“[Poetry] seemed like the best way to express some of the things that were going on for me.”
"I was sitting there...and I had this realization that I wanted to go home."
"There's a reasonably small number of ways that a human being reacts to trauma."
"That path has led me all the way back to where I began with God—deeply held, filled with gratitude, devotion, love."
"I have the power inside me that I can trust myself, that I can forgive, be vulnerable, open, joyous, have gratitude, and surrender."
"After recovering these memories, and even a little bit before, I would experience moments of catatonia...the inability to even move."
"Scared elusive child floating, floating. Come, that I might hold you. Sadness envelopes me at the sight of your pain."
"Reliving the violation again, and again, and again, magnified by 25 years of denial, a quarter century of pain."
"Unable to cope, I turn the poison outwards and destroy that which is most precious."
"I would have attraction, and then the closer I would get, the more I would have aversion, fear, disgust, shame, confusion."
"I should feel love, but I don't. I should feel warmth, but I don't. I should feel close, but I'm lightyears away."
"And I always knew there was a different way to be that I wanted to be, but I couldn't be that."
"I just remember feeling so at peace, so connected to nature, the ocean, the sky, the trees...just the feeling of universal oneness."
"I lost that feeling of connectedness with something greater, which just sort of intensified the loneliness and isolation."
"The corners of the box are shame, fear, judgment, and powerlessness...all of the experience that I had took place within this box."
"I was lying on a table and he was touching my neck...and all of the sudden I just started to have images come into my mind."
"I want to scream, scream out, 'Don't touch me, don't touch me.' But I am weak, powerless. My voice is mute against your strength."
Today, Andrew serves as the medical director of a hospice care facility in Ottawa. His profound compassion is, almost literally, palpable. It is also memorialized in the numerous obituaries in which loved ones of deceased hospice patients specifically thank Dr. Andrew Mai for the care he bestowed on their dying relative.
Where was that profound compassion born?
Before the age of 29, had you asked Andrew if he had been sexually abused, he would have said no. But there always had been strong emotional clues. In his 30’s, the clues adhered into memories of sexual abuse.
Those memories rocked Andrew, but they also began to make sense of lifelong patterns – scripts – that had ruled his life. The near-constant feeling of shame; “people who are trying to get close to me are just trying to hurt me;” “I’m worthless;” “I am not deserving of compassion or respect;” “there is danger, everywhere.”
“These were the lenses through which I viewed the world, made my choices.”
There were years of work, “shoveling through mountains of grief, day after day.”
Andrew kept shoveling. He poured his pain and grief into his poems, and he committed himself to a serious practice of meditation, something that he continues to this day. That commitment has yielded a clarity that manifests itself in simple statements of crystalline meaning. And it has yielded transformation, as in this closing stanza of one of Andrew’s poems:
light over darkness,
love over pain,
necessity over fear
life over death
each moment present, complete and whole.
each moment lived in love,
each moment a moment of joy and discovery.
each moment …a wondrous instant to be lived and shared.
and I am blessed to be on this path.