The Drum Beats Slowly (Tokoni 05/10/2009)

(Note: I wrote this 5/10/2009.  Now it is almost 5/2011.  So . . . the drum beats again.)

About every four or five or eight or ten years, it happens. It’s like a drumbeat in my life. I suppose the first stroke may have been from that time in “Remember When”. It sounded again when I was fourteen, again (hard) at twenty-one. Again at twenty-eight. Then another beat when I was thirty-eight., a hard blow that took years to overcome. And now at forty-nine I feel the pulse of the drum again. I can’t say which time has been worse or better, only that it’s always been different. And each time the beat echoes through my mind, I learn more about myself and life and people in general. And each time I come through the other side. Stronger in some ways. More sensitive in others. Always better and sometimes wiser. Life is a learning process, and I’m still learning.

The drum beats slowly, and I’m hearing it again.

Why Tokoni? I found Tokoni through a banner on Fictionpress, clicked to see if it was of interest . The byline caught my eye. “Life is full of stories. Tell yours.” That was five months ago. I just joined last week.

I don’t do things lightly, not anymore. But that phrase kept whispering in the back of my head. My youngest daughter, now edging towards twenty-two, has long begged me to write my story. I wrote my story for my wife when she was my fiancé so that she would know what she was getting into, so she could have a chance to back out before she got in. But that was almost a quarter century ago. There is only one copy; it is hers, and for her alone. Other people have told me I should “write my story”, because apparently they think I’ve lived an interesting life. Note that interesting doesn’t always mean fun. I don’t know; I have no reference; it’s the only life I’ve known intimately. I’ll have to let others judge whether the quality has been ‘interesting’ or not. As for me, I don’t pretend. I know its been more interesting than some, less than others. So that’s one of my reasons: to obey Tokoni’s subtle command, do it honestly, and do it well; to fulfill my daughter’s wishes, and those of some others.

There are other reasons, of course. Once again, I find myself compelled by some deep part of me to explore my past. Not just looking for the abuses, the problems, the tragedies; but to also find the good things and the lessons there. I know they are there, but I’m all too painfully aware of the human mind’s instinctive nature to remember the bad and forget the good. After all, it’s a survival mechanism. Think about it and you’ll understand it’s true. The bad things are threats,or at least perceived as such – whether to life and limb, or soundness of mind and spirit. The mind files them away for future reference in the hope that you’ll know what to do next time it happens. The good? Not so much. After all, those things didn’t threaten you. I also wish to understand the motivations – not just of myself, but of the other people around me during those darker times.

I know better than to peer too deeply into my past’s bitter well – the well of sorrows and regret. I just might fall in. It’s happened before, and it affected me badly, until I climbed out of the deep dark pit. That’s one thing about drinking from the well. The more you drink, the deeper you can fall, until you’re full of bitterness, anger and sorrow, and when you look up – there’s no light anymore. The well is endless; you can find yourself swimming in it forever, if you’re not careful. You’ve fallen too far. That’s the Pit for me. Been there, done that, and don’t intend on doing it again. So I’m taking it easy, just a little bit at a time – a teaspoonful here, a half a cup there. Is it dangerous? Yes, drinking poison always is. But I subscribe to a theory here and now: that perhaps that’s what it’s about, this thrumming of the the drum. Inoculating myself to the sadness; drinking from the well just one drop at a time; letting it settle in – and then letting it pass. After all, I’ve been here before, in ninety-six or so, and again when I was twenty-one, two, and three. And in each time, I learned something – sometimes many things – important to me and my being and state of happiness.

I’m no stranger to the internet. I was using it back when it was just Unix, and a bunch of university and governmental sites. I dropped it for many years, up until the mid-nineties, when I heard that drum once again. I’ve done the chat rooms; was even an on-line counselor for a few years, while I was seeking help for myself. They said I was good at it, and through it I discovered that one of the best things a survivor can do is help another survivor. Helping others helps us help ourselves. It’s a way of overcoming the abuse. It’s also a way of healing one’s self, though the scars will always be there. Just don’t pick at them too much. Open wounds are hard to heal. I often refer to the abuse as being a bloody coin. Like a coin, it has value. You just have to turn it over and over again sometimes to discover the golden side. Perhaps that’s why I’m doing it again – holding that heavy coin in my hand, looking at it again, hoping to discover more of the hidden truths and goodness in it’s dark nature.

Back when I was twenty-one and the drum sounded hard and loud, I examined the nature of happiness. It wasn’t the first time. I was a different person then; that tolling of the drum changed me, and it was for a good thing. It was painful, nearly killed me – but I don’t have the temper I had then; I have much better control – and I learned a modicum of happiness – though finding my wife and her kids (another story) helped a whole lot.

I’ve been studying happiness since my mid-teens. Again – another story. I think I’ve done well; better than some I see. People say I’m a happy-go-lucky laid back type of person with a good sense of humor (even in the worst of times). It wasn’t always that way. I’m the first to admit I used to be a mean SOB. But the thumping of that drum changed me.

I guess that’s another reason I’m on the internet, here on Tokoni. Its a small site; just take a look at the number of users and stories posted. I’m not out to shout my story to the world. I just want a small fine place where I can get it in order, take a look at it, see how far I’ve come. And yeah, a lot of its been painful, and hurts me to this day, but that’s okay. I’m well equipped (I think) to deal with it now. I know the nature of happiness, have learned the art of acceptance. I don’t get furiously angry; bitterness is not my style, though sometimes it still bites. Are there bitter stories? Yes, they come from the well. But I know I can survive telling them, which is why, I guess, I’m here right now. To sort it out. And yeah – I save these stories, here on my own computer. My daughter and family don’t know I’ve begun this task. My wife probably suspects I’m hearing that drum again (I can tell by her somewhat troubled expression and actions now; I guess I’m not hiding it as well as I should. It’s too painful to her.) Not all of what gets posted here will make it into my story to them. But some of it might.

I know survivors. There are endless variations. No two stories are the same. The results can be similar – but the stories are as varied as the stars, and some – some are much, much more painful than mine. I learned that as an on-line counselor. I also learned its useless to compare stories, the ‘who’s story is worse than whose’ syndrome. For it’s not the stories that matter so much as their effects. I won’t go into all that. There’s just too much to tell. But I did learn: it can be overcome.

Why tell the stories at all? That’s another thing I learned. That sometimes, by posting a story, it can encourage others to tell theirs – in all their glory and pain. It can help someone, if only by letting them know it’s okay – and hopefully move on. Maybe some will see my reasoning, my methods, and find them useful to them. Perhaps there is some rationality in my somewhat irrational way of thinking. And I know — there is always some water left in that well. That’s why I advise survivors to drink from it lightly, and a little at a time; not to dive in, lest them find themselves immersed in that dark water, all light gone. It’s advice I need to remind myself from time to time, this being one of them. And hopefully, for those swimming in the well of pain, it’ll help to know someone managed to climb out – and is willing to reach down to them in this way. Sometimes it is only the hope of having hope someday that keeps us going. Sometimes that’s all there is.

Its time. I hear that drum, softly thumping in my soul. I know the dangers of where I go. Darkness may lay ahead – but I can not ignore its beat. I don’t fear the darkness. I have drank from the well before. But hopefully I have the tools, the knowledge, and the wisdom not to fall in – not this time. If I do, then so be it. I know I’ll emerge a better man. I have before. I’ll have to be careful; I always must when I lean over and look into the well. Its an easy thing to fall into – and a long, hard, agonizing climb back out. But at least I know this time: if I do fall in, its for a good cause – many of them, both personal, and for others. And if I do fall in – I know this:

I can climb out again, because I’ve done it before. And if somehow, somewhere, one of these stories can give a survivor hope, give them a method, a helpful realization – then I have helped myself by helping someone else like me.

And if so, then all I’ve gone through, all I’ve seen, and all I’ve done has been worth it. That’s the golden side of that bloody coin I mentioned; the bloody coin of abuse.

If it helps just one, then it has helped me – and that gives it value and meaning in my life.