On Endurance … and Hope

Diane Sawyer’s interview with Jaycee Dugard aired July 10th.  Jaycee’s story of captivity from 1991 to 2009, more than half of her life, is mind-boggling.  That’s nearly two decades.  Jaycee was an eleven year old girl in fifth grade when she was abducted.  She spent the next six years of her life locked in two different rooms; handcuffed early on.  By the time she was 17, when her peers were entering their senior year of HS, she had two small children she was caring for in a tent in a backyard.  Many people wonder:  “Why didn’t she try to escape?”

On Saturday, in between gardening and cleaning, I spent some time on Twitter.  Diane Sawyer tweeted her Jaycee interview would air again that night; replied I saw it & couldn’t believe how much healing she’d achieved in two years.  Diane retweeted me, adding there would be some viewer reactions.  Before signing off, I came across a link to a You Tube video of some conservationists who found a humpback whale who couldn’t swim because it was totally constricted by fishing net and saved it.  I watched it twice just to see the whale’s joyous display at the end; a natural miracle.  The second time around it hit me, “That’s what Jaycee felt like when she learned she could go home.”

So I watched the interview again.  Early on Jaycee said, “You do what you have to do to survive.”  I thought of that whale, using all of its energy trying to untangle its fins and tail bound in nylon until it exhausted itself way before it was found, just like Jaycee used hers trying to stay sane locked alone in a room at 11 with strangers as her only source of food … of anything.  Very few people ever experience that:  POWs, kidnapping victims, severe abuse cases, but few live with their physical movements and basic freedoms restricted for years.  (Thank God!)  Even people in jail are treated better.  It made me think about captivity, both physical and mental.  For Jaycee, her physical captivity (not allowed outside for 6 years) was compounded by her immaturity (11) and the insanity of her captors, so by the time she was allowed out, two kids in tow, she had become mentally captive.  That was her life now caring for her kids with those people.  As she said, “The fear of the unknown was greater than what I knew.”

As I thought about what kept Jaycee there, a woman I’d met came to mind.  I met her and her husband in a beach restaurant and they seemed like a regular couple.  Would see them out casually and we started calling each other.  During a phone call, she revealed that her husband of 20+ years beats her; that she left him twice when the boys were young, but always went back.  Currently, both kids are over 18, she is financially independent (worked her whole life), and they have no marital relationship, but rather than leave, she locks herself in her bedroom every night.  I tried to help her, but after she told me her sister and family had tried to help and she had left a battered women’s shelter twice to return, it was clear only she could release herself.  I  encouraged her to seek counseling.  If this woman who’s older, whose mother lives 5 mins away, who leaves the house daily and who has the financial wherewithal doesn’t have the courage to leave, then why do we expect Jaycee should have as a teen with two kids, a 5th grade education and no support system?

Jaycee talked about grabbing a pine cone as she fell to the ground after being stun gunned the day she was kidnapped and how that pine cone became her symbol of hope.  Probably at 11 yrs old she didn’t know pine trees have historically been associated with healing, resiliency, light and life, but the symbolism wasn’t lost on me.  http://www.making-incense.com/monographs/pine-needles.htm   She’s formed the JayC Foundation to help families of traumatic events; the victims, parents and siblings and is selling little pine cones to support the cause.

On Sunday I went to the Tampa Theater to see Gone With The Wind with a networking friend.  I’d seen the movie several times starting when I was 8.  Read the book as a teenager, but don’t remember when I last watched it.  Besides being struck by the melodrama (the movie is over 70 yrs old and the music alone tells you that), the basic themes of endurance and doing whatever you have to do to survive really struck me.  I’d mostly remembered it as a love story, but this time the sentimental romanticism was just a backdrop to the story of a woman rather unconsciously doing whatever she had to do to survive in a changing world.  At the end my friend turned and said, “When I was a teenager going on about something my mother would say, ‘Tomorrow’s another day, Scarlett!'”

We all live in mental captivity somewhat:  old parental tapes/roles/expectations; past events; even our own expectations of how we think our lives should be can limit us.  Hanging on to jobs or relationships when the ship is sinking because we either can’t see it or we’re afraid to change.  People are creatures of habit.  If someone has done something repeatedly over time, be it live with someone, work somewhere, do a particular sport, whatever and then it changes, it requires adjustment.  But after watching Jaycee’s interview and the whale video, it struck me exactly how much the adjustment is purely mental/emotional since most of us have complete physical freedom to do as we please.

This made me think about endurance:  Gabby Giffords’ healing from her gunshot wound to the head; an athlete who spends middle school, high school, college to make it into the pros; working full-time while going to school part-time; a single mom raising kids; coping with illness; dealing with a protracted job search; the emotional fortitude of a mother like Terry Probyn always believing her daughter was alive; the incredible strength it will take the parents of Leiby Kletzky, the 8 yr old boy walking home alone for the first time in Brooklyn who ended up getting murdered, from blaming themselves for his death.

These examples of endurance and the whale’s joyful abandon in its physical freedom made me finally understand a man who spoke at a PPN meeting this spring.  He was an engineer, had worked for one company nearly 20 years, got laid off and was talking about being unemployed for two full years; he went through his severance and savings to support his family.  I was amazed by his honesty, but also wondered why he seemed so happy given this.  Then he talked about responding to an ad for an entry-level position, his interview process and even reviewed in great detail his salary negotiations / package.  He ended up with a great job at a good company making close to what he had before.  But it was his honesty and utter happiness that amazed me.  Watching the video of the whale jumping for joy, made me realize that’s how he felt too; he had endured two years of unemployment, had figured out ways to survive, and was overjoyed to be back in the flow again.

The message of Jaycee Dugard’s story is exactly that:  she endured.  Now she is free and very happy in her freedom.  The excellent counseling she gets helps.  I hope she travels, gets tutoring for her GED and goes to college.  I hope she flies, bikes, rides hot air balloons, swims in the ocean ~ in short, does all she’s dreamed of doing.  I truly hope her story and foundation teach people about endurance and the simple joys of life.

There are two very well-known, well-worn sayings:  “Never Give Up Hope” and “Never Give Up.”  I now believe it’s the latter, but my hope is we all get to experience the sweet joy of the whale in the You Tube video linked here after being released from some difficulty we’ve endured.

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