Gratitude List 1418

(1) Slept in till nearly seven in the morning – a good night’s sleep.

(2) Am at the Courtyard Cafe getting the free Pikes Peak coffee.  The brew is especially robust this morning, and I’m on my second cup.

(3) This new Topanga 21-speed mountain bike is great!  It’s wonderful that my friend helped me get it, with lock, pump and helmet too.  Did 7 miles on it the first morning.

topanga-1

(4) After a substantial bout of hibernation, I am up to face the day.  I’m a member of the community here.  As such, I am accepted.

(5) I like this version of Jack Straw that I’m listening to now.  Interesting how Google comes up with great things for me to watch on YouTube.  

(6) Just heard from Tracy the editor of Spokane Faith & Values.  She was asking again about my homelessness story pertinent to the city of Spokane, and I again had to ask her if she’d received my story on social media and pleasure-seeking.  She apparently had not, so I was able to resend it.  Hopefully it will be published soon.

(7) A third cup of great-tasting coffee, like Starbucks medium roast.  Very nice, as well as free of charge.

(8) I gave myself a three-day rest from all my usual companions and activities, and am now rested up, and eager to present myself among them once again.

(9) Not wanting to further ride the bike just yet, it feels right to be bundled up and walking briskly through the 36F degree weather.  Thankful for the free time for vigorous exercise.   

(10) God is Good.

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I Will Pour Out My Spirit

“Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

  — Joel 2:21-28 ESV

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Seven)

This is the final post of a seven-part series.   Though it will make more sense if you read all six of the previous posts in the series, I won’t be so demanding as to insist upon it.  My hope is that it will stand on its own, enough to secure your interest.  I don’t differ from many other writers, in this regard.

My knees got hit pretty badly by the pavement on which I had slammed them down.  They would be swollen the next day.  But I did not care.   When I stood up from the prayer I had screamed, something was different.  There was an eerie calm about my spirit that suggested a newfound confidence.   I had never prayed a prayer like that before.

St. Paul wrote: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  — (Philippians 4:8-9)

Nobody is an atheist in a foxhole.  I prayed more prayers in the trenches of homelessness than I had prayed at any more respectably churchgoing phase in m life.  But I had never felt a sense of peace engulf me as it did when I stood up from that prayer.   For the first time in twelve years, I had cast aside the sting of stigma, of all the things that people supposed my homeless experience to entail, and prayed directly that I would be granted a home.

It wasn’t long after that I remembered an old associate of mine.   It crossed my mind that a certain music teacher I’d worked with in the past had offered to get me a one-way ticket to anywhere I thought I could start a new life.   I remember being somewhat perplexed when he added: “I’m not trying to get rid of you, by the way.”  (This obviously planted the thought in my head that he was in fact trying to get rid of me.)

Whatever the case, we met to discuss the matter.  He told me he was no longer teaching, but had received a large retirement.  So he reiterated his offer, suggesting he fly me to Belize.  That was a bit far away for me.   

So I told him I would start googling keywords designed to land me in a part of the United States where I thought I would flourish.   I began to google things like “college town,” “small town,” “affordable rent,” and “low crime rate.”  I also threw in demographics tailored to my tastes, for I tend to thrive in the colder temperatures.    It wasn’t too long before the city “Moscow, Idaho” began to surface.

“This is bizarre!” I told myself.   “I was born in Moscow Idaho — but I only lived here for the first year of my life.   I know nothing about this place, except for that my dad was teaching ROTC at some college, and that he was transferred to San Diego or Long Beach shortly after I was born.”

As the city of Moscow began to work its way further up toward the front page, I took my leap of faith. 

“Why is it that I have never even pondered this town?  Nor wished to return to it?   One think I’d have been curious.  But I wasn’t — until now.”  

On a hunch, I looked on Craigslist for a room.   I saw a studio room with a kitchenette in a converted residence hotel now called the “Friendship Apartments.”  To my astonishment, the room rented for only $275 a month.

I sent pictures to my friend.  “How much do you think this rents for?” I asked.

“Oh – I don’t know.  Maybe $900?”

“Try $275.”

“We’re on!” he shouted.

Shortly later, he was buying me a $200 one-way ticket at the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.  Forty-eight hours later, on July 27, 2016, exactly ten days after I had prayed that unprecedented prayer, I was sleeping indoors in a place of my choosing.

I have been sleeping indoors, in places of my own choosing, ever since.  Twelve years of degrading, debilitating, demeaning, undignifying, dehumanizing homelessness was ended that simply.   It was as easy as that.

I had only asked for “a lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  But God gave me much more than that.   God answered all the prayers I had asked in frustration why I had to continue to be surrounding by thieves and hookers and pimps and hustlers and drug dealers, and why was I not surrounded by Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors and people more like myself.

I walked through the city gate of the town of my birth, the place where (according to my late sister) I had lived for only fifteen months.   This is the gate that I found:

heart of the arts

This is why I related earlier that all the prayers I prayed in total outrage and frustration were answered by the God Who Is Love.   If that Love can cut through hatred as thick and vicious as mine, I believe it can cut through all the hatred in the world.

Let’s hope.   There is always danger on this earth.   I have been in danger of many things since I’ve lived indoors — danger of a different nature than one finds when one lives outside.  But there is one place where there is no danger, and one home that is eternal.

“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make you free.”   — Jesus Christ

THE END 

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Tuesday Tuneup 72

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Re-integration.

Q. Had you been disintegrated?

A. Yes.  Flat out discombobulated.

Q. How would you describe this state of discombobulation?

A. It was beyond mere confusion or befuddlement.  I felt as though I were living in two different worlds at once.  

Q. Only two?

A. Perhaps more than two.  But two that I was aware of.

Q. Can you describe those worlds for me?

A. I’ll do my best.  In one world, there was a woman.   A young woman, with whom I have been endeared.  

Q. Romantically?

A. No.  More like fatherly.   Someone who has a beautiful spirit, but is uncultured in manner.  I felt drawn to her, not unlike Henry Higgins in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw–the play memorialized in the musical My Fair Lady.  

My Fair Lady

Q. By Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe?

A. Very good!  And she resembled Eliza Doolittle.  I therefore wished to take her into my home, and educate her.

Q. Are you certain that was your only motive?

A. Not at all.  And therein lies the second world.

Q. Can you describe the second world?

A. Full of desires for immediate gratification of base impulses.   No longer concerned with being a father-figure or an educator.   But rather drawn away by — 

Q. By lust?

A. You said it.  

Q. So how did you deal with this sudden outburst of youthful feeling?

A. I wrote in my diary.  I sent an email to the Associate Pastor.  Then I turned off the phone, so it would more difficult to keep texting her.   And I closed off our series of texts with a courteous goodbye, indicating that I might see her on the next day.

Q. Will you?

A. Perhaps not.  Something tells me to steer clear of her.

Q. What are you afraid of?

A. Myself.

Q. Aren’t you old enough to know better?

A. Yes.  But that doesn’t mean I might not fall.

Q. What does all this mean?

A. Probably that I’ve been in a certain measure of denial.  I like to think I need my space.  And I am grateful for my solitude.  But that gratitude seems to be restricted to a certain interval between about 3 and 7 in the morning, where I sit here alone, and reflect, and write.   At all other times, I avoid my apartment completely.  I hate to feel that rush of loneliness that comes upon me whenever I walk through the door.   

Q. What are you to do about this?

A. Nothing.  What can I do?   I can’t tell myself I will be alone forever.  Nor can I control who is going to cross my path.  I guess I’ll just wait.  And pray.

Q. Isn’t that a bit passive?

A. Would you rather I be aggressive?

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1413

This week’s gratitude list is from yesterday morning.

1. Only slept 4 1/2 hrs btw 10 & 2:30, but I’m truly thankful to be up during the ‘absolutely quiet hours.’  I always reflect better, and also get better writing accomplished, during these early morning hours. 

2. Though I hadn’t run for quite some time, the ease with which I ran the full 4 mile course yesterday was startling. I also did 22 pushups afterwards (10 before the shower and 12 after).

3. The morning run helped me to relax and keep the Sabbath afterwards. Somehow, that kind of running helps me to be okay with being alone. 

4. My daughter and I talked at length. I always hear everything she says, despite that I am not a very good listener in other contexts. It is good to know of her situations, as they become my prayer concerns. 

5. Continuing to tidy up the house is getting me to remember that a lot of my alleged severe ADHD is resolved when I know where everything is.

6. Heard from my friend Nick from California on his work break. Hadn’t talked to him for a while and really enjoyed the conversation.

7. After that, I meditated for twenty minutes. I’m researching it, and starting to get more out of it. It’s a practice.

8. Community Action calculated my benefit to be $297 and paid that amount to the utility company.  This is great, especially since I’d only requested $99 (my current bill for two months in the Winter). Looks like I’m covered for a while.

9. Realized on reflection, I need to hold off on the column about homelessness for Spokane Faith & Values a while longer. I don’t mind expressing my opinion as long as it’s a genuine conviction. But there’s something on the last page of the 5th Draft that isn’t quite right. Tracy said she’d hold off. In the meantime, best I turn in one of my other stories.  Grateful I realized this, as I’d have stuck my foot in my mouth.  

10. God is Good.

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Six)

If you’re new to my blog, “Dangers of Liberation” is a seven-part series that I began several Thursdays ago.  The previous posts are on consecutive Thursdays, with a one week break after Part Four.  

The extent to which my mother symbolized the Mainstream cannot be underestimated.  In fact, the only way I was ever able to achieve independence from the Mainstream was to achieve independence from my mother.   I did not do so until long after she died.

A mother’s love is not always unconditional.   My mother loved me to the extreme, under one condition: that I remain emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her.  She gave me everything a mother could possibly have given me, except for the one thing I eventually needed most — my independence.

As the first-born son of her four children, I was never able to come into my true identity as long as my mother was alive.  I was always her “little boy.”   Though she loved all her children immensely, she favored me among the four.  This favoring became more noticeable as she approached her death at the age of 89.  At family gatherings, she practically forgot that any of her other children were there.

After she died, my oldest sister and a close friend informed me that Mom had been “manipulating” me.  Throughout my life, she affected my decision-making in such a way that was designed to keep me out of trouble.  In so doing, she kept me locked into the box of the Mainstream.  I stayed out of trouble, but I lacked personal freedom.

It was almost like an indoctrination, the way my decisions were manipulated by her will.  My own will became a passive extension of hers.   Though I thought I was making my own choices, they were always the choices that Mom would have approved of.  I never realized that she had been doing the deciding for me.

This dependency grew worse and worse as I began to become more successful. Though I hadn’t actually lived with her since my thirties, I relied on her well into my late forties.  I called her five times a day, sometimes only to ask: “What do I do now?”  At that, she would laugh and make a suggestion.  Without questioning it, I would unhesitantly follow her suggestion.   It was as though I didn’t have a mind of my own — only somehow, I did  not know it.  

My mother died when I was fifty.  By that time, I had ascended to heights of success in the form of society that I call the Mainstream.  I was renting a luxurious room in a large mansion owned by one of many wealthy people for whom I was working. Though I rarely had to work more than twenty hours a week, I was nonetheless making $50,000 a year as a church musician, a music teacher at a private school, and a personal piano and voice teacher.  download

From the moment she died on October 9, 2003, till the moment I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, it was a downward plunge.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my psychiatrist had changed my anti-anxiety medication from Gabapentin to Klonopin on the morning of the day she was to die.  She then died in the afternoon, and I proceeded to have a first-time manic episode.  In a little over seven months, I lost all my jobs, my car, my living situation, and every penny of the $13,000 I had in the bank.

The moment she died, aided by the suppressive power of 6mg of Klonopin, I instantly blocked out every mental image of my mother.  I also immediately forgot every conversation she and I had ever had.  No longer able to call her five times a day, nor able to imagine how she might have directed me, I dispersed my many questions among my various associates.  I began to ask just about everybody, including total strangers, what I should do next.  Then, unquestioningly, I did what they suggested.  It is no wonder I lost my jobs!

My ability to perform in the Mainstream was entirely dependent upon my ability to interact with my mother.   The extent to which she valued personal security over personal freedom had left its mark.  But by the time I became homeless, I was thrust into a kind of liberation from all the icons of stability that the Mainstream had displayed.  But my liberation was tainted, because it lacked an internal association with my true identity.  My identity instead became further squashed and suppressed during twelve years of undignifying, degrading, demeaning homelessness.

So when was I actually liberated from the Mainstream?   It happened the moment I rose up from the prayer that I quoted in the previous entry.  At approximately midnight of an unknown date in July 2016, I fervently appealed to the Universe to put an end to twelve years of homelessness.  I made that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ.  When I rose up from my knees, I sensed something was very different.   I didn’t know it yet — but I was free at last.

Exactly how free, I will divulge in the seventh and final post of this series.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 71

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Uncertainty.

Q. Uncertainty about what?

A. About whether I ought to contact a group of theologians.

Q. Theologians?

A. University professors interested in theology.

Q. Why would you want to contact them?

A. To vindicate myself.

Q. Were you falsely accused?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. What was their accusation?

A. That I did not make any sense.

Q. When?

A. When I expressed my personal theological conjecture.

Q. Which is?

A. I call it “The Clone Theory of Creation.”

Q. What’s that?

A. Hard to express.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have told me I wasn’t making sense.

Q. Give it a try?

A. That’s why I’m here.

The Answerer clears his throat.

download

A. Simply stated, the Clone Theory of Creation intends to demonstrate a parallel between the creation of life by God and the scientific replication of life that occurs during genetic cloning.

Q. What inspired this theory?

A. Genesis 1:26.   “Let us make Man in Our Image.”

Q. You believe that when God made Man in Their Image, it was like scientists cloning a human embryo, and thus creating a replicate in the image of the embryo?

A. Exactly.

Q. Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?

A. One would think so at first.  However, I later found numerous Scriptures that appear to confirm the hypothesis.

Q. Why did the theologians think you weren’t making sense?

A. Probably because I wasn’t!   I’d never really tried to express the theory before, and when I did, I became extremely tongue-tied.  I must have rambled for five minutes, before the professor to my right put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Andy, I hate to break it to you, but nothing you’ve said in the past five minutes has made any sense at all.”

Q. What happened then?

A. I was embarrassed.  I felt my face turn beet red.  And I told them so.

Q. Are you sure that not one of those professors thought you were making any sense?

A. Quite sure.  There was, however, a young man present — a student — who approached me afterwards.  He assured me that the theory had made sense to him.  But he also said something that discouraged me.

Q. What was that?

A. He said: “I followed your theory, and I thought you were making sense.  But in deference to your age, wisdom, and maturity, I would like to suggest that even you, Andy, know that your theory is OUT THERE.”

Q. How did you feel then?

A. Shot down.

Q. Why?

A. Probably because of my ego.  You see, at the previous such meeting of theologians, I felt that I was shining unusually brightly.   A respected professor emeritus of philosophy even expressed a desire to have lunch with me sometime — a man held in high regard, who had spent three years in India with the Maharishi, and wrote a book about Gandhi.  People seemed to admire me for my biblical knowledge, as well as my knowledge of denominational differences.

Q. How did you pick up your knowledge of denominational differences?

A. Probably by losing jobs as a piano player with just about every denomination on the planet.  But, despite looming loss of job, I always enjoyed soaking in the sermons, and comparing those of one denominational slant to that of another.   My history of failed church jobs reads like a class in “Comparative Christianity.”

Q. So you felt that you had really shone at the previous meeting?

A. Yes.

Q. Then what?

A. Then my ego told me I had an image to maintain!   So I went to the next meeting eager to sustain my positive image, in the eyes of the professors present.

Q. And?

A. Because of that egoistic expectation, I tried too hard to prove myself.  And in trying too hard, I failed.

Q. Is there a moral to this story?

A. There certainly is.

Q. And the moral is?

A. Ditch the ego, dude.  Just be yourself.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  I’d like to ask a question of you, and of my readers.

Q. What is the question?

A. Am I making any sense?

The Questioner is silent.  

All content © Andy Pope
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Gratitude List 1403

(1) A heartfelt prayer for God to change my heart in a certain situation was gradually answered as I knelt for the first time at the foot of the nice sofa someone gave me.  I want to say that I am also grateful for the sofa itself, the fresh cold air that seeps through my cracked window, the double blankets, and the sense of home that wraps around me, whilst I sleep.

(2) On the advice of a friend, I took a hot bath last night with Epsom salts.   Grateful that I have my own bathtub these days.  It’s even greater than having my own shower.  Gone are the days when I had to deal with scores of other dudes in public shower facilities.   Thank God for having finally granted me a living space with dignity, where I have had room to grow and to become closer to my whole, true self.

(3) My church.  They let me hang out there, play the piano, chat with the employees, and even take naps in the study sometimes or cook food in the kitchen.  They’e such a non-judgmental, accepting, tolerant bunch of people.

(4) My daughter.  How many dads can claim that their 34-year-old daughter calls them every single day?

(5) This tiny little out-of-the-way village where I live.  Here, people respect Artists and value the Arts.  I got a lot more than I asked for, when I asked God to get me out of all those years of homelessness.  After all, I had only asked for “a lock on the door, a window, and a power outlet.”  He gave me so much more than that.   He gave me an entire community of like-minded people — a city I can call my home.  

(6) Though I still don’t have a lot of the things that would make my life more comfortable, focusing on what I do have always lifts me up.

(7) Though a setback at the beginning of the month has left its mark, I somehow know that if I do the right things, everything will be all right.

(8) Though it is horrible to see people who are quite lovely in real life acting like asses on Facebook, I am thankful for the counterexample.  Now I know how not to behave, and I look forward to treating those with whom I disagree with courtesy and dignity.

(9) Critical voices from the past — Anti-Art voices who think of Music as something to be bought and sold like used cars, rather than an expression of the Divine — are beginning to lower their volume.

(10) God is Love.

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The Writing on the Wall

At that moment the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face grew pale and his thoughts so alarmed him that his hips gave way and his knees knocked together.

The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers, and diviners to be brought in, and he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and tells me its interpretation will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

So all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or interpret it for him. Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face grew even more pale, and his nobles were bewildered.

Hearing the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen entered the banquet hall. “O king, may you live forever!” she said. “Do not let your thoughts terrify you, or your face grow pale. There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your father he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like that of the gods.

Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners. Your own father, the king, did this because Daniel, the one he named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, as well as knowledge, understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Summon Daniel, therefore, and he will give you the interpretation.”

So Daniel was brought before the king, who asked him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom.

Now the wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this inscription and interpret it for me, but they could not give its interpretation. But I have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

In response, Daniel said to the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the inscription for the king and interpret it for him. As for you, O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness, glory and honor. Because of the greatness that He bestowed on him, the people of every nation and language trembled in fear before him. He killed whom he wished and kept alive whom he wished; he exalted whom he wished and humbled whom he wished.

But when his heart became arrogant and his spirit was hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven away from mankind, and his mind was like that of a beast. He lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like an ox, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of mankind, and He sets over it whom He wishes.

But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you drank wine from them with your nobles, wives, and concubines, you praised your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you have failed to glorify the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways.

–Daniel 5:5-23

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For Someone?

Starting up the blog again, I’m trying to get a piano piece to you guys and going through the more-than-usual frustrations.   All I can say is, all of these new-fangled devices AKA smartphones are for the birds.   I wish it were 1975, I wish there were a Teac 3340-S and a rotary telephone.  Not to mention an Underwood manual typewriter.   All this modern-day technology can go take a hike.

That ranted, I’ll be with you at some point between now and tomorrow morning, even if I have to re-record my version of Lennon-McCartney’s “For No One.”   Sure turned out good except for the hands are chopped off, and it mysteriously ends about five measures before it really ends.

Maybe I should marry a techo-nerd and take the load off.   In fact, a nerd from Canada would be a good idea.  (A redhead, preferably.) I’m close enough to the border anyway, I hear there’s a nice community of Vietnam draft-dodgers still extant in Nelson, and recent events are givin’ me a hankerin’ to Trump-dodge, if you get my meaning.

On a brighter note, Mitch Romney, you ROCK.   Let’s hope my “For No One” is “For Some One” very soon.   Andy OUT.

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Five)

For the sake of new followers I gained shortly before my hiatus, I’ve been thinking to reiterate some themes that are essential to this blog.  But for the sake of my longtime readers, I want to be careful.   In approaching the tail end of the “Dangers of Liberation” series, I wish not to fall prey to repeat information.   I’ve told my story so many times, in so many ways — from so many different angles — that I fear losing some of those who have followed me regularly.   Hopefully, after the last three Thursday posts in this series, my fears will have proven unwarranted.

A particular sound often heard is that I ought to get over the homeless topic and resume writing on other themes about which I am passionate.   This kind of sound does resonate with me.   But I also need to fulfill something I started here.   Hopefully I can impress upon my more longstanding followers that this is not exactly “repeat information,” but the announcement or heralding of something completely new.

After all, isn’t this the essence of liberation?   It is the opposite of being locked into any kind of box.   So what exactly happened after the cacophony of disturbing, disparate events described in the previous post?   How did I get from a place of hurling vindictive curses at the Almighty, to a position of recognizing that He had responded to those prayers, despite my curse?

I mentioned that on June 24, 2016, I walked quietly out of the City of Berkeley without saying a word.   This was immediately after buying a refurbished computer at Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue after receiving an advance on my social security check.   Given that I was essentially a marked man, and that the sight of me with a full backpack would indicate to any one of a number of thugs and gang bangers that there was no doubt a laptop inside that backpack, one might think I’d have left Berkeley first, and bought the computer later.  After all, I had had four laptops stolen in Berkeley in the past four years, two of them the result of strong-armed robbery.

But the fact was, Bill had been working on an old Dell Latitude, and he was about to give me a much better deal than I’d have gotten from a complete stranger.   Moreover, I would need as much money as possible to start an entirely new life, outside of Berkeley.

Image result for dell latitude e6430

So, computer in tow, I headed for a small, out-of-the-way city called Burlingame, and for the all-night Royal Donuts shop, where I had some fair standing in the view of the nice Malaysian people who rolled doughnuts all night long, singing songs in their traditional fashion.  Though I was very eager to begin notating all the music I had “written in my head” while walking about the Berkeley city streets, I was also aware that I had practical matters to consider.  I needed to get some kind of roof over my head in a community where homeless services were few and far between.

Long story short, I found a shelter in a nearby city.   I recall the rules being fairly regimented.   For example, all shelter residents were required to attend daily meetings of either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.   I personally didn’t mind the meetings, because I have a reverence for the Twelve Steps and for that model of dealing with life’s difficulties.   But it was a red flag to find homelessness equated with drug addiction or alcoholism, as though those were the only reasons a person could have become homeless.   As one who was already painfully aware that most people in the San Francisco Bay Area were becoming homeless for socio-economic reasons entirely beyond their control, I found such stigma unsettling.

But there were some perks to being in the shelter.  I began working with a caseworker who rightly determined that the best thing for me would be to move to an entirely new State.   Then, as we began to work on this, I caught the flu.   Clearly, I had caught the flu from other residents in the male barracks who were coughing and sneezing throughout the night.  But the “mistake” I made was to let them know that I had the flu.  I went to the hospital, and came back with medical information.   When the people running the shelter learned of my medical diagnosis, their response was to kick me out of the shelter, lest I contaminate the other residents.

Something about this didn’t seem quite right.   For one thing, my immune system is such that I had only caught a flu twice in the past fifteen years, even though I had lived outdoors throughout most of that period of time.   That I had clearly caught the flu in the very shelter from which I was being expelled was obvious.

So I returned to the hospital in hopes of their letting me stay there.  But their reply was that they couldn’t make a special exemption for me being homeless, otherwise they would have to make exceptions for all homeless people, and the hospital would become overcrowded.  Standard procedure was to write “rest in bed for ten days” on the release form.  Of course, I did not have a bed.  But I couldn’t be made an exception — not in a part of the world where there are thousands of visible homeless people, night after night, lacking beds.

Next I tried the all-night bus that would run from Daly City to Palo Alto repeatedly.  This bus was a haven for sleeping homeless people who had nowhere else to go.  But when the homeless people saw me shivering and heard me sneezing, they too became concerned for their health.   The upshot was that the bus driver kicked me off of the bus, and I had now had literally no options but to suffer a flu of some 100+ degrees with no place to lay my head, except for outdoors in the elements.

It was then that I got on my knees.  Somehow, after twelve years of homelessness and borderline homelessness, it was catching a flu and being denied an indoor bed to rest in and to recuperate, due to no factor other than homelessness, that finally got to me.

I will never forget the exact words to the prayer that I prayed.   Just after midnight on  July 17, 2016,  I hit my knees so hard on the pavement outside of the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, California, I compounded illness with injury in order to scream these words:

God!!
If there is Anybody out there,
I don’t care Who you are,
or what your Name is,
if you can feel me,
where I’m coming from, please —
I do not care about drug addiction
or alcoholism,
or mental illness,
or being a lazy bum
or a slacker or a slouch –
I care about Homelessness!
Please put an END
to twelve years of totally unpredictable,
totally unreliable,
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN,
ANYTIME ANYWHERE
HOMELESSNESS!!!
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray –
AMEN!!!!

One might argue the theological validity of a prayer worded in such a haphazard fashion – or even its internal logical consistency, for that matter.  Such discussions would be another story altogether.  What is critical here, from the standpoint of Homeless Rights Activism, is that it was the first time I had actually offered the heavens a petition with respect to homelessness itself, and not to all these other stigmatic things that are so often attached to that label.

Mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction and laziness are not identical to homelessness.   But, much as I despised the stigma that was often thrown my way — even to the insistence that, as a homeless person, I needed to attend A.A. or N.A. meetings in order to sustain residence in a shelter — I myself suffered from the same stigmatic assaults on my identity.   My true identity, as the sociologist Erving Goffman framed it, was “spoiled” by perceptions people have toward the homeless.

Stigma Quotes. QuotesGram

Had this not been the case, I’d have certainly found within me the power or presence of mind to have prayed such a prayer long ago.   In fact, the practical wisdom of leaving the State of California and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular had been offered me by friends whom I knew from the Internet as early as 2004 — when I was first becoming homeless.   But I did not have the ears to listen.

I did not have the ears to hear the fullness of the fact that my problem — far and away more serious than any of its associated labels — was homelessness.   I had basically bought into all the very lies that I disdained.

That, above all things, is what kept me homeless for all those years.  I saw the contradictory nature of what it was assumed I must be.   I saw the ridiculous horrors of myself and others being treated as criminals, our true stories disbelieved by authority figures.  I felt the frustration we all felt when having to face such demeaning treatment.   But still, I hung on to the false notion that there must have been something about me that was innately flawed in such a way that I would never warrant a normal, self-respecting living situation such as even thieves and criminals are able to secure in our society.  I never fully allowed the truth about homelessness to enter my heart.

Why not?

The short, simple answer would be low self esteem.  That, combined with a certain measure of social indoctrination.  When one hears something about oneself repeatedly, by people who appear to be in authority, one eventually begins to believe it.

But there’s a deeper answer than this.   The dynamic of believing what one is told about oneself is most common when one is a child.   In such a case, the looming figures of authority are one’s parents.   Though my father had been dead since 1985, and my mother more recently deceased, they still remained the original authorities, exerting their influence upon me even as they tried to steer me away from dangerous behavior.

My mother died on October 9, 2003.   That morning, I had beseeched Kaiser Redwood City to put me back on a medication called Klonopin, being as the past three years under the medication Gabapentin had been extremely challenging for me.    While it is true that the combination of the med switch and my mother’s death triggered what psychiatry calls a “first time manic episode,” and it is true that I lost a $50,000 annual income, a home, a car, and all my professional accounts in the process, there is a deeper truth at work here.

The full extent to which my relationship with my mother ensured on a daily basis the type of sanity I needed to function in the workaday world of the Mainstream was something I was not to grasp until years later.   Essentially, hearing of her death so soon after many of my senses were being dulled by 6mg/day of a powerful sedative — the highest legal dosage at the time — resulted in my blocking out the feeling of every interaction I had ever known with the person with whom I was undoubtedly the closest.

Like the motherless child whom I was, I then began to seek her guidance and comfort through the many disparate, detached figures of authority whom I soon found in the vast cosmic orphanage that is Homelessness.   The horrible degree to which her nurturing love was cloned by the callous manipulations of an impassive band of power-hungry scoundrels was something I would have to face fully, were I ever to come to know the true identity of my actual enemy in life.

The manner in which my mother represented the Mainstream needed to be understood and embraced in completion, if I were ever to succeed in crafting a life free of her restrictions, and full of the independent identity that is mine and mine alone.

It will take me two more posts to drive the point home.

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