It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
It was exciting, actually. Loud music, pulsing beats, hundreds of teens shouting in unison. Do you love Jesus? "YES!!" Do you believe God has a plan for your life? "YES!!" Do you want to honor your body? "YES!!" And on it went with dynamic speakers, humor, more music. And we were talking about love and sex and bodies, always a favorite topic of mine, even at age 15 or so.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
I love spending time with these friends who speak Spanish as their primary language. Opening myself to different speech patterns and word possibilities reshapes how I think of the world and my place in it. Once, when I was a young woman, I spent a little time in Mexico as an exchange student. My sister Berta took me all over the city on the buses with her friends, and we spent hours talking and laughing as young people do when they gather in every language. One afternoon I said with great enthusiasm, "¡Vamonos en el camaron para comer camiones!" This translates to "Let us go on the shrimp to eat buses!"
There are few things that tell a person they don't know everything like immersion in another country, learning another language.
As I drove one of my friends home, with my sleepy children in the back complaining like mewling kittens, we chatted about family and children and the difference between "American" culture and "Hispanic" culture, the way children are invited to exit the home at age 18 vs. the way multiple generations live together to create networks of support. It was a lengthy conversation that stretched the limits of my Spanish, and by the time I got home I was very, very tired.
As I crawled into bed it occurred to me that living in the middle of intimate violence is like being immersed in a primary language. And then I fell asleep while typing. Immersion in another language is good for the mind and soul, but it takes years to gain fluency. Learning how to be in this world without repeating patterns of intimate violence is good for the mind and the soul (not to mention the body!), but it takes years to find fluency.
Think of it this way: those of us who live with intimate violence (as perpetrators, victims, or both), learn to function in those situations as best we can. There are ways of being, moving, and speaking that can minimize violence. There are times when the tension in a household builds slowly, but inexorably, toward an explosion, and we learn to set off verbal dynamite to relieve the tension and minimize the explosion we know is coming. We learn to avoid anger, to become invisible, to protect others as best we can. We learn, without knowing it, that there is no escape from this intimate, familial situation. The world, when one is living with intimate violence, can become a very narrow, constricted place.
This chart is one way of looking at how patterns of intimate violence carve a narrow existence:
Sometimes we get a chance to learn a new language, to immerse ourselves in another culture, to live with people who do not hurt us. How frustrating it is to our friends and loved ones when we cannot acclimate to a new environment quickly! Individuals leave abusive situations, only to return home to more abuse a short time later. It seems from the outside to be an easy choice to stay where one is safer. But it's like this:
Walking away from intimate violence is like moving to another part of the world and learning a new language by immersion. Suddenly one must learn new patterns, new ways, and new words. If I don't have the correct papers, I may not be able to work. I don't have the right currency, so I am constantly having to exchange my old bills for new--and I must trust strangers who speak a different language to do it.
Learning new languages is easier for some people than others. Leaving intimate violence for healthy relationships is easier for some people than others. It takes years to become fluent. The process of learning the new language is exhausting.
It might be good for the body, the soul, and the mind to learn a new language, but it isn't always easy. There is need along the way for bilingual translators and a great deal of patience. Learning a new language requires a sense of humor, because sooner or later you're going to say with great enthusiasm, "Let's go ride the shrimp to eat buses!" And your companions are going to dissolve into laughter. For a while you're not going to get the joke about the boy corn ear who married the girl corn ear and got so hot that he became popcorn. It just takes time.
At one moment one might say "I need your keys" but it sounds like "I need your kiss."
Or perhaps one might simply mix up pronouns and verbs to say, "Te amo, Katie," instead of "Me llamo Katie." And the poor man you've just met will look at you quizzically.
Learning to live in healthy relationship when one's primary language has been intimate violence is difficult. And sometimes, especially when one is tired, it's easy to slip back into old patterns of behavior, old words, old ways of being. It seems sometimes like everybody else around is speaking too fast, one person on top of another, leaving a person behind, bewildered and longing for the familiar--even if that familiar is unhealthy or dangerous.
Sometimes the right words don't even exist to translate. In English there is no good verb to say "make love." We have euphemisms and curse words, but not a verb to express the act of "having sex" between loving partners. Even with bilingual companions, concepts do not always translate well and must be lived in order to be understood.
Or sometimes there is a problem of pronunciation. My friends last night asked me what the word is for a chin dimple. "It's a cleft," I said. And we spent a few minutes rolling around that word, trying to see how the sounds fit together. "Cleft" is not a Spanish word. It is too short, too few vowels, with consonants crammed together.
It takes time and energy to learn a new language. Time to learn new ways of being and perspectives on the world. And sometimes, when one is learning to live without intimate violence, this new language is so exhausting that one crawls into bed and falls asleep while typing.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
"Finally, you must give yourself permission to be tired and weary, besides, you must also find ways of renewal so that you can be a creative and healthy participant in dismantling oppressions. Burned out, bitter people do not help bring in justice very often and they are of little help in any search for [T]ruth."
(NY: Macmillan, 2006), 78.
"Find something you can do that's in front of you...and enjoy the work. You're allowed to enjoy the work."
Saturday, October 8, 2011
|'Frosche in Bauch und Ruckenlage' |
(Frog on Back and Front)
Thursday, October 6, 2011
So off I went on my little adventure, flying (as it were) by the seat of my pants. I love wandering about the world without a plan, a little lost, anonymous. Most of my experience with violence and trauma has come from people I know--family members, friends, lovers, etc. Blowing about like a dandelion is a chance to withdraw into myself in a way that is not possible when I am home. Every now and then I just need to hit the road.
|James G. Ewer|
Grandpa Jim was a navigator in the Army Air Corp, and was shot down over Germany sometime in 1944/5. He spent a few months in a concentration camp toward the end of the war. I can't tell you much more than that, because Grandpa Jim didn't talk about that time, except with his army buddies. Many Friday nights he would call our house, drunk as a skunk on his favorite scotch. "Is Jjjjjeannie there?" he would slur into the phone. He loved to talk with my mother--they were very fond of each other.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I promised myself I would blog daily this month. So here I am at 36 minutes to midnight finally starting this post. It was partly because the children wanted two different things for dinner and I wanted a third, and it was partly because we moved to a new apartment a month ago and I still have not hung pictures (so I hung a few today). But it was partly because I am struggling to voice my thoughts this month as I consider intimate violence and the way it has touched my life and those I love.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
|sunrise from my attic window|