Another great book by Steven Hassan. Available through Amazon Prime:
Just now purchased this on my kindle (along with a lot of other books). If it’s anything like another book of Hassan’s I’ve read, Releasing the Bonds, then it’s going to be great. I’ll give you some snap shots along the way.
Two stories high? Jacque and I slouched like shamed women inside that shed. There was no standing upright in there. The ceiling of the space we occupied was no more than 5 feet high. It was an abandoned children’s clubhouse, after all, built for the children (8-11 years old) by the children and Steve, made of 2 X 4’s and plywood.
Before we moved in it was full of junk. Dampness and mildew pervaded its walls and contents. We cleaned it out, and stuffed rags and toilet paper in the gaps and holes to keep the weather out. In a little cubby (about 5’ X 5’) to the left of the door sat a tin wood stove. We loved that little stove. It dried things out, warmed us, dried our bucket washed laundry, and toasted our peanut butter sandwiches.
For six weeks at varying times of the day someone dropped a bag full of peanut butter sandwiches on our dirt doorstep. We were given nothing to eat except white bread and peanut butter for 6 weeks, and we savored each bite. Occasionally someone forgot to deliver, or choose not to, or maybe we were supposed to fast that day.
Big window? There was no window. The only seeing through to the outside in there was through a quarter-size hole in the door. I drove Jacque nuts peeking through that hole hoping to see my children.
The exact size of the shed I don’t know, I never measured it. In my court deposition and in my early journals I said about 5 ft. X 12 ft., and I’m sticking to that.
Jacque and I lay our sleeping bags parallel to the shed’s length, facing the door, and we had about an arm’s length between us. I could hear Jacque breath. A fluorescent light dangled over our beds, under which we read our Bibles trying to figure things out.
When Lisa joined our sorry lot for a few days, we flipped our bags parallel to the shed’s shorter width. It’s the only way we’d all fit. I couldn’t fully elongate, or stretch out. I’m 5’6, and that’s how I derived “about 5 feet.” The morning of the day Lisa fled, rain water seeped up through the plywood floor and got our bedding wet.
Next door to the shed loomed the “chop shop,” a large metal building where camp “soldiers” cut and assembled picture frames for the Art Shops. Before Jackie and I were ordered to move into the shed, this is where we tossed our bags at night.
At first the shed seemed a “step down” to us, but after short while we appreciated having our own space, daunting though it be. Before the shed we spent every day except weekends from 8AM until 5PM outside, because soldiers occupied the chop shop during business hours. Now we could take shelter from the cold, the rain, and refuge from all the shunning. Everyone in camp, including my children, were instructed to turn their heads away from us if they saw us outside.
But we still worked outside most days. Lieutenant Banderas banged on our door at various times of the day, usually in the morning, yelling like a drill sergeant with something up his ass, “Time to go to work!” One morning he woke us up at 4 AM to wash all camp vehicles. Another morning he startled us at 3 AM, banging on the door, “Time to go to work!” We wheelbarrowed Steve’s tarps to underneath the freeway across the street from the camp, and we scraped caulk or whatever off them before hauling them back to camp.
We sawed wood, chopped wood, stacked wood. One day we were given buckets and ordered to move a huge pile of river rock, only the next day to be told to move it back. We wheelbarrowed chunks of concrete out of the backyard, and then loads of dirt in. In the winter we washed houses in the rain, and in the spring we painted them. We washed the camp dishes morning and night. We cleaned out garbage cans, raked leaves, swept sidewalks, kept things tidied and trimmed. We climbed ladders 2 1/2 stories high to wash or paint or clean the windows of the citadel. We raked dirt under the crawl space of barracks one and two.
We submitted mind, heart and soul to whatever came down upon us. When I doubted, Jacque pulled me back into our dreadful reality. Humiliation and self-denigration were long a part of ACMTC’s practice, and we were good practitioners. We were, after all, “women set aside by God,” and our destiny lay in the balance. We were outside god’s door, and we wanted nothing more than to be let back in. Failure would mean “pushing a shopping cart down the streets of Sacramento,” and “going to hell.”
We questioned things among ourselves, a lack of restraint we’d never had. Unlike with the younger women, the little Lila’s, the zealots General Lila favored and praised, I didn’t feel in competition with Jacque, it felt more like we were sisters. We were kept in the dark on everything. Only on rare occasion did anyone talk to us, except to give us orders. Two questions we both asked all the time were, “What’s going on, and when is god’s wrath going to lift from us?”
Some days we got our hopes up by the simplest of things. Maybe nobody shunned us that day. Maybe somebody was kind to us. Once General Jim helped us carry sacks of compost into the backyard. Jim had an element of kindness to him. I remember Sarah Green (the Green’s daughter) slipped us a treat a few times, once a granola bar, once a yogurt. When we received yogurt, we thought we were near to being let back in.
Mark, Jacque’s husband, walked by us one day as we washed barracks one, and he encouraged us to “hang in there,” and to “not give up hope.” It touched both of us. Mark had experienced shunning himself. A year earlier he’d sit down in mess hall to eat, and nobody would sit with him. He was shunned for several weeks, and I never knew why. He was the nicest guy, but for some reason or other he was in the hot seat with the “Generals of God’s Army.”
We preferred working outside over being confined in the shed all day. We preferred keeping busy, keeping our blood circulating, and we welcomed any opportunity to demonstrate our humility before God. But on occasion Banderas ordered us to be “confined.” Once he ordered us to stay in the shed for 7 days straight, and Jacque nailed a blanket between us, she got that tired of me.
Inside the chop shop was a “half bath” with a toilet and a sink plumbed for cold water only. Here we relieved ourselves, and we bathed. The chop shop door was open during the day, but sometimes somebody locked it at night, and that’s when we took to peeing into tin cans.
Accommodating? Yes, I guess you could say that.
“There’s another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It’s a story about how those things don’t really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?” The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.” The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.”
Pema Chödrön, Awakening Loving Kindness
Of course El Phalen, the woman reporting child abuse within ACMTC, is going to be depicted as a “transient, and as “having a history of making unfounded allegations,”—a picture (no doubt in my mind) rendered by the Greens, themselves having a long history of doing the same.