Childhood Toys, the Darkness of Drugs and the Path of the Jedi

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At the height of my Star Wars toy empire I had an impressive collection. As the franchise was quickly becoming a part of my young identity I requested all sorts of the toys from the Kenner Collection. I was especially lucky with my Star Wars bounty the Christmas that The Empire Strikes Back had been in the theatres. I was proud of my At-At, Hoth Battle Set, X-Wings, Tie Fighters, and the Slave I. I was also equally proud of my assorted action figures. Every time I acquired a new toy I carefully removed it from the packaging. Unlike previous toys, I treated my Star Wars collection as a treasure. The packaging was stored away complete with the instruction booklets and the ever-increasing Kenner catalogues that came with each boxed toy. My father added shelves along the walls of my bedroom upon which I proudly displayed my toys. I found that this display had a profound effect upon me. The presence of my displays brought me happiness and joy. I could easily transport myself into the worlds of the Star Wars trilogy through the toys displayed around my room. They were as tantamount to my young self as religious artefacts are to a religious zealot. Hoth, Tatooine, Bespin, Endor and Dagobah all provided me with a solace and tranquility providing an inner peace for my meditative spirit to thrive. Star Wars was becoming my religion. There were no adults telling me how I should interpret my feelings towards my toys and the films. My experience was personal, powerful, spiritual, and it was mine alone. No adult had imposed this spirituality upon me – my revelations regarding the Force and my soul were exactly what I needed to start the healing from the abuse at the hands of the Roman Catholic Priests. When it came to Star Wars, I was a disciple of the Force.

Time passed.

As I grew older and left for university it was time to take my prized possessions and put them away. I took great pains in repackaging them in their boxes. I was careful to use clear magic tape in keeping the lids shut. Storing them away was ritualistic for me. I was ending a chapter of my life – storing my toys provided a passage from my childhood into the unknown challenges adulthood would present. And so they were stored in the garage – high above the miscellany that accumulates in such places. And so began my education away from Hopeless.

Terms passed, then years along with different schools, adventures training in other countries, and early career development as I forged my new identity. Then somehow – one day – I bought a house. How does that happen? Children – houses -life. With the acquisition of property came the inevitable trip from my parents to see the new home – and with them came the remnants of my childhood life. Boxes of my childhood treasures – the comics, the toys, and my Star Wars artefacts were brought down to my home. I had a special place where I decided to store my Star Wars toys. I glimpsed over the boxes and put them quickly away as my toddler son was very curious about new boxes brought into the house and could easily destroy boxes if there were to be prizes within. Like many Star Wars fathers, I regarded my childhood toys with perhaps a little too much reverence. Safely out of reach from young hands they remained….

Until that one day…..

I decided to clean up some of my clutter that had accumulated in my office and had the best of intentions in doing so. As I was picking up some old scripts off a shelf, one of the Star Wars boxes caught my eye. It was the box containing my AT-AT from the Empire Strikes Back. Something was different about it. I had not paid attention to the condition of the boxes when they were brought down and I especially had not noticed the way in which the boxes – all of them – had been sealed. Instead of the clear magic tape (I had carefully placed on each and every box after making sure the toys were properly stored) sealing the boxes, they had all been re-sealed with a brown two-inch carpet tape. This was an alteration I had not made to these boxes. I stopped what I was doing and took down my AT-AT. It was heavy enough – it felt like there was something inside. Perhaps nosy people had peered in to see what the boxes contained.

Perhaps.

I found an exacto-knife and carefully cut the crinkled carpet tape to open the box. I opened the flap. My precious toy had been replaced with a number of wooden cut-ends – the useless pieces of wood that accumulate on the floor of a shop that are too short to be used and usually swept away with the sawdust. I felt sick to my stomach. Box after box showed the brown tape – and box after box also contained not one toy, instead being stuffed with the bits of wood – round, trianlge, square shaped cut ends. My toys were gone.

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I called my parents and told them what I had found. I was upset and angry that my personal property had been stolen. They were all gone forever. Ripped away from my. My virtual church was robbed of the icons that had made it so important and special to me.

My half-sister and her boyfriend and her son had gone into my parents garage when they were away. They had taken it upon themselves to not only steal my toys, but to not arouse any suspicion they made sure the boxes remained. I was angry with them and felt betrayed. My property was gone. The only remnant I had of my childhood toys was my R2D2 that I had kept with me (and is in my coat pocket as I write this now).

I don’t write much about my half-sister. She had attended that school in hopeless. She endured what I had endured – but she was older than me. She was likely able to understand more about what sex was and as a female was likely more afraid to say anything. So she started to run away. She was never very kind to me. She turned to drugs, gangs and alcohol. My mother once intercepted a letter she had written to a gang in California in which she offered to kill her little brother (me) as a sign of her devotion to them. Thankfully (for me) that never happened. Each time she ran away we found things in her room – bongs, switchblades, pipes, etc. My mother must have been shattered but still she soldiered on. She worked hard. She did the best she could with everything unravelling all around her. Even though my parents did what they could, but my half-sister was not going to alter from her path to self-destruction. My father (her step-father) tried, my mother tried, but to this day she lives with her demons and numbs her pain through drug abuse and decay. My half-sister had children and most of them have spiralled into the hell that drug abuse offers. And so they live in denial, abuse and an ongoing path to destruction – a path that my mother has tried and tried again to block. Thanks to the pedophile and abusive priests, my half-sister and her offspring have never been allowed to live. Exist maybe, but not to live.

And so back to my toys, my early material possessions. Gone. The anger towards my (half) sister now is also gone. You see, though she never really liked me, I can understand to a point what she had been (and continues to be) tortured by. However, we have choices. In this case her and I were abused. For some reason I dealt with it in a way quite opposite to her. In a moment of need, probably for drugs, she took what was mine and used the money she received from them for her self-medication. I don’t hate her for it. Deep inside I like to think that perhaps the money she took for those things helped her in some way. After all, though I attached so much meaning to them, they were only shaped plastic. Maybe, if only for a minute, she was able to get a breath of peace before returning to her nightmare. I hope that maybe one day there will be a realization within her – an awakening. Her adopted lifestyle as a way of coping from the abuse has now become a generational spiral through her children and in turn through theirs. At times I light candles for them – hoping in some way the light of the flame will glimmer within them all. It’s a faint hope – but hope nevertheless.

I pray to the Force for them. One day, perhaps, they will see the light side. As I learned watching Return of the Jedi, it is never too late to want to change. Vader redeemed himself at the end of his life and turned to light. As I continue to see the beauty of the light within my family and the light within my mother – I hope that one day, so to will they see that within themselves.

My old toys were merely possessions. I attached meaning to them when I was younger. I needed them when I was younger. I do not need them now. I have learned that real wealth and happiness lies in my heart and in my convictions. I have replaced these things with a new sense of pride – of achievement. The Force has kept me from straying from the light. My responsibility now is to honour the light and to stand up for all that the balance of the Force requires. My past, my history is a lesson for others to learn. We must stand up for what we believe to be right. We must not be ashamed of where we come from or what we have experienced. We must help those who have fallen, yet we must do so in a way that they can lift themselves through our support. And while we pursue this, we must never allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by those who would wish harm to us. I am a strong, capable, loving, commanding and compassionate man. I am a Jedi.

The Boy Who Lived…

I was pleased to see that along with the retooling of Star Wars came a turn-back to the mysticism of the Force. No longer was it explained as the midi-chlorian count within living beings that could be measured through devices, but instead as the energy that surrounds us, binds us and keeps the galaxy together. To me, this makes the Force much more real, powerful and true.

Though I would not learn about the Force until I was nine years old, I believed that there was something keeping me from being totally destroyed in the school where I was abused. At the time I was experiencing the worst of my abuse at the hands of Brother Ignatious I believed my days alive to be rapidly dwindling away. He had become increasingly hostile towards me as the abuse became more severe. I can recall one day when he grabbed me violently by the back of my neck and walked me towards the stairs at the back of the school that led to the basement. With a violent shove I was thrown down the staircase. My fall was broken with my chin. Somehow I had managed to survive breaking my neck during the fall – to this day I believe he was trying to kill me. Thankfully it would be only a matter of days before I was whipped with an electrical cord and the welts on my body would be the cause of my mother removing me from that school and out of the clutches of the monsters who presided over it.

When I hit the floor of the basement, my chin had struck the ground first – or at least I remember it that way. To be more specific, the bottom right side of my chin. Blood was everywhere. Brother Ignatious was angry to see such a mess and he picked me off the floor and threw me towards the basement bathroom and ordered me to clean the blood off the floor and off of my face. My chin bled for what seemed like hours. It was, as I had mentioned earlier, the beginning of the end there for me.

I often look back at that event as the realization I was supposed to live for some reason – that there was something resilient within me that was helping me survive and navigate the tumultuous seas of the school I endured – that I was perhaps strong with the force.

As the years passed, and the wounds from that school turned to scars of experience, I am constantly reminded of that particular event. I have a scar on my chin from that day. It follows the line of my square jaw, hidden to an extent by the natural curvature of my face. I see it every time I shave, and every time I shave I remember that day. The day I was the boy who lived.

Of Salmon and Eagles….

IMG_2528We have several dozen eagles near my home. My children and I often play spotting games as we drive through the fields – often seeing them perched on highway signs overlooking farming fields providing a vantage point for hunting field mice, cats, and other small animals. The most we have ever spotted in one drive was one hundred and twenty. It really is incredible.

When I was a child I remember my father telling me about an experience he had watching an eagle fishing on Ootsa Lake. The eagle was flying above the water, circling and spotted a fish. It swooped down, talons extended. The talons locked into the back of the large salmon. The bird then attempted to fly off with the fish, but it had chosen too large of a meal that day. My father watched from his boat the eagle as it continued to attempt taking off with the fish. The fish had every intention of getting away and continued to fight the eagle by trying to swim deeper and deeper into the lake. My father watched for over twenty minutes. I asked my father why the eagle just didn’t let go. He told me that their talons get locked in and cannot be released until pressure is put on them. The eagle had no way of simply abandoning its catch. So as the massive bird became more tired from attempting to take off, the fish began to get deeper into the water. First the legs went into the water, then the torso. The eagles wings became more wet and eventually – after such a long struggle – the bird simply disappeared into the depths as the fish was able to drag it deeper and deeper into the watery grave.

I think we have all felt like that fish. We work as best we can, and suddenly are blindsided by someone wanting to remove us from our routine, our work, and our dreams. If we are determined and strong enough in our convictions we can carry on moving forward – and the more the attacker hangs on, the more they are dragged down into the depths. I would like to imagine a world where we all get along. However, human beings, I have learned, are full of surprises. I don’t like conflict in my life – largely because I was abused as a child. However, when it comes to situations in my life now where I have to make decisions of giving up or carrying on – I hope that I will have the stamina of the salmon. Eagles, for all their graces, are still fallible.

A New Year and an Awakening to a New Hope Now…

By the time I am writing this Star Wars Episode VII has been released in theatres to sell-out crowds of excited and content Star Wars fans. Don’t worry, I will not post spoilers for anyone who has yet to see it. I will write that I am quite pleased with the new movie – or perhaps it would be better penned if I was to scribe that I am relieved. My precious childhood attachments to the original trilogy are unscathed with the release of the new film, and to Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams I am thankful.

I did not show up in costume as many other people did. I enjoyed watching the plethora of characters in costume filter in the theatre. I could feel the energy of the entire theatre when events unfolded on the screen. I don’t think I stopped smiling throughout my experience in the theatre when I saw the film. It was only after that I took pause for sentiment.

It’s hard to believe that the original trilogy – the series that I attribute to helping me save my life – is almost forty years old. It means that I am far from that wounded soul that accidentally wandered into the movie theatre that gave me hope many years ago. It was almost forty years ago that I began my journey into Star Wars and the characters I have cherished for most of my life. It means I am getting older. It also means that I can choose to live in the past of my pain and suffering, or I can remember it and move forward with my life and the speed in which the years pass now. It’s a new year, a time for shedding the baggage that has been holding me back and taking that which I need to be even stronger and more present for my family and friends.

In Doctor Who, there is continually mention how there are fixed points in time, and even a timelord cannot alter these fixed points. I feel the same way as a survivor of abuse. The events in my past have created the man I am today. Truly I am a product of my environment. I have had a lifetime of choosing which doors to pass through, and which doors to not even try. I feel deeply about advocating for survivors of abuse. Would I feel this way if I did not endure it? If I were to alter the fixed points in my life, where would I be? Or more importantly WHO would I be? Rather than looking back on a life with regret am I not better served to be present in the moment each day as I learn from each experience I complete? Much like a video game, each time I play I get a little better, and go a little farther. Eventually achievements get unlocked. Each time I play, I see that though there is chaos around the world, I am in control of my life and can only function to the best of my ability. Every time I start over I get a little more experience. Life is like that. We can choose to play, or we can sit and watch others playing the game. We can all choose to be the hero of our life or we can choose to be bystanders. As I move forward I am committed to resetting my game as much as I can to get a little better each time. I have learned there is no shame in falling. There is no shame in stepping back as long as eventually the movement forward continues. In all things, time is constant. Time is unpredictable. There is only one moment in time we can control. That time is now. Everything else from this point forward is uncertain. Only now can we act. Now is the time for me. Now is the time for me to be the best I can. Now is the time to be present for others and true to myself. Now. I will never be as young as I am now. Now is precious. The past is fixed and tomorrow is uncertain. Now is real. Now is the time for new hope.