Sunday, October 9, 2011

Delayed reactions / Coincidence?/ "Tug on anything at all.."

I just watched the movie below with the voices in American English. Wonderful to find this beautiful film in many languages!

I have to say, though, that I was startled by the scene in the bath in this film, given that in American culture it is not a typical scene except perhaps in early childhood when the mother is absent, as in this movie where the mother is ill and in a hospital. I am not sure of the ages of the two girls, but the older girl appears to be about 10 years old. I do realize that this is traditional in Japanese culture, although I don't know much about this tradition, and the traditional personal boundaries that must be connected with it.

I do know that when I expressed concern in confidence to a mental health counselor on a crisis line that a 10-year-old was still taking showers with a parent of the opposite sex (I later learned that both parents thought this would be fine until the child was 12), the Mandatory Reporting Laws in the State of Washington required the crisis line mental health counselor to contact Child Protective Services, and there was an investigation and a confidential Educational Intervention to ensure that the parent stopped taking showers with the 10-year-old of the opposite sex and that she understood that what she was doing was not appropriate in American culture and not in the best interests of her child growing up in the context of American culture. The showers with the parent stopped, although the mother was, of course, angry about the intervention and argued that she had done nothing wrong. The child has grown up and is excelling in everything he does. Still, I do not like to think what would have happened had the showering continued until the boy was 12.

I wonder what the outcome would have been if I had expressed my concerns to the parents only. I do not have children of my own and, within 12 hours (delayed reaction) of learning of the situation with the showers, woke up in the morning with a sick feeling inside, and talked with a mental health counselor on a crisis line because I wanted professional clarification of my instinctive concern. The mother may never talk to me again, thinking that I was the one who called in Child Protective Services, and "tried to destroy her family."

My delayed reaction that morning, upon awakening and calling the crisis line, was that I did know that I couldn't imagine myself taking a shower or bath with my father when I was 10 years old.

And I do know that when I was 4 years old, when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my youngest sister, my other sister and I were left for a week with a younger couple who were friends of my parents and who had two adopted sons close to my age, and that I was in the bathroom with my sister and with the man without his wife present. All I remember clearly is being in the bathtub without water, with my sister, and being angry at the man. I can see the 4-inch square bathtub tiles in my mind, and the man sitting on the floor next to the bathtub. This is one of my early childhood memories.

Many years later, a few months after Richard and I separated, I was in a department store at the customer service desk, and the woman who was helping me recognized my name. She was the wife who wasn't present when my sister and I were in the bathtub. She asked me about my life. I told her that I had just separated from my boyfriend who had just returned from Vietnam, and that the relationship had ended in violence. She said that she had just gotten a divorce from her husband who had become severely mentally ill and had been locking her in a closet when he would leave the house.

I get a chill today, this morning, just thinking of that. I have no memory of being hurt by that man, just of being angry at him. Now I am wondering again what happened in that bathroom that day in 1954 when I was 4 years old.

Coincidence or not, I am only beginning to thrive at age 62. It is never too late to heal.

(The painting at the top of the post is "Calendar Series: 15th Month/Night." I had it removed from its frame and scanned recently. The Calendar Series began with the 14th Month, inspired by the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Calendar of 1970, to which they had added a 13th Month. Richard was in Vietnam in 1970. The 13th Month was the month we were to be together again. I felt that I was lost in the 13th month for years. Now I am recalling that I starting the Calendar Series as a way of healing in the same way that I started this blog. Yesterday was the birthday of John Lennon and Sean Lennon, by the way)

"Tug on anything at all, and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe."
(John Muir)


Taradharma said...

love the JM quote, it is so true.

when one of my nieces was just 3 years old, her father, who was then divorce from her mother, was taking showers with her AND his current girlfriend. This tiny child did not like it and told her mother so. He was investigated by CPS and told to stop. How can adults be so clueless as to the sovereignty of a small child?

Even if that man did not molest you (and perhaps you'll never know) it sounds as if it was an uncomfortable situation to be naked in front of a man -- children feel so vulnerable anyway, and your sense of privacy was taken from you. This is a trauma. No wonder you were angry.

bev said...

I believe that old memories manifest themselves in unexoected ways at a later date. When I was about 5 or 6, the ooder brothers of one of my friends locked me in a closet while I was at her birthday party. It was dark and I was afraid. I am nit sure how long I was in the closet, but the mother eventually released me. A few years later, when I was going through sme stress as a teenager, I became severely agoraphobic. The only circumstance under which I could leave the house and venture forth was after dark in the company of my German Shepherd. That went on for several years and I eventually had to droo out of school as I was unable to complete all of my studies at home. I was given biofeedback training in the kate 1960s, at a time when that therapy was still considered fairky new and exoerimental. It did help and I have occasionally used it when I am in a situation that stresses me greatly - such as being in an airplane. The thing that really seemed to help me conquer the agoraphobia was my relationship with Don. Within months, I was doing things that had been impossible before. However, there were a few situations which I did not really conquer. When I studied for my M.A., I would walk the stairs to a 22nd floor classroom rather than take the always crowded elevators.
When Don died, I was afraid that the agoraphobia would return as I could feel twinges of it each time I had to take him for chemo and other hospitalizations. Oart of the reason that I set out for Arizona the first winter after Don's death was that I knew I had to fight back and lay claim to my freedom or I might welk succumb to the agoraphobia. Even now, when the stresses of my solitary life seem to become too much, I can feel the familiar sensations of agoraphobia creeping out from under the rock where they seem to hide. Oddly, it manifests itself as nausea. Anyhow, all this to say that I strongky suspect that the closet incident was the trigger that set years of traumatic pain into emotion for me. So strange to think that such a small blip on such a large timeline could have such lasting repercussions, isn't it?

am said...

Taradharma: Because I remember being 2 years old, it always astounds me when adults seem to think that small children aren't observing what is going on. It is good to hear that your niece as a small child was listened to by her mother when she protested, and that the ignorance of the father and his girlfriend was addressed by CPS.

bev -- Thank you for telling your story of early memories and repercussions. I would not have guessed that you were once severely agoraphobic, but I can see now how important to your sense of well-being it was to sell your place in Ontario and travel to Arizona after Don died and to buy the new/old house in Nova Scotia and to be out traveling extensively with Sabrina and Sage. I see you as a woman with a good balance between being a home-loving person and an enthusiastic and appreciate traveler.

Interesting about the nausea. I wonder if our earliest comprehended language might be that of body sensations. Our bodies give us messages before we even have the words to let us think that something is not quite right and needs our attention.