I’m very thankful to not be a famous person. I’m able to move about with relative anonymity. The messy details of my personal life, with all its mistakes and wonders are private and I’m able to share them by choice. I can’t imagine the kind of pressure it creates for those who do not have this choice.
There is a notable exception to this, however. It’s the news coverage of my father’s murder-for-hire plot, his subsequent arrest and resulting prison sentence. News of his arrest appeared in the local Sacramento newspaper and the evening news. Some months later, after his sentencing, the evening news in the Bay Area, where I was living at the time, did an extended story, complete with undercover video footage that I hadn’t previously known even existed.
When I first found out about the story I was very angry. I felt violated. Here they were broadcasting footage of our family’s shop (part of the undercover footage; my father had conversations with the under cover “hitman” there). Once my initial anger subsided I realized that they were trying to make a decent point: that crimes of the sort my father committed (solicitation of murder) do not carry a strong enough penalty in California. So I was left with just a strangeness and an uneasiness. I haven’t watched the video in a while. I used to watch it when I would find myself missing or otherwise thinking about my father. It’s actually the most recent thing I have connecting me to him, as strange as that sounds. I can’t recall the last conversation we had. It was probably some time in 2000, at the latest. I did go to his arraignment, but we did not speak. It is so very odd to see your father in an orange prison jumpber and shakles.
Last week it came to my attenion that the local evening news in Sacramento had run another story about my father. It’s shorter than the previous news segment, but nevertheless unnerved me in the same way. I can’t quite figure out why such a piece of information is news worthy. Over the years I’ve tried to distance myself (both figuratively and litterally) from the chaos and violence that my father brought upon me and the rest of my family. But yet I can’t escape it entirely, because at any time some tv news station might decide to do another story on it. Or I’ll have a flashback. Or a memory will resurface. Or someone will issue a turn of phase in a stern voice and it will remind me of my father, and of being a frightened child.
When I watched the most recent news clip, I found myself asking the same set of “why” and “how” questions. How could my parent do something so wicked, so contrary to life as to want my other parent murdered? Why does a tv news reported get an opportunity to speak to my father when I do not? The list goes on and on.
What I’m realizing it that I’m never going to know the answers to those questions. They are unanserable. And in actually, I’m asking those questions as a way to re-invent the past, to change what cannot be changed. Asking those questions keeps me out of the present moment.
So wait I’m going to from now on when those questions start spinning around in my head is sit and focus on my body. I’ll concentrate on how it’s feeling in the present moment. I’ll follow my breath. I’ll notice any spots of tension. I’ll notice what kinds of feelings come up. And I’ll stop trying to answer those unanswerable questions.
Christie, I so appreciate what you have said about some questions being attempts to re-invent the past. I occasionally still do this and want to remember what you have suggested about ways to stay in the present moment.
You have taught me so much – ways to eat, ways to be more me, ways to be more present. When I think about this, I realize how valuable the road we have traveled has actually been. Thank you.
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