Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Monday, February 3, 2014

9-24-13 RMB Inner Struggles

9-24-13 RMB Inner Struggles 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

We all struggle with our own significance, some to pronounce their own, others to justify it and some to find it. How does one teach self-worth to a child determined to fight the world and turn that battle into his defining moment?

He doesn’t hate the world, he just hates the way it is. He doesn’t hate his family, he just hates the box he feels forced into. Some days he doesn’t fit in any box and he struggles through the day in every way, with everyone in his path. “I hate you” and “You don’t love me” tumble out of his mouth with venom.

He does hate something about the way life is, but none of us believe that he truly hates those that love him. He doesn’t love himself enough, not nearly as much as those he accuses of lacking love for him, those who have put aside their own needs to stand by him, nurture him and carry him, as best as he would allow them to, to this moment.

He makes a stand in the morning, arguments and fights carry on until, in a department store, he runs away. There is no place to run to and he doesn’t really want to run from his loved ones anyway. If he did, he would have been gone a long time ago. He is running from himself, he is running to us as much as away from us.

His mom calls me and I arrive at the store with two younger brothers. She is waiting at the front doors, watching that he doesn’t try to make an exit and make this day more difficult than it already has been.

“You go there.” I point to a place for one young brother to stand. “You go there.” I point to another location for the other brother. “If either of you see him, let me know.” I turn to their mom. “Do you want me to stay here or go look for him while you stay here?”

 “I’ll go look for him.” She says, obviously frustrated.

“Are you sure? Are you okay?” I am as concerned for her as I am for him.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” She takes her leave with measured steps and eyes sweeping side to side down aisles. The same eyes that swept our streets and city for eighteen years when she wore her peace officer’s uniform, keeping us safe. Now her challenge is to keep one young soul safe, as much from himself as from outside influences.

He sees her and comes towards the door thinking his path is clear to exit, but stops at the sight of me and his brothers, a reality check, to have those younger than he, standing for what is right, to protect and guide him to a better place. It humbles him and I see his inner struggle through teary eyes as the war rages on inside of him. I point to a corner made by shopping carts and railings. “Sit!” He sits. I call his mom’s cell. “He’s here.”

By the time she is back at the front, his breathing has steadied and I have walked over to both brothers, told them to hold their marks, stay in their places. “If he tries to run out, grab him and hold on to him. Do you understand?” I say that, but what I am asking is if they understand that they are sentinels, here to help him as much as their adults; here to show him we love him enough to fight for him, even when that means fighting him or fighting his struggles with him. They understand. There is a seriousness in both their expressions and in their eyes. Tonight, at eight and nine, they have matured in leaps and bounds.

Just as he has matured over the years as he has contributed to their life’s education, now they are returning the gesture, helping him to mature.

After we have all calmed down, the purchases related to the days arguments, a story too lengthy to go into here, are finally completed. I sit him down to talk for a moment, just the two of us. I let him know that the result of the day are a result of his actions. He knows this already, but what I add, is that I will reward future action in equal measure. It is hard to describe without boring you with details, but I offer a carrot for better behavior, for cooperation and understanding on his part.

And I offer insight into my own struggles, how far I have come in the area of self-worth, because I see this is the area he also needs to reshape, for his own good. He takes in my words. In some ways he impresses me. Not many people can calm themselves after losing themselves, but he can. He is strong, and these early struggles are also making him wise.

We leave the store with an understanding; with two younger brothers that have stepped up to support their family in a time of strife; with a mom who is grateful that she has troops to call on and grateful that she has a son, who despite his struggles, will always come back around to her; with an aunt blessed by the presence of a family that allows me to be a part of their growth, however difficult. It is in facing our greatest difficulty that we find the best within us.



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