It’s a very apt quote for my blog; actually, I have some first hand experience with this, and feel like sharing.
In middle school, a lot of things had been going wrong, my mother was bi-polar and manic depressive and the medication, and possibly her life in general, made her exceedingly violent. (You may or may not recall, being bi-polar wasn’t a clear diagnosis in the 80s and early 90s and figuring out medications that would work was hard.) My brother and I shared the brunt of this violence. His stories are his to tell but, a particularly vivid memory I have was when I was 10 or 11.
I was trying very hard to understand my math homework. I have never been quite good at math. My mother while disturbed, scored a 1400 on the SATs in her day and is very intelligent. She could not understand why I could not get the answers correct on my homework assignment. So, in a fit of anger, she beat me until both of her hands hurt. She screamed a lot of things too, but I can hardly remember. (Eventually she did end up in an institution but, not for long enough.)
I was living with that violence, and my mother was deemed by nicer folks, “messy” in the 90s, which now we would say she was a hoarder. It was bad.
Also my father worked more than one job to keep us afloat so, we didn’t seem him often and he couldn’t really protect us. Not to say he is absolved from my childhood trauma but, when one parent habitually beats you or ignores you (some medicines made her forget we were there, which is good, except when she locked us out of the house and we would miss meals) and the other comes home, feeds you, tells you stories and goes to sleep because he’s tired… Not because he is tired of looking at you. You tend to like that parent more. You do, even if he could or could not have done more in that situation.
We were also a lower middle class family, we couldn’t be classified as poor then, both of my parents have bachelors degrees (and back then that meant something). We didn’t always have enough money for food, good clothing, or the latest toys. Kids picked on us because of these things. They didn’t know what was going on at home, and even then, I am not sure they would have cared.
The point is, there was cruelty at home, at school, out at recess… Every place.
I became depressed and the one thing I had that may or may not have been, at the very least- on level with the rest if my peers was, my faith in God. I tried very hard to hitch a ride to church with neighbors often; the idea of a greater being that loved me and never wanted to hurt me- amazing. I was convinced if I was a good little girl, the angels would come and save me. Like for real, people in wings and halos would burst in and stop all the madness. It was cute, and it was wrong.
Well at some point in 6th grade, I had had it. I had been accused of breaking into a girl’s locker and my ‘best friend’ had told everyone I had done it, to save herself. Kids picked on me because I wore my brother’s old clothes, I didn’t speak like the other kids did (I read a lot of books and had a larger than average vocabulary, books were a good escape), I didn’t have the right toys, make up, I was fat, well not really but, chubbier than most. With all that, there was no safe place and I was done.
I thought really hard about suicide. From my vantage point, there wasn’t much reason to go on.
I was on the bus, near the end if the route looking out the window. I saw as you do, the lawns of this neighborhood rolling by, green grass, daffodils, weeds… And I sat there crying into the window silently. I was as always, cold, because we never seemed to have good warm coats, and I was seated alone.
I was thinking of all this unfortunate business, and like I was taught at church, I started one of my best conversations with God.
I complained about the unfairness, I asked him why this was done to me. Finally, as the grass was rolling by I asked him why I was so unhappy. I begged him, and I remember it exactly, “let me find the joy in a blade of grass,” because I couldn’t really find joy else where. If I had one thing to be happy about, I would be okay.
It was almost like, at that moment, that wish, everything changed. The grass I was looking at became intensely green, the flowers more beautiful. The world was beautiful. I saw it. I became warm and comfortable in that seat, all alone, as if someone was sitting right next to me. With that little wish, I started to see the little things that were good in my world.
The grass is green and nice to lay on while reading a book. I had lunch that day, I would be full. I finished my math homework alone. I scored well on my tests that week. I kept focusing on the positives. So much so, the little positives outweighed my large negatives.
No, my circumstances did not change until high school, when I realized I was bigger and stronger than my abuser. My positive attitude attracted a lot of people after a time, and joining the band helped a lot with finding good friends. Eventually, my parents found better work, and we had food on the table. Eventually things changed.
But being able to find the joy in “common things” has been from that day on the bus, my saving grace.
We are lucky. I am lucky and the common grass is quite, indescribably beautiful.