Who’s Your Role Model?

Daniel came into our second conversation after listening to the first week’s recording with a question. We had shared intimately about our childhood years and young adulthood in the first conversation. Acknowledging that, he asked “How aware were you of the horror that was coming down while you were growing up? Did you have girlfriends and observe other ways of families relating?”

My immediate answer was that I was not consciously aware that we were different than any other family. Except that my best friend’s mother, my Girl Scout leader, was outgoing and involved in the community. She laughed a lot too–something that my mother never did. Regardless, I assumed, when I thought about it, that everyone’s family was like mine. However, there’s another component to this type of family system–the power over despotic system. Threats are in place. They are subliminal. You do not talk about the secrets that are within your family. It is a closed system. That’s it–period.

I was unaware of the degree of abuse and trauma held in my body until I was 27-years old. I vomited for two weeks straight after inwardly acknowledging that the image I held of my family as one big happy family was a lie. This was the beginning for me of the downfall of the old establishment. All of the things that I believed were true and real crumbled and it seemed like there was no foundation to my life. I couldn’t fathom what an alternative would be. Trauma from the past arose, PTSD, and I didn’t know exactly what to trace it to. What I believed was solid and wholesome was actually false. My body made me aware of the abuse and locked-away trauma.

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Growing up as he did, Daniel viewed the marriage model as “pure hell.” He didn’t want any of that! Yet, he married twice, not having done any inner work. Each time he brought “the hell model” into his marriage with him unconsciously sabotaging both marriages. He felt that he lost his freedom and that marriage was an entrapment. He couldn’t “perform” and felt justified in looking outside the marriage to satisfy his sexual needs and desires. He had no conscience about this. He basically, as he put it, “crucified two marriages.” And, he also learned from this.

Whereas, I thought that this was the path, the only acceptable path, laid out for me. Marriage felt like my only choice. When I was 18-years old and working a full-time job, I wanted to move out and get my own apartment. My father said “You can’t leave until you are 21 or married. If you do, I won’t respect you.” There it was–the path–get married, honor your husband, have children, rear them and grow old together.

As I told Daniel, “The norm was harmful to me because I was agreeing, in a way, to being enslaved. My husband had total freedom while I was bound to a paradigm that wasn’t really supporting me.” I had to ask myself “What’s going on here?”

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Without self-examination, we bring what we’ve seen modeled into our lives, into our personal relationships, into our partnerships or marriages. Again, Daniel emphasized the necessity for self-examination and self-awareness to evolve ourselves and how we are in relationship to another.

Towards the end of our second meeting, Daniel chuckled and said “This is turning into a therapy session, but it’s necessary background information.”

So we proceeded from there.

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Have you looked at your own role models? Have you learned, grown and found your own truth and path?

Aftermath–a poem

Aftermath
© by Christine O’Brien

Home from war
victory won
not we get to have some fun.

Heroes return
banners wave
look at our soldiers
so very brave.

Out of the trenches
returned from the sea
the American dream
peace and harmony.

A hero’s welcome
a wife’s lament
the unspoken trauma
finds no safe way to vent.

We must get on
snag our piece of the pie
time is a wasting
no time to cry.

Lots of kids
a house and a car
he’ll rule them all
like an infamous czar.

How did that war
fought on foreign soil
reach the home front
where was the foil?

Between the sheets
undealt with grief
in the marital bed
finds no relief.

The warrior’s
unresolved strife
armchair casualties
the children and wife.

The bliss that was promised
the vow to be true
were rendered asunder
by the war numbered two.

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It wasn’t until 1980 that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Association as an actual disorder.  And even then, there was controversy around it.  Today it is widely acknowledged.

How does a poem address what is incomprehensible?

Circulation
by Christine O’Brien

The Walkaway
The Walkaway

Don’t dance with just one boy,
make the rounds–
circulate.
Play chess and checkers
card games
no dating them outside of here.

The USO–
we’re here to
provide a home
away from home.
You are the girl next door
…a reputation to uphold
no loose behavior.

His name was Mickey
–from Mississippi.
He wanted a girl
more than anything.
He was being sent off to Vietnam.

Did anyone ever come back from
Vietnam
I wondered?

He claimed me;
threatened all the other soldiers
to stay away.
But I’m supposed to circulate,
I said.
He picked me up after work,
treated me to a soda,
rode home with me on the bus,
met my family,
even loaned my dad a book.
He was scheduled to ship out
in two weeks.

Did anyone ever come back from
Vietnam
I wondered?

His friend drove him to my house.
We kissed in the back seat of the car.
Hard kisses
from him who wanted
to know a kiss
before lips grew cold.
My lips were uncertain
but compliant.
Suddenly I pulled away,
fearful
withdrew into my house
tossing him a good night.

Did anyone ever come back from
Vietnam
I wondered?

He had been so cool
on the dance floor
smooth, sexy dancer.
In his dress blues
bell bottoms
swishing the slippery floor.
I could never attract
a guy like that
I thought.

He wanted to marry me NOW!
The urgency of youth
the uncertainty of undeclared war
leading one to declare love.
I cried all the way home on the bus.
He comforted me
not knowing that I was trying to
break up with him.
He threatened suicide
wasn’t going to Vietnam
suicide enough?

I wondered,
did anyone ever come back
from Vietnam?

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Poetry is often rooted in emotion.  The words rise to express what is sometimes hard to name let alone to own.  This poem addresses the emotions arising from a real life situation.  The underlying question being…does anyone really return from war, even when they physically return from war.  In these times, we’ve begun to address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  For those who are on the battlefield, who witness what is incomprehensible, what does returning from war then mean to them?  How do they successfully re-assimilate into society? How are they supported upon their return?

And for those of us at home who haven’t had the direct experience of war, how do we then relate to this changed person?

These are challenging and real themes in people’s lives.

WRITING PROMPT:
How do you personally address and write about the things that are harsh in your own life?  Do you write about these in your journal?  Does poetry provide an opening?  Have you availed yourself of this doorway into your emotions?  Remember, within poetry you have freedom of expression.  Does that help?  Remember, if something feels like too much, please seek professional support.

Wishing you balance and peace in the hard things that you face.