She was four and I was five, the little tomboy who lived around the block. We met in kindergarten – the afternoon class with Miss Carlyle. Things I remember about that particular new beginning are: being walked to school by my Mom and our basset hound, Biggy… crying from fear, as my mother prepared to abandon me to this place filled with strangers in a hallway that smelled of mimeographed pages. It may have been less frightening to me, had I realized that in this tiny classroom I would find a true and lifelong friend.
Forty-four years have passed, but there are pieces of our shared history that could never fall through the holes of my memory. Riding my yellow bike with the banana seat and training wheels around the block, where I discovered the little tomboy outside in her front yard. Graduating to an adult bike, with a bar that taught me to toss both legs over the side for a running dismount, rather than risking losing my breath to the smarts of feet not reaching the ground and the bar crashing into a place you wouldn’t have guessed was attached to your lungs. Sun drenched days, playing and riding our bikes, jumping over the mound of dirt that never did get moved into the backyard to build a garden. And then there were the days spent on the floor of the bedroom she shared with her sister… a four-poster bed, a small record player with a stack of 45’s, playing barbies or ‘pancake kids’ as I called the Flatsies she had, and singing songs that children probably shouldn’t sing, but it doesn’t matter because to us, ‘afternoon delight’ was exactly what we were doing… spending the afternoon playing with the little girl who will surely be by your side until the very end.
After all of these years, I know this to be true… that we will be one of a significant few required to be present at the end of our days, may that end be eons from now. There is a moment in time that we share that was marked by trauma, and that we survived it adds depth to our soul-connection today. This story is significant in my journey of overcoming and becoming… from self-loathing to self-love. I was reminded of it in 2005, when I happened to sit next to a Medium from California at a Broadway Play I was attending with friends. I wrote about it in my not-yet-published book, the name of which I will someday reveal here, about the way that the Archetypal Feminine plays a role in my life.
Over the years, Artemis has continued to make her presence known to me. She came through loud and clear in 2005, and that was possibly the biggest shift forward in my labyrinth of transformation. I had gone to New York with friends, specifically to see Tim Curry on Broadway in Spamalot, but we decided to add another show to the itinerary to make the weekend trip worthwhile. The show we selected was 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal. It was there that magick happened, again.
There were three people in my party, an empty seat, and then a party of four in our row. As we waited for Billy Crystal to grace the stage with his brilliant energy, a woman slid into our row and sat down next to me. It was obvious she was on her own, so I struck up conversation. She said that she had come to NYC from California specifically to see this show, that her family thought she was crazy for doing so, and that she was going to do some work while she was here. Then, the show started, and Billy wowed us with his incredible gift of storytelling. He talked about the remarkable life he lived in his youth, with his father and his uncle, who owned a record label. His father was busy with work, but they had his undivided attention every Sunday. They lost him too soon, and so Billy assessed that he had him in his life for about 700 Sundays. The stories were incredible, and he was engaging. Then, at the intermission, I continued talking with the woman to my right. I asked her what it was that she does that allowed her to work on either coast. She said that she was a medium, and started to explain to me what that was. I stopped her and told her that I had been doing psychic development with my Tribe, but that I just couldn’t seem to receive. She said: “That’s because of what happened when you were nine.” She continued, “Your Dad was yelling at you, and that’s when you shut down.” She asked if my Dad yelled a lot, and I replied that he had a big voice, but that I never really felt he yelled AT me. I asked the west coast medium (wish I could remember her name) what I could do about it, and she said: “All you have to do is fall in love with yourself, AND IT WILL ALL FALL AWAY.” I stared at her and assured her I had received that message before, but that I was never sure of how to interpret the guidance. So, here’s where the big aha moment for me appeared; my very next thought was… how can I fall in love with someone I loathe? So, before I even left New York, I had written a list of common phrases that my inner bully beat me with, and when I got home, I called my therapist and engaged her in the endeavor of continuing the work that Artemis was patiently waiting for me to complete.
When I met with my therapist, I arrived with my list, and I talked pretty solidly about the message I had received, about the inner dialog that had plagued me for so long, about where it came from and how the only one responsible for perpetuating it was me. We worked together for a few sessions, but I pretty much set my own plan for recovery, while she validated my journey. I determined that anytime a voice inside my head said something negative, I would replace it by saying something positive aloud. Most importantly, I declared that I would never say anything to myself that I would never say to someone I love. And so, that’s how my path out of self-loathing continued… one step at a time, with constant vigilance and occasional course recovery.
When I got home from that fateful trip to NYC and recounted that conversation with the medium to my life-long friend, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, with eyes wide, she said, “I bet it was MY Dad who yelled at you!”, which totally resonated with me. I recognized that there was a moment in our shared history that quite possibly had damaged something in my psyche. Her dad, unlike mine, was rather intimidating, and we were both rather afraid of him. I have a ridiculous sense of recall on this particular day, though I cannot tell you what I did yesterday without checking my calendar. My friend and I are not sure of our age, because we felt younger than nine, but it probably fits.
I can’t tell you if it was summertime or a weekend, but it was a warm sunny day in my childhood, when my Mom said she would take me to get lunch at Arby’s. I asked her if my friend could come with us, and she said yes. I told her I would run over to her house, and that we would be right back, if she could come. She lived around the block from us, and I can’t say why I didn’t just call her on the phone. For whatever reason, I walked, and quite possibly skipped around the block, past the ditch that ran between our streets, and up to her house. When I got there, she wanted to go with us, but wanted me to ask her dad. So, I held my breath and walked out to the Florida room where he sat in his recliner, and I asked him if his youngest daughter could come with my mom and me to Arby’s for lunch. He looked at me, and asked, “Is it okay with your mother?” I answered him, and we took to the task of getting her ready to go. When I realized it was taking longer to get back home, I called my mom, and asked if she would mind picking us up. When I hung up the phone, my friend’s dad was standing in the doorway of the Florida room, glaring at me. He said, “I thought you said it was okay with your mother. You lied to me!” I stood there dumbfounded and in shock. Did I lie to him? Is it possible that I could have told a lie to a grown up? What just happened? My brain went fuzzy. As my mom was pulling up outside, my friend’s father removed his approval for her to join me for lunch, and he forbid us to play together ever again. I don’t recall what happened after that. I really do believe I was in shock. I don’t know why I didn’t engage my parents to argue for me, or stand up for my nature which was never to lie to a grown up… or for that matter, why I couldn’t stand up to my friend’s dad in the first place and simply speak the truth… that I hadn’t lied, and that what had changed was that we would not walk back around the block, but ask my mother to pick us up instead. What I did realize, looking back at that moment in time, was this: This event was very likely when self-doubt began. To this day, I refer to my mind as having swiss cheese memory because it seems that I can have a memory, for example, that I had a conversation with someone about a certain topic, but I can’t recall any of the details about it, as if they had fallen through the holes. I’ve always said that I am an amazing secret keeper. Your secret is safe with me, because if I remember that we spoke, I definitely won’t recall many details. This obviously does not bode well for the future, as I age.
But seriously, it’s a shame that grown-ups are oblivious to the damage their words and actions are committing against the children in their lives. Wounds may scar over, but the healing could take a lifetime. As you know, my life-long friend and I did get to be friends again, but it was after about a year of being forbidden to play together. She is an introvert, and didn’t have many playmates, and so her mother finally demanded an end to our exile. My next memory of her dad was much different… he was dying. He seemed much less intimidating by then, and he smiled when he saw me. I didn’t get an apology, but we resumed our friendship, and he died in our 6th grade year. I would get my apology many years after he was gone, either in a dream or a meditation. To this day, my friend and I reflect on these moments that shaped us, and together, we stand committed to the overcoming of our perceived obstacles. Like I said, it requires constant vigilance.
In the years that followed his departure, we were at times distant and close. Through high school we had different classes and consequently, different friends. In fact, after kindergarten, despite having attended the same schools through thirteen years of education, we never had another class together. Weird, right? But we eventually found our way back to the lap of our connection. Even if a month should pass without seeing one another when life gets in the way, we are eternally bound by this childhood, shared. She IS the sister I never had. She jokes that I am an old soul, and that she, as a young soul, is just following my lead. But the truth is, she is wiser than she lets on. She has a gift of mindful reflection that enables her to see both sides of a story, and though she is passionate about her views, she is able to use her words to express herself without lashing out against the views of another. I may have the gift of words, but this is not one of my strengths. I tend to remain silent on the topics by which I am most affected, for my level of rage does not permit me such grace. She claims that empathy is not her strength, as it is overwhelmingly one of mine, and yet her beautiful heart nearly bleeds for the suffering of any animal, be it field mouse or elephant. Her beautiful heart dispels any false rumor she may be spreading about the age of her soul.
I shudder to think what might have happened if her Dad had been any different. Without trauma that binds us, she might have been like any other neighborhood kid, fearless of the future and led far away from this place where geography keeps us close. Our shared wounding in youth left me filled with self-doubt, and I believe her wound is similar. Her father insisted that if she couldn’t do something right, she shouldn’t do it at all. Therefore, her living room sat empty for the first ten years of her marriage, because she could not risk choosing the wrong furniture. This is the core of many of our deep-dive discussions of overcoming. Mine has been a long journey of seeking. Through life-altering experiences that were fearful to start, but ultimately joyful at outcome, I have learned to have faith that the Universe is leading me along a path of discovery that will surely be for my highest good. She has vowed to follow my lead, and year-by-year I am witness to her growing courage. Next year we both turn 50. I have no doubt that she is on the verge of her own fearless becoming. After all, she WOWs me every day. One day soon, she is going to WOW herself… and I’ll be right here holding the torch and cheering her on. Oh, how I love and adore that little tomboy of my heart, now as girly as they get. She is stunningly magnificent, and I am blessed to be in her tiny circle.
(as I imagine our future / Garden Afternoon by Marcelle Milo Gray)