By Ruth Starr
“Hey kid, Jeeze I’m in my 50s and she still calls me kid, how about we stop for lunch in Sedona?”
“Yeah, o.k. “ We still had some miles to cover before we got home and I was starving. Four people at a table close to us were laughing and seemed happy. Two bottles of wine on the table, food partly eaten. One of the men had on a red T-shirt. It triggered a memory. Red shirt, red shirt, yeah!
Deb with the Hey Kid again, a few weeks ago “I’m going to a gestalt group - pretty interesting and think you’ll like it”.
“Nah, you’re always with the woo woo groups. Well, okay, I dunno, okay I’ll go just for you.”
Arriving at the building about ten minutes before the session was to begin we were directed to the room where it would be held.
The people in the room sat on large pillows in a circle around the room. A trainer-therapist and a therapist-facilitator in training led the group. We settled down on some pillows. I checked out the exit door just in case something rubs me wrong and I gotta get out. There’s a man seated across from me, about 6’2” and probably weighs about 200 pounds. His large muscular arms fill up the sleeves of his red T-shirt. His dark brown hair is neatly combed. He’s fidgeting on the pillow. Something about him is making me very nervous. Deb and her stupid ideas suggesting that we come to this group. My gut is anxious and wish I were home where I would be safe.
Back at our lunch in Sedona I heard the guy in the red T-shirt saying “O.K. George, I really want you to go on this hike. Last year we went on a hike that took us two and a half days. I’m telling you George, you haven’t lived until you’ve been in these mountains….”
“I’ll be there with all my stuff. Sure wish the girls could come too, but I guess another time.”
My thoughts wander back to the gestalt group. The facilitator is asking if anyone has anything they want to work on.
“Yeah,” says the guy in the red T-shirt, “I’m feeling pretty crazy and, and, and, upset, I wanna talk.”
“Go ahead, Len, you look like you really need to”.
“I um…….. have all this, this anger.” He clenches his hands together wringing them over and over. “If I let it out, I’m afraid that I might hurt someone or break something.”
His looks scare me. “Hurt someone” I hear, and my mouth dries up. My heart pounds. I want to get out of this room fast. This big guy is getting out of control. Where in God’s name is the door? Why is it so far away? What am I going to say to get out of here? My anxiety is growing, as he is speaking. I can’t move. I’m trapped.
“Yeah, yeah, I’d like to have a temper tantrum like I did when I was um….. a kid. One time when I was a kid, I was so damn, damn, mad that I took this new box of crayons I had and broke them, broke them right into pieces.” His face is contorted with rage as his hands continue the wringing, clenching and twisting. His eyes seem narrower as the color drains from his face.
I can’t find air. I can’t move. I’m frozen. Stillness fills the room. No one is moving.
Wow, that incident really affected me even while I’m in a peaceful place in Sedona overhearing people at the other table.
“Jean is a very experienced hiker. This is real good for her when she’s had a full week. Y’know, last year we skied those mountains.” He pointed to the white-capped mountains outside of Flagstaff.
I looked up momentarily from my thoughts. It all looked so peaceful. The red mountains remain constant as I felt my insides churning. I heard Len’s voice again in my mind.
“Kids shouldn’t be treated like that. Nope! It’s nobody’s fault the hurt I’m….. feeling,” Len spits out.
“What hurt?” the facilitator asks gently.
Tears fill Len’s eyes and his hands begin to relax.
“Oh, God, she was just a kid – ya know how it is. She gets pregnant and then couldn’t take care of me. Going from home to home, some of the people were okay, but most were mean. Just mean!”
“How were they mean?” asks the facilitator.
“Didya ever get punched in the face? Well, I was punched, and I was hit, and I got scared and never, never knew what was, um, going to happen next.” Tears are rolling down the big man’s face as he shows his pain to a roomful of strangers. My insides cringe as I imagine him as a little boy being abused. He has a right to his anger. The room is quiet. Some of the people are wiping their eyes. I wonder how many other damaged little girls and boys are here.
“It hurts to get punched in the face. For Gods sake, little kids shouldn’t be punched; they should be loved and hugged. I wanted to be hugged.” His voice is now very soft.
“I understand how this stuff happens. A young girl and a guy and then they have a kid…” his speech trails off. “My life is terrible. I have a huge rage inside. I can’t keep a job, don’t know what’s the matter with me. I’m done talking. These people don’t want to hear any more of this.” He takes a deep, ragged breath. I take one too.
A few minutes pass and everyone remains immobilized on their pillows. Then a woman goes to Len and hugs him. His face shows disbelief.
“Hey Deb, I just had a flashback to that damn Gestalt group. Seems like no matter how a person looks or acts, we have no idea of what kind of pain they may be carrying.”
“Would you like some dessert?” It was the waitress talking. I felt like I was waking up from a dream. I glanced over to the other table where the four people were still chatting amiably.
“And listen George, don’t forget the six-pack!”