Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

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Love and The Loss of the Lost

Some of you that have been around my blog for awhile will recall my involvement on Facebook with sharing profiles of pets in shelters to spare them from euthanasia.  This happens by either having any of my page subscribers be a potential foster/adopter or be able link any given animal with a rescue that may be willing to pick up that animal.  The people with whom I network in this process are all over the world, and we have many different group pages on which we share information.

It is about a woman in this network around which today’s post is centered.  She and I hadn’t officially become “friends” on there, but I had crossed her path many times over the last 3 years, and I’m sure we must have conversed on several occasions.  I was very familiar with her name and the icon she had been using for that entire time.  Many people change their profile pic all the time, but hers was constant, and instantly recognizable.

A few weeks ago, we got the news that she had taken her life.  I went numb when I read that.  I feel guilty that I never did “befriend” her on there.  She even lived within 2 hours from me.  But the fact that I didn’t “know” her has not diminished the sense of loss and amount of sadness I feel.  I’ve heard bits and pieces about what led her to this decision, but in the end these don’t matter.  This was a caring, giving, loving person who sacrificed so much to help others.  She rescued several animals herself, and was an incredibly respected woman.

But we never know what someone’s limit will be.  We never know what burdens another may have that might finally crush a person.  Depression is so often not a sign of weakness, but a sign that someone has had to be too strong, through too much, for too long.  Some will (and have) been outspoken about what they feel is a completely selfish and irresponsible act on the part of individuals that have come to making the choice she did.  I choose to see (and encourage you to as well) that a person must be in an incredible amount of pain to come to that decision.

I understand quite a bit about depression and what it can do to a person.  I have suffered from it myself through many stretches of my life.  I have had so many people close to me suffer from it as well.  In fact, some of those that are closest to me at present are so because we’ve bonded together over our experiences, sharing them, and supporting each other through them.

I will even volunteer here that I tried to end my own life once myself, in 1995.  I’m not going to discuss the details of that here, but I know how low a person can get.  Everyone has a breaking point.

I  had a CD playing in my car which has 2 songs which remind me of this woman’s loss, one of those songs possibly describing the thoughts that may have gone through her head in the days preceding her death.  The other one speaks to me of the story of those that loved her having to let her go.  It was just coincidence that this disc was playing in my car at the time of her death, and I suppose I hadn’t really thought of the lyrics in question in this way before.  But I was driving, the songs played, and as I listened to the words, the correlation hit me.  I continued to drive, crying all the way to my destination.  I’ve included links to videos of these songs which include the lyrics.

What I want to close this post with is just to say that please don’t judge those dealing with depression.  Please be observant of your loved ones, and try to be aware of the warning signs.  Even if you see a coworker to whom you’re not especially close that seems in distress, or a stranger that seems upset, does it cost you that much to say, “Excuse me. Are you okay?”

I worked with a guy once that said to me, “All we ever have is each other.”  I asked him if he was talking specifically about me and him, dealing with a boss that was not fun to work for, to say the least.  Or was he talking about something broader, more universal, between people in this world.  He said, “Both”.  And he’s right.  In this chaotic universe, dealing with tragedies anywhere from personal to global, all we ever have is each other.

And those people that you love?  Please let them know it.  You never know when you will have spoken for the last time.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LeRB14kt3II

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Yipca8hYce0

(This photo was found on the site http://www.dawnoftheunicorn.co.uk)

Hospitals

Hospitals. What a horrific word. When one thinks of hospitals, he or she probably thinks of the sick, the broken, the dying, the dead. Some may actually think of them in a positive light, as a place of healing the infirm, aiding the impaired, curing the ill.

Hospitals aren’t always for the physical, however.

In my own life, I’ve had loved ones, the most important people in the whole world to me, suffer from trauma and other wounds on the INSIDE. THAT’S what I think of initially. Inpatient facilities, outpatient step-down programs, psycho-therapeutic drugs, depression, shock therapy. The complete cessation of a once-normal life.

I’ve watched these loved ones become unable to go to work or school, sometimes unable to get out of bed. I’ve had loved ones unable to be at home for their own safety, as well as others’.

This is what the word “hospitals” conjures up for me.

I know I could look at them, in these cases, as the places of healing, and don’t get me wrong; I do. I am so very grateful for all of the programs out there that you never knew existed until they were needed. I’m thankful to every single soul who chooses the profession of helping the people in need. Thank God above (or whatever entity or force may exist) for all of this.

For the foreseeable future, though, horrific is how I’ll describe them.

I’ve logged so many miles driving more than an hour to visit my loved ones in these facilities, sometimes leaving from one place to visit someone else in another. Afterward, I’d go home, sleep, go to work, and do it all over again.

I’ve logged so many miles on the NJ Turnpike that, if you check out the details of the many included in my New Jersey tattoo, there is an outline of the Turnpike (the green strip going diagonally up from left to right). This was, in fact the impetus for the design. I’ve earned that detail, like a badge. A medal in fact, since there were times, as the last one of my family “on the outside” I called myself The Last Man Standing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thank God (or whatever entity or force may exist) the hospitals are there, but I pray to God (ditto) you and yours will never need them.

My Writing….

I’ve been encouraged to share more of my writing, and even to get published.  I don’t know about the publishing thing, especially because of cost and the fact that in order to sell books as a poet, one needs to be 1. Maya Angelou, 2. Nikki Giovanni, or 3. Deceased.  But I thought I’d share something I wrote that’s very personal, and I consider it one of the most important things I’ve ever done.  The story is true.

 

 

 

This Was Not                                                      10/29/09

 

 

Standing at the work table,

I’m off drifting in my brain.

My body knows what it’s doing,

And the mind has its own way

Of passing time.

I remember many things

While standing at my table.

My hands have done these tasks for years,

So the memories flow unbidden

Into the waiting silence.

 

I remember buying you cheap toys

For your eighth birthday,

Your first back in Jersey.

It was all we could afford

After eight months of medical bills

And your mother out of work.

One broke that very evening,

And I was so scared you’d be upset.

It didn’t seem to faze you,

But I’d wanted so much more

For you

After the SHIT

That had become of that year.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I leave my table, the work abandoned,

As I need to dry my eyes.

But my synapses decide

Upon my return

That they’re not done just yet.

 

I remember being asked

In one of the Fairmount family groups,

What my biggest fear for you was.

You hadn’t been HOME,

Residing in centers

For traumatized children

For most of the year.

This was where you’d spend

Your NEXT birthday.

My answer was that all this

Would still be going on

And you’d lose the last years

Of the closing window

Of your childhood

Without getting to have

A normal one.

 

I remember helping you move

From there to your third center,

And eventually to your fourth,

All within two years.

It was at the fourth one

Where you’d turn

The ripe old age

Of ten.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I remember the times before this,

When you told us

Things,

Things your biological father did to you.

We decided that

When you came off the school bus

You would be given dinner,

And some things would be packed

For you and your mother.

I’d stay behind to pack our things

And arrange for the movers.

I watched

As you were driven back to Jersey that night

In a February New England blizzard

To save you from your father.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I remember when

We had just reunited

After the midnight run out of Rhode Island.

You were uncontrollably

Acting out, as we now know

Abuse victims will do,

Because of what your father did to you.

The  daily and nightly rages,

Triggered by flashbacks,

Would eventually require

Restraining you

Because of the harm

You’d cause

To yourself,

And to others.

This became

Your daily experience,

And it was a miracle

When you were actually able

To make it to school.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I walk away from my table yet again,

Knowing someone will see me

Soon enough.

I tell myself,

“Endure!”,

Wanting desperately to hold it together.

 

But then I remember

Your mother and I

Reviewing the options given

By the prescribing therapist.

You needed help with the feelings

And the images

In your seven-year-old head.

THIS drug may cause

Kidney failure

After six months of use.

THIS drug may cause

Seizures,

Or other loss

Of motor function.

 

You have had your

Blood polluted,

Your chemistry FUCKED with,

Because you were worse off

Without these poisons

Meant to help you heal.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

You will soon turn eleven,

And you’re still not home.

You are still not able

To handle the rage,

The flashbacks of your father,

All of the emotional damage,

And I know that window,

That precious window

Of time

Called your formative years

Is gone;

What I feared for you

Has happened,

And I can only cry

At my work table.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

©2012 Jordan Fox

When a Plus Is Outweighed by a Minus….

In the time it took to write that last post, I hit follower #200 on my advocacy page.  I don’t feel like celebrating, though.  In the same period of time, it was announced that a dog which had been attacked by another dog had died.  There were so many of us following this dog’s story, I can’t even guess the numbers.  Hundreds?  Thousands?  I don’t know.  We were all over the country.

The dog’s injury was one to his face.  I’ve seen the photos.  His snout was literally ripped upwards from his skull.  From the front, You could see his eyes with the skin and fur of his nose sticking straight up between them.  His teeth and skull on the upper part of the muzzle were where they should be for the most part, but without what should have been covering them.  It was awful.  The dog was dropped off by the the supposed owners at a shelter, in that condition.

A vet in California had tried to perform emergency surgery after a young man volunteered to take the dog from the shelter to the vet.  They sewed his face back together, and put gauze all around his head to try to get the skin to adhere to the skull again.  The doctor even took him home that night to keep an eye on him.  There was so much support, so many prayers, offers to help pay, you name it.  So many people wanted this dog to make it.

We knew this was a serious injury, and there was a good chance he wouldn’t make it.  He eventually succumbed to cardiac failure, probably from all of the sedation it took to keep him comfortable and from possibly hurting himself further.

When I got this news, I just broke down.  Like he was MY dog.  Like he was MY family.  Maybe, in a way, he WAS.  We were united as a family caring for one of their own.  We all invested in him emotionally, wanted him to recover, and wanted him to know love and happiness.  His death, to me, made it seem like nothing mattered anymore.  Many of you might not understand this devotion to a dog, especially to one I hadn’t even met.  People waited to hear about the miners (in Chile, was it?) that were trapped in the mine a while back.  They anxiously waited on Elian Gonzales’ fate.  This was an equivalent for those of us that fight for and dearly love animals and nature.

I certainly didn’t think that my 200th fan meant anything after this news.

It took the signing of about twenty petitions to help pull me out of this funk, as well as another WordPress writer’s post.  If you care to check it out, the post is “Running Water’ on silverpoetry.wordpress.com.  http://silverpoetry.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/running-water/#comment-212

I caught a rumor that this dog was actually attacked in a dog fight.  Oren, as the dog became known, was a poodle, so if this is true, he was a bait dog, used to whet the adrenalized appetites of the fighting dogs before the actual match.  I hope the fuckers responsible pay, even if this is not the case, even if it was simply an owner whose dog had an accident; who just drops a dog in that condition off at the shelter, not even taking him to a vet?  I hope there is a such thing as Karma.

For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

Flashbacks in Last Night’s Class

I was at my tai chi class last night (yes, I take a tai chi class), which is actually held in the basement of a church.  I don’t belong to the church, and  religion or lack thereof doesn’t qualify or disqualify anyone from going.  That’s just where it’s held.

I bring the church part up because the basement is a multi-purpose setting.  Meetings are held down there, other exercise classes, and plays and talent shows as well, since there is a stage.  The stage is the key to my story here.  The curtains were open, and various things were up there, including desks and chairs.  The one item that really caught my attention was a little red ball.

I’ve mentioned my dissolved marriage in this still-new blog, but not the reasons why it is so.  The fact is that my ex-wife and I found out my stepson was being abused by his biological father.  All of the trauma and stress that came from this revelation is what ultimately did us in.  I’m not saying we wouldn’t have ended where we are now anyway, because who knows, but that’s the way it happened.

This I mention now because once we got him away from his father (he lives in another state, there’s a restraining order, etc,), my stepson had violent episodes of lashing out, which is apparently common of victims once they are safe.  His violence was so bad (towards us and himself) that it was a miracle if he could make it to school.  This was our daily existence, walking on eggshells until something finally tripped the land mine.

He was eventually sent to a live-in therapeutic setting for children like himself.  My wife and I had separated by this point.  Ultimately, he was in a series of centers for three years before finally coming home.  It was the memory of his second such therapeutic situation that was triggered by this little red ball.

This facility is in Piscataway, and is part of the psychology and psychiatry program at Rutgers.  We would get two visits per week (My wife had come back to living with me and we were briefly together again at this point).  During our visits, we could use the gym on the campus, as long as it wasn’t already in use.  This was often a highlight to the visits.  My stepson loved the time since he’s very athletic and active, and we made up a lot of different games while there.

This gym also had a stage area, with curtains and all, and this, to get to the destination at the end of the winding road, is why seeing a ball on a stage sent scenes rushing back from the past to fill my head.  We were doing breathing and meditative exercises in tai chi class at the time, and as I was holding my pose, and focusing straight ahead, I saw the ball.  I had to stifle the urge to cry, and to remain in the present.

There will be things that will bring flashbacks of such memories, of course, though it happens less frequently over time.  But when they do, they will always come at a time when they’re completely unexpected.