Following a gestation of about 203 days, a Porcupette, weighing just under a pound, is born with soft quills that protect the mom during the birthing process. After a few days, the quills harden with keratin, which gives them their sharpness.
Recently the image of the Porcupine has been stuck in my mind, following a session. The Porcupine is not to be fucked with, it is fierce and damaging to anyone who threatens it. With an artillery of sharp points, one swipe of its tail, sends it’s adversary running and howling in pain. Ending up like a bloody pin cushion. No body fucks with a Porcupine. Just think about it; If you even saw one, would you want to approach it? Take zoomed-in pictures of it from afar maybe, but get close enough to it to wind up on the receiving end of those brutal quills? Absolutely not. Porcupines are Sketchy looking little buggers, and deal damage to anyone who threatens them, large or small; whether we mean well or intend to do harm. They don’t give a fuck.
The reasoning that this animals image has stuck with me recently, is that I found myself pondering, “Are Porcupines born with those sharp quills?” Wouldn’t those sharp spear-like weapons be damaging to the mother at birth? Porcupines are not born with sharp quills. They are born with soft quills that harden over time, as they mature and venture out into the world. How metaphorical.
Likewise, we humans are not born with “Hard Quills” either. We are born into this world, for the most part perfect and innocent, shameless and soft hearted; as we experience life and venture out into the world, our hardened quills either develop or they don’t. And even if they do develop, and we become this prickly ball of angry defense, at the end of the day, the quills only serve as one thing: A Defense Mechanism.
I feel like this Analogy of the Porcupine is relevant in my life, for I, too have slung my Quills at people as a form of defense whether they deserved it or not. I believe we all have. But I wasn’t born with the ability to sling quills, it was learned and adaptive. I know that now.
The more I talk about and ponder on my life in reverse, and the traumas and experiences that I have had, the more I understand “The Sharp Points”, or at least try to. You see, I used to always share my story, in a very condensed version for Key Note Speeches, or Breakout Sessions at various conferences, and I used to talk about traumas and negative experiences from my using days, as a way to spread awareness about what Addiction REALLY looks like. But it came up recently that most, if not all of my negative experiences from using were essentially “self inflicted” or at least somewhat within my control. I got to pick and choose the risks I would take in pursuit of my drug seeking lifestyle, so that was an interesting point. Self Inflicted Trauma. Is that an actual thing? I certainly understand the thinking behind it, but wouldn’t that be more of a “Play stupid games win stupid prizes” type thing? Anyways, I digress there. But looking back on a couple talks I gave in particular, I remember being “double minded” while delivering them. One in Fort Wayne, one in French Lick; I was talking about the lifestyle of using, and the Traumas that occurred as a result, and deep inside of me and simultaneously reflecting back on the experiences and traumas that led me TO those impossible situations. The Space shuttle launch that took me outside of myself and allowed me to hide in the world of drugs, that in turn conjured up all of the experiences I was sharing about. And what I should have been talking about to begin with, was the space shuttle launch. Interesting.
I am not a victim. And you can save your sympathy for the infomercials on TV. I made choices and some of those choices led me to some really ugly and life threatening places. But how much responsibility can we really put on an eight year old little boy? A ten year old? We are all born into this world dependent. Dependent upon the humans who created us, or the humans who adopt us, or the system if no one does. And many of us end up experiencing the world relatively defenseless and naive. Sitting here this morning, I feel like I have much better understanding of why and how things turned out the way they did. And we are getting to a point in life, at the age of almost Forty, where it’s just about time to close “The Old Story” and only focus on the New. As much as I absolutely love what I do, and who I am today, I don’t “Just” want to be this “Former Heroin Addict” “Drug Addict” Guy anymore. I mean, that will always be a part of my story, and a big one, but it’s time to fully explore and release. Explore the past, investigate it, know it, learn from it, and let it all go. And it’s really important for me, and anyone reading this to know that we can. It doesn’t matter where we come from, or who our parents are, or where we live, what color we are, our traumas, pains, and old story can end and a new one begin, we can and it is our responsibility to investigate and reflect back on our harmful patterns and how we became who we are today- both good and bad. So that we can in turn use our discoveries and new found wisdom to enrich our relationships and break harmful cycles in our lineage and legacy. We don’t have to sling quills. Even when we feel threatened or harmed in some way. We must learn to restrain, and let be what is.
I suppose I started developing my Quills around the age of 10 maybe. Maybe a little sooner. Up until this time, I suppose I still had the luxury of my childhood innocence. I had the God Sent ability to still see the world with wonder and joy. Although terrible things had already long since been happening to me, I think maybe I was able to “Chalk it up” to whatever the fuck my little mind was able to. I mean, hey, it is totally normal to be forced to do horrible and disgusting things or get the shit beat out of you right? All kids experience that, that’s just part of life right? By the way that’s sarcasm. It’s not normal. It’s horrible and evil and damaging and leads to a lifetime of trauma. People who commit sex offenses against children should be given life in prison without the possibility of Parole, in my Opinion. But it wasn’t just that. The beatings, the moving, the uncertainties, the instability, Being counseled on how to talk to CPS when they come and ask about a number of things, having to borrow money from my teachers in elementary school for lunch, My teachers bringing me lunch to school because they were sick of paying for my lunch, being dumped off from relative to relative, not seeing Mom or Dad or either for up to a year at a time, getting my head split open with a golf club, getting beaten bloody with a broom stick, repeatedly molested, run over, being wedged in the middle of an ongoing “Family War” between Maternal and Paternal sides of the family, witnessing a suicide attempt, finding a dead body, I mean fuck man, none of these things are even in the universe of normal. And all of these things happened before my 18th birthday. All while riding this invisible wave of life, trying to navigate and find myself, and be a little boy. All while just wanting to go to the same damn school system for consecutive years. I just remember somewhere along the lines, just checking out. Getting into my space shuttle and detaching from it all. I became a Real Life Harry Houdini, by the age of 12. But the thing about it is, I don’t think I ever actually detached. I mean is that even possible? No matter what, no matter how hard we try, don’t we still witness it to some degree? Everytime something would happen, or a crisis would occur, or my “Stability” was threatened, what little stability I had created for myself that is- I would detach in my space shuttle, to protect myself and a new Quill would develop. This became My M.O. ‘Detach and grow a Quill’. Where once was a soft and delicate little fuzz patch- resembling the dwindling innocence I still had remaining- a hardened and dangerous Quill would form. Just waiting on someone to threaten that vulnerable place of mine, so I could hurl my manifested defense mechanisms right at their face, keeping everything that threatened me at a safe distance. I was sick of getting hurt man. I was sick of having to constantly adapt to this version of Life that I was getting. I know that we all play the hand we’re dealt to the best of our ability. But someone has to teach us how to play the game, whether its texas holdem or Go-Fish, Someone has to teach us about healing and processing and understanding where our Quills come from, otherwise we are stuck in the balloon factory, and everything that gets close to us is in danger. It is important for us to truly understand where each of our “Sharp points” come from, and then Lean in to them, study them, investigate them and know that we didn’t just decide to develop them. They are a result of our past hurts and pains. We are products of our environments for the most part. I mean, shit, I’ll be Forty years old in Three and a half years, and I am just now truly understanding this shit and at a point where I am ready to lose the quills. And that’s important work, losing our quills. Shedding that old self that no longer serves us.
It dawned on me recently, how important this is, losing the quills- those sharp points of Maladaptive behavior from my past because I was actively burning my life to the ground. Slowly over the course of about 2 years. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t shot dope or smoked Crack in a long time. I was still relying on my space shuttle, Time Capsule and Sharp Quills as a was of defending my still wounded heart and spirit. I was still acting, reacting, and behaving in many ways, like I always had. “Oh you hurt me Five years ago, Well let me continue to sling these quills at you, to keep you far enough away from me to never do it again.” “Oh you fucked me over”, You fired me, You made fun of me in High School, You Broke up with me, You Didn’t invite me, You _______________, Well Let me just make sure you get a face full of Quills- resentment, Bitterness, anger, Gossip, etc. to keep you from ever getting close enough to harm me again. It’s what I learned to do a very long time ago to protect myself. I was just a child when I started developing My Sharp Points. But I was alone alot in this world early on with no protectors.Almost to the point of Hyperbole- Like My Karma was so bad in a previous life, that I was reborn into this one to know only suffering for a very long time. Then came the world of Drug Addiction; Crack and Heroin addicts and Dope Dealers, and More and more quills formed. By the time I actually got clean, the dust settled from the Giant Bomb that just finished exploding after 29 years of Nuclear Fallout- My head was spinning, My heart was destroyed, and I was this ugly, angry, ball of Prickly defense mechanisms that served no one, and harmed everyone.
It has taken some really dark places and horrible-yet-again-self-inflicted-traumas to get to this place of understanding this though. There really is something to that whole “I’ll show you, I’ll Kill me” Cliche that we hear so often in the various fellowships, because that’s literally where I was not so long ago, “Oh you fucked me over?-I’ll stick this needled in my arm then. I’ll slowly slip into a horrible depression, consider suicide, write suicide letters, burn them and then just climb into a bottle of booze and flip out on everyone I know, because I just can’t shake this pain and fear that I’m living with everyday. Covered in sharp points on the inside and out, beaten and broken, pissed off at the world, expecting so very much of myself; so many others expecting so much from me; And all I really longed for was to just be able to fucking breathe and feel some actual peace and joy in my life for the very first time. So much has happened so fast. It seems like I was just 16 years old hitting my first home run in the All-Stars Tourney, and now I’m almost 40. I’d been in the space shuttle for a long time. But I finally feel like we have reached our stopping point, a point of inflection. A Rude awakening. A point in my life where I realized that the Past ain’t changin’, and there is nothing I can do about it except Heal. And there is so much power in healing. Shit, there’s power in TRYING to heal. Learning and unlearning all of the things that formed the quills. I do NOT have to be who the world made me into be. I have the power to unlearn, un-do, and un-be. And in my God Given form, just as I am right this moment, I am okay.
And I believe that is how we break these generational curses that plague us as a society. By learning ourselves, by understanding our quills and how they got there, by leaning into our sharp points, unlearning our maladaptive behaviors, and “un-being” who we once thought we needed to be.
Like the baby Porcupine, the Porcupette as it is known- we humans are not born with “Sharp” or “Hardened” anything. I think about my Grandmother when I write this; She used to talk about how innocent and perfect new born babies are when they first enter the world.
“The world out there took a Naive Kid, scarred his heart and beat him down, and this song is me, coming back around, from out of town.”
Learn. Unlearn. Undo. Un be. understand. let be. let go.
No one wants to hug a Porcupine.