It works like this: Press Repress Express We knew pain and pressure throughout our childhoods and beyond. We were not innocent. We were never naive. We understood things that burdened us. We did not learn safety. We were never secure. We were children who held secrets and we were not allowed to feel or have needs. We wanted for everything and asked for nothing. We learned lessons without words. What was pressed upon us was unbearable and yet we bore it with heavy hearts and bruised skin. What was impressed upon us was that our bodies were not our own. We hid in dark places and learned to create places in our minds where we might be free, if only in our imaginations and in our dreams. What was pressed upon us was the belief that we did not matter. We learned to bury every feeling, every memory, and every terrible truth. This is repression and oppression. We learned not to cry, not to show fear, not to talk back, always to back down. We continue to do these things while a fire burns in our bellies. We seek control. We seek mastery of self and denial of self. We seek to be invisible. We are ashamed not of what we have done but of what was done to is. Everything we buried became convoluted. This is what it means to have rage. We want to explode and instead we implode. We lash out where we feel safe, but mostly we hurt none but ourselves. We cut and we bleed and it makes us feel alive. We scream silently and we cry alone. You will not see our pain. We hide it well. We are left impotent. We are mired in the quicksand of hate and fury. We remain fearful while ignoring our fears. This leaves us depressed and anxious and we cope in self destructive ways. We eat and drink and smoke and drug and chase every vice in the hope that we will forget. We never do. We live with it as long as we can. Not all of us survived. Few of us get better. We seek kindred spirits because without words we know they understand. As long as we can stand it we will. We know a day will come when we cannot stand it one more minute. We seek answers to questions we are afraid to ask. We hate doctors, psychiatrists, and counselors. We were made to go to them to understand what was wrong with us. There was nothing wrong with us and yet they sent us home to the afflicted. We hate them for that. We write poems, read books, watch great films. We are seeking an escape from ourselves but also to understand ourselves. We love music that expresses both our angst and what we long for. We are looking for a way out of our prisons. We need channels of expression. There’s no safe way to empty rage. We crave a fight worth getting into. We love self righteous anger and long for a justified reason to punch you in the face. We hit walls head on. We accept nothing. We consider the puzzle pieces of our lives and try to fit them together. It feels like some of the pieces are missing – were taken from us – and we need to know how to take them back. We are stuck in the injustice that it was not us who created this mess and yet we are left to find a way out. We hate those we love and we wait for them to claim us. We wait for them to change and to give us what we need and they never, ever do. There comes a day when waiting is no longer an option. We are sick and tired or being sick and tired. We either settle or we move on. Rebellion is inevitable – the choice is transformation or destruction. We grieve for those we lost along the way that checked out or tuned out or burned out. We choose to empty ourselves of the toxicity that fills our guts, the lies that cloud our minds, and the pain that fills our hearts. We choose to channel it in artwork and in writing, by creating things that speak for us. We choose to channel through martial arts and punching bags, by releasing hate and developing self discipline. We choose to channel by investing in ourselves – through education, learning trades, creating opportunities for ourselves to shine. We come to a place where we see possibilities and we come to have hope. We choose to channel by fulfilling the promises we made to ourselves as children – that when we grew up that we wouldn’t be like them. We channel through rebellion whether loud or silent. We make new vows – new agreements with ourselves. Even when we are unsure of what we want to be, we will never forget what we hate and what we were afraid to become. We make new vows. We refuse to be what they taught us to be. This is the ultimate act of rebellion. To consciously choose who we shall be and how we shall be. We shall not treat ourselves as our abusers taught us to. We shall not adhere to the principles and values impressed upon us. We will prevail because we understand that the best revenge is living well. We will not honor those who are not honorable. We will not live as they taught us to live. We will not continue to display our emotional scars as though they are badges of honor. We will not play small nor settle for less than we deserve. We are not victims. We are survivors. We choose to recognize that we are beholden to no one. The only people we owe are ourselves and we intend to pay that debt. We claim kin through close friendship and we choose not to be alone with our fears and with our pain but rather to allow those who love us to bear witness as we release all that has held us prisoner. We channel through healers who get us, through spiritual growth, and by becoming the very people that we needed as children. We give to others. We share our success. We learn to let go and to embrace that which is healthy. In these ways we become something greater.