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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I just got an invitation in the mail to a college reunion.  I was not much interested because it was such a big college (Temple Univ.) and the chances of seeing people I knew would be small.
The plus side was an invitation to meet with former chorus members and conductors.

There were only 600 people at the Ambler campus when I was there (1970 - 1975).  My junior year they started a small chorus, conducted by a then newly minted chorus director.  I would love to see him.  I really liked him, but his name immediately evoked a memory that was not a happy one; that should have been a lifelong lesson but which I often forget: that the world is not necessarily my family.
I was young the first time my family taught me this lesson.

I had just come back from the doctor's office.   I was 13, and diagnosed with mononucleosis.   I was told I was to go to bed and stay there for 2 weeks.  I did not feel horrible and going to bed was not what I wanted to do.  My sister June (pseudonym) started yelling at me as though it was my fault I was sick. "Go to your room.  This is going to be so much more work for everyone." 

I stayed in my room, 2 weeks turning into 3.  None of my siblings came to my room to see me or how I was doing.   To make matters worse no one from school was calling or visiting.  (I later found out word had spread I was a "bad" girl because I had the "kissing disease.")

I developed Hepatitis and the 3 weeks turnind ultimately into 3 months of being housebound.  To compensate I took a big sheet and spread it out in the middle of the living room, thinking of it as my own little island.   When anyone came home they had to walk right by and around me.  I figured it was a way to get someone to pay attention to me.   It required effort to ignore me but ignore me they did.

June's behavior was consistent for all of my family.  I was treated as though I had done something wrong.  When finally some kids from school did come to the house,on halloween night, instead of feeling excited and happy I hid, embarrassed that I was sick, embarrassed that they would see me as sick: the lesson my family pounded into me learned terribly well..

When I was 19 I developed a spontaneous clot in my left knee.  There is a lot more to the story but for this post this is all that is germane.   I had to use crutches and I was mortified by the visible proof of my disability.

Jeff, the college choir director, had assigned me a solo for our upcoming performance.  I did not want to do it -  I had stage fright - but I was honestly happy that he forced my hand by insisting I was the only one who could do it.

I was all set and then, instead, I was on crutches.  How could I stand before an audience and have them see I was 'ill", that there was something wrong with me, with my body?

I refused to sing despite Jeff's assurances and reassurances that no one would care about anything but my singing.

I sat in the audience that night, listening to my replacement.   I was mentally kicking myself, why aren't I up there?  How could I let this opportunity pass?  No one would have cared about the crutches.  The last sentence immediately brought the pictures and words of my family to mind - oh yes they would, there is nothing wrong with you, you are just trying to bring attention to  yourself.

I wrote my last post about the words of hurt that we often carry with us, pouncing on them when things are bad, using them to make ourselves feel even worse, being unable to let them go when we most need to.

It is so hard to let that go.  It is even harder to let go of the lessons that we are taught as a result of the words.  You are lazy, you are bad, you are an embarrassment, your situation is an humiliation and so on.  So therefore you should not be seen, you should hide, you should mask your reality.

The invitation to the reunion reminded me.  I have to repeatedly work to not let those people who worked so hard to hurt me, on a conscious or unconscious level,  continue to work their havoc on me.

Pain may be invisible but that does not mean I have to feel I need to keep it that way.  It is actually okay to say "I have pain." or  "I need thus and so to help me.", or even "I can't right now".  (Much, much easier said then done, I know, for many of us.)

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