As a child, I wanted to go to a sanitarium because I knew it was a place with a great lawn, where you sat with a blanket on your lap and got sane. I had a lot of anxiety as a child, which made it easy to relate to Van Gogh, even then. I learned about him in the movie “Lust for Life.” I related to Gregory Peck too, in “Spellbound.” I watched those films in the fifties. The therapist in “Spellbound” sealed my desire to investigate and solve people’s psychological turmoil. Naturally, over the years, I’ve turned my amateur therapist eyes outward toward others, especially toward my father, and inward toward myself. This is the gist of the LION TAMER series.
LION TAMER Book One: How It All Turned Out tells the end of the story of my journey to freedom from the effects of sexual abuse, and how I healed my relationship with my father.
While my father had a lot of kindness and a great sense of humor, he also sexually molested me beginning when I was age twelve—he’d fondle my breasts at any opportunity. He did the same to six of my seven sisters. He also roared like a lion at anyone (including two-year-olds) if he was displeased by anything. Losing his ashtray was a Big Deal. And I watched him relentlessly belittle my mother.
Book One opens when I find myself at forty-three years old unable to stay away from Arnold, a guy who rages at me while driving with a green-handled hammer on the seat of his truck. When I discover that, as with Arnold, all my relationships have been neurotic attachments, I also learn the cause and set out to heal the wound within where a connection with my dad should have been. But several mysteries need to be solved. They ultimately involve a semi-truck, a dolly with a purple gown and a stunning twist at the end.
LION TAMER Book Two: How It All Started tells how, from age five to twenty years old, saddled with anxiety and fear of being seen, I wrestle with the truth that my larger-than-life dad, who sings opera while making pancakes and makes us laugh, also has a switchblade tongue, and has molesting hands. Alcohol, head-banging, writing, drawing, and obsessing on men become my solutions to emotional pain. But when I wake to feathers and ashes in my face from smoking in bed and drinking half a fifth of Jack Daniel’s, I look at my burned-up pillow, recall how I tossed the burnt bedspread into a dumpster, and understand something’s wrong with my life. I set out to make things right.
LION TAMER Book Three: The Cauldron contains the experiences that test my mettle. I make brave but improvident responses to life which cause me to tumble down in an avalanche of consequences. The kindness of a stranger one night when I’m panhandling with black eyes gives me a glimpse that I matter, that it’s not enough to find meaning in painful and frightening experiences, but that I must also learn to care for myself.
LION TAMER Book Four: The Elusive Sense of Self begins the climb toward nurturing myself and others. I finally get sober. I learn about my true inner-child self, who’s been in hiding for years. When I ask her in a non-dominant hand writing exercise, How are you today? she replies, Who’s asking? I make a commitment to never abandon myself again, but I struggle to execute that decision. It means I need to find a way down through the yuk of my life to bedrock, and to build my foundation up from there. (Which leads us to Book One.)
I hope you’ll leave a comment and possibly share your own experiences, because ours are universal stories. And I hope you enjoy the books!