Voices sprinkled with emotion

They are all around us.  The voices we hear, those we don’t.  Those we want to, those we can’t.  We would like to talk the voices out of saying certain things, and into other ways of talking, ways that don’t hurt so much.  We can’t, or won’t.  When they feel, it’s our job to listen.  They are asking to be heard.  The voices, our kids.

Your kids do it – they talk about things you don’t want to hear.  Sometimes, all it takes is the palm of your hand held out between you and their faces, that shuts them up, and that’s when it begins.  They begin to devise other ways of saying who they are.  This is the time for you to step back, withdraw the palm of your hand, and sit with them…while they talk about all the thoughts in their heads…the things they can’t explain to their friends.  Their friends (if they have any “true” friends), can’t understand.  They don’t have enough life behind them, and fear there’s none ahead.  They resort to action, rather than words.  Sometimes, destructive action.  And, sometimes, those “friends” lie, cheat, and steal, to get what they need – even if what they need is for your kid to look the other way, to stay quiet, to go to bed crying for what they’ve seen and heard.

Maybe your kids won’t tell you they have a sense of hopelessness about the future.  Owen talked openly about what was happening with his friends and acquaintances.  They saw their histories and their futures preventing them from doing much that would be seen as positive.  They saw college as a mechanism built to prevent thought; built to support corporate America in creating useful employees, mostly robotic in nature.  Owen talked about wanting to be a psychologist or a lawyer or a film maker.  All of these hopes were adventures into becoming part of a mainstream he often questioned as to its validity, given what he saw as our collective futures. 

At the pinnacle of his hopes and dreams, the months before his death, he fell into a need for true friendship…and it evaded him.  Or, at least, that’s the way he told the story to me.  I’m his mother, so I suspect the story was shadowed, obscured, to a degree, as he tried so hard to protect me from how shitty he thought growing up in the 2000’s was/is. 

One of the ways he described the shittiness, was to illustrate it with this example (not verbatim, but in quotes for emphasis).  “Okay, so we grow up, thinking growing up is something to look forward to.  Then, we find out that when we graduate college with a degree in psychology, we get to look for a job if we don’t have the backing to go into private practice.  Then, we find out that with our hard-won degree, we’re qualified to work in group homes, where we’re likely to make $8 to $10 an hour, taking care of kids who’ve been abandoned by their families, by whatever means.  And, while that is a worthy cause, we’re supposed to put food on our tables, and build families around these meager wages.  THEN, we find out we can work at the local movie theater for the same money.  And, there we are.  Actually, Mom, there I am.  I’d rather work in a movie theater, where I can watch movies, make friends, and not have to worry about whether or not I can write an essay about something that has no relevance to my life.  I’m gonna mop up the floors, no matter what.”  

These conversations in all their variations, held on many afternoons and evenings in our living room, on the porch, or in the car, were so disturbing, that I often found myself digging myself out of the place I feared he lived.  He had a dry sense of humor, and usually ended these talks with something funny and odd to share.  I believe he may have done that for my sake more than his.  He knew how seriously I took his search. 

I do the same for Nat, and he is working just as hard right now, to quell my fears.  Nat’s and Owen’s obstacles are/were greater than mine…and I had plenty.  But, I had something they don’t/didn’t.  I had a cause.  I had hope.  Perhaps, I also had naivite, the kind that keeps people getting up and going to work, when work can’t possibly answer the question “what is my purpose here?” – if the job doesn’t match the purpose.  That is true for most of us on the planet.  I’m lucky, I feel my job supports my purpose…for the moment, anyway.

Owen loved birds, read about them in book after book, and in his younger years, had some for pets.  He let them go in short order, though.  He felt they were meant for trees and flying, not cages, water bottles, salt licks, and seed trays.  He was right.

Song for the night:  Plateau, by Nirvana – with the Meat Puppets (unplugged)


~ by Linda on September 24, 2007.

2 Responses to “Voices sprinkled with emotion”

  1. It’s time to listen.

    To listen to the words that are said by the leaders of nations. Columbia University, leader of Iran, today. To listen to the words of the over-paid sports figures some admire, Milton Bradley, today. To listen to the words of union leaders, General Motors, today.

    Was today a bad day for leaders?

    More to the point, was today a bad day for the world. A barrel of oil fell to $81.00. Good news? Florida is unable to decide when to hold their primary. Like that will make a difference, here a chad there a chad. The latest reality show, Kid Nation, is number one. 8- to 16-year-old kids deserted to fend for themselves. Just so REAL.

    My question is, “Why do you think the youth of today see little, to no hope for their futures?”

    I have a real good job with a great company, in the package handling industry, not called UPS. Been there for 10 years, and will retire in, 12 or so years with a pension and a nice 401K payout, if the market allows it. My wife has a job that allows us to be the special providers for our collective family. We both worked very hard to get where we are now. We took many hits and are working through some of them now. We have friends and family. At times more than we want, and at other times not nearly enough. Lately, not nearly enough.

    My answer to my question, if that is allowed, is “open your eyes”. Open them to see that all things are possible. Your dreams, no matter how crazy, are possible. Look at some of the great inventors, teachers, musicians, artists, and, dare I say, world leaders – to see that this is true. Not easy. Not guaranteed. Not popular. But possible.

    Do not accept less than your best, ever.

  2. Hi Linda and David: In many ways, I have felt the same hopelessness in some areas, that Owen did. I went back to college after 10 years to get a Psychology Degree. I got my A. A. degree, and was Student of the Year. I had a 3.9 grade average, with 3 classes to go to get my B.A. Unfortunately, 2 of those classes involved Statistics. Since I had not had algebra, or any type of math for 10 years, I struggled greatly. I was also in a class with engineers at Eglin AFB, and the structure of the class was based on their ability to move ahead, at a quick pace. (In my nervousness, my computer showed numbers that the world has never seen!) LOL!
    About this time, I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and suddenly found that it wasn’t about religion, it was about a personal relationship with Jesus. As a Charismatic, life was filled with teachings of power, the supernatural, healing-no longer a boring, lifeless Gospel as preached in the Baptist church of my youth. Like Owen, I made a choice. I chose to be deeply involved in my new spiritual venture, and left the world of numbers and engineers behind-ridiculously close to getting my degree. (My husband is an attorney, so I have been blessed to work or not work, as desired.) I have worked a portion of my life, but not consistently. I have been a clerk typist, a nursery worker, a nightclub singer, a cocktail waitress, a hotel desk clerk, a Christian coffeehouse owner, a Christian radio DJ, had my own radio program for nine years, an antique and collectibles dealer, and am now a freelance writer. Yada Yada
    I have considered going back to finish my B.A. in Psychology, but I am now 54 (soon to be 55). To actually be able to use that degree, I would need to also get a Master’s. By that time, I would probably be too feeble to use it. 😦
    Lately, I have turned to freelance writing, which was always my dream to begin with. The Word says that “your gift will make room for you.” I am finding a whole new world of writing opportunities and community online.
    The sadness within me, is that I have always felt that I had a greater purpose. I had my own Christian radio program, “Love Notes” for nine years, and loved every minute of that, though it was very hard work. It took over 3 1/2 hours to write, produce and record that 15 minute program. I gave it up when I adopted my daughter at age 3. That was a project in itself, and the next 15 years were VERY stormy! But I did the best I knew how-(to listen as you say)-to teach and be taught. (I am still learning!)
    So I wait to see what the future holds. I am primary caregiver for my recently widowed mom at this time, and though my daughter is no longer at home, she occupies a great deal of our thoughts and concerns.
    The struggle is to find, as Michael W. Smith sang “…my place in this world.” I am 54 and still searching, so I totally understand Owen’s questions and reasonings.

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