Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Difficult Post

This is not a happy post. This was hard. Don't read if you only like my silly, happy posts.

Several times yesterday, I tried to put my feelings about NM down in writing. There is just too much there. It is like a long lost lover who has betrayed you. There are just too many emotions to put voice to them all. I think on the good things. I remember the joy and the fun and the beauty – that is what I usually write about. Living in Red River as a child was wonderful. As a teen-ager it was a bit more difficult. As an adult raising my own kids it was a whole new ballgame. Here is an analogy of life in NNM: It was like being in love with a handsome, charming, fun loving man – on the surface all was great. In reality that lover drank, did drugs, cheated on me, couldn’t make a living, had lots of animosity, was harsh and abusive, but the worst was what he was doing to my children. He was teaching my children that these things were a normal way of life. Although I loved the mountains and my home and friends there, my children came first. I needed to show them that there was something better. Some people would say that raising your children in such an environment as NNM would make them strong. Maybe so, or maybe it would destroy them too. I would rather make them strong somewhere in safety and security. When they are grown and strong, they can make the decision as to where they want to live and how they want their life.

When I talk about NM, I am talking about Northern NM – not a city, but a rural area, sparsely populated. And I am not talking about the rest of NM. I have mentioned dancing in the bars and having a great time. But the alcoholism in NNM is way out of proportion to its population. It is a big problem. When we lived there, Taos County had the highest alcohol related deaths in the country per capita. Off the top of my head I can name three young people who died in stupid, drinking and driving accidents while we lived there – that is a lot more personal than reading about it on the news. Drinking has become such a part of the culture, no one thinks anything of it.

In my teen-age years, the drinking moved on into drugs. Marijuana was the beginning. It was at all of the parties. No one thought much of it – whom did it hurt – that was the attitude. Then those same friends, who occasionally smoked a little pot, moved on into cocaine. Who did it really hurt? Well, I can name several families that it destroyed. Keep in mind that I am not talking about a big city, but a small town of about 300 people. With the popularity of cocaine, came the hard core druggies - people who move into your town and didn’t care who they dealt to – children were targets. I can name kids that the drugs nearly destroyed.

If you are saying, but Lou, drugs are everywhere. No, it is much more than that. It is a way of life to some of these people. I can give you example after example of young people who thought it was normal for your dad to be a drug dealer or for your dad to shoot someone in a drunken brawl.

People come to the mountains thinking there is no crime rate, life is perfect; all of the problems will go away. I have not even mentioned the animosity between the cultures or the poverty or the difficulties in making a living, and I did not mention the gang problems in the schools. Nor did I mention the divorce rate in Red River. It is difficult for me to go on with this without hurting so bad or becoming so angry. I could go on and on with real life examples of the harshness of life in NNM. I will leave you with three articles: one in 2000, one in 2005 on heroin. The last article – well, I know many of the people listed there – my friends, my coworkers, etc. God, I am so mad at them. I loved NNM. I wanted it to be as perfect as it seemes.

My life here in OK is peace and joy. My kids are great, and they are happy. Most important, they are alive and strong. Would I ever move back to NNM? I don't know. I am still so hurt.

Here is a change of subject - two watercolors that I did a few years ago.


Buck said...

You paint a dark picture of northern New Mexico, indeed. I suppose I would, as well, if I had the same sorts of experience and knowledge... personal knowledge... as you, Lou.

I'm somewhat surprised you didn't mention the schools, aside from gangs and drugs. It seems (to me) that NM's schools are among the worst in the country and that reason alone would be sufficient cause for me to move elsewhere, were I still in the parenting phase of life.

The two paintings you posted are wonderful counterpoints to the dark tone of the rest of the post. Thanks for that.

inpassing said...

Some memories are sure bitter-sweet. As for "Egypt", it's always best left in our rear-view mirror. Don't look back...just press on. The call is "upward".

Sure am glad for the "calling out" and the "gathering", aren't you? Look what happened when the Lord brought two families to Smalltown, America.

Love you...keep pressing on. It's those who remain!!

Knit and fall back in it said...

Seems there is always something lurking in the shadows, waiting to destroy our innocence, doesn't it?

Mezzo SF said...

Those are deep hurts, Lou. I cannot even imagine going through some of those experiences.
Praising God, though, that you & your family have made some tough decisions, but ones that have allowed you all to grow and flourish in peace and love.

Bag Blog said...

Buck, I thought if I got going on the schools, I would go into an even bigger rant. With the poor quality of education and the gangs, public schools are the pits. I also didn't go into the animosity of the Hispanics/Indians who would rather the gringos go home. Once again, it was too much to explain how you can love the people and their culture and they can love you, but there are some nasty undercurrents.

Thanks, Inpassing, our Grand Girls are a great reason to be here.

Knit, being aware of the dangers is wise.

Mezzo, My life in NM was good, but seeing friends and young people fall by the wayside was hard. Watching people you love refuse to change...well, we moved on.

Dawn said...

Good share. I'm one who can relate to your post Lou, but thankful we were some who were able to move on!
I love the paintings, you did a lovely job!

Inquiries said...

Yes I have seen many of the dark parts of NNM first hand. People seem to just do whatever they want and let their kids do whatever they want.

Great paintings.

Jenn said...

I have never been there and it doesn't sound like a place I would want to raise my kids either! I too got divorced and moved far away from my old life I think kids do better when their parents are happy even if that means not together. I love your paintings, do you sell them ?

Bag Blog said...

Hi Jenn, I got you confused with Jenny from Portales, but welcome to my blog. Yes, I do sell my paintings. I have some of them posted at "Lou's art shop" on the sidebar of my blog. In the past I have done a painting a week (small 4x6) and given them out as Christmas cards to my blogger friends - so stick around.

Becky said...

Very touching post, Lou.

I love the paintings. They are beautiful.

Jenny said...

I'm sorry your teen years in NM were so hard. I hope our small school here doesn't turn out that way (I'll either homeschool or sell the farm and move to Texas).

We go to NNM at least once a year. We camp in Mora. Inlaws own some land up there. When we go, we pretty much stay in our camp and only venture to town if we really need something. Scenery is nice, but we keep to ourselves.

Towanda said...

Lou, oh Lou. You were right, your post was very hard to read, so I can only imagine the pain you suffered writing it.

First of all, it was hard for me personally. As a new resident of New Mexico, I want it to be perfect here too.

And because I was the one who asked you yesterday if you didn't want to move back here someday.... I had no idea what I was asking you and wish I had kept my big mouth shut for once.

I know you don't want us to say this stuff happens everywhere, so I won't. But I ask you to be aware that many of us could tell stories very similar to yours..from all over this country. It is my opinion that this is a problem of our social fabric in this country, not just NNM.

Lastly, I am committed to this state. I have loved it for many years, really nearly all my adult life. Maybe I am going into it with rose-colored glasses, I don't know. But I know I have longed to live here for years, I know a lot already about the cultural problems, the social problems and I am going to be happy here despite it. In fact my goal in coming here is to make a difference in my life and the lives of the people I encounter.

Maybe you think I am naive and I will get my heart broken too. Maybe you are right. We cannot see the future; I can only make my present here as good as I can.

And I pray the demons in your heart that continue to cause you such great pain over this will leave you the hell alone. You have suffered enough, I daresay.

Your friend,

The Friendly Neighborhood Piper said...

I'm...WE...are certainly glad you all made your exodus! Our lives would be short changed significantly without you all. Each one of you is a valuable treasure to us and we are thankful, very thankful you are here.

Bag Blog said...

Sharon, I am sure you will love NM. You don't have kids in public school, you probably won't have anything to do with the drug/alcohol parties, and unless you get involved in politics you probably won't feel much of the animosity towards gringos.

There is so much good about NM, I am sure you will love it.

Trailboss said...

I love your paintings. Watercolor is just about my favorite type. Sorry to hear of your difficulties but it sounds like you and the kids are doing well now. It does take strength to parent these days.

Nice to meet you.

Jo Castillo said...

The drug problems in northern NM and other areas are very serious and harmful. It hits as close to home as a nephew in our family being killed and others with problems.

I know from experience the animosity works both/all ways, gringo or not. I think drugs harm and are a problem regardless of your income or ethnicity. I think people with money hide it easier, get help, get out of jail, etc. Poverty makes it harder to climb out of the hole and is more visible in small poor communities all over, not just NM.

I'm happy your family is in a better place. I'm so happy to "be acquainted" with you, if only by the internet. I might not have met you in NM.

I enjoy your blog and have so much fun reading about your life. :)

I love both of these paintings.