Gratitude List 1561

(1) Ran 4 miles on Thursday, did 21 push-ups that night (in two sets) and rode 18 miles on the bike out to WSU and back yesterday. I noticed a visible decrease in size on my Aloha video. Lately I’ve been succeeding both in exercising more and in eating less. The latter is very important, as one endeavors to become lighter in every way.

(2) The first two rehearsals of the summer musical workshop went very well. The second one was especially encouraging, involving all the men and Keva. The increase in advance preparation is benefitting us all, and I find that finally I am “in my element” as a vocal director for a musical play.

(3) I very much enjoyed the second regular meeting with Dr. Gier on Wednesday. He’s intelligent, perceptive, and supportive. I like his columns too, as the Palouse Pundit. He’ll also be attending a Thursday evening theology group along with myself and Kurt Q as well, on the subject of critical race theory. I’m honored to be asked to attend these events, where I always learn a great deal.

(4) Music I composed “in my head” in Berkeley is beginning to resurface, and often affix itself to more recently conceived themes. There may be a renaissance of such themes on my new piano videos – beginning with the Aloha to be honest — and proceeding to emerging themes that bear enhanced investigation. I also find myself exercising more creative writing skills, a welcome release from journalism.

(5) It’s 85F degrees even at nearly six in the evening. I may take a stroll in the cool of the evening, say around ten at night. But till then I am grateful to have a nice cool place of my own. That’s not always been the case — and I’m no stranger to the heat.

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Gratitude List 1642

(1) Yesterday three new musicians joined the team.  Now we have all five members of the band that can accompany the whole show.  This will be better than the fully interactive accompaniment envisioned earlier.  Richard the bass player has been learning the music already, and practicing with me.  These three new players, all musicians he currently performs with in various bands, will fill out the sound we need.

(2) I’ve been absorbed in making sure that instrumental parts were handed out to the three new musicians who just joined up yesterday.  So I haven’t surfaced till now, but am very grateful to have finally gotten all this stuff done — having done nothing else all day long.  

(3) Beautiful snowy weather in which I don’t mind exercising, when the spirit is right.  Recently however I’ve found more reasons to stay inside than to venture outdoors.  Grateful for shelter from Winter weather.

(4) My recent article published in Faith and Values has been shared 193 times and viewed over a thousand times:

Capture

(5) Meeting with Tom and Vanessa tomorrow, who are playing the parts of the father and mother in the Audio Show.   Then I should be ready with the lines.  The whole project is expanding.   I’m pretty grateful.  

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Gratitude List 1568

(1) Made it to my new doctor for the first time this morning.   He’s knowledgeable and respectful, which is what I was after.   Had all the lab work done, and was diagnosed with “nausea.”  (Unsurprising, considering all that’s going on in the world today.) 

(2) Got up a little early today – 3 am instead of the usual 4:30.   This enabled me to get more work done on the arrangement of the third number in my musical.   It’s coming along.    I’ll post it (along with the lyrics) once I’ve gotten from A to Z with it.

(3) The running’s been better than ever lately.   Got weighed at the clinic, and I’ve lost 11 lbs since last time I was at a scale.   No need to provide the exact figure — let’s just say I’ve got 24 more pounds to go.

(4) Did all the wash.  It’s not only nice to have clean clothes, it has a way of motivating me to clean up the rest of the house while I’m at it.

(5) A young journalist who has a job with a certain newspaper is urging me to apply for one of a couple positions they have open — and I’m following through, so wish me luck.  I’m grateful for the positive impression I’ve managed to make on everyone I’ve met in journalism, and for the sense that out of all the times I’ve lived through in my relatively long life, these times are the most worth writing about.   

“Be as you wish to seem.  The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
— Socrates

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Gratitude List 1546

1. My voice is coming back now after a treacherous bout of laryngitis.  I’m especially thankful for this, especially as I have to sing a solo on our interactive presentation of my song “Ode to the Universe” from my musical Eden in Babylon. 
 
2.  The thunderstorm two days ago was a deterrent to exercise, but a brisk five mile walk yesterday beat most of the heavy wind and rain.   Great five miles to Staples & back to get a mouse, stopping only at the café for doppio.  Winds are only 5mph in light rain and I’m about to go on a run in the sunset.   Thankful–and somewhat amazed–that I can still do it.
 
3. Grateful to have finally landed on a definite plan on the presentation.  All I gotta do is stay on the even keel, and it will show consistency to the Kids — and they’ll come through.   Bowen is confidently turning in a great part, Maria emailed me to get together to practice in real-time, and I just heard from Richard, who want to jam at my house later in the week.   It’s not as though the Kids are not into it.  I just somehow have to rise to the occasion in ways that have challenged my comfort zone.   I’m getting the hang of it now, though — I can tell.
 
4. There are a number of similar things that I’ve been doing differently since sheltering in place.  Allow me to enumerate:
 
(1) I’m reading a lot more, especially news articles and scientific or psychological articles.   Up to  15 or 20 per day, I who didn’t think he could read.
 
(2) I’m listening to the music of others, having finally tuned into Spotify for a free three-month Premium account.  It’s great to have music in the background, something that usually wouldn’t have crossed my mind.  (I’m planning to do the same thing with movies, like with Netflix maybe.  It never crosses my mind to watch movies either, but it would enhance the quality of life.)
 
(3) Purged and cleaned the Lenovo desktop, and now the desktop is organized for optimal use.
 
(4) There’s a variety of different kinds of foods in the cupboard and fridge.   This is similar to the variety of different kinds of music I’ve been listening to..
 
(5) I’ve been cleaning up my website, making everything simpler and easier to access, and less confusing.
 
(6) Rather than keep hiding the ASUS laptop with the broken screen, keyboard and touch pad in the dresser drawer, I now have it all set up in the bedroom with external keyboard, monitor, and new external mouse!   I even got a wireless mouse since I will never remove the ASUS from the house and can always keep the plug in the port.   So now I have two computers at home, one that I can carry with me outside, and one that stays.
 
(7) In order to make room for the ASUS, I finally removed the big bookshelf that was such an eyesore in the bedroom, and all its shelves.   It was right in front of a power outlet anyway, and that’s the logical place for the other computer.   I’ve got two other dressers and another set of shelves anyway.   Bedroom looks great now!  I even made the bed.  
(Anyone who knows me knows that ordinarily I would have never done any of those things, but would have continued to reduce the quality of my dwelling space to that of a largely unattended “crash pad.”  Sheltering in place has brought out the better part of me.)
 
5.  There’s is a light rain outside my window, I got my work cut out for me, I don’t have any interfering appetites, and I’m eager to run in the rain.   After that, I’ll come back into my house and feel grateful to be inside, and out of the rain.  Come to think of it, I can’t lose.
 
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
      —  Albert Einstein

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The H-Word

This post is an expansion on the fourth “buzzword” cited in my previous post, The Homeless Buzzwords.  I wrote it on request from Alastair Boone, the new editor of Street Spirit, whose fine editing is already evident in this piece.

Once, before I had gained more savvy in the realm of outdoor living, I asked a man if he were “homeless.” He replied: “Homeless is just a word.”

His answer still sticks with me. Homeless is just a word, one that is over-used to describe the experience of somebody who, for one reason or another, does not have a place to call their own. It fails to capture any of the individual characteristics that make the homeless person, well, a person.

homeless stigmaIn the twelve years when I lived outside, this word had a way of making me feel that I was in some way distinctly set apart from the rest of the human race. At times, the word suggested that possibly I was not even fully human. I quickly learned that in this over-generalization, the “H-Word” carries with it so much stigma that its usage actually had the power to actively work against me in a number of different ways.

I often found that avoiding the label of “homeless” was the only way to reach my personal goals. For it would be from that label that all the other distracting labels would spring. Drug addict. Nut case. Lazy Bum. Loser. If instead I somehow managed to be seen only as a fellow human being, and not as a “homeless” person, then my chances of achieving my goals were greatly enhanced.

Not the least of these goals was to find dignified dwelling. Not just any old place to live, but a place that I could truly call my own, where I could attend to all the things that make me the human being who I am—not just the homeless guy, but the human guy—the unique individual who goes by my name. Too often I had seen landlords reject a prospective tenant after learning that they had been homeless at some earlier point in time.

Even recently, a 65-year old man came to the Recovery Center where I work, and was extremely open about his having become homeless at the first time in his life. He had received assistance from St. Vincent DePaul and another charitable organization in the area, and was referred to me to help him find a room at a local residence hotel, where I was on good terms with the manager.

However, by the time I contacted the manager on his behalf, the manager had already heard about the man through the grapevine, this being a very small community, and the man in question a very outspoken fellow. The landlord explained to me simply:

“No, Andy — if I let him in off the streets, I will have let them all in. And I’m sorry, I just can’t take that risk.”

I had hoped to head off his reputation at the pass, but unfortunately it preceded me.  I then remembered how another landlord of my acquaintanceship had once told me, point blank:

“If there are ten people on my rental application, and I find out that one of them has been homeless, there will soon be only nine people on that application.”

Sadly, all of this corroborates with my overall experience with the homeless condition. Not only landlords and apartment managers, but people in general do not like to have homeless people on their premises. There seems to be a prevailing notion that if a person has become homeless, then they must have somehow “messed up” their living situation somehow. “Therefore,” continues the line of thought, “let’s not have them mess up mine.

So, at the end of my homeless sojourn, when I finally did find a place that was to my liking, what do you think I did? I found a landlord who had no reason to see me as anything other than a fellow human being, in a place where nobody would have any knowledge of my homelessness, and I basically started afresh from scratch—just to get my foot in the door. Literally. The H-Word in no way entered into the process.

The H-Word, after all, is divisive. Its essential function is to cause division. The person to whom this word applies—the “homeless person”—is pitted against the person to whom the word does not apply; the “housed person,” if you will. From that moment on, it’s: “You stay in your camp; I stay in mine; never the twain shall meet.” By categorizing all the vastly disparate reasons that one might live outside under the umbrella of “homeless,” society gives itself permission to ignore these stories altogether. If the H-word doesn’t apply to you, then you can put those people in a box and carry on your way.

People who have been so privileged as to always have lived indoors often don’t grasp that the H-word is not just a neutral label used to describe one’s state of living. It also packs a punch that has the power to keep you from finding a place to live, and from leaving the experience of homelessness behind. Simply put, this word carries in it a certain violence. Because of this, I prefer to talk about those who live “outside” or “outdoors,” rather than “the homeless,” whenever possible. I feel called upon to emphasize that the main difference between those who are homeless and those who are not is that the homeless person lives outdoors—exposed and vulnerable to all kinds of external influences, human or inhuman, foul or fair. Whoever is not homeless lives inside and as such is protected from the vast array of such external elements.

Acutely aware of such disparities, many people struggling with homelessness will do everything they can to conceal their homelessness from those who live indoors. They become driven into the realm of invisibility in order to avoid the stigma that arises as soon as the question is posed: “Hey – are you homeless?” When spoken, the flood of unwanted connotations and generalities comes rushing in. In the midst of all this, the truth of the actual person who is happens to live outside—their individual and unique story—is forgotten.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Tuesday Tuneup 23

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a safe place.

Q. Is there something about your present place that is not safe?

A. What kind of a dumb question is that?  Of course there is!  Why else would I wish I were in safer place?

Q. Could you be a bit more specific, please?

A. What do you mean?

Q. What is it exactly about your present place that is unsafe?

A. That’s a good question.  Let me think about this for a while.

Pause.

A. Well, it’s like this.  I can’t exactly say that I’m in an unsafe place, at least not with respect to many of the other places where I’ve been.  When I slept on a pile of cardboard in a high-crime district, I was considerably more unsafe.   Yet at the same time, if I took care of myself, and I did the right things, I felt that God protected me.

Q. And if you did not take care of yourself, and did not do the right things?

A. I sometimes got burned.  He protected me insofar as that He spared me my life, and saw to it that I didn’t suffer as much bodily harm or psychological damage as a lot of the people around me.   But I was hit enough — and hurt enough, hard enough — to get the message.

Q. That message being?

A. All over the Book of Proverbs — for starts.   But I’m afraid we’ve drifted from the point.

Q. And what’s the point?

A. The point is that, even though I’m living in a nice one-bedroom apartment in a secluded area with good neighbors, lots of protection, and a couple of locks on my door, there’s something about the place I’m at that isn’t safe.  It’s not my physical spot that is my biggest concern.  It’s my mental spot — where my head is at.

Q. And where’s your head at?

A. All over the map, man.  I still dwell on a lot of the situations from my past, people from my past — from my homelessness.  The people who tried to help me, even though they didn’t quite really get what my problem was, and so they couldn’t really help.  And not only them, but the people who tried to hurt me, and who sometimes succeeded.  And not only them, but — 

Q. But whom?

A. My friends.  The people I miss.  The people who were in the same boat as I was.  People who, for one reason or another, had lost their homes.   We bonded together.  We prayed together.  We watched each other’s backs.   We were there for each other, whenever somebody was down, or hassled, or messed with in some way.  It was powerful.  And that bonding, that love — I miss it.

Q. But isn’t there love in your life today?

A. Lots of it!  Don’t get me wrong.  But it’s a different kind of love.

Q. What makes it different?

A. Context.  

Q. What do you mean?

A. See, I don’t have the same issues here.  And the people I hang with, they don’t have the kinds of issues I had back then.  Most of them never have.   So when we share our love with each other, it’s on an entirely different basis.

Q. Is that a bad thing?

A. Not at all.  It’s just that — I sometimes feel alone.  As though my own specific experience, the particularly powerful progression of my life that has shaped me, is too weird for anybody to relate to.   So while I may not be surrounded by people who blatantly want to hurt me, the ones who want to help me don’t quite know how to help.  Or maybe I don’t let them help.  I mean, I gotta admit, my pastor helps.  My lady friend, she helps — though it’s not her job, and I sometimes feel guilty.  I should be helping her, supporting her.  But I’m not.   I’m still on disability, and all screwed up in the head.  So I turn to the therapists, to the doctors, to the system.  And I find that — 

Q. That what?

A. They totally don’t help.  It happened just this morning even.  I go to the therapist, and I think I’m advocating for myself, and I’m finding once again that I really like the guy, and I’m thinking it’s all good — and then, at the end of the session, it all comes down to the same old thing.  That same old useless, worthless band-aid that can never really stop what’s bleeding inside.

Q. What same old useless, worthless band-aid?

A. Lithium. 

Q. Lithium?

A. You heard me.  No matter what I do and where I go, it all comes down to lithium.

Q. Why do they keep wanting to put you on lithium?

mental abuse quoteA. Because they’re boxing me into a box and not listening to my real issues.  They think they know something more about me than I know about myself, because of their credentials and alleged expertise in their field.  But how can they know me, if they’re not listening?   They think that just because it’s well-known that those of us who are quote-unquote “bipolar” don’t like to take our medication, it means that I’m in denial, and I’ve got to take their medications.  What a bunch of malarky.   They might as well have told me that just because people are bipolar don’t like to walk across a pile of hot coals, then I’m in denial, and so I better walk across a pile of hot coals.   Think about it!  Do they think I’m stupid?

Q. I son’t know — do they?

A. Probably not.  But I sure think they’re stupid, if they think that after all I’ve been through, I’m going to turn around and start believing anybody who wears a badge.  And I won’t!  Because I already know what’s going to happen   That lithium won’t have anything to do with clearing out all of the garbage that is related to years of living on the streets.  Which of course is the part they never listen to — the main part.  The important part.  And you know what else it will do?

Q. What?

A. It will destroy all the things that are good about me.  The things that I waited years to be able to get inside and do –  and that now I’m finally doing — because I finally got myself inside. 

Q. What things?  What things are good about you?

A. Dude!  My piano playing!  My speaking!  My writing!  My playwriting!  My songwriting!  All of that good stuff that I so delight in finally being able to do will be trashed and shot the hell if I take their lithium — just like it’s been trashed whenever I’ve taken any other psychiatric drug that those bastards have never ceased to cram down my throat!   I lost a $50.000 annnual income in 2004 because of a psych med!  And do those money-guzzling mainstream, medical monsters give a damn?  Do they care?  Do they care about Andy??  Do they???

Pause.

Q. Do I detect a note of resentment?

A. Listen, I’m sorry I got so pissed off.  But now you understand how hard it is to keep going back to that damn clinic and trying to advocate myself.  When they throw their crap back at me, I explode.  I hate those medical bastards so much for what they did to me all my life – you don’t even know how much I hate them.  All of them.

Q. But aren’t you — stigmatizing them?   Lumping them into a box?   Much as you yourself dislike being pigeonholed, can’t you find it somewhere inside yourself to be more open to them?  To forgive them?  To give them another chance?

A. There’s a big difference between forgiving them and just swallowing any damn pill they stuff down my esophagus.

Q. Then what are we to do about it?  Shall we adjourn until next Tuesday, and give you a chance to get your bearings?

A. Sounds like a plan.  I’ll need about a week to cool down.

Q. May I be excused now?

A. You may.   Thank you for your time.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Anything Helps – God Bless!