‘Hiding’ has been a survival tool of mine for what seems like, forever. I don’t know if I have ever lived a day without hiding from someone, or something…. It’s a ‘character defect’ of mine. It’s a character defect that until now, until today, I have been unable, or unwilling, to give up. In my mind, hiding was a technique I used to ‘protect’ myself from hurt and pain. Today I am tired of hiding. It consumes so much energy. I am tired… today, for this moment; I know what it means ‘to surrender.’
I ‘learned’ to hide as a kid; to keep from being hurt by the ones who may have loved me the most – my parents. My father was a very compassionate and generous man. He was also a very angry and violent man. He was a drunk. He could be so funny and kind one moment, then, mad as hell the next for some totally insignificant issue. The absolute rage in him was frightening. I never knew ‘which’ dad I was dealing with, consequently I began to create ‘hiding places’ and ‘escape routes’ to protect myself. Mom was of very little help, as she had to protect herself; I suppose so she could protect us. So there you have it, a snapshot of my family environment in the mid-50’s. Ward and June lived on another planet.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s, I hid by isolating. Whenever the ‘family’ would plan an outing I would have homework to do, or leaves to rake. Raking leaves or other yard work were chores Dad was always more than willing to let me do, and I didn’t mind it as it kept me out of ‘Harm’s Way’ for a few hours. (And if I did a decent job, I might, perhaps just might, receive a kind word from him.)
As I stumbled into my teenage years I had developed two layers of ‘hide’ that allowed me to hide; isolating and escaping (running away). This was my way of developing ‘thick skin’ to protect the fragile, sensitive, worthless person I knew I was. About this time I learned something else about myself; I didn’t particularly enjoy being beat up by bullies. I suppose by then I subconsciously felt that ‘beatings’ were personal and intimate in nature. It was my Dad’s way of showing me he loved me. Sometimes I wished he hadn’t loved me so much! To be beat up by a stranger was humiliating. And so I began to develop another layer of ‘hide’; I began to develop a ‘passive/aggressive’ personality. From my perspective, bullies tend to be only ‘half bright.’ I found I could ‘befriend’ them; gain their confidence, then ‘smoke them’ without them ever being aware of where the heat came from. It became a game for me I suppose, a game I came to enjoy. In my adolescent years I used my ‘passive/aggressive’ behavior to cope with physical bullies; in my adult years I used the behavior to deal with authority figures.
In my college years I added another layer, one of fantasy. Pat Conroy, in his book The Great Santini says it best: “The children of violent men develop vivid powers of fantasy.” I can really relate here; I have lived in fantasy for the better part of my adult life. It was another way to hide. I have become so skilled at fantasy I can hardly decipher it from reality today….
To keep my ‘hide’ pliable, I discovered and used alcohol. And for 30+ years, alcohol has kept the madness going. With the alcohol and my layers of hide, I was able to exist for the better part of my adult years. I was able to ‘survive;’ now I want to live…
Just coming into the fellowship does not instantaneously and/or totally relieve us of the insanity. It takes awareness, it takes acceptance and it takes a willingness to change. It also takes courage to change.
Over the past year, as I have worked on exploring how I form relationships, with both men and women, I have discovered my propensity for hiding. It has been quite a revelation to say the least. Today I am exhausted! The weight of my ‘hide’ is too much to bear anymore. It’s now time I face my fears and insecurities with truth and trust and begin shedding the layers of my hide. There’s a neat little kid in here that’s screaming to get out and for the first time in his life, be himself. If you want to know about surrender, have a cup of coffee with me. Today, I will hide no more forever.
(I actually wrote this in the late ’90’s. In some ways, I am still ‘hiding’ today – but not as much…)