Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Original Transformers

With a wee bit of hesitation, I'm hiking up my skirt and jumping on the Meme Wagon.

While going through the frustrating nightly ritual of attempting to drop off to sleep, my noggin swirled with thoughts about the last blog I'd read. Bloggy Friend, Reya , wrote a lovely post about a transformative moment in her life. It was one to which I could completely relate as I'd had a very similar experience in my childhood. But, every time I thought of a moment that I felt had transformed me, the naysayer that always resides on my shoulder shot it down as being too boring or not really transformative enough.

In putting my thinker to work on determining which moments in my life had truly transformed me, I quickly realized that books were a recurring theme. I have books on the shelf in my office that have my handwriting inside the front and back flaps. As I read some of those books, epiphanies would zing about me like little lightening bugs and I would hurriedly catch them and scribble them down before they escaped my grasp. Occasionally, I will pull those books off the shelf and open them and read those thoughts which I felt so inclined to record at the time. Most of them still resonate and I am reminded of the lessons learned at those times in my life.

So, after thinking and thinking and straining more than just a bit to come up with a moment which transformed me, I must tell you that I couldn't do it. All I could think was that my life has been a never ending series of moments which have transformed and changed me into the human I am today.

In an effort to be true to the Meme, I will go back to the beginning and tell you what I feel was the genesis of all transformation in my life.

In the beginning...there were books. Books I could not read.

My parents and teachers thought that I was learning disabled as a child. I was made to sit at the front of the class because it was the only way for the teacher to try to hold my attention as I was always looking down at my desk, or staring off in the distance, lost in my own world. I wrote with my face almost touching the paper and couldn't write, read or spell up to grade level.

One day, when I was about six, my mother and sisters and I were all in the bathroom at our house. My mother dropped something on the floor and asked if I would pick it up. I searched and searched and told her that I couldn't find it. Slightly perturbed, she exclaimed, "It's right there!" I got down on my hands and knees and searched and still I couldn't find it. My mother looked at me and said incredulously, "You can't see it?!" When I responded that I couldn't, it hit her like a brick. Her daughter couldn't see.

An eye appointment was scheduled, a trip was made and glasses were ordered. I remember my mother crying in the optometrist's office when she realized that I couldn't even read the big "E" at the top of the eye chart. I'm sure that countless memories of her chastising me to "pay attention" ran through her mind and made her ashamed.

The day arrived to make the trip back into town to pick up my glasses. After they'd been properly fit to my face, we headed back home. From the back seat of the car I stared in amazement at the world around me. I shouted to my mother, "What are those?!" She couldn't figure out what I was talking about. "Those green things! What are they?!" It took her a moment or two to realize that I was seeing the individual leaves on the trees as we passed by them. It was the first time in my life that I was actually seeing each leaf instead of a fuzzy green blur stuck on top of of fuzzy brown trunk.

From that moment forward, I became an excellent reader, practiced penmanship constantly and won more than a few spelling bees in school. I excelled in my studies and became a chatterbox who always made good grades, but whose teachers wrote, "Talks too much in class," or something of that nature, at the bottom of my report card.

It seemed I couldn't get enough of books. I spent countless hours of my childhood reading under trees, on my bed, in cemeteries, in the car or on a mound of grass in the middle of a stream. When my family finally moved into town for the first time when I was about eleven, I had a library at my disposal. Katie bar the door! I helped Nancy Drew solve every mystery that ever came her way, knew every single move that Laura Ingalls Wilder ever made and went on exciting and wonderful adventures with Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

As I grew, I began to question and wonder about the world a bit more and that, coupled with my rebellious streak, led me to begin reading books that had been banned by schools or libraries. I wrote a letter in protest to the local paper when I found that my beloved Tom Sawyer had been pulled from the shelves. I read Vonnegut, Salinger, Golding, Faulkner, Tolstoy and Trumbow.

After marrying at the ripe old age of eighteen and having my first child at twenty, my misery was palpable and I began to search books in the quest for answers as to why I was so unhappy. The religion in which I'd been raised wasn't providing any answers, only raising more questions, so I poured through books on world religions and philosophies. The first time I read Siddhartha, was most certainly a moment which transformed me.

Life moved forward, dragging me with it and still I searched. Books led me to finally seek out a Buddhist therapist who led me to believe enough in myself to end a disastrous, painful and damaging marriage. I had fought and struggled and inflicted pain both to myself and those around me and I had endured more pain than I felt I could bear.

As I stepped tenuously out into life as a single parent, I continued to read and it was during this time that epiphanies struck me with startling frequency. It was as though I'd been walking in darkness my entire life and suddenly, someone was pulling up the shades and throwing the windows open to let in the sun.

At this point in my life, I have found my path to peaceful and joyful living. My reading now consists mostly of books about history, government, politics and biographies of those who have gone before. I break it up now and again with a novel or writing by someone I find humorous enough to make me laugh and remember that the world is not always the frightening place I read about every day in the news.

My books keep me informed, they educate, enlighten and remind me to keep questioning and always learning. Through the written word of those brilliant and beautiful minds who saw fit to put pen to paper, I have indeed been transformed.


markdw said...

I'm glad that you have an inlet for all of that transformative potential. Count yourself lucky.

lakeviewer said...

What a beautiful post. I too have found books to be my fountain of wisdom and courage.

The Bug said...

I got my first glasses in the 4th grade. I had headaches all the time which clued someone in eventually (I was considered a hypochondriac until that happened). I remember riding home in the car having the exact same experience - I can see LEAVES on TREES!!!

Fortunately my sight was good enough for me to read without my specs - & it sounds like we had the same reading list :)

Penney said...

A brilliant blog for me to follow with a nomination for a VERY important award. It's the Kreativ Award. (It's creatively spelled incorrectly...just in case you thought I was that dumb.) Check out my blog to see your fantastic nomination, cause I'm not going to type it all here...ugh, sorry.

Inga K said...

Oh Amy, this was wonderful. You have such a way with words.

I used to love to read, but college destroyed that love. Reading became a chore to me. After reading your post, I think I'm going to work on changing my attitude towards books!

Amy said...

Mark: I do. Thanks.

Rosaria: Thanks so much. Wisdom and courage, yes!

Bug: I still like to go up to trees and plants and study the leaves. Do you?!

Penney: I hopped over to your blog and snooped around. I'm looking forward to reading more. Thank you from the bottom of my bloggy heart for thinking enough of my post to bestow an award upon me. You're a dear, you are.

Inga: Thank you, thank you! I really do think that you need to crack open a book again. The whole world and beyond is there to be discovered!

Reya Mellicker said...

This is fabulous. Of course you know I relate to your eyesight story utterly and completely. What a revelation to see the world clearly defined!

And books. Oh yeah - BOOKS. Don't have a clue what my life would be like without them.

Like you, my life has been one transformational experience after the other.

Isn't it cool the way Steven made us all think so hard?

Wendy said...

I had the same experience with the leaves.

Linda Rae said...

Mark's experience with "seeing" was individual stars.

Margo said...

I really like your story in the bathroom with your mom, the eye doc and then the car road home and discovering leaves. Nice post!(over from lake viewer)

Amy said...

Reya: It was so strange. I didn't look at Steven's blog until after I'd posted mine. Then when I read his last post, he mentioned reading Siddhartha and being so affected by it too! Gave me a bit of a a good way!

Wendy: Apparently, there were a ton of little kids running around completely clueless about leaves. Who knew?

Linda: I didn't get so excited about seeing individual lights. I kind of liked the way the looked all blurry. To this day, I'll take my contacts out on Christmas Eve and turn out all of the lights except for the ones on the Christmas tree and stand and look at the fuzzy mish mash of colored lights that is my tree. I almost like it better that way.

Margo: Thanks so much for dropping by! I appreciate your comment and for taking the time to leave a message.

steven said...

amy - this is so cool! my lifesaver - from the point i learned to read which was around four (i was in england so i got hot-housed thank god!) to now, books have been like angels to me, guiding me talking to me, making me talk to myself, knowing more of the world and especially learning about what's possible. i loved reading your story because it did parallel reya's in the sense that there was a closing off, a denial of seeing until that magical moment when you both got to see and then . . . oh man . . . then you really got to see and it was magic and that's how i see the world - pure mgaic. honestly. there's crazy messed up stuff too but somehow it's all mixed in. siddhartha - well that and steppenwolf (the hesse book) jonathon livingston seagull (no really) music, any music, the film "the red balloon", the whole earth catalogue . . . there's so much but books have always been my friend. i'm glad that you wrote amy. steven

Amy said...

Steven: Thank you so very much for your thoughtful comment! I'm so glad we've stumbled upon each others' blogs. As Reya and you and so many others have said, I can't imagine my life without books!

Titus said...

Amy, what a lovely piece of writing - I love the cataloguing moment when you detail the books you read as a girl. And I do agree, books are constantly transforming us. Thank you.

Amy said...

Titus: Thank you so much for stopping by and for leaving such a lovely comment. I've been reading your blog and am very much looking forward to reading more. Many thanks.

Angie said...

What a great post Amy. And it's a really interesting subject. I, too, have had many transformative moments with books (and now I'm suddenly wishing I wrote a different kind of book blog so I could write about this subject as well.)

Cynthia said...

I also got my glasses at an early age...fourth grade...but maybe I needed them for a much longer time. My mother used to say...vacuum the carpet again! Can't you see the dirt? As a matter of fact, I couldn't. I was tested at school, I think. It turned out that four of us needed glasses...4 out of 5 children!

And three of us were avid readers...I think I read most of the children's (adult, too) books you mentioned.

You were married so young, Amy. Sorry you had to go through some rough times. Beautiful work on this meme. <3

Glynis said...

A truly interesting post. Oh my you brought back a memory for me. Our youngest had a rare eye disorder(no 3d vision,)and after her 5th op she asked what the things in the sky were (birds). I realised then that she was seeing her world as a new one.
Books are the building blocks of life (my opinion). :)

Laggin said...

Um. Wow.

Transformers of the good kind...not those silly toys. Books are the best toys. The only toys I've bought my kids with abandon. I love books.

Meri said...

I was just following up to see what transformational moment posts I'd missed. What a great lesson this is about making assumptions based on faulty information and for how we all presume that everyone has the same abilities that we have, all evidence to the contrary. I identify most with your finding books. . . I'm one of those who believes that there is no question that is without an answer if you find the right book. Thank God you found that therapist, too.

Amy said...

Ladies: Thanks SO much for your comments! One and all are so appreciated.