Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Pointless Plea

Dear Nichole:

I wish that I could send this letter to you. But I know that if I do, that you won’t read it, or only read a sentence of it and put it aside. So, I guess I’ll just keep it to myself until someday, perhaps, when you might be able to read it. Perhaps at that time you would have wished that I did send it to you. Perhaps that future self blames me for not sending it to you. But I can handle your blame easier than you adding to your heap of self-incrimination.

Today is your fifteenth birthday, and you are as of this day a full adult. You get to make your own choices and live your own life. Perhaps you feel lucky, because most fifteen year olds are still under the thumb of their parents, bounded by rules and a lifestyle that you are no longer required to abide by. You have the freedom you wanted because you proved that you would just run away whenever your freedom was hampered. Well, that’s your choice, I guess, and since you made it clear that you won’t listen to your father or I, then so be it.

I want you, for a moment, to remember living in our house. Yes, it was only for a few months, a small speck in your life, but it was an opportunity offered to you. Here in the house we had a lot of drama—not a small part of it from you—but we had a lot of good times. Yes, there was discipline and structure, but you thrived in that structure. You knew your limits and were willing to abide by them, with a couple notable exceptions. You were finally learning at school, and getting A’s on papers. You were writing essays and doing well. You were working at getting along with people in a community. Instead of just feeling and reacting, you were understanding and laboring for what you wanted. You were getting prepared for a mature existence.

But you chose a different life instead. You hung out with a pimp for a while who taught you that life could be a party, it could be about feeling and reaction. That when you were feeling down, there were drugs to help you feel better and when you were feeling up, then there were opportunities to feel even better. Of course, you didn’t know he was intending on just using you in order to make money. He was using his mature mind of planning and laboring for what he wants to abuse you and drain you of all life. He sent you back home simply because you were too young to make your own choice about what life to lead.

But what that pimp saw, you don’t see. You think you are mature enough. I asked you, one time, “If you daughter did this to you, how would you react?” And you responded, “I would want her to learn from her own mistakes.” I laughed, partly because it was so clear that it was what you wanted for yourself—because if you were in charge of another life, you would control it, not set it free. And you would be right, to a certain degree, to put limitations, to restrict your child. Because it is clear that you are not a good reader of other people. You fell in love with a pimp, which is exactly what he wanted you to do. He played you like a violin, and he is the master of teenage girl’s hormones.

So your father and I wonder, “Who is the next man she will hook up with? Who is the next one that will try to abuse her?” We don’t know and though I do not know the future, I suspect that you will hook up with someone else who won’t care so much about your age or your naivety. The next one won’t send you home. And you will have to learn the lessons that God helped you to avoid this time.

Part of it has to do with your continuing use of pot. When anyone uses pot, just like when anyone gets drunk, then they are in a realm of apathy. Everything is okay with the world, nothing really matters. It sounds like and feels like a great place to be. A place beyond all cares, beyond all anxieties, beyond all crises. For a girl like you, who is overwhelmed by waves of uncontrollable emotion, it must feel great.

But while you are in that place of apathy, the world passes you by. Drugs are like a time machine. They transport you to the future, but your personality remains the same. You get to remain the same person for as many hours, months or years you use the drugs. You never mature, you never take responsibility, you never become a different person. You remain a perpetual child.

I know of women just like you—childlike, innocent, full of emotions and flitting about from situation to situation. One of them is Paper Klip, whom you met. She was on the street from eight, with her teens punctuated by running away from foster care homes. She has an attention deficit disorder, like you, and tries to remain perpetually happy, as well as those around her. She goes from relationship to relationship, remaining with her man loyally until he beats her up so bad that she just has to leave. To feel better, she goes to heroin or meth or pot or alcohol—whatever drug her current boyfriend likes. She is always selling drugs to people, because she thinks that will make them feel better, even if they are trying to quit drugs. As long as they’re happy, she thinks, and she believes that drugs are the only thing that makes anyone happy. She has a daughter whom she sees once a month or once every few months when she’s not using. The only thing that occasionally gets her out of drugs is falling in love. If she fell in love with a man who respected her and cares for her and keeps her off of drugs, then she might have a chance to maturing and really living a life. But since she doesn’t seem to fall in love with anyone except abusers, her chances are slim.

Another woman I know is Colleen. Again, like you, she is strongly ADHD and, like you, she’s really pretty and knows how to use that to her advantage. She takes care of herself by making herself attractive to men, who fall all over themselves trying to help her, so she might possibly show them some “appreciation.” Which she does sometimes. She was married once, but she can’t seem to avoid abusive men any more than Klip could. She has a son whom she is extraordinarily proud of, because he is heading toward college and doing well. So many people have tried to help Colleen get off the street, but she can’t stay anyplace for long because she gets into arguments. She’s very much ruled by her feelings, you see. She does, on occasion, hook up with a nice guy, but in her emotive state she so strongly verbally abuses him that when he yells back, she leaves him and blames him for everything wrong in the relationship.

Another young woman I know is Mary Jane. I’ve only known her for a couple years, but I know that she’s hooked up with about a dozen guys in that time. She received her inheritance from her family and has social security, which should have set her up for life. She’s got an apartment and she had a truck. But when she breaks up with boyfriends, they get so mad at her that on occasion they mess up her apartment, tearing up walls. Her truck’s windows were broken in by one ex and burnt to a crisp by another one.

These are all girls like you, except that they’ve grown up in the way that you are just beginning to choose. Their lives are tragedies. Why are they like this? Because they made the choice, very young, that drugs are the right choice for them because they made these girls feel better. This is the same choice that Pam, Bryan Shepherd and your parents made. Or they had it made for them. And their lives just can’t seem to be put in balance anymore.

To pursue drugs as a lifestyle is to choose to be a Peter Pan in a world requiring thoughtfulness, not impulse. Out there, in the world, there aren’t Captain Hooks—idiotic, seemingly powerful but innocuous enemies—rather there are corporations and systems of evil that have groups of brilliant entrepreneurs and lawyers bent on stealing your life and soul. There are gangs that offer community and a certain amount of security, but crush your hopes and independence. There are sellers of evil that know how to give you just what you want in order to steal from you what you need.

But the person who lives in the Happyland that drugs offers can never defend themselves from them. They can never follow God. Because they never learn discipline. They never mature. They never solidify. They never learn who they really are.

You are a smart girl, but you are not who you could be. All you are right now is potential, just like any of us when we were young. I didn’t start out a minister to the homeless, God had to grow me into that difficult position. Diane wasn’t prepared to be a mother of three when she started out in life, she had to mature into that through pain, anguish and heartbreak. If you choose a life of using—even if it’s only pot—then you are taking your potential and throwing it away as one would throw away one’s embryo into the gutter.

Your potential must be nurtured. And your potential has so many ways to falter. You get so distracted. And we were providing a womb in our house for your potential to grow and to give birth to the woman you could be. It saddens me to see you choose a life of randomness, of emotiveness, like a drunk walking down the street.

And that choice of what your life is going to be has to be made in the next year. You are growing, and what you do in the next year or so will determine how your body will make decisions for the rest of your life. Every choice you make now determines your future. If you allow your parents, and yes, even me, to provide guidelines and limitations, then your life could thrive and you could be who you are meant to be in God. If you choose to live by your distractions and your pleasures you will be who you are for the rest of your life—ruled by your emotions instead of your will.

Please don’t choose to be a self-abortion. Please decide to find out who you really are.

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