The SLOG of Joy

Grumble. Growl. Grunt.

.   Swear. Sweat. Stomp.

. Punch. Pound. Pant.

.  Breathe. Binge. Boss.

.  Shout. Scream, Smear.

.  Fall in a heap, exhausted. Then get up, clean up, and do it all over again.

.  There is joy in this. This “living” we do. No matter how sweaty, or dirty, or ugly, this “living” is a beautiful thing.

.   There is no ‘give up’ here, no ‘quit’ , no ‘over it, no ‘packing it in’.

This is where every. breath. matters.

.    DO YOU HEAR ME?

EVERY BREATH MATTERS.

Right now, in my little trailer in the middle of down, down, way down and out USA, I am deciding to care. I am deciding that my sufferings will amount to something, that all this silence and fear and worry  in my heart will be done away with, that with this breath of life my Creator blessed me with will be used to help someone else live, too.

.  I know I’m a rag-tag mess. I can’t think straight most of the time, and there are days I can’t leave my house. I am oppressed by an illness that tells me I don’t have it, and that feeling like I’m sick is a sin. I’m not exhausted, it tells me, I’m lazy. I’m not in excruciating pain, I’m a dope seeker. I was not abused, assaulted and raped, I was promiscuous.

.  I am here, I am now, and with my God’s help, I will reach out to someone else. And with my God’s help, I will not believe the lies. Instead I believe the Bible, God’s own letter to me, and to all his children. I want to live.

Who Do I Think I Am?

I do silly things sometimes. Fairly often, in reality. Most of the time they are thoughtless mistakes, quickly forgotten by all who have been effected by them. There was a time, in the past life I lived, the one I talk so much about on this site, that I did intentionally bad things. Things that hurt people. People who loved me, acquaintances, strangers, it really did not matter. My warped bipolar, drug addicted brain could only seek it’s own gratification, usually with no apology attached. Selfish. Mean. Low down.

.   I lived 20 years of my life in Pittsburgh, and went to school in a large predominately white suburb. In the large community I lived in there were 4 black children in my school, that I knew. Out of hundreds. I never wondered why, never asked why, it was just “the way it was”. These were times before forced bussing and desegregation. I never had  learned to be predjudiced, it was a non-issue. The first black child I ever saw was about 4 and so was I, I clearly remember running down the hedgerow and meeting him at the opening, breathless.

.  He looked at me, and I at him, and I loved him. I wanted to play with him, and he smiled happily back at me. That was 40 years ago-I remember it like yesterday. Mother used to tell visitors that I ran inside that day telling her I was going to marry him and have gray babies. That seems bizzare for a four year old (black plus white making gray) because I don’t think I even had a concept of my being “white”. (A born artist, I probably thought I was pinkish yellow or something…) But I do believe I loved him, on the spot, at first sight.

.  I never saw him again, when I ran back outside the family was gone. No black people ever moved in next door, or anywhere on my block for that matter. After I grew older and went to secondary school I saw the other black children who were my age, but we never made friends. But they are stamped on my memory, because they were beautiful. They had a hard road at that school, I know, because they were talked about as being half white, like it was a curse or something. When I brought them up at home, my parents knew exactly who they were, because a “mixed race” couple must have really blown up the town’s skirts back then.

.  I must have been talking about it in front of my Tennessee born Grandpa, because I remember being shocked at his reply, and the venom in it. He then said that I had black in me, because I had big lips. So, the realization dawned that prejudice  was closer to home than I realized. But I still didn’t feel it, I just thought how nice brown skin would be, it wouldn’t show my pimples. A few years passed and I got my first real job, in a Sambo’s restaurant (yes, that was really the name). I was 15 and my manager was 30. He was black, and very handsome. I was besotted and we dated a couple times. I thought the age difference was exciting, and so was his skin color, and the danger was exhilarating. A danger I was now old enough to understand. He spoke of love, but never wanted me to meet any of his friends or family. I told my Mom about him, and she nearly fainted. She was not racist( I don’t believe), she sat me down and talked a long time about how my grandpa and my father would disown me, how hard the world was on mixed race couples, and it was, at that time.  I said goodbye to him on the telephone and that was the end of our friendship.

When I turned 20 I moved to Florida with my Mom. I was very addicted to cocaine before I got there, and I was now living in a county where the sheriff had shipments landing on his own airstrip! It did not take long to land in jail, and then I had an epiphany.  I did not hate black people, but they hated me! At least in that jail they did. There were 21 girls in a 6 man cell, we laid on the floor like sardines. When the matron first shoved me in, I saw only one other white girl, and she the meanest of the bunch. “Who did you kill? ” was jeered at me, and the verbal abuse began. I was scared, alone, jonesing and locked up for the first time in my life, and I could not understand why they hated me so bad.. I hadn’t done anything to them, had I?

.  I became the brunt of their jokes, being called things I hadn’t heard before. The girls made a habit of stealing my food, taking my blankets and making my life miserable. I was learning, though. When they saw that I could draw and write pretty, I started a little letter writing racket for 1 cigarette per letter. I wrote fast and soon made some memorable friends. When I took the time to learn about my cell mates I began to be enlightened about racism. I was enlightened about my own sense of entitlement, I saw how unequal we were in our education , and in how we were treated by the guards and the police. My fear had subsided, but now I knew that racial differences could be dangerous.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

.  The turn my life had taken led to being around very racist white people when I got out of jail. Hateful, gun toting people. I wanted to be accepted, I wanted friends, it was not long until I learned the drawl and wore the flag. I never talked about my northern roots, I talked about my relatives in Tennessee. I played the part, got high, got drunk and said the “N” word. I hated everyone who was different, hated everyone who looked at me cross-eyed. I disliked myself most of all, for my two-faced , hypocritical ways.

.  Yes, I finally cleaned up my life, got away from violence, cussing, drugs. Got away from my abusive, hateful husband when he went to Prison. Been clean and sober 20 years now, and I am a baptized  worshipper of God. I preach to others about love of neighbor, love of family, obedience to God. I changed my wicked ways, I yell it from the rooftops…

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“The Sentinel’s Prayer”, acrylic on canvas, Susan T. Martin2017

It made me physically ill to watch George being murdered. I was, and am outraged. I felt like he was my friend, and all those feelings I posted in my last post. But when I went to the store in the days after his death, and a black man walked down the aisle I was in, I felt terrified. I could not look him in the eye, my face burned with shame and I wanted to run away.  I did not mention this in my last post, yet that was my motivation to write it in the first place . I actually wrote about it, then got scared and deleted it! Rewrote the post without talking about my discomfort, my shame, my guilt, my anger at myself. I wanted so much to understand why I reacted that way, why I felt scared to reach past his wife to get my margarine. Why I think if she had said Boo to me I would have peed myself. Why I was unable to say how outraged I was, how I understood their anger, why I was unable to say Anything…IMG_20180909_002734_526

.  But good old Sue, she changed her chameleon colors, again… Instead of peering deep into the wound to get to the heart of that ugly splinter, to pull it out and see it in the light of day, to clean the wound and bind it up to heal…I chose to cover the wound, leave the splinter, let it fester some more.We are all Innocent Image2 (2)

.  In my dishonesty, not only to you, gentle reader, but to myself, I had the audacity to presume that my family’s history is comparable to the Floyd’s. While I am sure my ancestors experienced the pain of predjudice it was not a bit helpful to bring that up in this context, as if saying what happened to their son was just a predictable passage in the history of mankind. No, I have to do better if I truly want to clean my heart of the stain it bears. I am part of the problem too. I am not the one to act like I know what black people feel. I tied that emblem on my forehead too many times to be so saintly now…

.  I’ve still got work to do, tonight and tomorrow and every day hence. I have to go sharpen my knife, and sterilize my tweezers and get that damn splinter out…I think it’s time.

The CLEAN Effect!

      Yessssssss….Deep inhale….Yessssss….

.  There is often some bright speck, a teeny-weeny glint, in the midst of devastation. Often this tiny glimmer of good goes unseen for years, decades, even centuries. I’m sure there have been major disasters where no bright side was ever found, the loss being only that. A loss. Losses. Deaths. Dying.

.  We could only see that, if we got tunnel vision with this Covid Pandemic. Only the disease, the fear, the grief, the bodies stacked up like cord wood. It could just open it’s huge great-white-shark-sized mouth with it’s blood-covered-razor-sharp giant teeth and swallow us whole. Then our lives will have ended, with a dark shroud of sadness enveloping our memory. Is this how you are feeling? Are you frightened?

.         It certainly is a normal reaction to this situation. But there IS a silver lining… Have you heard about the animals? They are coming out of the woods, out of the forests, out of the bushes, out of the darkest recesses and back into the sunlight! With humans staying quiet, staying out of their cars, letting the Earth rest from it’s gasping, the animals are out!!! It thrills me, it brings joy to my weary heart to see images of river otters playing in a grassy median, rolling and romping, and laughing!(I’m sure they are laughing, they have to be!)

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My Izzy, 2005-2017

.  I see cardinals again , and osprey flying low. I hear owls, and see ‘coons and possum. Oh, I know, I’m talking about “less desirable”wildlife, but let me tell you, it fills my heart near to bursting. As a child I would read “Born Free”and Miss Anderson’s Cheetah stories, gobbling up the word images of animals running free across African Savannahs. I dreamed nightly about my wild Stallion that I would ride someday, and about Bambi becoming a Stag.WIN_20191128_03_49_42_Pro (2)

.  My Mom’s Bible Study books had images of happy people hugging lions and petting tigers, and I physically yearned for those images to come true. As I learned about God and thought about His love in creating puppies and kittens, I found Bible passages that promised a paradise one day. And as the years have past my faith has become brighter, and the day for me to hug a white tiger, or play with a wolf pup has gotten closer ,too.Picture 005

.  Yes, there is much sadness, sickness and death. There is injustice and corruption and pollution. And , sadly, there are worse things to come in the future, no matter where you live on this planet. But it all is bringing us closer each day to God’s fulfilled promises, such as the end of wickedness, pain, crime and hatred. To days of joyful work for humans, building houses, planting gardens. Many people think that God is causing this horrible pandemic, and that He is a God who throws people into Firey Hell.

.  I have studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses for many years, and was baptized in 2003…but I had many things that I changed, only with God’s help. I was a  full blown drug addict and alcoholic for 23 years, beginning at age 13. I only knew abusive and violent relationships, having my nose broken twice, being tied to a tree, stabbed and shot at, being choked unconscious more than once, and more. All this by my own husband. By the time I was 33, I looked like a 50 year old, and I felt 100. I had so many health problems, pain was my constant companion and still is. I smoked Crack, Pot, snorted coke, meth and used drugs intravenously for years. I drank my first beer most days by 9am, and lit my first cigarette before my eyes were open in the morning. I now have PTSD, and COPD. I had Hep C . I was dying and wished I was dead. Finally, before my husband killed me, he was arrested by the ATF and was convicted as a habitual offender, 15 years to life.Picture 419

.  Oh, how I cried. I thought my world had ended. I really went wild. He wanted me to work with the law to get his sentence reduced, I thought ATF agents were behind every tree. I refused to work with the Feds, because I thought I was smarter than them. I hooked up with a member of a MC club, and planned to tell the FBI about it… After all the humiliation and abuse they told me they would never use any info I gave them…I wanted to die… But I didn’t.

.  I called my Mom, and begged to come home. She let me. I was the proverbial daughter. Near death and bankrupt in every way I moved back to my parent’s house.

Lots of things happened that I could go on about. Bad things. And worse things.

.  But there was a glimmer, a glint of good in all that mire I was in…

.  I got on my knees before I took the last step to suicide, and I begged, pleaded, beseeched, cried and screamed my anguish and remorse out to God.

.  He heard. And He helped.

. I was able to get clean and sober, 21 years ago this September. I quit smoking the next year. And then, after calling God my “Higher Power”in AA for another year I learned that God , Jehovah God, could and would and did forgive me.

.  Yesssssss….deep inhale…..Yessssss!!!

.    You can feel this forgiveness too. I hope you do. Then I can meet you, in paradise on earth when all this badness is finished, for good.

(if you want to learn like I did, JW.org is where to go… You’ll  be able to read and study the Bible, watch videos and learn precious truths…and you will learn how God sent His Son, Jesus to sacrifice his life for ALL humans…yep, me…and YOU TOO !!!)

As We Lay

Inside this space,  cuddling with you

.  My heart swells, maternal love, here beside you

. My Child, you aren’t alone- I will never leave you

.  Such lies I told , afterward , I bereaved you.

.  Mommy and Susie -so, so true

.  You were not my mother, you…

.    are… my best forever friend

memories of laughter never end..

.   Entwined, entangled as we lay

.  Soon stormclouds of dying day,

.  Whispers of Roast Beef and Yorkshire pud,

Make as many  favorites as I could.

I was your Mommy for years and years

Yet, eyes rained down a daughter’s tears..

Little Pink Teddy squeezed in your hands,

Your sigh moved over shifting sands:

Deserts of grief-so empty of you

Best Mommy, good girl, we aren’t thru.

.  Awaken to a face without  pain’s lines

. Now endless love and endless time

Beauty is fields of glowing wheat,

Smell  the lavender near our feet

Softest blanket where kittens play,

.  Gentle sun warms us…As we lay.

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What You Made Me Feel (Blue-Eyed Johnny)

A deep abiding sadness, wistfulness… like watching a deer in the meadow, at dusk

just before that shot rings out.

Beauty/ Pain/ heartbreak/ death

Their young faces haunt me, these young men I have not met.

How strange it all was to them: Surreal Landscape, Unreal Assignments-

You must die taking this hill, then let it go…You must kill,kill,kill..

I am with you there, that bap!! Bap!! of rifle fire throwing hunks of wet earth aloft, making pieces of palm frond dance right over your head.

Over my head.

Over Our Head.

I close my eyes and see their eyes glowing in the jungle dark.

I see your eyes Johnny Boy. Your blue, blue American eyes so wide, wide open.

That mix of righteous fear, and unrighteous courage- A big question mark in your smile, the cigarette dangling from your strong, veined hand, an M-16 cradled like a lover in your arms.

If I die, I die a Hero, not a poor man’s son, not a redneck, not a carpenter, not a iron worker, no, not one…

A baby, only three or four, staring up from my daddy’s floor, to a tiny black and white TV,

Nixon’s face is what I see, then the images will start again:

Bombs will fall, flames will leap, soldiers will yell

I will sleep- to the sound of choppers overhead-they evac you while I’m still in my crib.

Can I wipe the blood from your face, with my long brown hair-

Can I pour perfumed oil on your battle scars, my blue-eyed Johnny?

Can I love you tho’ I was not there, my brother, son, lover, friend?…

Won’t that damn war ever end?

 

(written after a marathon viewing of Vietnam, The Ken Burns documentary on PBS)by Susan T. Martin, October 8,2017, but felt since I saw the images of the Vietnam war on my parent’s TV as far back as I have memory…)(I was born in 1964)