Finally, a word that is truly mine from the Daily Post! Cranky! That’s me, you see. C-R-A-N-K-Y Critter.

Me. In a nutshell. A cranky critter.

The why is a thing that’s an excuse. The truth is more along the lines that I developed my character by fighting my way through insurmountable odds and surviving (my childhood). How? By showing the side that was tough, unbreakable, vengeful. And then I learned to use that outer visage to good effect. That mask became useful as a tool.

My name to most of my fosters over fifteen or so years? Sarge. Yep. As in the ‘Do Not Mess With Sarge’ adage. It’s not that I was tough, or a bully, or unreasonable. It was about the rules with the fosters. Follow the rules; do not break the unbreakable rules; negotiate changes to the other rules or suffer the consequences (this is where they learn to get what they want by gaining support from others – communication skills, social skills, etc.). But I had to run the show, and if you’ve ever had to deal with a dozen or so highly flammable teenagers in full dram mode, who have low self-esteem and problems with authority, you may understand how I used my ‘cranky’ to get them into a place where they had a sense of ownership. Yep. Personal Power.

And I learned it all through the ‘look’ and the ‘feel’ and the ‘act’ of cranky. The look does it first – that tilted head with the eyebrows slanted in towards the centre of the eyes, the single-line frown of slight disapproval that grows when the look is ignored. That moves onto the body language of hands on hips and one leg spread out for balance (the fighter stance, they learned later in martial arts training), and the lean in to show a slight measure of overbearing of the elder v. younger. The final piece, the enactment of the consequences of failing to respond to the first two – the act, which puts out the possible cost of ignoring the rule, the potential for loss of something they wanted more than to win this particular round of belligerence.

After a period of time in the household, they learned that ‘Sarge’ was a mask, and that they could use their own mask to ‘fake it til you make it’ in situations in their life. They learned to protect themselves through the gaining of skills in self-defence and negotiation. They learned to not judge the person by the mask – the hardest lesson of all.

Most of the world lives and breathes their relationships by understanding what a person’s unspoken language is saying. Usually, it’s all wrong (their understanding, that is) because they look only at the outer, and don’t take the time to discover the ‘why’ of the mask.

Those kids had no choice. They’d survived until they came to my place, sometimes barely and always in a state of emotional damage that would take years or even a lifetime to work through, and now they had to learn that to survive isn’t a singular thing. Only community can offer true survival.

That was the lesson. Be more than one and you have a chance. Be part of the whole and become whole. Look past and beyond the mask to find the path to a heart. That’s where you find home.

Thank you for putting up ‘my’ word!


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