Shoulder punchers: an interview with Smerkle Grumpy


  • Mr. Grumpy, it’s a pleasure to sit down with –
  • Smerkle.
  • Pardon?
  • Smerkle, call me Smerkle.
  • Well then, it’s a pleasure sit down with you.
  • Thank you. You as well.
  • It’s been awhile.
  • Been watching my man, Peter, from afar, as the saying goes. Watching him trying to get himself moved. Proud of him. Still patient with people, more than most, more than me. Known him since he was a boy – he’s got a real kind streak.
  • You think he is too kind?
  • Oh no, don’t misunderstand me. Not too kind at all. Glad he’s in a world that’s been short on kindness for a long time. So no, not too kind.
  • Too patient?
  • He’s more patient than I’d be, but no, not too patient. People deserve patience, some need and deserve a lot of it. Some deeply wounded folk in the world.
  • Can he run out of patience?
  • We all can. I remember a time my boy did when he was in reform school back when.
  • Can you tell us about it? Would he mind?
  • He might mind, but I’ll tell you. There was this kid, same age as Peter, in the same hall, the wards where the boys lived. Anyway, this kid, will call him Johnny, liked to punch Peter in the shoulder, doing it light at first, then a little harder, saying sorry later, then punching Pete’s shoulder next time Peter’d walk by. After a while, Peter called him out.
  • Called him out?
  • In this reform school if two of the boys were getting close to a fight, they’d let the boys fight, surrounded by their mates, the male staff watching to make sure no one really got badly hurt, and usually the two combatants became friendly after the fight. Some kind of release I suppose. Calling out was when one kid challenged another, quietly or openly.
  • How’d Peter do it?
  • Wide open. They were in the gym sitting on bleachers, about 30 boys, half a dozen staff or so, taking a break. Peter walks by, Johnny punches him in the shoulder and that was it.
  • What was it?
  • Peter ripped into him. You really want to fight with me that badly? Seriously? Just can’t help yourself, wish it that bad do you? If you’re feeling froggish, then leap, cause your wish has come true.
  • What happened?
  • One smack upside Johnny’s head and down he went. Then Peter did his thing, helped Johnny up, telling him all the time being friends was a lot easier on the both of’m than fighting. Even when he knew he had no choice and had to act, like with Johnny, or protecting someone, he always felt badly about hurting someone.
  • He felt guilty.
  • No-no, not guilty. Badly. Sad. Definitely not guilty.
  • It’s good to be talking with you again, Smerkle.
  • Good to be talking with you too.



When someone loves you

When someone really loves you they may in fact be a direct challenge to anyone or any thing in life that has given you the message — or may still be giving you the message — that you not worth loving. Whether that message is delivered by the punishing voice or hand of a parent or another family member or stranger, or someone alleged to be a trusted member of society, the message is pulverizing, and horribly wrong.

You are well worth loving and you always have been well worth loving. Whether you truly know this to be true or not, it is true.

If a child lives in a environment in which he or she is told, every day of their life, that they are bad, not worth loving, ugly, stupid, fat, and so on, what else would one expect a child to believe? Children have no reference point they can draw from to understand what they are being told about themselves is completely false.

So, when someone loves you, that person, that love, is a direct contradiction of the myth the wounded child has come to believe, and therein lies the challange. Breaking free of the myth, getting free of your history.

This is not easy, I know. But it is, I promise you, possible. I know this too.



Trapped in the marble of your history

I would like to write words that lift a reader’s day, perhaps help a heart heal, a body heal, the soul too. Let’s not leave the soul out. Absent that and you’ve removed oxygen from the air.

If you’ve lost sight of, or never knew, the extraordinary value of the life that is you, I can promise you, it’s there.  Michelangelo (1474-1564), the Italian sculptor, painter and architect,  believed the masterpiece was already in the block of marble. His task was to keep carving so we could see it.  He once said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

I believe each life is a masterpiece in its own right, right from the beginning. The thing is, life can be brutal and many of us have received some cruel and untrue! messages about who we are. Start the wounding early enough and the child has no reason to disbelieve what they are all too often told, they are the problem, and if only…. then they wouldn’t be. Rubbish. It’s not true.

The masterpiece that is you may be trapped in the marble of your history, but its there. Because you are not in touch with it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Promise.

The challenge is not one of becoming a valuable human being; it’s discovering you always have been a valuable human being.


Fear of intimacy

They are wounded.

Keep this in mind when you see or experience people — or yourself — hiding or running from real intimacy in a relationship.

I am not talking solely about physical intimacy or love-making intimacy. I say love-making intimacy because people have been having sex for years without an iota of emotional and spiritual intimacy to be seen for miles. Physical intimacy, holding hands, holding each other, cuddling, simply touching, can be a steep climb for the badly wounded. Love-making intimacy, even steeper.

Avoiding intimacy takes many forms. One of the more common is when people enter into relationships with partners who are either unable or unwilling to be intimate. At times, this allows the partner seeking intimacy to both bemoan the absence of intimacy on the one hand without ever having to  be intimate on the other. Choosing to be with someone who can’t be intimate can be a way of avoiding intimacy in and of itself. This does not mean either person is aware of the intimacy-avoiding pattern they’re trapped in.

If emotional and spiritual intimacy were physical beings the amount of intimacy being lost could fill the Grand Canyon on a daily basis.

There are real reasons deserving of the deepest respect people fear intimacy. Almost without exception the fear revolves around the following truth. At some point in time, usually in childhood, but not exclusively so, you were in some way taught that being who really really are was dangerous. Emotionally, physically, or sexually dangerous. Someone you loved with all your heart died. You were abused physically, emotionally, spiritually, sexually. Somehow, through no fault of your own (even if you are still making the mistake of holding yourself responsible (You’re not!)), you came to believe truly being yourself with someone else was dangerous.

For an array of reasons, I believed it was dangerous for me to be myself with someone for years. For me, getting free of this fear began with two understandings. First, getting free of this fear meant getting free of my history. Second, who deserves to be in control of my decision making? Me or my history?  I pick me.

Talking about the fear with someone is not only an immense help, it is necessary. Talk to someone: a psychotherapist, a member of clergy, a close friend. Now, for those who believe asking for help is an act of weakness, let me ask you something. If it is an act of weakness to ask for help, then why is it so hard to do? After all, if it was an act of weakness, asking for help would be easy. And, it’s not so much that I think each of us need the help. I think we damn well deserve it. Why? Because you deserve to get free of your history’s decision-making power. Promise.

Just ‘Round the Bend

It’s been many years since I’ve had a good relationship with August. We just don’t get along. I never wronged August, least I can’t remember if I did, but I must’ve. After all, August contains some of the biggest wounds of this man’s life. Shot on August 24th, mother commits suicide on August 12, and the biggest wound of all, my father dies on August 16 when he is 55 and I’m 15.

Now don’t be whipping out any sympathy violins for me, that’s not the point here. I am alive and well and happy and testimony that things can be survived and grown from and while wounds leave their marks and shapes, they don’t mean to stop your life, ‘less you hand’m more control then they deserve. Life happens to us whether we like it our not, it’s how we manage it that makes the difference, our living breathing relationship with it – that’s the point.

Suicide’s anything but fuckin’ painless and the same goes for getting shot and your father dyin’ when you’re fifteen’ll fuck your world up too. But you know what? Sunsets are beautiful and the same goes for sunrises. Friendships and family are precious and Springsteen songs make my heart soar and the sound of children laughing will lighten the heaviest heart and have you seen the flowers blooming lately?

Old wounds don’t stop life. Old pains don’t slam doors. Old scars don’t close your eyes or shut your ears. Open wide your soul and breathe. Lift your hearts up by the fuckin’ bootstraps if you have to. Open your eyes and ears, love people, love life. There’s life gifts in front of you and there’s life gifts ‘round the bend. You might not see’m now, but they’re just ‘round the bend. I know it’s scary, but don’t let it frighten you.

We all got our Augusts. You got yours and I got mine. You keep living now – and I’ll be seein’ you ‘round the bend.