What does my horrific childhood have to do with myself as an adult almost jailed in developing country Zambia Africa? A lot I think. When we are going through Hell In The Hallways we think our problems are negative. I've been through so much and turned it around that I know that is not true. The gift is in the problem, the opportunity is in the problem. Here is one example of how it played out for me.
Warning: Some of the language is offensive in the following message but is necessary to the telling of this tale, a chapter from my book."You're A Son Of A Bitch Bastard" You're a son of a bitch bastard. You're no good. No one likes you. You're a little piece of shit just like your father. Nobody wants to be with you. You have no friends. You'll never amount to anything". One night I "got it" at the dinner table. The next night my brother "got it". When I "got it" I choked on my food because the tears were too many to just well up in my eyes. Besides it was important to hide them, for survival. If my mother saw me crying she would "cuff me" as she called it. I tried to conceal the overflow of tears in my eyes. But there were too many. So, my leftovers went down the back stairway to the farthest part of my throat. Their wetness mixed with the food already in my mouth but it was too much for my little throat to handle.
"Don't you spit that out or I'll kill you," my mother would say. I knew if I spit it out I would get slapped. I knew if I kept it in my mouth and tried to swallow it. I would die. Somehow, the food took care of itself.
The night my brother "got it" I felt both relieved and guilty, glad it was him instead of me. But I was never glad. I felt bad. Really really bad, way down deep. He didn't deserve it. He was a good kid. To see his eyes bulging out, the whites starting to turn red when he was beginning to choke. All I could do was keep my face forward but move my eyes to the right where he was seated to determine if he was choking too much to come back by himself. Then I could jump up and save him. Not too soon though or the tables would turn and I would be in trouble. It was the dance of hell.
Everyone grows up with a mantra. Something a person hears over and over from the time they are young. It is not necessarily meant to be your repeat-and-do-after-me inner voice, but it is that one element said or done over and over and over again, often without notice or fanfare. This phenomenon sticks with you, deep down in your amygdala, the part of your brain where childhood memories are stored. This mantra is so far inside the depths of the brain, no one detects it. But this chant influences you. No one gets off scot-free. You can work on yourself, you can read self-help books, watch Oprah and correct all you consciously know. But no one sees or "gets" especially you, what impact this mantra has, good or bad . . . your responses, your thoughts, your feelings, your decisions . . . every second of your life. It's your normal. Or even if you know it's dysfunctional, it usually takes a hurricane of great intensity to make the shift. Something highly irrational, disproportionate has to happen that forces you to do what America's 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln time and again did: "I have fallen to my knees many times because I had no place else to go". I can relate. Interesting. What I originally thought was my nemesis has turned out to be my greatest look-yourself-in-the-mirror Wendy shift gift.
Over and over my life was a coming to terms with this sort of talk. I made a decision very young that when mistreated I would say inside to myself "Someday, I will show you" and that I would try to understand what it was about the pain in the other person that would make them strike out at me or betray me. It has served me well. I have an inner peace that nothing and no one, no situation, no event can unpeace me with. It will not happen. It is not a forced issue. I am a peaceful soul because I had to do so much work on my insides to take what I had thrown at me for so many years. But think what a powerhouse I am inside.
I was tested in January 2012. I went to immigration in Zambia to get my visa extended two days. No big deal. I often did that. This time the woman, Eve, said "Your passport was never stamped when you entered Zambia so you are an illegal in our country. I am going to have to put you in jail until the trial which can take up to 9 months and then you may have to do more jail time. That's the law"
I calmly looked at her and said "Well, I really don't have anything to do when I get home to America anyway". My own authentic calmness even surprised me.
"What!" she yelled. "You mean you want to go to jail until your trial?"
"No," I responded calmly. "But better me than someone who has young children they have to take care of "
Her mouth dropped open. She didn't know what to do with my Gandhi demeanor. She made some phone calls and then said I had to get out to the airport within 30 minutes as the man was leaving and he would stamp my passport and I had to pay 50 USD. So, I did. He interrogated me for an hour.
The next day, I found that someone had stolen my credit cards and cash from my hotel safe. I went to management and said "I have paid most of my bill but can't pay the rest until I get home but I promise to send it to you". Okay.
Then when I went to the airport and checked in I was sitting with some of my street orphans waiting for my plane to be called. The hotel management came and dragged me off to the police station because I had not paid my hotel bill and that was illegal, punishable by jail until a trial and then more jail time. I was calm. So calm they didn't know what to do with me. So, they took me back to the airport and I ran down the runway to catch the plane as it was starting.
Where could calmness and peace like this come from. All I can think is that my childhood was my earth school and this was my final exam to see if I learned my lessons. The lesson I think was that I am home within myself. So, it doesn't matter if I am in a beautiful garden or a jail cell, I am home. I am enough. I am complete. I passed my hard lessons of life and graduated from earth school. And nobody can ever take that away from me. Keep it coming baby. I am ready.
And that means that YOU have that power also. if you don't feel it now. Do your lessons. Being your authentic spirit doesn't mean your world is all right. It means wherever in the world you are, you are all right. They can take your arms and legs and bruise your face, but they can't touch your soul. There's strength in that. Keep it coming baby.