Waiting on Either the Apocalypse or the Government to Show Up
John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “Waiting on Either the Apocalypse or the Government to Show Up,” shares insights into managing trauma.
The human psyche may have some intuition. Like, it can sense things floating up from the past, or provide glimpses and glances into the future. Like, how trauma can affect the mind, or how love can heal it.
I pulled a bunch of dented energy drinks, Rockstar I believe, out of a Mansfield, Texas, Big Lots dumpster, back when I was a hobo. Energy drinks were a new phenomenon, and I drank two or three of them in rapid succession. Later that night, I did some writing for the first time in a couple of years. I gave up a two- to three-a-day energy-drink habit a couple of years ago. They served the purpose of helping keep my heart rate up and my hypervigilance up until I felt secure enough to let them go.
I was surprised yesterday while painting I had the thought, Buy an energy drink. They have a ton of B vitamins and I figured maybe my body needed them. But maybe my psyche sensed something coming I wasn’t wanting to deal with.
My dad died recently in Boise and, when I got back into town, I jumped into routines and work too quickly. So, the last couple of days, I’ve been resting, eating well, meditating, contemplating, and grieving for my father.
The idea behind meditation is to let thoughts go and dwell in God’s silence. Last night, I was in deep meditation when I thought I wanted to look up the guy who molested me on the internet. I tried to let that thought go, but it had enough anxiety to it that I came out of meditation and grabbed my phone.
I looked him up a year after coming off the streets and seeing his picture stirred me up emotionally for a couple of weeks. At some point, I went to the cops both in Lewiston and across the river in Clarkston and filled out some police reports to see if anything could still be done. Survival guilt is the thought that comes up as I’m typing this in. How many boys might have been spared had I reported it at the time instead of letting shame keep me in silence? The statute of limitations was up in both states, however.
When I saw his picture last night, I didn’t have near the same emotional reaction I did before. I even thought, There is nothing to fear from him. I read a little bit and he had been arrested both in 1990 and 2002 for child molestation and was designated a Level 3 offender, the highest level. It said that he would make friends with the parents to gain access to their boys.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Oil Change Day: My Quarterly Tracheostomy Swap
- Times Like These: Reflections on Taylor Hawkins
- Train to Nowhere: An Exercise in People Watching
I remember asking Mom a year before she died if she had remembered meeting him, but she couldn’t remember. He was an unremarkable, Eddie Haskell character who you would never believe had so many demons running around inside.
I wrote a while back about my hesitancy with my masculine energy that I have to this day. When I returned from seeing my dad off to the great beyond—a major influence on my masculine tendencies—I thought it was my offender who stole part of my maleness. I thought I was eight or nine when it happened, but after Mom died, I was going through some old clippings and saw that I had won a judo tournament at age ten. I quit the next day, if memory serves, but may not have.
At any rate, I was a slow starter with judo but was coming on strong when the attack happened, winning tournaments and taking home medals. I was never able to really win at anything athletically since then, nor sustain any kind of worldly success over time.
The seven years I spent homeless happened shortly after I had a darker memory surface of the molestation. A wounded psyche stuck at age ten, running and frightened of the bad man who had hurt me. The thing was, he wasn’t a man when he attacked me, just a teenager barely getting started in his sadistic psychosis.
Anyway, I kept searching under different terms and was surprised to run across his obituary, he died last month in his early 60s after a year-long struggle with cancer. My first thought was, I want to know for sure, and, God forgive me, I actually pumped my fist once confirmed. Parts of my lower back are still numb from stored emotion and I actually felt some energy or light move into those areas. I had spent many hours sending love and forgiveness to that guy.
Last night, I had a dream full of dread and paranoia. Some friends and, oddly, a couple of ex-girlfriends and I were in a trailer on a mountain meadow waiting for either the apocalypse or the government to show up and drag us off to some FEMA camp. Towards the end of the dream, I saw a small, sad, anxious boy wearing a COVID-type mask that even covered his eyes. His mom was reassuring him as she took off his mask. I woke up just before light, felt like shit, started smoking immediately, grabbed some coffee, and went for a drive. Then, I sat by the river for a while until I was calm.
Whatever energy my psyche was still investing in—staying on guard in case the bad man returned—is dissipating. That was my take on the dream. I returned home, went back to bed, and dreamt I was walking along, happy as a clam, to some big concert I was starring in.
Healing from trauma takes patience and love, but it is a better path than just coping with, or outright denying trauma.
When I was driving down to Boise to see my dad off, I thought, They never got to see me shine, in reference to my parents. Not that I’m not shining now, I am in a loving community and enjoy almost every day. Driving back from Boise, I thought, I should learn to have fun. Now that the small boy has taken off the mask and come out of his lifelong crouch and can maybe look at the past and future without fear, I intend to do just that.
I was meditating later this morning and heard the thought, Since the beginning of time, you have wanted fame. That made me laugh.
I’ve been hearing snatches of songs more frequently during that state between sleep and being awake. A couple of days ago, I heard, Kill that kid with the broken ambition. To me, someone who has “broken ambition” would probably be chasing fame, but perhaps also be a kid who had given up on his dreams. During this morning’s nap, I heard, When I take that easy step … I just take that easy step. “I just take that easy step toward the Lord” is my conscious mind add-on.
I still often have the thought, I froze that night. When you speak about trauma to people who have their own trauma, they can get uncomfortable. They say things like, “When are you going to put that behind you? That was a long time ago. Let it go. Are you still dwelling on that?” I’ve been patient with myself and don’t judge them in the least.
I do want to say, however, if you have tried to talk about your trauma and have had similar reactions, it may have brought up some shame and shut down your process. Don’t let that happen. There are people willing and able to listen.
I’m aware this essay may have triggered some emotions from your own trauma. I will say that healing from trauma takes patience and love, but it is a better path than just coping with, or outright denying trauma. My heart goes out to the many, many who have trauma far worse than mine.
I accept wherever I am at emotionally; especially now, because I’m happy, taking easy steps toward my lord. So, maybe I can spare my friends some anxiety from my stories as it appears closure is in sight.