their own evil purposes and to take you out at the knees.

The longer version is like this: After however many years of constant struggle and fighting with each other, my parents got divorced which meant my dad left the house and my mom went to work. So, any stability my psyche was building started to quake some. The molestation a year or two later pushed my psyche into the nether regions of hell.

My favorite theory in graduate school was called “attachment theory” and was written by a man named John Bowlby. He studied animals and learned that we all need a safe base. We attach to our parents in the den and attach ourselves to the den in our early years. From that safe spot, we begin to explore the world, returning on occasion to refresh ourselves or lick any major wounds we withstood.

Well, essentially, I stopped attaching at age nine and got blown around on some adventures that felt far riskier than they actually were. I was walking into my momma’s basement the other day and had the thought, Attach, and that is just what I am doing.

I pride myself on being a hobo and traveler, so it hurt my pride and ego that I have not been out of town much at all over the last several years. Afterwards, as I work through this abandonment and attachment issue, who knows where the safe and lovely wind may blow me. I now know I can return to a den (family and community that loves me) to refresh myself and lick the occasional wound.


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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