In the hurling, frantic speed of society, there almost seems to be no oasis of sanity, of soberness. Sometimes you don’t want that. Occasionally, you need to feel the pounding heartbeat of the edge of the cliff. In between all of that is the never-ceasing search for identity. To whom, to what do you belong?
It’s hard to even know the question has been asked. When you grow up in a fear-soaked household, ever vigilant, ever aware and on guard against any actions or discussion which will set off The Beast, the thought of who you really are never occurs to you. You’re too busy surviving, hoping against hope that *this* weekend The Beast won’t be drinking again, and won’t hurt members of your family. So you stay in your room, busy with your comics, your books, with one ear hyper-aware of every noise in your three-story house.
And you’re hungry. So very hungry. You had a sandwich at lunch time, but it wasn’t enough. You’re a teenager, for Pete’s sake. Teenagers need more than two slices of bread covered in sugar. You wonder if Mom, who’s doing her best, will score some hotdogs or something. Something you can *bite*. You know it’s hard for her to feed six children on the pitiful amount The Beast deigns to give her (the rest of his money going to feed the bookie’s children, and the beer store owners’ families).
Add to that the fact that you’ve just found out that the Sheriff (yes, there really is such a thing, in this day and age) has warned your parents that he intends to kick you out of your house if the mortgage back payments aren’t paid. And you, with the money from your pitiful part-time library job can’t hope to help out.
Food, a home, and the ever-angry three hundred and fifty pound drunken Beast – the man you just avoid to survive. You’d fight him if you could, but at a hundred and twenty-eight pounds, you know the most you could bruise would be his fist. With your face.
It’s too much.
And yet, you’re resilient. These survival things you’re learning – they will make you into the man you’ll one day become.
For one thing: your hyper-awareness of the Beast has translated into an ability that allows you to be aware of people. You can tell a lot about them before they say a word to you. At first, in your youth, you think maybe you’re just prejudging people unfairly. Except, you slowly build up a history of accuracy after the fact. You know, when you make an inward judgement which you keep to yourself until their actions simply enforce what you thought.
You begin to trust that. That trait becomes part of you, and you accept it.
One day, in your late teens, when The Beast is on one of his usual tirades (and you haven’t gained an ounce of weight since you were thirteen), you take your life in your hands. He stands there, overly large face as red as it can get, fists clenched, wild black greasy hair standing on end, massive shirtless gut hanging over his dark pants. And you look at him square in the eye and you tell him “you’ve never been a father to me.”
You can’t believe you said it. You expect that to be the last thing you ever say in your life.
To your surprise, The Beast halts in his tirade and looks at you. And he sees you. Finally. He says nothing, but …. he turns away, seemingly in self-disgust.
And this too becomes a part of you. This ability to speak clarity and truth, regardless of danger, fully appreciative of consequences.
As the years progress and The Beast gives up the bottle and tries, too late, to make amends, you can look back at all this through the fog of time, and realize he had issues that he never told anyone about. Likely (you think) issues of sexuality. Maybe it was better not to know.
And so you learn compassion.
One night, you have a dream, perhaps. A dream of wolves. You watch them in awe and wonder, as they protect their own. You see how delightedly they explore, ever curious and in tune with all that is. They are no man’s slave. They own their actions, and their progress is enticing and deliberate.
You see how they love their environment. They take care of themselves as much as they take care of their pups, their mates. You learn that they are monogamous. That’s their choice.
And, despite all the Disney movies to the contrary, you realize that they have one thing you’ve striven your entire life for. They have a certain joy.
The Wolf resonates in your heart and soul. You love life. Those early harsh experiences have shaped you, certainly, not to repeat your environment but to create new environments, where acceptance and laughter reign true.
Finally, one day you look in a mirror. And looking back at you is a Wolf.