I love this picture because the girl in the hotdog suit reminds me of my daughter Liz, who is a hotdog if there ever was one. She never did like those princess duds, and she has grown up to be a woman of substance and unusual attributes. I am crazy about her. I am crazy about all my children and their spouses, who are children of mine too. And my granddaughter, who is a hotdog even if she does love princess costumes.
Aren’t we all hotdogs? Don’t we all feel like that odd one on the end who doesn’t quite match up with the rest of the world? Whom of us REALLY feels like he or she occupies the center ground and is “normal”? The great tragedy of modern life is that we are all of us stuck somewhere alone a good deal of the time, trolling media of one kind or another that makes us feel weird and marginal, missing out on real relationships with the people who surround us and who could save us.
I just had a long talk with a friend of mine yesterday and he was feeling pretty low. He was laboring under the misconception that his weirdness was unique, distasteful, shameful, and had disqualified him from ever living a useful amazing life. This one thing about him makes him feel like all the other great things about him don’t count. He wept as he talked about it. And I knew just how he felt. I shared with him my weirdness and it helped him immeasurably. How does that work? When it comes down to it, we mostly just don’t want to feel alone. Just knowing that someone we like and can respect has the same problems we do leaves us feeling heartened and ready to get up and fight another day. It seems paradoxical. You would think that knowing that someone else basically is as screwed up as you are would leave you feeling worse. But it doesn’t work that way.
And I don’t think it is supposed to. We are made for community, comradeship, and ultimately, intimacy with other human beings. We wither and die without it. Our hearts move toward relationship like true North. If we can’t have good relationships, we go for bad ones. Anything to connect. Children who are abused by their parents cling harder to them than children who aren’t.
So much of what we see right now that is tragic and violent and heartbreaking in this world is caused by the want of good relationships. I am reading a book right now called “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. He is a leading practitioner and researcher in the area of healing from trauma, and much of his work has been with children who are victims of childhood abuse. The statistics are overwhelming. One in five Americans was sexually molested as a child. One in four was beaten by a parent to the point of leaving marks. And one in three couples engage in physical violence. One in four grew up in alcoholic families and one in eight witnessed their mothers being beaten or hit.
We all want to think that these events happen only rarely and to people who are not like us. This is simply not the case. It happens all the time, to your friends, your neighbors, your leaders, probably you. The problems associated with these kinds of traumas are legion, from bedwetting and problems in school to failure to thrive in any meaningful way, loss of purpose and ability to take initiative as an adult, violent crime, and of course, the same kinds of abuse perpetrated on the next generation. I could go on and on. These statistics do not include all the victims of traumas that occurred in adulthood, such as combat PTSD, rape, torture, etc. etc. etc. Our world carries a heavy burden of heartbreak and our bodies keep the score. Science now tells us that the very genes of victims of trauma are modified and that those genetic modifications are PASSED ON TO THEIR CHILDREN. Even if an abused person never abuses his or her own children, the genetic evidence is carried along.
How is it any wonder that we live in a world wracked by violence, hate and discord? We are many of us, for the most, part threatened animals, backed into a corner and fighting for our lives. It is probably a wonder that things aren’t worse. Many traumatized people manage to live out their lives absent murder and mayhem, although whether they are living life to the fullest and reaching anything approaching their true potential is another question.
So how does this relate to being a hotdog? Going back to my friend, the thing that made him feel better, hopeful, ready to pursue healing and wholeness for another day, was in part our connection, sharing our stories, being weird together without shame. If in our homes, our communities, our churches and other places of worship, if on our bloody Facebook pages, we were allowed to be messy, in process and broken, and were loved anyway, don’t you think it would change some things? Wouldn’t it draw us together instead of leaving us feeling totally other? Wouldn’t it help us be better? And wouldn’t the collective effect of that carry over into the society we live in? If we were closer to our neighbors and could be vulnerable to them, mightn’t we need to own fewer assault rifles?
If this sounds too simple, trite or naive, I propose that you try it out in your own life and see what happens. I’m right there with you. What have we got to lose? Things don’t need to get much worse before our society unravels completely. What if that didn’t have to happen? What if it is up to you and me? I haven’t seen a lot of knights in shining armor lately. The hotdogs may be the ones to save the day.