You know when a really terrible, sugary, smarmy, intellectually bankrupt but cool sounding song comes on the radio for the 208th time in the same day, and you think to yourself “Who listens to this crap? Who actually likes this drivel?” That would be me. I listen to that crap. I like that drivel. Losing My Religion by REM? Yep. Loved it. Still do.
I am a big fan of waking my recalcitrant, sleepy children with music. Slow mornings are eventually turned into celebrations, and there is nothing quite like music to rouse the spirit and set the tone for the day. How I wish we had a piano player in this house! What joy that would be! Many years ago, Raffi was the man of the moment, but as the children have gotten older, we have ‘progressed’ to Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber and Pink and my oldest daughter has recently discovered a form of classical music called ‘metal’. Enter Sandman gets the morning blood flowing!
As December closes in, I am looking forward to Christmas music! My favorite carol is Angels We Have Heard on High. Over 1000 people, including the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle Choir have recorded an incredible version:
Because I categorize this song as “Christmas Music”, it is exempt from my normal, pathologically emotional reaction to Christian music, and hymns in particular. In Seventh Day Adventist tradition, children’s access to popular culture, especially music, is tightly controlled. Listening to the radio or buying popular albums or singles was generally out of the question (see #13)! The hand of the devil strummed that guitar! The demons of hell sang accompaniment! The lyrics were straight outta Sodom! Consequently, church offered one of the only passionate musical interludes on offer.
Seventh Day Adventists are psychotic when it comes to child ‘discipline’, and honestly believe abusing babies is perfectly fine:
One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for baldheaded babies).
Pull the baby’s hair. For real. Psychos. SDAs are a piece of work.
Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain, but the most pain is on the surface of bare skin where the nerves are located. A surface sting will cause sufficient pain, with no injury or bruising. Select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.
Welcome to my childhood: my father allowed me the Hobson’s Choice of picking the willow switch that would be used to beat me. I had to carefully weigh pain against autonomy. If I choose a switch not sufficient to meet the pain standard, I lost my autonomy to choose, and his choice would be much less considerate. Always, the goal was utter submission. My will had to be broken, to better accept the will of God.
Haha. Well fuck you, God. Fuck you, Dad. Fuck you, Church. It didn’t work.
The experience, however, did leave me with an inability to emotionally or intellectually understand compromise or negotiation. Submission became a word that horrified me. The concept itself was unthinkable! Obviously, I had a little difficulty with authority. Not ‘end up in jail’ difficulty, but I chafed under rules of any kind. It took a concerted effort on my part to decide that learning to overcome such a horrid start in life was an imperative. I had to make choices. Impose rules on myself, and then decide to follow them.
It was not easy. I largely credit my husband with making my journey a success. He understood the challenges I faced. He decided to take the risk. We walked a difficult and often fraught path together, and succeeded. But he was not the only player. Some of you are going to hate what I have to say next, and that’s okay. Some of you are abusive assholes, but many are thoughtful, experienced individuals with judgements that make me examine my own more carefully.
The men and women I work with in martial arts have played an important role in where I am now. Okay, this statement is pretty much bullshit. Let’s begin there. While there have been some women, they have played a fairly insignificant role. My first foray into fighting as combat (not sport) was with a former professional wrestler, and he was utterly fantastic for what I needed, which was to not be crippled with fear. Krav Maga was the perfect introduction for me, and with Ian I learned that obedience is something that keeps you safe. When you are learning a technique, you have to follow the instructions whether you understand them or not, whether they frighten you or not, whether you think the technique will work or not. Just do it. Do it exactly the way you are told, or you will get hurt. To avoid pain and injury, obey.
That was hard for me. And it was only half the journey, too. I left Krav Maga for a modified version of combat hapikdo that is much, much more active and alive than Krav Maga. The class is brutal in a way that Krav Maga simply can’t be. You’ll kill or injure everyone, and that’s kind of counterproductive, in terms of learning. I’m going to call the combat hapkido “Fight Class”, because it’s a pretty accurate description of what we do. Most of the participants are using the skills on the job, as a paramedics, corrections officers, pizza delivery guys, security guards – it’s not a sport for them. And it’s not a sport for me, either.
We use a lot of pain compliance in Fight Class. And that requires me to engage in the second part of my personal journey: the ability to submit.
I hate the word submission. I hate the descriptor submissive. I hate everything about the terminology. It feels degrading and insulting and violent, but that comes from my fucked up childhood in the Seventh Day Adventist church, and not from any intrinsic quality in the idea of submission. I have spent that past few weeks struggling with the idea as my ability to deploy and counter various pain compliance techniques expands. I force others to submit. I must submit myself.
Over and over again.
I take no joy in forcing others to submit. I have noticed that some people really, really seem to get off on that kind of power. I’m always a bit nervous, because I assume that submission is always a lie and once I let my attacker up, I’m fucked. I’m naturally suspicious, but honestly, I take no pleasure in forcing anyone to their knees or in forcing a tap. I am glad I know how to do those things! Don’t get me wrong. But that gleeful sort of ebullience is not there for me. It’s just a technique.
Being forced to submit is a bit different. I resist the idea pretty ferociously, but a lot of these pain compliance techniques? They work! The jail guard has this way of gripping an elbow that sends a blanket of pain slamming down over my head, and fuck me, I’m done! I submit to that immediately. Jimmy can feel me make any smart move that comes to mind and wham! Blinding, crippling pain. It’s like a Vulcan elbow pinch. When he says ‘walk’, I walk. It’s kind of neat.
My principle instructor is a fairly big guy, and when he puts a compliance technique on, we feel it. That’s part of the training. He doesn’t teach us techniques or how to use them until we have felt them, and he is not of the gentle lamb variety. A tiger mouth will produce stars in seconds. Wrist locks are felt in the bone. Short knee strikes are targeted carefully. These techniques work. When one goes on, there is only one choice:
I have learned submission. Submission hurts a lot less than trying to vainly counter someone with six black belts. Hell, it hurts a lot less than trying to counter one of my contemporaries. Getting through the process of unpacking and understanding submission has had a very interesting side effect: hymns no longer frighten or stress me out.
Carrie Underwood’s How Great Thou Art popped up on my Facebook page, and normally, I would flip right by that with a shudder. Religious songs tend to remind me of painful, awful memories and they are generally no where I want to go. But I was intrigued. I heard the song in my head. Of course, I know it, word for word. I know many hymns.
I listened to How Great Thou Art and then built myself a playlist of all the hymns I remember from my childhood. I let the memories of each song wash over me. I remembered moments, perhaps rare moments, of joy and happiness. I was never a great singer, but I think I made up for it with enthusiasm. Singing hymns, praising God, proclaiming faith and love and loyalty – I can honestly say those songs may have represented the only true happiness I knew as a child. For most of my adult life, I have hidden from that joy because I feared the submission my parents, and by extension, God required of me.
Morning Has Broken, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Simple Gifts, Bringing In the Sheaves. These are the songs that lit my childhood. And more than any other, Trust and Obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
I am still an atheist, but I have a new appreciation for the music of my younger years. I can separate the feelings of helplessness and horror my parents visited upon me from the warmth and love I felt in the music of God. I can trust and obey. How ironic that the violence of martial arts, and the strict discipline imposed by my instructor, who insists that we must feel the pain we use on others, has led me to a long shrouded cavern in my brain that echoes with the refrains of hymns.
In violence, I have learned to obey. In pain, I have learned submission.
Our morning now begins with God. Songs of praise. Songs of adoration. Songs of trust, and redemption and salvation. My kids are a bit confused at my newfound passion for these songs I seem to know by heart. It’s kind of weird! Mom is singing about the grapes of wrath? She’s trampling out the vintage where? Being simple is a gift? What? But you know what? It’s okay. They will learn to like it. They will learn what I have learned:
Submission is good for you.
The love of a great man requires only that you trust and obey.
Lots of love,