Friday, September 17, 2010

A Theme Revisited ~ Water Trickles

I remember sitting in my childhood home in the hallway within the doorframe of my room, sitting on scuffed up wooden floors, back against one side of the frame, feet propped against the other. There I sat, trying to read a book with only words. It was a Flintstones book. I must have been 8 or 9. I kept reading the same paragraph over and over again; nothing was sinking in, and I was becoming frustrated. What was wrong with me? By now I should be able to read and retain, to see images from these words. I took that book, closed it tight, stood up, screamed out, and threw that book hard against the wall and watched it fall.

I cannot recall the books, if any, I read shortly after that. I do have this sense that I took a long break from trying to read on my own. I remember that after my mother passed way, I found myself looking through a book that belonged to my older brother. It was a big book of Plato’s dialogues. I remember turning the onion skin pages to see what was there. I don’t know that I made it very far, but somehow, two of Socrates’ thoughts made an impression on me that at the time I didn’t realize. His quote that “All I know is that I know nothing” spoke to me and it has stayed with me ever since. The other thought that stuck with me, but that I did not realize until I set out here is his wisdom to “Question everything.” But you see, because memory plays tricks, I don’t know if I skimmed the book or what happened, but I do recall from that brief exposure with that book, and its onion skin pages, something happened inside of me that I wouldn’t realize until life continued happening. The other book I started to browse through was a psychology book. A young girl of twelve or thirteen, right at that tender threshold. I was in search of answers—in search of truth—those elements that were absent in my childhood. So much hidden. Little did I know then, that these few peeks into these books would stick with me somehow, would be my saviors down the road, as I bumped into different guides along the way.

In looking back and trying to give form to the experience as it unfolded, all I can remember—or rather a feeling that I have—is of some boot pressed firmly upon my back, upon my very soul, but something in me always said, “No!” It’s not easy to pinpoint when exactly my well opened and started to flow, but when it gradually did, it came gushing out and I grabbed and reached for every bit of knowledge that I could, but I always kept that quote in the front of my mind to remind me not to get carried away by my by own delusions, by this thing called knowledge. That it’s all there, always has been, waiting for each individual to come upon and to try on, to spit out and make their own and then throw it out, not become owned or defined by it. I always had this rebellious side that I learned to reel in—that became humbled with time and there is still much that time has in store for me— and what a sight—to behold oneself as a beautiful creature that must flourish, must thrive—to embrace oneself; and at the same time, memory: The reminder that a firm hand must be planted upon the tigress’s head, to keep life in perspective, to not be whisked away, washed down that well, forever lost.

I sought to understand. I listened to people, I observed people. I tried to understand my own mother, people in general, myself, humanity, from the small view from my little world. It was a start. My world was becoming large through my imagination. Large because it’s not just my world, it is a world made up of everyone and everything, all the paths and conversations, twists and turns, and of the books that spoke to me later in life and that heed me on.

I have grown into my skin and it has been a long process, one that seems slow and yet it seems to whiz right by, one that continues every moment. This transformation has hinged on reading and writing. I have become a layer within the layers of time and I have grown the confidence in myself and appreciate the act of reading and writing in a way that I can only show by being immersed in it every moment I can. When something does not come easy, the gifts take on a different type of meaning. For me, I have a high school report card full of F’s and D’s and an early college transcript of F’s and W’s—more reminders. What was it in me that kept getting up and getting up? A combination of experiences and inner fire, I’m sure. I always come back to this because it is such an awful feeling to not be able to write complete sentences and to not even be able to build one’s thoughts into a coherent whole. This is especially difficult for a person that has much they need to spill out to only a trusted page. To know that once I could not and then with time, I could—that I could both read and write—is humbling and also a most proud feeling—and at the same time to have found one’s voice inside the great deep silence.

And with this transformation, I realize it is time to give back and through the career and life planning course, my passions have only been affirmed. Along with a few other synchronistic nudges, I’ve realized, too, that I don’t need to get paid to do what I love because I love it. I’ve always known there is a teacher inside of me, but I didn’t have the courage to follow through, didn’t have direction, had other emotional hurdles to heal, and I also didn’t know the right environment. I have decided to revisit a volunteer opportunity that I’ve crossed roads with before, but was too scared and not ready to commit, so I didn’t. But now, I feel more ready than ever. I have submitted my application to become a volunteer tutor to assist adults achieve their literacy goals in both reading and writing. I will wait to see. It’s another beginning in the world of passages and watering wells.


Vincent said...

I'll confess to you Rebb that when I first glanced at your post, I never got round to reading to the end, because of a prejudice in me. I was shocked by the absence of literacy in the eight-year-old Rebb, and didn't know what to say, since I'd been avidly reading from the age of four. I can be impatient and intolerant, but I shall plead the Fifth Amendment, and say no more. (Though there is a story to be told, and I would tell it to you first, if I can bring myself to do so.)

But when I read your last paragraph, I felt shame (in me) and rejoicing (in you) because you are finding such a positive way to use your experience, in helping others achieve literacy.

Rebb said...

Thank you for your honesty, Vincent. I appreciate it very much. Yes, I know about impatience and intolerance (we all do in our ways) because my brother was very impatient with me as a child. He has always been and always will be 20 years older than me—of course. I remember how he yelled and was so disgusted when he was trying to teach me how to tell time with this clock book thing. Anyway, I couldn’t take his lack of patience and of him not understanding how I couldn’t possibly “get it.” I quit. I cried. I got a digital watch and couldn’t really read time the regular way for a while either. I’m sure I met someone with more patience and a light bulb went off bright and I ditched the digital. I would love to hear your story if you ever feel you can bring yourself to share it. Vincent. In some ways, I feel like I’ve been a little bit to my own little “hell” and back. I know I’m not alone. We all have our little “hells” with different levels of what it means to us, etc. I was a rotten kid sometimes and said and did rotten things at different points in my adolescence and adulthood, but always behind those things was a hurt child that didn’t know any other way to make sense of what was going on emotionally. I feel lucky that something woke in me and it’s not any one thing, but a culmination, a series of little things. I always remember, though, what it feels like to be in a space that is not conducive to learning and nurturing and if anything, that is my greatest gift that I have to offer the world in my own little way. Thank you, Vincent, for coming back to finish reading, to push yourself past the shock.

Rebb said...

I should say too that I don't hold anything against my brother. He did the best he could. He was going to college at the time and he had a different type of upbringing and I think he expected more from me. He was/is a good brother and he has other strengths. He is very extroverted, while I am very introverted, so he often doesn't understand my introverted ways. The one person I am most impatient with is myself, but I try to catch it.

Hopefully my words have come out the way I felt them.