The assignment was to self-asses our strengths and weaknesses.
|Me, My Selves, and I|
An evaluation of Self poses the question who and what has one experienced that makes this person's existence that much more particular than the next? The best way to respond is to describe how I see myself now and relate my experience or collection of experiences to validate the present me. Although obvious, I will be exposing through text how I process my experiences and analyze the subtext, in doing so hope to provide an understandable projection of who I believe myself to be.
I have determined the most efficient way to relate who I believe myself to be is to divide my Self into categories. Thus categories which I have termed from my own contemplation are: Child Self, Emotional Self, Intellectual Self, Spiritual Self and Future Self. I will not regard each Self individual but will refer to each at least once within the content of a specified category. Each Self disclosed will emphasize certain and leave to interpret the aspects of experiences that include, but are limited to only the capacity of the reader, the traumatic, enlightened, successful, and knowledgeable, some of which defy the widely believed facts suggested by science, but most importantly express my experiences of and with those who make up my existential particularity.
To narrate my Child Self it would be best to start with the descriptions that have been related to me when I asked the perhaps universal question that I believe should be asked throughout one’s entire life, “What was I like as a Child?” In The various answers I will provide the names of some of the notable Others who make up my particular self and also a description of each as clear, sincere and as brief as possible without straying away from the overall premise of my Child Self. What I quote from each Other is a mixture of verbatim and what is left to the accuracy of my memory. If I were to chose one word that ties all of these view points of my Self that Others have given me it is this: Aware.
“Anthony, you were always the type of child who just knew.”
“You always wanted to know why and had an understanding of concepts deeper than other children your age. I said I will always tell my child the truth.”
Christine is my mother. Although as a Child her role as such was blurred or two-dimensional as my experience with her gave me impressions that she was my mother when convenient and when I felt as if she were not it I sensed I was amongst a stranger not willing to recognize me. Christine, was not married, has never been and claims she never will for reasons she may not know fully or fully want to admit to. One fact should be kept in mind about Christine as I have experienced her that my mother is a woman who does not know who she is in relation to herself. Left up for the responsibility for a better half of the mothering role was my Grandmother, Sandra, with whom I then and now mostly familiarize myself as the one who fit the qualities a mother should have which Christine lacked at times, perhaps most of the time. The qualities such as, encouraging, recognition of a child’s mindset, determined teacher, and overall sense of warmth and trust are some of which I am referring to.
As a child I spent many hours in my head using my imagination. I would mostly imagine myself flying. I loved the idea of being able to fly on a broomstick while wearing a cape. Still even at this young age impressed upon even my preschool teacher a sense of heightened or adult awareness she once remarked to my mom, “All day I am surrounded by little kids…and then there’s Anthony who’s forty.” Along with this fantasy I loved the idea of having what I termed as “magical powers”. I would imitate movies that dealt with such things most notably the movie Hocus Pocus. I also enjoyed old golden Hollywood musicals. I would sing and dance to classics such as Singin’ In The Rain. Another movie which I oddly had a strange attraction to in the sense that I related to the characters and felt as if each expressed a part of me or my life somehow was the cinematic version of the book by Antoine de Saint-Expéry titled The Little Prince. This is at an age spanning from about two until four, although as I grew more perceptive in my viewing of cinema other characteristics about the movie appealed to me such as the music and the actors behind the characters.
I remember places my mom and I used to live, apartment complexes and such from about age one to two, I have moved eleven times since being born. My first memory in general being when I underwent a medical operation that involved tubes being put in my ears. Needless to say this is not a very pleasant first memory. I bring up where I have lived up until this point in my life and my vivid ability to remember because it was where my mom and I moved next that a large part of my childhood took place. We moved into a house bought by my grandmother, seen as a place for her to retire when appropriate. My grandmother provided the house for which was the environmental basis of who I am today.
The greatest aspect of the house was the large backyard. This is where I spent countless hours with myself and other neighborhood children. But the times I treasure most were times spent experiencing nature alone, imagining by myself, feeling the world around me by myself. The feeling is hard to describe it is one that I base a large part of my Spiritual Self from as I felt a higher awareness to nature. Looking back now there seemed to be a shared telepathy between me and the plants around me, most notably between the trees and I. I can’t say that I talked to them literally, but nevertheless there was an emotional connection to that energy. I experienced and expressed this by climbing them, making them into whatever I wanted to imagine, long periods of time just sitting in them, sometimes just running my hand over the bark to experience what each tree felt like. I was sensitive and aware to the energy and life around me. It was during the time spent living in this house that many adult experiences with life came into play. I lived there from age four to eleven. Within the seven years many events left imprints on my psyche. I will mention what I consider now the top three.
At what I can recall between age five and seven I was sexually abused by my best friend Alison and her two siblings Kaitlyn and Danny. It happened a handful of times under conditions which perhaps once involved exposure of body parts but the rest would I would deem inappropriate touching. However, under any circumstances no matter the number of instances it only takes one experience to leave an impression. It wasn’t long before what I would regard as guilt for lack of responsibility to my Self took hold and I revealed these experiences to my mom. She immediately sent me to a child psychiatrist to deal with what I had experienced along with other behavioral aspects of my Child Self. This was not to be my last encounter with a specialist of this sort. I believe this is a beginning within the limits of my Child Self that provides foundation for my awareness in terms of all of my categorized Selves and my intercommunication with others
The next experience involves my father, Michael. My father had been present at my birth and for awhile after. It wasn’t until one night due to either the influence of drugs, alcohol or both had on him led to a domestic dispute between him and my mother. The end result being within that same night my mother took me and left to live with my grandmother for awhile. This story amongst many others was related to me around the age of five to seven; of course no detail was held back or put gently in terms of a child since I had wanted to know in the first place. With this history in mind my father made contact with me and I visited him for perhaps three or four times downtown at Mel Trotter Ministries. About the fifth and sixth time my mom took me to meet him as planned and he was nowhere to be found. Each time this happened I was devastated. The second time my father did not show up my Emotional Self became a complete wreck again, this time my mother refused to bring me back but always let the choice to contact him be up to me from that point on.
The last point I bring to light brings up an instance that reveals one underlying aspect of the relationship between my mother and I. My mother and I had a very open relationship and I felt as if I could talk to her about anything. However, this feeling was mutual and was acted upon by her in this spirit. One night I had been asking my mom to share with me some of the “family secrets”, in the mind of my Child Self I was imagining along the lines of perhaps some family valued treasures, or perhaps an untold secret about our place in society as a whole. What my mom related to me was the fact that she and her sister had been sexually abused by her brothers. It was from this moment forward that I deem as the beginning of my Child Self and my Self now consciously taking on the emotional responsibility if not the outward expression of my mother’s emotions which she cannot come to understand and deal with as an adult.
I categorize this as my Emotional Self but of course it should be kept in mind that just as in relating my Child Self each category underlies throughout every other category and what is not out rightly brought to light is left for the reader to connect. Unlike the previous section there is no intended importance of what is chronologically conveyed although it isn’t to be disregarded completely. In this section I will relate two experiences that perhaps have been the most influential in the creating of my Emotional Self. The person who I will identify with this section is Erik. His connection to this category and the stories related does not involve him specifically but rather is mentioned in the spirit that there is a similarity of experience and shared understanding of me and also our type of relationship.
“Yep Anthony I know exactly what you mean.”
“I don’t know why people just don’t get IT.”
“Godamnit Anthony, you’ve got another song stuck in my head!”
“I’ve watched Cabaret all day today. Just kept putting it on again and again while I was cleaning up. It’s divinely decadent!”
Erik is technically a friend of my mothers. She met Erik in high school and saved his life as I recall him telling me. During his open house Christine found him in the bathroom cutting himself telling her he was “practicing for when I really do it.” Upon Erik telling her this she immediately threw him in her car and drove him to her psychiatrist to seek help. Erik now age 45 happens to be a homosexual with paranoid schizophrenia, bi-polar, severe depression, and multiple personality disorder. He has been an influence in my life for as long as I can remember. I knew he was a homosexual at some odd age whenever it was that I had an understanding of what that was. I knew Erik had ‘psychological issues’ also. It wasn’t until age eighteen that I read all of which I have stated above about him. Knowing these facts did not matter, still don’t, and give me a sense of humility for knowing some of the experiences he has gone through and continues to go through, I am also overcome with a feeling of deep honor for having the privilege of knowing someone of his strength personally.
Around age fourteen or fifteen I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. My mom brought me to a therapist and then a psychiatrist after I related to her the thoughts and feelings I had been having. This was my first encounter with medication of this sort, and my first truly mindful encounter of an ongoing relationship with a psychiatrist and therapist. What I first encountered was deep depression. I have yet to feel anything as dark as that since then. I won’t go into the symptoms as they are well known within our society. What I will impose relating is how this began my first mindful step in experiencing how I feel, what I feel, when I feel what, what I think, how I see others, all the aspects that meta-communication, meta-meta-communication, meta-meta-meta communication etc. brings forth. This was the time when my inner awareness from childhood was brought into reality. I began to hone my emotional awareness to take now mindful responsibility of my Emotional Self. This experience was when my Emotional Self and Intellectual Self began to recognize each other and give birth to my Spiritual Self.
When I was a senior in high school, I had transferred from grand rapids Christian high to Forest Hills Eastern in hopes to bring on new challenges, escape the role I felt pigeonholed into, say goodbye to what I feel was accomplished, and pursue my interest in acting and singing. It was in the fall of my senior year that I was taken to spend three days in the mental institution called Forest View. My mom took me there within the same night that I cut myself and threatened to commit suicide. The specifics of the situation which took place that night are important to what contributes to who I take my Self to be, but they are not what I want to relate and emphasize about this experience. I want to emphasize my time at Forest View.
I arrived there late at night. When I woke in the morning we were to sit in the lounge, I had chosen to be placed with the minors, being eighteen I had a choice. I concluded by the conversations that took place that I was amongst a cutter named Penny, who I will mention again, a pathological liar, as he did not promise material goods to other children in return for friendship promises him nor would his parents, whom he spoke for, fulfill. Within the circle too was a girl struggling with anorexia, perhaps age nine or ten, the condition brought on by her parents divorce I later found out, and lastly a girl suffering from delusions and claimed visions of a little girl named Rain who tells her to kill her mother and her brother.
My time spent there I went through group therapy, exercising in a gym, lunch, and other normal activities in an unnatural environment. What I can provide as a generalized listing of emotions of my times there are enlightenment, empathy, and sadness. All of those emotions provided my Emotional, Intellectual and subsequently Spiritual Self with an even great respect for people who live with mental illness, a greater understanding of my Self in this world, and a profound definition of what it means to be Human. To touch on some of these emotions I bring up three experiences that relate to my time at Forest View.
On the morning I awoke we soon went eat breakfast after sitting in the lounge for some time. We were to stay in a line by the wall and not interact with any of the adult patients we passed. While we traveled to our destination where the instructed militant way of carrying ourselves began and ended with the nurse in charge heading the front of the line we passed a line of adults. Within this line there were some grumbling, some talking to each other, some were talking to themselves, and very few smiling. Yet there were few smiles within the line, there was one smiling face I recognized immediately and felt a wave of humility crash over me. The person I mention here has not been mentioned before, but my relation to and experience of her is worth briefly communicating. This woman with a joyful face and a smile missing its fair share of teeth I had seen numerous amounts of times on the corner where the streets Fulton and Fuller intersect on my way to grade school. On this corner many times I saw her on her knees praying to her God above, or praying to the ground and kissing it, or praying to the light post or a nearby tree. She talked to these inanimate objects and prayed for everyone to and through them. In reference to Buber, this woman accessed the riches of the I-It-Thou relationship more easily than anyone I have ever experienced. As our lines passed each other this woman smiled her nearly toothless smile, raised a fist and cheered, “There go the soldiers of the Lord!” I described what I felt as humility, but I never will truly be able to put into words what my Spiritual Self and Existential Self felt, but I know that it was deep, all encompassing and unforgettable. I want this to be an aspect retained in my Future Self. We ate lunch that day and went back to the lounge. My involvement and interaction with others did not really happen until my second day there.
At some point during the day we were all in the lounge and were led in a game of bingo. One girl was missing, she was a cutter. We all overheard that she carved the words, “I am beautiful.” into her arm with a ball point pen. This patient was put into a separate room for some time. I did not see her again. Once we began the game I became extremely agitated with the state of my affairs. I then felt extremely elated and humorous as I realized there wasn’t anything that could be done to me, none of the attending were allowed really to have much of a reaction, and as long as my time there was going to be my patients were my friends, and on a different plane my brothers and sisters. It was at this point of realization that I came into incorporating what an aspect of myself I have always been known for, humor. As the game progressed a few kids at half-heartedly called bingo as we all half-heartedly sighed and pushed our beans around on the numbered square, for there was no prize for the winners. I believe I had won twice in a row but said nothing. I happened to be sitting next to the young girl living with anorexia. When for the third time I managed to win I yell, “BINGO!” at the top of my lungs. I was then met with wide bewildered eyes of everyone; those attending us quickly went back to their expressionless faces, their facial expression quickly turned into roars of laughter! The nurses their tried to settle everyone down which worked well enough for another round to be played, but with snickers and giggles throughout.
At the end of the game we all were instructed to put beans that marked our numbers away in a bucket. The nurses took the bucket away once everyone felt they had given up their beans. I found three beans on the floor. I picked them up and lazily proclaimed, “Oh I found a few more…” this was unheard by the nurses with the bucket but not by the little girl I sat next to during the game. She excitedly got my attention and asked me with enthusiastic importance,”Oh! Oh! Can I have them?” I smiled and chuckled as I responded with, “Sure.” The little girl responded with, “I’m going to name them Billy, Billy Bob, and Billy Jean!” upon hearing this I let out a big laugh. The little girl looked up at me. The child’s expression on her face is one that I know I will fail at capturing but is one I can’t forget. The girl with the newly named beans gave me a smile and a look as if I were the one who had just name three dried out beans, as if I were the one who was excited by three beans instead of the foosball table and other assortment of toys provided, the girl gave me a smile as if to comfort and easy my embarrassment for not getting the“It” she so easily understood, for not fully understanding her reality.
The final instance of my time in Forest View that stands out the most took place again in the lounge. This time I was with Penny, who I had learned was there for cutting but also related the stress of home life being that her father could not accept that she was a homosexual, I also was with another girl who I don’t remember as detailed as the others, but was very kind, and a boy about seven who dealt with anger issues. We were sitting a circle, this time out of our own design. We were all just talking, I can’t remember what but it was very light hearted and good nature. A nurse quickly came in to stop this. We were scolded and told that we would only be in the lounge for awhile until the other could join us. We were also informed at this point that this was not a place to chat and have a good time, but a place to reflect on why were there and who we were and what we want to change and what we have to change in order to leave. At this point of my stay I had become much more talkative. I began joking around with the others as soon as the nurse left. I said to everyone, “Well what does she expect?! We’re crazy!” We all started to laugh whole-heartedly being much noisier than when we were just chatting. The ruckus of this of course attracted the same nurse to tell us to be quiet and that we should be talking quietly and perhaps discussing ways of improvement. As she walked away I immediately contorted my face into of what one might consider being that of a highly disturbed individual, cocked my head to one side, slumped down in the rocking chair I was seated in and began to rock back and forth. We all began to laugh incredibly hard. Penny exclaimed between laughter, “I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time!” I felt I had done a great service to the well-being of my Self and Others in that moment. I felt recognized and thankful that I had been there and that we were able to be a part of each other’s lives.
Penny had the most joyous laugher, a round face made rounder by her shaved head and round glasses. Penny had a worth far beyond what could be felt and Penny had a depth about her that could be seen on the many, many scars she bared on her inner forearms. It was in this moment that I felt what I was not able to put into words until recently. It was that moment I came to the conclusion that I and every other patient were human in a way that some will never experience. I came to the understanding that I and every person who lives with some form of mental illness have an awareness of themselves and people that go way beyond the every day, but is an awareness that is constantly present within ourselves and how we sense others.
I am concluding with my Spiritual Self as I believe it gives way to blending the information to what composes the Self I evaluate every day in the present. I combine in this category some of my beliefs, my conscious altering experiences, what I continue to be a skeptical of and what I will always pursue in advancing as it enriches all of my Self and all of how I view and experience others. I owe a great deal of my experiences to someone who through this has become my friend, Eugenia Marve.
“Be open to growth/how might that separate you from others / their reaction”
“Question yourself and others, this does not mean distrust.”
“Be honest with yourself, be present.”
“Oh, sweetie you are just a little piece of my heart!”
Eugenia Marve is a psychic reader at the new age store Spirit Dreams. Eugenia is retired and does many things for the community. She used to be a grade school teacher and was one of the seven traveling artists invited to come to Grand Rapids amongst the seven was the artist who designed the fish ladder. I have had two reading with Eugenia and have attended four of the intuitive workshops. Eugenia has taught me directly about the spiritual and has helped me understand others and myself on a different level. I will inter mingle my workshop experiences and connect them to how it applies to my Self now and relate indirectly to the previously mentioned experiences.
I want to make it clear that I am and always will be a skeptic. I believe that everyone experiences differently but eventually I come to the point of “prove it”. During the workshops I have experienced deep meditation and meditated with a group of others but most usually only three others at once including Eugenia in these instances. I believe there are energies that everything emits. I believe in the power and effect color has on us in a vibrational sense. I believe if we are open to whatever higher power one believes in, relax, and just let the information flow we can share a higher knowledge with others to those who seek it. I hesitate to use the word ‘Psychic’ but I do believe everyone is psychic or can tap into the more intuitive part of themselves if open to the possibility. While attending a workshop I have demonstrated with the others attending the ability to ‘read’ someone. I have told other attendees about their lives that I did not know about them when first walking in the door. I have seen in my mind’s eye images that I felt were family members to people in the workshop and related the personality of each, how they communicate and problems amongst them. There are other experiences I have had that speak to such things in other environments like classrooms and the meeting of new people. I want to bring to light that there are ways of communicating and connecting with others and even other living things on a completely emotional and spiritual level that connects everyone. I believe in the God within everyone. I see myself in everyone. I learn something from everyone. We are at all times aware of ourselves and others. I believe introspection and interpersonal communication are steps toward a greater awareness of Self.