Learning to Read Backwards: The Outsiders & My Journey of Self-Dissent

As a young person, I read dictionaries and encyclopedias for fun, but truly enjoyed comic books, because they, with every issue, either taught me new words or helped me discern new context of words recently learned. I was devastated when my foster mother threw away my collection of comic books and forbade my reading them anymore.

I was sent to a headshrinker for anger problems and isolation into a fantasy world (reading), but the anger reaction that the psychiatrist couldn’t replicate in his sessions with me didn’t clarify anything for him. To his credit, he taught me to play chaess and never let me win a game, even showing off that he could beat me by moving only certain pieces. I was absolutely impressed at his ability, but was smart enough to know he didn’t tell me BEFORE playing the game what his intentions were.

As to my ‘conditions’, he didn’t know what was secretly happening in the foster home and I wasn’t talking about it. Instead, I was diagnosed as Autistic and had a ‘condition’ that made me act like others were blaming me for imaginary ailments. Kind of like having imaginary non-friends, I guess. As to my code of silence, I was convinced by my abuser that ‘telling’ is wrong, it’s not loyal to family and friends, and would be an act of betrayal warranting punishment.

But back to my love of words as a young person. As I grew in age, at 12 years old, I would hold typical dialog using these words that I fell in love with. Young people that were my age were generally non-responsive, but some reacted cruelly. Other kids followed suit due to the fear they had of the bullies. The cruelty increased day by day as I was verbally assaulted for being a freak. I tried to be strong, but once day I ran away from the group of tormentors, sobbing as I ran. I swore at that young age to never learn another new word and to quit reading, which I did for a year. I just wanted to be like other people, normal.

Oddly enough, I suspect my boundaries collapsed in many other ways, too. I learned to be a chameleon, changing in nature to ‘fit in’ and not make waves.

At an even younger age, I learned the benefit of being invisible, not saying what most troubled me. I never learned to hide my tears, which had dreadful consequences. ‘Big boys don’t cry’ and certainly real males and men don’t cry or show emotion.

My observations and conclusions, when expressed aloud, appeared to outsiders as superstitious. Not in the classical sense, but in a metaphorical sense. I was myopic to the casual observer, but the currency of generally accepted beliefs seemed superficial to me. By the time I was 16 years old, I called it ‘a bunch of bullshit’, further acclimating myself to the imposition of maladjustment, purportedly my own, alone.

I had the good fortune of running into a few gifted observers over time, and I learned from them. Unfortunately, being a gifted observer doesn’t make one part of the Happy Camper Guild. One Gifted Observer was a transplanted Zen Abbot from Japan. He was mixed Japanese/American Caucasian, and was Gay. He never abused his authority nor me, and I respected him greatly, despite my fear and general mistrust of males.

But I digress from my topic, like usual. I did not finish school, due to racism (not mine), and escaped with my life from a school window. The teacher I on the one hand despised for his lack of strength in protecting his students from racists and bullies, while on the other hand seeing him as immobilized by fear himself which made me feel compassion for him. Anyway, that was in the 10th grade and I never returned, fearing for my life. I immersed myself in drugs and alcohol for maybe 6 months or so. I quit using as I hitchhiked around much of the country, but then returned to Minnesota and started using again.

Again drinking alcoholically, I gave birth to crime, prematurely, I might add. I’ve never drank longer than 90 days without getting arrested for a felony. The police were basically my personal Intervention Team. Without them, I would have drank myself to death, I’m sure.

I was incarcerated at 16 (a busy year, right?) and spent about 18 months in Lino Lakes for wayward young people, being released when I was 18 years of age. I had resumed reading in Lino Lakes, but spent much of my time attempting escapes. I had the record for failed escapes and was proud and both embarrassed by it at the same time.

OK, enough of the historical part and back to the love of words. Reading at some point transformed itself into a different problem. I would start to read an interesting book, and I couldn’t get through a paragraph. While reading, and intriguing concept would send me down a Rabbit Hole of contemplation. I would be disappear and reemerge 15-30 minutes later, still staring at the same words. I would continue reading and ‘disappear’ over and over again. The ability to finish any given book became nearly impossible.

During prison, I was still reading books, but survival took much of my attention, so reading was less of a priority.

Fast Forward, as my eyes ‘post prison’ required reading glasses (cheaters), I read less and less and became more of an Auditory Learned, listening to audio books a lot. Cumulative concepts and the synergy between opposites (paradox and antimony) became my natural gravity. The seed of this discipline I trace back to the book Myths, Models & Paradigms, by Ian Barbour.

Enough said for now. Back to my so-called normal life. Gotta empty a squirrel cage, as those critter have been taking over the house.