#ThursThreads Week 210 : Necessary For Safety

It was Thursday night, and I was babysitting the neighbors six year old son, Tommy. He was a machine. He’d brushed his teeth after he ate his dinner, then he’d gotten his bath. He even ran the water himself. He got his pajamas on, too. All of it, like clockwork, almost like he was working for a list of instructions.

Promptly, at 08:00 PM, Tommy sat down on the sofa in the Living Room, and waited patiently for me to notice him. “Yes, Tommy?”

“Can I ask you something?” He stared at the tie-dyed toe socks on his feet.

“Sure?” I sat down next to him.

“Are you Okay with being a babysitter?”

“Well, yes. Your Mom and Dad asked me to help, and I don’t really mind.”

Tommy rubbed his temples, and scrunched his eyes. “That’s not what I meant. Do you know why Mom and Dad asked you to babysit me?” He smiled, “Yeah. That’s the question. I got it right.”

“They asked me to watch over you while they’re gone.”

“Yep. And they had to, didn’t they.”

“Yes. That’s what all parents have to do for their children.”

He nodded his head furiously, “Yeah! Babysitters are necessary for safety.” He grinned. “They told me I couldn’t be left alone all night ‘cause I’m only six. So, I had to have an older person around for safety.” He giggled. “But I can’t take care of myself, right?”

“Yes, you certainly can. And you have tonight.”

246 Words
@LurchMunster


A little story from the world of Tommy and his babysitter, for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads. This is for #ThursThreads Week 210. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read.

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Who Taught Me How To Hate

There’s a story I’ve never shared. Never spoken of. Because. I know its words are divisive. I know its words cause harm, anger, mistrust. I know its words are not welcome. But, these days, I’m already unwelcome. So, it’s time to tell the story. Time to start putting into words the truth.

Disturbed, the musical group, has a song on their newest recording, named, “Who Taught You How To Hate?” I mention that here, because here is where I answer that question. I have no doubt I hate. It’s something I’ve been taught. And, once learned, it’s a lesson that can’t be unlearned.

Here’s the direct, blunt answer. Who taught me how to hate? The Christian Church.

Oh, I know, that sentence just shut down almost everyone who would have read this post. Everyone who needs to hear the words below has stopped reading. But, I’m going to tell the story anyway.

It ended, and it began, in August of 1976. A single day that changed the course of my life permanently, and guaranteed I would one day walk away from all churches.

The high school aged youth group of The Narnia Baptist Church went on an end of summer retreat to a place in Syria, Virginia. It was the third trip the group had made to that location, and my second trip to that place.

The Director of Youth Activities for The Narnia Baptist was Jane. I loved her as a friend then, and to this day, if she asks me for assistance of any kind, I will find a way to help. I understood she had genuine concern for me. I understood that of all the people, all the young people like myself, in that group.

It was on that trip when I finally admitted I did not understand the world the way I was supposed to understand it. On a Saturday night. I told Jane I knew something was wrong with my life. I knew it wasn’t a lack of faith, or a lack of God, or some flaw in my understanding of my religion. It was something inside me. Something that prevented me from being like the others in the group.

Everyone in the youth group had paired off, as teenagers do. They’d found girlfriends, and boyfriends. They’d experimented with dating. They’d experimented with many other things as well, including drinking, illegal drugs, and sex. Again, as teenagers do.

I was 17, never been on a date, never had a girlfriend, never tried any drugs, and was waiting until it was legal for me to try alcohol, if I elected to try it. I was also an honor roll high school student, headed toward a college education.

And I declared to Jane, that night, I knew I was different, I knew I reacted differently than the rest of the group. That was the first time I remember the words I hear in my head endlessly. “You can’t be that way. You can’t live like that.”

That’s all the explanation I could get. The way I lived, the way I did things, was wrong. I suppose it would have made life easier for me if someone could have explained why I couldn’t be how I was, why I couldn’t live as I did.

And why I couldn’t feel what I felt.

From that day forward, everyone in the church group tried to correct my behavior. Jane certainly tried. She was most tolerant, really, of my problems with life over the following school year, and the summer of 1977. She also suggested I obtain help, and helped me set up sessions with the church pastor.

Imagine, if you will, being a 17 year old, informed by everyone you know, everyone you care about, every friend you have, that you can’t live the way you live. That you can’t feel what you feel. That you have to change.

I remember the many Sunday nights, after church, when I drove the family station wagon, filled with friends from church, to eat pizza at Pizza Hut. Always, I was the odd numbered human. There were five of us, or seven of us. And I was always the odd number, the one, the single person.

Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t belong, like I wasn’t part of the group, and was only being allowed to tag along, because no one wanted to tell me to go away. And, over time, that changed. Over time I became the odd person outside the group. Allowed to sit at the big table and eat pizza, but when the pizza was gone, it was time for me to be gone too.

The same feeling of it being time for me to be gone spread to Sunday evening church services, and I soon found myself sitting alone at those services, with no one to talk with after those services. That continued to spread, until I was left with no one to talk with on Sunday mornings.

It was the first time I’d been isolated by any group.

In my senior year in high school, I got a part time job as a grocery bagger at a store. When that store started opening on Sundays, at first I told them I didn’t want to work on Sundays, because I had to go to church.

A month later, I told them I could work on Sundays. The isolation at church had reached the point where I knew no one would care if I wasn’t there.

And no one did. No one asked where I was, what I was doing, why I wasn’t there.

In my first year at Old Dominion, I tried to return to church on Sunday mornings. At least long enough to attend the pre-church bible studies. That didn’t work out. And that’s when I heard the next words I’d hear endlessly.

I spoke, more out of desperation than anything else, to a friend. Katie. I asked her if I should find help. “You need help, Mark.”

Those words ended my time at that church. I did visit during the next four years, to check on someone who mattered to me, although I never said anything, and never spoke to anyone of why I kept visiting every few weeks. Her name was Billie Sue Cruz.

When she graduated from high school in 1982, she moved away from that church. And I didn’t return until December of 2010.

By June of 1985, the damage was permanent. I’d learned to hate myself, to deny what I felt, what I wanted, what I cared about. Because, “You can’t be that way. You can’t live that way.” I learned to become what people wanted me to be. I learned to study people, to discover what type of behavior they expected of me, how they expected me to behave, what types of behavior were acceptable to them.

Being who I wasn’t, being what I wasn’t, and fitting the expectations of the people around me, became a feedback loop. If I followed that pattern of behavior, people left me alone, they didn’t tell me how to live, how to behave, how to think. They didn’t tell me I couldn’t be like I was, couldn’t live like I did.

I learned to deny myself.

I learned to hate myself.

I don’t blame anyone for what happened. Let me say that now. I don’t blame Jane. I don’t blame Katie. I don’t blame the group. I don’t blame The Narnia Baptist Church. It’s not worth blaming anyone. What happened happened. It’s the past. I can’t go back and redo it. It’s done. It’s over.

In the summer of 1980, when I was 21, the old group from The Narnia Baptist Church got together one last time, and made a trip to Syria, Virginia, and the retreat center there. I had just completed my 3rd year of college, had a part time job at a grocery store, and was earning enough money to pay for a car, thanks to the generosity of my parents, who allowed me to live at home, and paid my college tuition. I paid for my text books. I paid for my insurance. I paid for the paperback books I read. I paid for the music I listened to. I paid for the comic books I read. I paid for the repairs on my car. I paid for any trips I made to watch a movie. I paid for any dates I went on. I Syria, Virginia.

On that Saturday, at the retreat, the group got on their swimsuits, shorts, and shirts, and headed to the swimming hole in the mountains a few miles from the retreat. At 21, once again, I had to be the lead car that showed the others how to get to the parking for the trial that lead to the swimming spot.

And on that walk, I was the one who stopped what he was doing, and helped others up and down the hillsides along the trail in the mountains as the group made its way to and from that mountain swimming hole on that Saturday afternoon.

I even climbed down the hillside on the way back, beside Jane, to make certain she was OK.

And I heard the third set of words I hated passionately. “Good Old Mark.” I knew she meant it as a compliment. But those words stung in ways I could never have explained to anyone. Those word said I was who I was supposed to be. The observations I’d made of what the people of that group expected me to be, wanted me to be, were confirmed. I was as I was supposed to be.

And I hated every minute of it. I hated who I was, what I’d become.

On that swimming trip, I didn’t swim. I wasn’t part of the group. I stayed away, climbed the hills around the swimming hole, hid from the others, and licked my wounds.

And I watched them. Just in case something happened. And I was needed. Because, to keep everyone from saying those words, “You can’t be that way, you can’t live that way, you need help,” I had to maintain that image, that routine, that I was who they needed me to be.

I’d learned what I’d been taught. I’d learned I couldn’t live the right way. I couldn’t be the right way. I’d learned to burn myself to ashes, to keep myself away from others, so they could be happy. So I wouldn’t bother them, or disturb them, or disrupt them.

So they didn’t have to deal with me. The hated one, whose feelings, and thoughts were always wrong.

So, when you ask me, “Who taught you how to hate, Mark?” I have to answer with honesty.

The Church.

I’ve tried returning to the Church several times in the past 20 years. Each time has failed. Not because I didn’t try. But because of what I have seen every time I tried.

I spent several years attending a church down the road from where I now live. It was called, at the time, God’s Place, and was Episcopal. In the three years I went there for Sunday morning services, I watched that church die.

It started when the Episcopal Church in the US elected an openly gay man as a church bishop. People, loyal Episcopalians, abandoned their church when that happened, as they declared the Episcopal Church had turned its back on God. Some of them pushed for God’s Place to separate from the Episcopal Diocese.

Then, the pastor’s wife left him. She moved to New Jersey. When she left, a slow decline in the regular attendance of the church began. I would learn why when the church pastor went on a mandatory six month sabbatical.

While he was away, the Episcopal Diocese placed another ordained pastor in his place. Before the six months ended, the church staff spoke with the pastor, and then with the bishop of the local diocese. What followed was in investigation of inappropriate sexual activity by the church pastor. That investigation not only revealed the inappropriate sexual behavior, it also revealed inappropriate manipulation of the church’s funds.

That church imploded, and wound up sucking itself into a black hole, never to be seen again. People split into two groups, those who believed the pastor, and those who believed the investigation.

In December, 2010, I visited The Narnia Baptist Church. As I’ve said, I harbor no grudge, I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me there. Many of the people who used to be regular church goers there have moved on. They’ve found other churches, or they no longer attend any church.

The Narnia Baptist Church is dying.

And part of me finds this sad.

And part of me feels it was inevitable.

After a few visits, I knew I wasn’t meant to be there. I didn’t fit in. I never really did. So, I left again, for the final time.

In May of 2011, I visited another church. Far Away Baptist Church, in Chesapeake. I visited on a whim, someone I’d known in highschool was there, and had invited me. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

I wound up attending most Sundays until November. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure things out, and to understand what I’m feeling. But, it all became clear one Sunday, when my friend told me she had worked hard to grow the way people of that church thought of her. She’d put a lot of effort into controlling the image they had of her. And she wanted to maintain that image.

And the scars in me were laid bare.

I knew exactly what she was saying, because I’d learned to do that very thing at The Narnia Baptist Church. I tried to keep visiting Far Away Baptist, but I couldn’t. Everywhere I looked, I saw that behavior, where people manage, and control, what others think of them. Where people are fake, and behave as expected.

So, in November of 2011, I walked away, and I have never returned.

I won’t be attending another church.

It’s taken me decades to undo the damage the Church did to me. Decades to learn I physically am different. Decades to learn we are all physically different. Some of us have healthy, strong bodies. Some don’t. Some of us have healthy, strong social skills. Some don’t. Some of us live pain free. Some don’t. Some of us can walk into a church, and fit in. Some can’t. Some of us don’t panic when we visit a new store, a new restaurant, a new doctor. Some of us do.

It’s taken me decades to recognize the self hate I was taught by people who honestly thought they were doing their best to help me.

I’m still learning to take care of myself. I’m still learning to speak my truth. To speak my story. I’m still learning I’m not evil, not wrong, not broke.

I’m just different. With a clinically diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, and permanent depression that’s biochemically based. And that’s OK. It doesn’t make me defective. It doesn’t make me wrong. It makes me different.

So, when you ask me, “Mark, who taught me how to hate?”

I have to answer honestly, “The Church.”

Who is teaching me to repair the damage done to my life?

God. And the people he’s put into my life that help me, including my doctors.

I can’t return to the Church. Some of us aren’t meant to be there. For some of us, it’s the worst thing we can do to ourselves.

Oh, Nothing That Matters, And So What If It Did…

Gonna ask a series of questions. ‘Cause I want people to see how I see the social system in the USA. And why it infuriates me so. Don’t answer. Keep your answers to yourself. This is not a poll. This is not a contest. There is not a right or wrong answer. Just a bunch of questions.

Question 1 : You have a choice between two (2) new cars, and only two (2) new cars. Those cars are:

A : Toyota Yaris

B : Toyota Avalon

Which car do you choose?

Question 2 : You have a choice between two (2) new motor vehicles, and only two (2) new motor vehicles. Those vehicles are:

A : Toyota Yaris

B : Toyota RAV4

Which vehicle do you choose?

Question 3 : You have a choice between two (2) new cell phones, and only two (2) new cell phones. Those phones are:

A : Kyocera DuraXV Plus

B : Apple iPhone 6s

Which cell phone do you choose?

Question 4 : You have a choice between two (2) new computers, and only two (2) new computers. Those computers are:

A : Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series Laptop, Non-Touch

B : Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series Performance Multimedia Laptop

Which computer do you choose?

OK. One last question. Look at your answers. Are they your answers, or are they the answers you’ve learned as a member of the USA social system?

Just pondering life…

Mark.

#VisDare 130 : Possibility

59da41de8625ef6a236ef16ee88fd34fThe girl laughed. “I have to tell you the rules.” She tapped me on the shoulder. “You can walk right through all the walls to all the domes. They don’t really exist.” She laughed. “People think they do. People think they’re safe inside their worlds. Protected from the evils and dangers outside their controlled, managed lives.”

“The domes aren’t solid?”

“Nope. They’re imaginary.” She put her hands on her hips, “Except for the one you first came out of.” She shook her head. “That one’s real.”

“I can’t go back inside?”

“Nope. You can never go back to what was. That’s the past. It’s forever gone.” She looked around, at the other domes, “But imagine this. You have the possibility of exploring everybody’s domes!” Then, she walked into a nearby stream, and walked down it’s middle. “Go explore, you! Have fun!”

And she was gone.

145 Words
@LurchMunster


Part 10 of a story I’m writing for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge. Be amazed at the magic people can put into 150 words or less.

#VisDare 128 : Devious

I wandered between the domes for days without finding another person. I found everything I needed to live, animals, fruit, vegetables. Life was everywhere. People weren’t.

After a few days a girl showed up. Her clothing was worn out, and she was caked with mud, and dirt. But her face and eyes told me she was happy. She smiled, “A newbie!”

“What?”

“You’re new here.” She giggled. “I wonder if you’ll play with the people in the domes.” She pointed at a couple. “I like to play with them,” she twirled like a ballerina. “It’s great fun.”

“Fun?”

Her smile was devious, “Yes! Fun!” She laughed, “I visit a dome, and act like the people inside for a while. Then, I do things that break the rules inside the dome. It drives people nuts.” She held her finger to her lips, “Shhh. I’m not supposed to do that.”

148 Words
@LurchMunster


Part 9 of a story I’m writing for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge. Be amazed at the magic people can put into 150 words or less.

Unfinished

I sit alone.
In the dark.
Just me,
And a blank screen.

I remember once,
When it was paper.
A blank page.
And I held a pen,
Filled with ink.

That’s what it’s always come down to.
Me.
And a blank page.
And too many stories
Left untold.

I wonder sometimes if I’m fighting.
Fighting against everyone
Who says I can.
Everyone who says
I’m good enough.
And more than good enough.

And I wonder,
Can you be good at anything,
If you never finish?

I sit alone.
In the dark.
Before a blank screen.
And I know of so many stories
Started,
But never finished.
Written
To never be shared.
To never see the light of day.

Because.
There is now why.
There is no explanation.
There is no reason.
At least,
None I’ve ever learned to explain.
None I’ve ever figured out.
None I’ve ever understood.

I only know this truth.
I’ve never finished anything.
Not one story.
No matter how short.

So I sit.
In the dark.
Just me.
And a blank page.
And I know I’ll fill it.
Words will flow.
They always do.

But once they flow.
They’re gone.
Out of my reach.
Trapped in time.
Half written.

Unfinished.

And sometimes I stop wondering.
Sometimes I stop dreaming.
Sometimes I stop hoping.
And I know.

Unfinished is all they’ll ever be.

#FlashMobWrites 1 x 50 : Castle

Stupid people have always pissed me off. When I heard about the armed takeover of the National Wildlife Preserve in Oregon, I headed straight for the place, and when I got there, I knew exactly what to do.

Rule by guns is something I don’t tolerate.

Ever.

It was 0300 hours, on a moonless night. The sky was pitch black, filled with stars like diamonds on black velvet. Pretty to look at, and I was certain anyone else would have looked at them, and relaxed.

“Active,” I turned the armor on, and vanished, totally invisible to the human eye, to computerized infrared vision systems, and to old fashioned radar systems. I walked into the main building of the refuge, where the men with their guns were.

Yeah, I know. I hear it all the time. “They’re just good old boys, fighting for what they believe.” And, “Rebellion is part of the country’s history. A tool we’ve always had to use when change becomes necessary.”

And inevitably, rebellion leads to chaos, war, and piles of the innocent, their blood soaking into the ground. All in the name of defending someone else’s rights, and freedoms.

Most of the idiots were asleep.

“Gun.” A slot on the left leg of the armor opened, and a .44 slid out. I aimed it at the ceiling, and fired four shots, just to wake everyone up.

And wake them it did. Guys and their AR-15s came running, holding their guns in front of themselves, like they were bulletproof. Which they weren’t. I shot them. Fathers, husbands, fiancees, sons of mothers. Normal people. Six had responded. Six bodies leaked blood on the floor. Six less idiots with guns.

Next, I went through the building, moved room to room. I hunted them down. Seems they didn’t have any nerves at all, any guts at all, when the actual gunfire started. I found them in separate rooms, hiding under tables, behind doors, hiding in the restrooms.

I left seventeen bodies. No survivors.

If you wish to rule by the gun, you’ll deal with me.

You won’t walk away.

I am Armor 17.

I am the violence.

354 Words
@LurchMunster


Expressing myself through writing for Week 1×50 of #FlashMobWrites. #FlashMobWrites is hosted by Ruth Long and Cara Michaels.  Please, go read all the stories for #FlashMobWrites Week 1×50. You might find something you like. But if you don’t read them, how will you ever know?