Recidivism is a big word.
Tim Barrus

I am so carried away by your words, your descriptive magnificence of all the pain and abandonment, the silence, the system. They are at heart adolescents so it is so totally normal for them to want freedom, to believe comes in things. And they can’t yet understand what real freedom is. Or that abuse is not their fault. Or that acting out without a free voice hurts only them which is exactly what the system depends on, what those sadist people at the clinic count on.

I am so grateful that you do this work. It is so hard and constant. Callen’s word picture of the noxious mess in the bathroom brought it all home that the work isn’t just creative but hard, physical and tough. It isn’t just words, pretty or ugly. Or masterfully creative photos. Or VOOKS.

Your womb is something of a miracle where they can learn to develop their own voice and use it as real power against the system. They can use it to safely know they don’t have to choose to react in ways harmful ONLY to them. That’s a gift even healthy kids rarely get. How you do it, I start to think, is beyond me but you have made it clear: you love them. I believe that. It needs no convincing.

Being a southern girl I understand the silence and the fixed secrets that go back centuries. They all contain us until we call them out, out of us. I once thought I could free myself by running only to find that what contained me, what I fought hardest against was inside me. Until I worked on that I belonged to my reactions and fought against me and all that was right for me. I thought I was saving myself when I was self-harming.

I am lucky I had someone like you to teach me my voice: to hear it, to trust it, to use it, to create with it. Healthy expression brought freedom. But not easily. I was up and down, back and forth, a believer than agnostic until my voice finally began to overcome more than fail. Anger is still important as fuel as long as I sit with it, understand it and use it to heal. I have to be careful as it can destroy me or fuel my greatest creation, even these many years on. I am my greatest creation. And I am finally free. Breathing now I open. Filled, I can empty.

I am happy that they are still there. I hope that they are hearing a bit of their true selves, their own voices, and will slowly learn the difference between using their righteous anger to fight for themselves and true freedom. Even “healthy” teens fiight against themselves. I hope they will learn that because they are abused by their tricks or their parents or the clinic, that doesn’t mean they were created to be abused. They have the freedom to choose to live without that label, too. I hope these kids find that fighting for themselves is the greatest fight. It is hard to see that when so much lurks. And when everyone has told and tells you that you aren’t worth anything. I hope they hear YOU because you know that’s a lie. They are worth everything until they accept the lie that they aren’t. And of course, they’ve accepted it because that’s all they heard until you. Listen young men to the truthful voice, the prophet in the desert, the avenging angel.

I will be in touch about things I messaged you about and finish my long response to your open letter. This infusion has wrecked me.

Thank you for what you do. I love those boys and you. I am amazed that you take you own pain and use it to make a better life for them. I suspect it brings some healing to you, too. I hope so. You can teach them because you know what’s you and what’s them. Their bitterness is theirs, the tragedy, shared. And your laughter is inevitably saving.

I stayed angry at the people who were the system in which I worked to try to free the abused children. They actually kept their voices from being heard. To me that reinforced to the kids that their voices weren’t worth hearing. It makes me angry, still. And brings me such a deep admiration for all you do to teach them to use their voice creatively. It believe it will save the boys who choose to let it and do the hard work.

I thought of you all the night I realized the depth of the snow. I thought it might feel confining to them and feared the Big Suck Back. At 60, 61, I feel it still sometimes and especially in long weeks when my illness confines me. I know that I don’t deal with the many issues of self that HIV brings but still, people blame me. For being sick, I mean. And Lupus isn’t infectious or contagious. Ignorance isn’t bliss for those at the receiving end.

That picture is spot on.

I perceive that you don’t like praise but you deserve it not just for the work but for the reasons you work: the boys. I think of you often and praise your work. And love the kids. And I hope. I hope they will learn to make their own wombs of compromise.

“I have made compromise something of a womb. They have yet to do any of that, they have not lived that long, and certainly not long enough to wage war on history itself.”

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