POPS

Looking back now, it probably only took about 20 minutes round trip from our apartment building to Pops general store but when you are a kid it seemed like an odorous, hour long journey. That was part of the adventure. Our apartment building was massive. It was low income housing but at that time we were all too young and naïve to realize we were poor. The building resembled a stone castle and living in such a place seemed like a grand adventure. There wasn’t much of a backyard to play in, just a large square of dirt with lots of litter strewn about. The front steps led directly out to a busy roadway with constant traffic driving by. As a child, your options as to where to go when you were headed out to play were pretty limited. Pops was by far the most exciting.

We would often go to the store in pairs or as a group, a ragtag group of union street misfits. Most of our parents were single and many of them worked odd hours so the children in the neighborhood looked out for one another and did a lot of things together. One of the most infamous was the daily trip to Pops.  You knew you only had to scrounge up less than a quarter to score yourself a lollipop or a Popsicle. Sometimes you might get lucky and a neighbor would give you a $5 food stamp bill and ask you to pick something out for yourself and bring them back the change. Then you knew you could go all out and buy yourself one of those awesome ice cream sandwiches with the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry smooshed between two delicious wafers and still bring back 4 bucks for the adult in question.

I still vividly remember running past the rusted fence that gated off the flood chute leading to local waterways. There were rumors that a crazy homeless, guy lived down there and that if you tried to get past the gate he would kidnap you and drag you down to the river. It was common knowledge that all of the children we never saw again after they left the neighborhood ended up there. We used to dare on another to squeeze beneath the gate and to my knowledge my little brother still holds the record of being the only one of us to almost reach the level where the water met the concrete. I remember my feelings being at odds with themselves as I was both terrified I would never see him again and incredibly jealous that I wasn’t  brave enough to make it as far as he did. These early childhood rivalries led to a future of back and forth friendly and intense sibling battles that I treasure more than almost anything in my life.

Pops was a tiny place. The floorboards were uneven and created an orchestra of pops and squeaks as you walked in. It was perpetually dark, the majority of light filtering in through dirty windows and any sunlight that happened to find its way in when the door was pushed open. There were probably only 5 shelves in the entire store. One shelf had a variety of canned and dried goods with a thick layer of dust on them probably long past their expiration date. Another held an odd assortment of every day possible necessities. Matches, fishing tackle, batteries, toilet paper.  The rest of the building was crammed full of coolers filled with a variety of beer and the long counter on which the cash register sat.  The same man was always manning the register and I’m pretty sure his name wasn’t pop. He didn’t seem to care much for children and wasn’t much of a talker. He had a perfectly round scar on his throat and the rumor was that he was shot in a fight and spent time in prison. We made that rumor up ourselves of course. He probably overheard us telling stories about him, hence his disdain for local misfits scrounging up change for candy. Some of us theorized that he was actually the crazy man that lived in the flood chutes which of course always led to heated debates. Why wouldn’t he just sleep behind the counter in the store? Who would give him a job? Did he own the store and if so he obviously wasn’t homeless. Maybe he was just friends with the homeless guy or perhaps he was his partner in crime, equally zealous to kidnapping and torturing children? Theories and logistical probabilities were thrown about as we ripped into our lollipops, hoping to find a picture of an Indian shooting a star so we could save it and someday get a free lollipop. I’m not sure if any of us actually turned the collection of wrappers in or even if you actually received a free lollipop for doing so but I absolutely remember the excitement I felt if I happened to unwrap the pop with the coveted picture.

Pops was a liquor store more than a general store but of course none of us knew any different. The fact that you had to actually walk past three bars just to get there never seemed like a big deal. Local drunkards would wave or scowl as we scurried past, depending on their current state of inebriation. Some of them knew us from the neighborhood or knew our parents and would give us money to grab them a pack of cigarettes. Perfectly acceptable to do back then. It was especially helpful when the grown up in question would give you the change from the smokes as a reward, further enabling the overall mission of collecting cash for candy. I can recall buying candy cigarettes with the change left over from the actual ones, thinking it was cool to pretend to smoke after buying the real thing. This may or may not have led to a future pack a day habit of smoking Kools as a teenager.

The days I remember most clearly about our venture to Pops involve competition in some way, usually involving my siblings. We used to race there and back, seeing who could run the fastest. There was the time we rode our bikes and I cried because my bike had a flat tire. My sister offered to ride me on her handlebars which ultimately resulted in more tears and a little blood mixed in for good measure when she swerved suddenly and I toppled to the ground. To this day I swear she actually ran me over after I fell off the handlebars. Even worse? I was so hurt we didn’t get the chance to eat our popsicles. They melted as my wounds were tended to. My brother was very vocal about this being inconvenient for him and insisted I was fine. I probably was. Pride takes longer to heal than flesh.

Pops is no longer standing unfortunately. It always gave the appearance that it was somehow sinking into the river, perched precariously on a corner lot of asphalt near a flood chute. As it turns out, it actually was slowly falling apart, the general direction being towards the river. The building was eventually razed to the ground, creating additional parking for the neighboring bar. I remember feeling a pang of loss when I read about it in the newspaper. I still live in the area and drive by where Pops used to stand, usually several times a day. About 5 years after it had been torn down I stopped at a local tag sale up the road from my house. Imagine my surprise when I discovered numerous Pops variety store t-shirts for sale at bargain price of $10 per shirt. I picked one up and held it in my hands, staring at the Pops logo in awe. Feeling like I had struck gold with finding this unbelievable relic from my past. Imagine my greater surprise when I handed my money to none other than the infamous, glowering, bullet hole ridden man of my childhood memories. Seeing a myth from your childhood out of context is slightly disconcerting, no matter how old you are. I wanted to ask him if he remembered the kids that used to come in to the store all the time so long ago. If he hated us as much as we always imagined he did. If the memory of Pops caused him to experience an aching sadness like it so often caused me when I remembered it. I looked excitedly at all of the other items scattered on blankets across the lawn, trying to obtain clues about the real life of the man from our childhood. I called my brother immediately. Not only to let him know who I just saw at a tag sale, but to ask him if he wanted me to pick him up a t-shirt.

I miss that store, if you can miss such a thing. More than that I miss those times. When hanging out with your siblings and friends was the best part of the day and looking for money to enjoy treats from the local variety store was the biggest problem any of us had.

Though Shall Not…

This is my fourth published Elephant Journal article. I decided to do this experiment during the month of February when I was having a really shitty day and found myself projecting unnecessary negativity onto innocent bystanders. It was one of the more worthwhile things I have ever done.Worth trying if you are ever in the mood for some soul searching.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/my-month-long-journey-of-judgement-what-i-learned/

Failure translated to success

 

 

With some revisions and my own artwork (well, sip and paint. Lots of sipping.) this article was accepted for publication by elephant journal. It is a universal  message I think but as many of us know so incredibly difficult to actually do.

Thank you for reading!

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/today-i-hope-i-fail/

 

Strange Geometry

Shortly after I started a separate Facebook page dedicated to spreading awareness of trauma suffered from Childhood Sexual abuse I received what was possibly the best compliment I have ever been given.

One of my very first followers told me she wanted to “Paint my words.”

I will never forget that.

I had started writing only a few short months before and her way of expressing her relation not only to my story but to the way I was telling it helped me to not delete the page numerous times. We have had several private conversation since and she sent me updates as she created her artwork.

I was humbled and grateful that anyone would take the time to do such a thing and thankful for this new connection in my life. When she sent me the finished product I was overwhelmed by the intensity of it. She managed to somehow capture what my brain feels like on my worst days and put on canvas what terrifying isolation of our own making looks like.

Last night she sent me this amazing poem to accompany the painting. I used to fear connection more than anything. My very real anxiety has kept me in a world of isolation.. This page has showed me more than once that I can never go back to living that way again.

Thank you Lusus, for capturing what for so many of us is a distorted and complicated reality, for painting my words and for sharing yours.

STRANGE GEOMETRY

12525365_989031007801636_103102871445612855_o

What is this feeling that persists? Is it a void, does it exist? Is it a place or a state? This image, this idea, this fear I cannot resist… Is it a variable or a position before a placement? A personal trap or a natural encasement? A transitory period where one is lost…Will it take my mind, my spirit, what will be the cost? Is it eternal or infinite? Is it internal? …Sometimes singular, other times multiple and rude and informal.

My talent is now my worst enemy. Where did I develop this destructive creativity? Birthing fears in darkness in a state of uncertainty. Eventually forming on the solid ground of creation and entangling with time. All of it is mine and none of it is kind.

It’s alive. Breathing. Bleeding into me. Out of me. Sharing my nerves, my very same veins, Where my body reluctantly strains, Straining against what is to come.

Fear, do not force yourself upon me. When will I be set free, from this phantom standing before me? Can I just wish you away? Must I make you tangible to free myself of you? Do I have to remain the prey? Can you stay far and faded from my eyes?
(Do you not care about that girl that cries?)
Tingling and tugging at all my senses, Setting them all on fire. A cold flame, always rising higher. It surfaces from the void. That place. That eternal variable, unshakable. And when it all leaves…perhaps not too late. Perhaps I have not accumulated too much hate. I follow the strands of time. Away from it all, But it is all a web. How is this supposed to be shed?

It is entangled with me. I am doing my best to untie it from around my heart, from my guts, from my brain. Sometimes I think I have. For a while I feel sane. I feel lighter but I know I am not. I am filled with time and space And that cannot be fought. Its particles flowing and showing, New images growing…I ride the wave, the wave rides me. I want to be brave. I want to be brave…

Conditions For loving Me

This is my second published Elephant Journal article. I have always been drawn to the writing I have read through this online publication and I have found some true words of solace and wisdom through reading a variety of different articles contributed by many different authors. I really am proud to be among them. I know it has only been twice but that is two times more than I ever thought I would see my name in print as an author.

Thank you as always fro reading my crazy!

This one I think really rings true for many of us.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/02/conditions-for-loving-me/

 

Caution! Read with Care

I want to write about triggers but I am worried that some people might freak out and be offended by the fact that it may be triggering to talk about triggers.

I’m going to do it anyways. I am purposely attempting to write what pops in my head without letting the opinions of others continue to silence my brain.

Especially because it is imaginary opposition.

Until I push post I will never know what anybody’s thoughts may be and even then, my goal is to get people talking so it makes no sense to let the worries of what others “might” think prevent me in any way from sharing my own thoughts. If anything I welcome the feedback and opinions of others, even if it isn’t what I want to hear. I don’t mind haters. They are passionate. They express themselves. They are vocal. They encourage exciting and stimulating conversation and when listened to and not taken too personally they often make valid points.

But  sometimes it feels as if people don’t really even hate anymore. Or they hate falsely.

Everyone is walking around with so many repressed emotions that triggering is a real, honest to God excuse for people not to communicate.

When did everyone become so deathly afraid to talk about topics that may cause someone to experience a real idea or express a true feeling? I’m not trying to pick a fight by discussing sensitive things; I’m trying to start conversations about how to make change happen. I don’t know when and how the line between communication and confrontation became so blurred and the infuriating thing is that I don’t know if it is actually ingrained in people to ignore reality intentionally or if they honestly believe they can’t say what they feel.

It seems more and more as if people are desensitized when talking about anything that matters. I would rather talk about something that could be considered triggering in a conversation than continuing to actively avoid anything and everything that is important so as not to upset, offend or cause anyone to explore a repressed thought.

When and how did everyone become so stale to an actual conversation?

I refuse to keep living a shadow of who I was meant to be by banishing what I truly feel. So weighed down by sadness and responsibility and judgment and exhaustion and disgust that numbness has become the acceptable way to be. What kind of example is that for my kids? For anyone? I have a responsibility to be better than numb.

We all do.