When I was a child, I was excoriated and scolded for being a sissy and offered suggestions and advice by both haters and those who loved me and meant well on how NOT to be who I was so that I might have a better life. Now, I am not infrequently spoken to by those assuming that my life — still and again in a shape outside the norms of the culturally approved — is in need of repair, their assumption being that I should WANT to buy into the measures and models and parochialism of a world that has not served me particularly well thus-far. More and more, these assumptions feel to me like Judgment and Bullying, and, well … I do enough of that to myself.
I am, I’ve been told, in need of recovery. But, as with so much else here where I’m going, late in this journey (If, in fact, it is late. I am also being told — holy crap there is so much being told in my life, which is, perhaps, part of the problem [If, in fact, there is a problem, which — well, back to my primary secondary parenthetical point.] — that despite the fact [If, in fact, this is a “fact” — so many assumed, labeled “facts” in this aside] it feels to me “late in this journey” I am only midway, or, maybe, some Pollyanna-ish readers and devotees [addicts?] of self-help culture insist, at a new beginning.) I am not convinced that this rush to assign nearly everyone drawing breath to some level of victimhood, a poor, flawed thing, requiring counseling, drugging, or psychic adjustment, is anything more than a collective hunch (thank you Jane Wagner).
And, too, often (and, too often) those telling you that you require recovery — which, by implication means they consider you to be damaged, sick, wrong — are the same ones telling you how wonderful your life has been/could be/ought to be/is. Certainly the two are not mutually exclusive: one can be suffering even while there is joy and cause for celebration in one’s life — but it seems a harsh and cruel sort of judgment to me to tell someone you think damaged enough to require recovery that they are not only sick, but that their sickness is caused by seeing things — by your measure — in the wrong way.
I try not to do this. It smacks — for me — of those in power telling those in minority that they are imagining the discrimination they’ve experienced, that their lack of belonging to a privileged class has not, in fact (and there we have it — when OTHERS are “in fact”-ing you, telling you what the facts of your reality are — especially DESPITE your experience of them — Houston, we have a problem) caused them hardship, lack of opportunity, and intolerance. Don’t tell me what my experience has been. Don’t tell me to deny my reality. Don’t judge my acclimation to my experience and reality. Don’t tell me that my adaptation to it, that my method of coping and living in a world designed for those Privileged Others renders me “wrong” and in need of recovery.
Long-winded, but, what I’m saying is, your judgment that I require recovery is — just possibly — a measure of your own having bought into the culture of the oppressors. Perhaps people don’t need recovery, perhaps, what they need sometimes, is revenge or recompense or RECOGNITION and REALIZATION — not necessarily in that order.
Look, having lived a life largely outside the boundaries of “normal”, always in the throes of discovery and experimentation, an exploration of possibilities, a life in which the parameters of what one would be allowed were undefined, a dangerously occult life-journey during which one might at any moment betray one’s mysteriously assigned perdu mission and suffer censure, disapprobation and a castigation perplexing in its seemingly arbitrary application, I admit — as far as the recovery thing goes — I do feel bruised and I am, often, terrified of the reactions of others.
When I was young, I was subjected to the violent tempers of another. I had a recurring nightmare in which a bi-fold door would open and shut repeatedly, and like in the game show Let’s Make A Deal, I never knew if the person behind it would be the “good” one or the “bad” one. I was dressed in long sleeves to cover bruises. I was afraid. And, once in school, it became clear that I was not like the others — or, not like the other boys — and began the name-calling and a story already told by so many others, and years of me trying to figure out how NOT to let it show. My life from a very early age — my earliest memories — was about keeping hidden, keeping quiet those parts of me to which others objected, judged, hated, those parts that would get me beaten, name-called, shamed, sent away.
I was trained to be afraid of who would be behind the bi-fold doors. The same person who hugged and loved one minute, could be a monster, hitting and hating the next. Because — of course — I did something wrong.
The other dirty little secret of that early fear and shaming training is that one — well, THIS one, I — was convinced during that formation-of-self childhood, that whenever after I was rewarded, praised, shown kindness, affection — it was ONLY BECAUSE I had managed to hide who I really was.
Thus was inculcated — as I grew and slowly tried to embrace me — the war between the voices in my head of YOU ARE FABULOUS JUST WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU THINK versus the voice saying YOU ARE FLAWED WRONG DON’T FIT IN DON’T DESERVE MUST BE PUNISHED.
So, when I hear “You need recovery” said, even in kindness, it carries with it the echoes of those judgments — especially self-judgment, the weight of which is, daily, “Charlie, you are poor (couldn’t succeed at anything you tried, not good enough at theatre, writing, business, etcetera), you are now and forever without Prince Charming (ugly, not masculine enough, not genitalia enough, not muscled enough, not young enough), you don’t have your own (fill in the blank – home, lover, child, novel, savings, retirement, etc) and by EVERY MEASURE, YOU FAIL.
So, I know, when you say “Recovery” (some of you) you mean you want me (or, others) to live, instead, in REALIZATION and RECOGNITION of where I did succeed; for me to actually LIVE the reality I espouse of success not being defined by those cultural norms set — all too often — by the privileged few.
And, I want to, really I do. But, the bombardment of that culture, a bombardment so relentless that it defines me as in need of recovery, a bombardment so ubiquitous and prevalent, so inescapable that it allows OTHERS to dismiss me, to judge me, to throw me under a bus, to distort and disrespect me, to relegate me to “in need of recovery” — a culture so powerful and established that even I have trouble reminding myself it does not apply, does not have to obtain, that I do not need to allow it to coerce and intimidate and bully and badger and terrorize me into self-judgment — that level of admonitory blitzkrieg is difficult to navigate; and hearing “you need recovery” is like a warning-siren that INCOMING is on the way.
I don’t need recovery. I need a bomb shelter. And I’ve cobbled one together, this life I am leading. So, please, don’t explode any further missiles in my direction. My flak jacket is wearing thin.
And I am exhausted by the bullies. Everywhere.
Love and Light, friends. Love and Light.