Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

12 November

The Father Wound, The One That Never Heals

by Jon Katz

In his book From Wild Man To Wise Man, the author Richard Rohr writes about the Father Wound – the wound that results from not having a father, whether it is because the father died or left the family or whose work or life kept him away from the family for most or all of the time.

Sometimes, the Father Wound is triggered by an aloof father or a cruel or abusive one.

Psychologists believe  that the result of these conditions can result in a deep heart, a deprivation that corrodes a child’s own center and well-being, destroys boundaries. Children who suffer from Father Wound become, say the shrinks, an adult whose mind is often disconnected from his own body and emotions, a life, writes Rohr, “often lived with the passivity of an unlit fire.”

Prison officials have often written that they believe most of the men in jail are there because they have no father. They were not orphans, but most said they had never been fathered.

I have experienced  Father Wound. My father was a remote and almost ghostly man who was home only to eat dinner two or three times a week. If he was ever home beyond that, I never saw him or knew he was there.

I was fortunate, I think my Father Wound did not leave me passive, but angry and full of determination to prove him wrong. He didn’t know me, I said, even then knowing what a terrible thing that was to say about a father.

In all of my life with him, my father never once had breakfast with the family, or with me,  he left my mother without bothering to get divorced. It just wasn’t done then, and my mother never mustered the courage to leave.

My father was much-loved by everyone but us, and isn’t that a familiar story.

Once or twice he took me to a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, those handful of games were the only time I ever remember spending with him, and even there, we never spoke.

I was furious with him, even to the point of firing my brothers’ hunting rifle out of the window of my bedroom  once to get his attention. I set fire to trash cans and ran away from home.

It didn’t work. He didn’t really care.

When I was eleven, he took me outside to demand that I learn to play baseball and other sports, he hit me in the forehead with his best fastball, knocking me down and nearly out.

When I woke up, he called me a sissy, and I walked off the field and barely spoke to him again until he lay died at age 88 in a Rhode Island Hospital.

I knew, even at age eleven, that I needed to stay away from him and his corrosive view of me if I was to grow and survive. And so, we never much spoke again, except in terse formalities at holiday dinners, and I think that was just fine with him.  I was in a rage around him.

As he lay dying so many years, we shook hands and said goodbye, we each said we wished we could have done better by one another. But we both knew the truth. I wasn’t the son he wanted, he wasn’t the father I needed.

But there was no turning back that clock.  I learn the most from the darkness, not the light.

Reading Rohr’s book, I shivered and thought about the burden a child has trying to deal with Father Wound. It was just as hard on my sister, who my father denigrated and revived almost daily.

When you don’t have a loving father, you almost automatically become insecure, because no one you trust ever taught you how to be secure. Since we can never reach the deep and strong masculine with us, we look to get Father Energy from other men, or even from our peers.

Father Wound is a deep wound, and I have come to see it never heals. We can forgive our fathers, and I have, but we can never fully heal from the wounds the inflict upon us, boys and girls alike.

St. Francis was utterly rejected by his harsh father, a hurt he recognized and acknowledged and  bore all of his life. He turned to animals and the poor for love, and found so much of it in them both.

St. Francis, just like me, created rituals of healing for himself, and forgave  his father.  He often wrote that this underlying hurt drove him to a passionate search for God, which he understood was a kind of ultimate father. Mine drives me to search for ways to do good, for me as much as it is for them.

It’s odd, but once I read about Father Wound, I began seeing it in other men all the time, especially in political leaders, many of whom spend their lives trying to be the man their father demanded that they be, but that they could never be.

They make quite a mess of the world.

St Francis thus worshipped a perfect and loving, and  always accepting Father, the literal and biological opposite of his own.

His desire for a perfect God became a sacred wound, wrote Rohr, even if most people never saw it as a wound at all.

I want to choose the path of St. Francis, who took his wound out into the world and transformed it into love and compassion, for people and animals. If that is not always where I am –  I am surely no Saint – then it is where I hope to be.

Life is a process, an I am in it. Protect your soul.

12 November

A Robe For Helen: Small Acts Of Kindness

by Jon Katz

A Mansion aide told me that Helen did not have a warm robe to wear as the winter approaches. I went to my Thrift Store Network and found a beautiful fuzzy blue robe that zippers all the way down from the front.

Helen was very grateful for it, and surprised. She and Red are great pals and we visited with her for a bit. It makes me feel very good inside that Helen has a clean nearly new fuzzy  bathrobe to use when she showers or reads in her room.

Helen is very shy and quiet, but she is a passionate dog lover and she is always happy to see Red. Tonight, our farmhouse is cold, swept by wind from across the pasture.

She was so happy to have it.

I’m glad Helen has her robe. It cost $14. Small acts of great kindness.

12 November

Ellen And Her Angel

by Jon Katz

Ellen got her comfort doll last Friday. She is with her baby almost all of the day now, she sleeps with her and walks with her. The baby has given Ellen a focus and task she was yearning for. Angel is something, to her someone, for her to love.

I saw the two of them sitting together in the Great Room of the Mansion today. Ellen has been offering to give the baby to everyone she sees at the Mansion to hold, and I see most of the residents seem reluctant.

I saw Ellen offer the baby to Alice to hold, and Alice said no, no thanks. Ellen was puzzled by this, I think a little hurt.  She can’t imagine everyone doesn’t feel the way she does about Angel.

Later, I saw Alice and I asked her why did chosen to hold Angel.

Alice looked at me and smiled, and said, “because if I did, I would cry.” The aides think Alice would benefit from having a comfort doll, I said I would order one.

I’ve already ordered one for Helen, it is on the way. They each cost between $120 and $150.

I see how important this is to the residents, especially the woman. One of the male residents asked me for a doll, but the aides were doubtful of his true motives, they advised against it.

With these two dolls, I think everyone in the Mansion who wants one or needs one or who the aides think should have one will have a comfort doll.

They really matter.

Here is an updated list of Mansion residents who wish to receive letters: It changes often, and many of the residents are not able to reply. Due to privacy laws, I am not permitted to answer any questions about their health or personal well-being.

The names are Winnie, Ellen, Matt, Mary, Gerry, Sylvie, Alice, Jean, Madeline, Joan, Allan, Bill, Blanche, Helen, Barbara, Alanna, Peggie, Dottie, Tim, Ben, Art, Jackie, Guerda, Brenda, Wayne, Ruth.

Thanks for writing them, your letters matter. Think holidays.

If you would like to support my Mansion resident support program, you can do so by sending a contribution to Jon Katz, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via Paypal, or by going to the “Support The Army Of Good” button at the bottom of this post.

Major credit cards are accepted there for one-time donations of any amount.

I have been contacted by a school teacher in Albany who has two students who are desperate to join a soccer league in the city – not one connected to Ali or RISSE, the refugee and immigrant support center – and they each need $300 to join their league. They asked if I could help them to meet the cost of these fees, their parents can’t help them.

As I learned last year, soccer is of great importance.

They are both willing to be photographed and meet with me in Albany, and I am considering whether this is something I can do and should do. Right now, I’m focusing my energy on getting gifted refugee children into excellent private schools on full scholarship.

I said I would meet with the two young men and talk with them. Their teacher says they are quite special and gifted and deserving. More later.

12 November

First Run: The Karaoke Machine Gets An A…Me?, Not.

by Jon Katz

Somebody wrote that by singing with the Karaoke machine and posting the videos, I was showing that I could be humbled. I sure can be humbled, and watching this video will do it.

But I had a blast. We brought the Karaoke gear over to the Mansion. The staff and most of the residents fled or hid, nobody wanted much to do with us.

But Jean came in to watch, Helen brought her comfort doll Angel, Brother Peter came in to glower and he and Ben watched for about two minutes and left quickly.

It was just an unplanned rehearsal, and Peggie was more than ready to sing. I joined her for two or three of the songs.

The Mansion aides peered from around the corner and laughed. Brittany and Hollyanne wanted no part of it, and Julie, the activities director, looked suspicious.

But Peggie was eager to sing, and Madeline asked to sing, and I know of at least six other residents who want to do some Karaoke. We’ll win over some converts and be launched.

Maria loved it and so did I, as awful as I sounded. Peggie is game and brave, she just waded right in. We made an arresting duo. But the thing is working, and working well.

For better or worse, the Mansion has a karaoke machine. And I am already having fun. Who would have thought? Couldn’t get Maria to sing though, she’ll belly dance but not sing Karaoke.

“I don’t think so, surely not on a video,” she says.

12 November

The Tears Of A Clown. Practicing Resurrection

by Jon Katz

Susan Popper is practicing resurrection, to borrow a line from one of Wendell Berry’s poems. She is a complex person, pain and laughter live side by side in her very expressive face, but she has set out to reclaim her life,  work through her obesity and fulfill her destiny – she is just learning that she is a very good person.

In my life nothing has altered my reality or done me more good than my decision to be authentic and share my life. One by one, I shed my secrets and my shames by writing about them as honestly as I could.

When I see it in others, I am deeply touched and inspired. And this week, I saw it in Susan. As long as I have known her – three or four years – she has been unable to even speak about her obesity, her life-long shaming by her mother and others had rendered her mute, unable even to speak the word.

Last week, and on her blog, she rose from the spiritual dead in a sense, and awakened. She wrote about the challenge and awful suffering of obesity on her blog in a powerful and viscerally authentic way.

She can say the word now, and she can confront the reality now, and has decided to tell her own story openly and on her blog. Her authentic writing has opened the door for her, she is on the move now, she no longer has any dreadful secrets or shame to hide or avoid.

I love taking portraits of Susan, she had the radiant smile I saw so often in the face of Kelly Nolan from the Bog. There is no more Bog, but there are plenty of smiles. Susan has some of the best ones.

She shed her life on Long Island, left the ordinary and familiar behind, and moved to the country to seek out the truth about her life, and find her purpose. My own feeling as a friend of hers, is that she has just  found it, this is why she came here, to finally come face-to-face with the very thing that tormented her all of her life, and that almost cost her life a few years ago.

Writing can do that for you. Susan, I should say, is a student in my Writing Workshop, and she is a wonderful student – open, gifted, determined. She has made me a better teacher, and reminded me of the great power of writing to heal and inspire and uplift.

It is not a simple thing to write authentically, especially about a subject like obesity. I’m writing this because it’s compelling, but also because I hope some of you will cheer her on, as you have so many others. I’m coming along.

Susan is on her hero journey now, and it will be a great ride for her and for those of us who wish to follow it. Her life is in her own hands, no one can confront this demon but her, and she is up for it, she says. She promises to share the journey.

Susan is a good person, and what has been done to her is  wrong. She plans to right the wrong. She knows  how hard that will be. “In my lifetime,” she told me,”I have gained and lost whole villages.”

Susan’s own blog is a good place to start, her story, “Tears Of A Clown” a manifesto of sorts. it is a landmark moment for her, and it is also beautifully and powerfully written.

It is a life-changing piece of work for her. She is practicing resurrection, every day.

It’s not my blog or my story, but I told Susan I was doing to invite my own readers to come along for the ride and she said that would be wonderful.

Take a look.

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