I’m told I am a survivor…

ice on pond

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

survive-to remain alive or in existence;endure.
Thats what it says in my dictionary.
I am having trouble grasping that idea-at times.
As I have written a few days ago I have taken on a task that has me putting up flyers for an upcoming art exhibit-which is the Survivors Art Exhibit at the J.Wayne Rietz Union building on the Unversity of Florida campus. This job-I freely volunteered-requires that I roam about public places and public buildings to seek out places that I can post my flyers. I have already spoken about how large buildings and public places cause me great anxiety and I reel from the stress….but I have decided to do this because at the age of 56 I need to expose myself to these spaces or I am going to end up boxing myself into my own space forever.
Its about winning a battle for me. I’ve hidden from my attackers ever since that day I became free from them in 1970. If I keep hiding they will continue to have control over me. I confess…this is not easy.
Yesterday I finally was able to get myself to drive across the county to the local junior college-a place that my inner fears would not allow me to approach and honestly,after I got there my fears grew and grew and demanded I abandon this place as quick as I could. So-I fled.
So-am I giving in? I admit it sounds like I did-but give me credit because I did finally go there and park my car -way way out into the northern parking lot,as far out as I could go….and I walked towards the campus doing my general self hypnosis that I go through to get my mind prepared to enter these places and adjusted myself as best I could….the crazy violin sound that goes on in my head in these circumstances ( like those they use in scarey movies to intensify the fear ) was screaming and screaming at me as I approached the first buildings,my heart beating in my throat.
I managed to get into the center of the campus to a performing arts building and found the first place available to staple my paper flyers and stuck two there side by side-I found a second place near a graphic arts building and then my head went into this daze and my body said lets get the hell out of here….and thats when I realized how clinical the place looked,nothing like the buildings at UofF…everything on this campus is white-everywhere….white,and the buildings are all modern and square and unfriendly looking-very institutional like.

These cops kept riding by-both driving golf carts on the sidewalks and breezeways of the campus….they both gave me long glances every time they drove by me-that added to the discomfort I was feeling and I am thankful they did not stop and ask me why I was there,I would have never gotten it out….my tongue would have swollen to the size of a watermelon and my nerves would have gone bezerko.

I guess the term survivor mixes okay with yesterdays success-I did endure…I did fight,that said because I went there-and from one end of the campus to the other,so I did do it. But my God the fear I go through whenever I have to go to a place I am totally unfamilier with was multiplied twenty times twenty when I got to the junior college…but I did it,I finally did it!! You have no idea how relieved I am.

I’m going to present a few of my artict attemps in the Survivors Art Exhibit. I had the opportunity last year-it was one of the most highest points in my life having my art work in such a prestigious place-fairly well described as the capital building of the university campus. The opening night I believe over four hundred people looked at my paintings and the art work of others who are survivors just as I am. My self portriat was hung on the same wall as a portrait painted of a little girl who was captured by the Nazis and this little girl was sent to a camp-alone….and the way that enriched me to think about her and what she endured to survive and to compare with myself…it is so surreal to think about the terrors many have gone through in various ways in life and how we work to overcome them-and how many cannot keep up and give up.
The entire event-the art exhibit-was healing and it gave me the desire to want to be a part this year-and next year and after that some more years….and that is why I volunteered for such a project as to expose myself to public places and to press forward through my fears-to go in and out of large buildings which scare me the most-because this exhibit meant so much to me. Thinking of that little girl.

3 Responses to “I’m told I am a survivor…”

  1. Mike E Says:

    We don’t want to just survive — we want to do it with a little bit of style.
    Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh

    Art, my brave friend, is the difference between just getting by & doing it with Style.

    Way to go.

  2. Anderson Says:

    Jay, I am slowly working my way through your writings. I went back and started with your very first post. I must admit that you are a terrific writer. The painting of ice on a pond is beautiful. You truly have great artistic talent. I find it ironic that I also started painting a few years ago. By no means would they be fit for an art show, but I love just sitting and allowing my hand to move. What is funny is that I always end up with a painting totally different from what I intended to paint. When I don’t like something, I just paint over it and start over. If someone were to dig through the layers of paint, they would think a mad man and done it. I have a daughter who is a fabulous aritist, or at least I think so. She has sold paintings and could sell more if she had the time to do them. She has a degree in art but ended up getting degrees in school psychology, so the art has taken a back seat. However, when she does paint something, I want to keep all of them. Our house has one of her paintings in every room; and I take tremendous pride in those painting, simply because my beautiful daughter did them. I certainly understand the pride that you felt when your son became a deputy. He sounds like a tremendous young man. I just want to say that your writing has allowed me to think of my own demons and the work that it has taken to overcome them at times. As you have said, It is almost impossible to talk about it, let alone share it publicly. I know that the vast majority of men would say, “That would never happen to me. They would kill me first.” Well, I can assure them that I can only hope that they could indeed do that. I think one reason it is so difficult to ever tell about it is that I just don’t want to deal with hearing others tell me what I should have done. Yea, I know what I wish I had been able to do. But, I can say one thing for certain, I am alive today only because I was not able to prevent it. I too was a small kid, weighed 140 soaking wet. Actually, my nickname in the military was reflective of my small build. See, I am even fearful of using that name, fearful that after all these years someone that I seved with might read this and say, “Hey, I knew that guy.” I think it would be beneficial in some ways if it were possible to share those darkest, deepest moments with another who had been through it, simply because you know they would be the only ones who could possibly identify or understand that it is possible to endure something like what we have. To simply say, “I understand why you were not able to prevent it.” To even call it sex is ridiculous and sick. There is nothing sexual about being physically assaulted in that manner. To suggest that only a homosexual would do such a thing is totally ignorant. It is about power and harming another in the worst way possible. Well, I will stop there. Just know that I am gaining a great deal from you and just want to thank you for having the courage to speak out. To see that courage is a blessing beyond what I have words to express.

  3. jay herron Says:

    Anderson,to begin-the photo above is actually a close up of the surface of a frozen pond with the morning sky reflected in it. I am an artist-but to re-create that image by my feeble attemps with a brush,well…you give me more credit than I desrve.
    Yourself? Your own art? Well…in my own case I just quit trying to make art and allowed art to make itself through me and my lifes experiences. Little did I know my art would someday be displayed with other artist survivors in such a forum as the University of Florida-a gallery there. That experience made such a difference in my life.
    The courage you speak of comes from a combination of things. An artist friend of mine gave me my first computer-really a hunk of junk-which I wrote my lifes story on,only for it to be forever stuck in the old thing.
    Point is-my friend said to just tell about what I know best-and that happened to be the easiest advice.
    I did not know my writing about it would be here on ‘wordpress’.
    The second part of this-Anderson,is that it is never easy for me to stand up for myself,but to stand up for others somehow works.
    That is why I am able to vocalize my concerns and tell my story…our story-because it is so rude to me that male sexual assault is so…so-quiet,and disregarded. Military sexual trauma is kept quiet too.

    I realized the day the veterans advocate spoke so stupidly and with such absolute lacking of any knowledge what it is like to suffer from the PTSD that we as survivors endure…to make jokes about it and expect me to enjoy the humor?? I realized this has gone far enough-my silence.
    The computer was the only way I could think of to reach many and do so with out being recognized (if I wanted) but the truth is-there needs to be a face on this at some point,and more faces need to be added.

    Our silence?
    It is the silence of every MST survivor-and male survivor,and female survivor…that this is about,and why I am speaking out.
    To willingly volunteer to serve our country at war or in peace,and to be violently abused criminally by our own brothers in troop…and to be shoved aside like trouble makers and to discharged with out any acknowledgement that this has happened-IS WRONG.
    Then-to be treated as we are in the very system (the VA) that is supposed to offer us care and help…this is wrong,and needs to be expressed.

    Brothers like you Anderson-coming forward in this forum to speak…brothers like you make it important for me to continue-and I appreciate you for coming forward and being so open,as it is good for every survivor-and boosts my level to where I know I need to continue writing.
    Thank You Anderson.

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