Contra Flow by Kelly Grieve [Catechize #4]

This week in particular has been full of what I would call predators. If not outright attackers then peripheral vultures and scavengers. It all starts with the induction of fear.

Fear is something I know well. Fear and I are tight. Ever since the beginning of my institutionalized learning, aka public schooling, fear and I have been coming up with complicated handshakes that no one else knows and passed notes in secret code. I have to admit, I’ve been a shitty friend to fear as I have had to pretend, for longer than I ever wanted to, that fear wasn’t my friend. The reason I had to do this was because of what other people would think of me being seen with fear, the shadow of judgment that would be cast upon me and tarnish my reputation.

Fear and I became so close in jr high that she almost took over my life. I was affected to the point of not eating, absent focus, nose diving grades and panic attacks. I managed to muddle through it but I had to complete a class of mine alone in the school library because I could see a side of my teacher that others could not. On the surface, my health class teacher attempted to exude the appearance of a cool, sober EMT, but he was far from the picture of health. He seemed rattled, angry, full of absolutes and doomsday forecasts such as “you will ALL try a cigarette by the time you reach your senior year”. He was wrong about me, I didn’t try a cigarette until I was 22, an American spirit, and I never tried it again.

I hear the echoes of his “prophetic” predictions everywhere. Now in the form of the scare mongering of the populace it’s especially fierce at this moment as it has fallen just after one major natural disaster and before another, shoring up the momentum of a new chic weather terror and so many are itching to ride. As I am in the path of this still TBD devestation, a red neck, red state relative attempts to taunt me with his “safety” and its mind numbing. I can’t even feel angry about it because his security is fabricated and he fully believes himself superior in living his “no-risk” lifestyle. In reality, all security is fleeting. I chose a life of risk and reward over a life of tepid obscurity there. My dreams don’t climactically end at a trucker hat, a gun and a four wheeler. Sure it’s a fine, simple life and all, but it’s not the one I’m pursuing.

What true reward is there in terrifying someone — so they can fear you? Why is it desirable to control someone else? Ask yourself what is at the root of this ego-swollen approach. Feeling disempowered? Self esteem issues? Using others for your own gain? What kind of person do you think you are if you bask in the glow of another’s misery — some kind of supervillain? I guess that’s a goal, except it’s not. Needlessly defimating the character of another reveals extreme weakness and fear in the offender.

This brand of thinking comes direct from the lizard brain, the base instinct of survival. It is an act of desperation to prey on another for your own benefit. Whether that’s eating them or using them for your own gain. It’s still predatory to attempt stripping away the power of another. People like this are the keepers of devolution. I mean, disempowering those around you to further yourself is no higher on the scale of morality than that of a thief. To forcefully piggy back yourself on the gains of a host, that essentially would make you a parasite.

Floating at the top, now this excrement from the bowels of the affluent. They are very often indirect about their assault and instead of getting their hands entirely dirty, they will use triangulation to corner their victim. They will, by way of a third person who considers themselves a worthy friend, take advantage of that person. Thirds are useful as a means to their end. They establish dominance with this “assistant” and all the while, the faithfully duped believe they actually matter. This is where true entitlement comes from — exploiting and diminishing others. Mentally subtracting value from another person to theoretically add to your own is seriously messed up.

This can unfortunately and all too frequently happen with people you would call your friends. One moment you are an equal and in the loop, welcomed to the “family”, the next you are ignored, shunned, and judged in such a subtle way that you didn’t even know it was being done, at first A peristalsis of rejection ensues. Its even more devastating when family does it. Having the beings that you trusted most in this world deceive you for their own petty validation is the biggest insult of all.

It happened to me before I left my hometown. Scrolling along on social media one day, I came across photos of a party up the street from my house from the night before. It was at the home of a familiar older couple that I was very fond of and my partner and I had attended a gathering at some time ago. Initially I had a mild reaction to seeing the photos, then a close friend messaged me to express how disturbed he was at not having been invited. My mind shot backwards 24 hours when I had been hanging out with a friend who was in the photos. Hmm, what kind of good friend wouldn’t invite a person to a party the same evening with mutual friends. That stung. But then, a crushing left hook: a close family member in the photos, the same one my “good friend” and I had visited together that 24 hours prior. I was stunned. In shock and simultaneous heartache. I went from zero to furious. I was absolutely indignant. The friends I trusted, three in one shot had very deliberately not invited me to a close gathering of friends mere blocks away from my home. It was a pain I’ll never forget and may find never myself able to forgive.

People who attempt to quantify the value of your soul, especially to pin it up against their own or others are not caring or loving and despite how hard it is to accept you must put as much distance between yourself and one that would betray you as possible, blood and time be damned. Do not permit someone to exile your spirit and fight those that would dare try.

This life is not a competition against each other, it is a challenge for each of us to meet up with our own reflection and choose to be a better person than the self we were moments ago. Sometimes it’s hell looking in that mirror but the only person you can only ever be better than in this existence is your self.

Yet what good does knowing that and saying that do to the traumatized victim, or the recurrent mark of this selective abuse — and it IS abuse. It is generally accepted that the worst thing that can be done to an infant, comparable to physical trauma is adandonment. It can stunt growth, cause issues in mental and physical development, even cause death. It can forever alter the health and well being throughout the course of a human’s life. It is potentially more permanent than an isolated physical assault. Do the assailants of such miserable tactics really understand the damage they inflict by being so selfish, playing group games that ensnare and exclude others. Sometimes just for sport.

My life has been irreparably altered by this special small town form of fear. The story of the older couple’s party and the loss of a trio of people I had faith and trust in was just the most recent substantial event in my experience. Incidents like these have crippled my life to the point where I avoid forming bonds with others and am actively working to repair those shredded connections. I’m coming from a place where I am often one degree away from blood family and I left because I saw how the gamut of fear controlled and hindered all aspects of their lives: relationships, health, education, employment, recreation and most notably progress. I had to ask myself if remaining the person I was bred to be was contradicting the path of the universe, of my individual evolution.

The day I left I truly believed that I might die on the road but I was determined to die on my feet rather than live on my knees to the expectations of this sort of snowglobe version of terrorism. Instead of on a decimated grimy global war for oil scale, I was brought up unknowingly abiding the quiet lines drawn across the temperate fields of that quaint encapsulated Harper Valley PTA knock off. I always disliked snowglobes because they reminded me of my childhood, tucked away on a shelf like some sort of romantic tourist trinket from a crappy gift shop, the epitome of Americana consumerism. An adorable little nobody born in a bubble. Not even able to escape her soft little prison that when shaken would only snow.

But I have escaped and I remain terrified. It gets maddening but I’m proud to call fear my friend here. Now when my world shakes, the tropical winds blow and truly threaten our comfortable little predictable way of life. Nature reminds us that all the precious prizes we think we possess are just dust in its powerful eye and with a quick rinse can just flush its self out. Clease it’s self of our pathetic attempts to cause others pain or suffering. In a wink, it can decide our fate and strangely enough I’m less afraid of that then the next “friend” I meet in my community. I can trust nature to be genuinely what it is.

When I began this story, the hurricane was still days away. Now, as I wrap it up, we have since remained “hunkered down” through it. Contrary to popular belief it was the best decision to make this time and we made it ourselves. This one was easier than the last and we have come out on the other side safe and sound. My only regret is not knowing how to surf and attempting to ride at least one of the amazing waves that graced our shores here. I regret more being sucked into the media hype, spending too much money on unnecessary provisions for profiteers because that’s what these fear tactics are for. Luckily most of that money went to local businesses and for that I feel some balance. Yes there is a genuine threat in natural disasters and yes we can do as much as we can to prevent harm and suffering from them, but if I were to tell you that to me, trusting a new friend was more terrifying than riding out a hurricane and that it wasn’t worth the effort, you’d tell me no. You’d tell me that the risk was worth the potential reward. That the fear was just a part of the process, something to be embraced. You’d be right and the next time some hysteria instigating media volcano was raised up from a molehill, hopefully you’d be strong enough to think for and listen to your self.

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