Tuesday Tuneup 41

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater efficacy.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. I would like to be more effective.

Q. In what way?

A. In many ways.

Q. Such as?

The Answerer takes a breath.  

A. Such as in my ability to help people.  To make a difference in their lives.   I mean, a positive difference — not a negative one.   Sometimes I just feel like my influence, try as I may to be helpful, winds up being hurtful.  I stick my foot in my mouth at some juncture along the way, and I wind up feeling — I don’t know.   Like a failure, I guess.

Q. Are you a failure?  I mean, objectively speaking?

A. I suppose that depends on what it means to succeed.

Q. What does it mean to succeed?

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A. Very good questions, these.  I think that success must mean different things for different people.   And our notions of success must be somehow wrapped up in our ideas as to life-purpose.   We have this American idea of success here — seems to be dwindling a bit — but it’s the notion that success is related to some kind of worldly advance in monetary gain, accumulation of property, or perhaps a surge in prestige, clout, power, or influence over others.   I don’t know.  A bunch of things that I never really think about.

Q. Then why are you thinking about them?

A. I lied.  Who am I trying to fool?   I think ahout them all the time.  But usually, it’s with  aghast exasperation.

Q. Aghast exasperation?

A. Yeah.  I drop my jaw, and stand aghast at what they all seem to expect of me.  I become exasperated —  not because I don’t have those things (money, property, clout, etc.) — but because people seem to think I’m supposed to have those things in order to be “happy.”  Drives me up the wall!   How would you like it if a bunch of people were always telling you how “unhappy” you are, just because you don’t have all the things they have, even though you don’t want them anyway?  (Not to mention, you’re probably happier than they are.)

Q. Why do you care what they think?

A. I don’t know.   Seems I get asked that a lot these days.   

Q. Do they care what you think?

A. Evidently not.

Q. Then why should you care what they think?

A. Again, I don’t know.   Golden Rule, maybe?   I mean, what is this modern-day hogwash about how we should all be completely indifferent to what other people are thinking?  I get so tired of everybody telling me I care too much about what other people think.   What am I supposed to do?  Stop caring?   That seems — unloving.   Did Jesus stop caring when He went to the Cross?

Q. But isn’t there a difference between caring about them, and caring about what they think of you?

A. No!  They ARE what they’re thinking!!  Whether they think it about me, or anybody else, or the fencepost!!

Q. But do you KNOW what they are thinking?

A. Yes!  It’s obvious what they’re thinking!   They even tell me what they’re thinking!  They do that all the time.   How can I not know what they’re thinking?   They’re always telling me that I’m this worthless, no good, lazy impoverished bum who made “poor choices” throughout this poor life, otherwise with his talents and abilities he’d be living in the frickin’ Taj Mahal, or in some big mansion like that one place where I lived a long time ago.   As if I care to live in a mansion.   I’m just grateful I’m not flying a sign and sleeping under an overpass with a boatload of tweakers.   

Q. You once lived in a mansion?

A. Yes.

Q. What was it like living in a mansion?

A. Freaky is all get-out.  My landlord had more money than he knew what to do with.  He gave me this huge upstairs flat with a private bathroom and a marble floor on the shower.  The guy had two Steinway grand pianos, recording equipment  . . .

Q. Why was that freaky?   Why not beautiful?

A. I don’t know.  I just didn’t belong there somehow.  The guy had a Jaguar, a Cadillac – expensive Belgian furniture you weren’t even supposed to sit on — I just felt like it was out of my league.

Q. And what, pray tell, is your league?

A. Wrong side of the tracks, man.   Poor but thrifty parents.  Neither of them left a will.  Neither of them had anything to leave.  I’ve gravitated toward poor people all my life.  I feel a kinship with people who are impoverished, and I feel out of place among people of greater means and privilege.

Q. But why is that side of the tracks the wrong side?   Why not just — another side?

A. Because of the very thing I said at the top of this whole page.  

Q. Refresh my memory?

A. I said, I wish I could be more effective.   And it just seems like, in this society, if you don’t have at least some means, at least some privilege, you’re not effective at all.

Q. But can’t you be effective in other ways?   Like say helping a friend of yours with a personal issue?   It doesn’t cost money to do that, does it?

A. But that’s my whole frustration!   I don’t help people right.  I say the wrong things.  I get the feeling they should be talking to a professional, and yet — every time somebody’s told me that they couldn’t help me, and I needed a professional, I took it as personal rejection.

Q. Do you feel like a hypocrite?

A. Yes.  If I feel rejected because a friend is telling me that my issues are “too much of them” and that I need “professional help,” then what right do I have to suggest that some friend of mine needs professional help, rather than to talk to me?

Q. But if they talk to you, won’t you just stick your foot in your mouth again?

A. Yes.   And that very well could be the reason all those other people told me that I should see a professional.   They meant well, but they didn’t have the facile or expertise to help me.

Q. Would you consider seeing a professional?

A. I already do.  And I got a stack of bills higher than the ceiling.

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

A. You keep asking me that.

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

A. See what I mean?

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

Andy takes a breath.  

A. The bottom line is that, for a variety of reasons ranging from my being a social imbecile, a dork, a clutz, an unemployable space case, disabled, scraping my nuts off trying to keep up with the rising cost of living, not being able to get around, not having a car, and just generally being a weirdo,  I just don’t consider myself to be very effective.  And I would like to be more effective.

A. So with all that working against you, how can you be effective?

Q. By doing one great thing before I die.  By doing one great thing that will reach people — and that will make a positive difference in their lives.

A. Wow — do you have any idea what that thing might be?

Q. I know exactly what that thing might be!  And by the way, so do you.   Daylight’s burning.  Time’s wasting.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD. 

The Questioner is silent.

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Shedding the Streets

“Shedding the Streets” is a 21 minute impromptu talk in which the speaker expresses the necessity and difficulty of abandoning tired old values acquired from years of living on the urban streets. If you like my work, please feel free to share it.  

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Gratitude List 1023

I’ve been doubling up on my gratitude lists lately, usually doing two a day instead of one.  I tend to do that when times are hard, because they really do help me keep my spirits up.  And then, ironically, I sometimes realize that times are not so hard after all.

1. Though I only slept 3 1/2 hours from about 10pm till 1:30am, it’s really okay.   There’s nowhere that I have to be today, and I can make my own schedule.  I’ve paid all my bills, and I’ve got food in the kitchen.  Thankful that I have a place where I can sleep, and that I’m not outside in the 32 degrees of cold.

2. I just remembered feeling a real sense of peace when I was walking home from the café in the drizzle last night.  When I was at peace, I saw a vision of someone whom I love, that she’s totally depressed right now, and I was able to pray for her with compassion.

3. When I was in the space of #2 above, I no longer felt threatened by this person whom I love.

4. Reading Proverbs 7 is reminding me it’s probably not a good idea to go out with any particularly flirtatious married women.   ;)

5. Really glad I decided to go to church yesterday after all.  Everything about it was nice, including the fellowship afterwards.  I didn’t know Tom R. could play the 12-string like that, and it was also the best I’d ever heard Mary R. play the flute.  Also, Amy P. got up and read very nicely.  I remember thinking her mother Kathy must be proud of her.

6. Finished the polished draft of #2A The Age of Nevermore”  in my vocal score. Really got into it, how all the extended notes acting like drones against the melody lines in the quintet are like the “sirens of the damned” that the lyrics reference.  Can’t wait to score the instrumental ending with all that cacaphony and synth-brass counterpoint over wailing guitar solos while my protagonist is in torture on a gurney at the psych ward.

7. I love that cute café, the way they just sit there and let me work, and they don’t kick me out or anything like they would have when I was homeless down in California.

8. Grateful for that Friday night meeting at the Recovery Center, and for Cindy being the secretary.   I think I’ll try to go every Friday now, and just go once a week between now and April.

9. Just saw a notification of a new email reply from Lynne Fisher.  This will give me something to do before I go back to bed.

10. I’m in a good mood now.  God is Good.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.

Gratitude List 845

1. Though the energy of absent-mindedness and frustration drained me yesterday, it caused me to go to bed early and get a good seven hours sleep.

2. Jan & I get along really well with a sense of each of us making the other one better, and the two of us getting better and better.  We really seem to have been made for each other.

3. It was great running into the three musicians outside of One World, and feeling a special bond or connection you don’t just feel with just anybody.  Their love lifted me up at a low moment.

4. Sold an LP to a great musician who been very helpful to me, despite that this has been one of the worst years of his life.

5. Finished the Open Letter.

6. I’ve never lived in a place where people are as positive as they are here.

7. Danielle had the baby. :)  

8. Touched up The Temple of the Human Race and submitted it to Other Worlds.  Submitted “Classism, Stigma and Mental Health” to Classism Exposed and Street Spirit.  Submitted “The Age of Nevermore” to Street Spirit.

9. It’s really okay for people to think I’m crazy or in some way undesirable or to be avoided.  That way they leave me alone and I can get my work done.

10. For numerous reasons, I have wiped out Facebook and other sites I have found problematical with respect to my new life.  I have made a complete commitment to cease to bring the negativity of my past in California to the positivity of my present life in a part of the world that has been much more conducive to my creative and spiritual growth.  2 Corinthians 5:17.  God is Love.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Classism, Stigma and Mental Health

If a white collar worker is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the medications given are intended to make it easier for that person to function in the mainstream workplace. But if an impoverished person is diagnosed with that same mental health disorder, the same medications are given with the idea that the person will be directed toward disability culture, and never work again.

If a person is arrested for a non-serious crime in which alcohol is involved, the Courts order daily attendance at A.A. meetings, where the paradigm of the Twelve Steps is geared toward reacclimating such people into the mainstream of modern life.   These meetings, by the way, are free of charge.  But if a person with a mental health problem is arrested for the same crime, the Courts will direct that person toward a community counseling center with a “sliding scale.”  In other words, the support is at cost.  In fact, the options for cost-free mental health support groups stop at the level of a MeetUp.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) groups, for example, are difficult to find without paying good money.  A one-to-one Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) counselor will certainly expect to be paid.  Those in poverty culture can’t possibly afford the fees for mental health support, and often wind up finding them in psychiatric facilities only, where the price they pay is complete loss of freedom.

Step Two of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous reads: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  Note the use of the word “restore.”  This implies that the alcoholic was, at one time, sane, and that through the application of the Steps, they may again become sane, and thus able to reintegrate themselves into mainstream culture.    So, even though the condition of active alcoholism is regarded as “insane,” a path toward sanity is indicated.

But for a path toward sanity to be recommended for one who has a mental health diagnosis, that person must have privilege from the start.   People of poverty with such diagnoses are considered to be unemployable.  This is pure stigma against those who have mental health conditions.  People of privilege with those same kinds of conditions are routinely encouraged to keep their jobs, their families and their social lives; the idea being that the very same treatment will enhance their ability to function in mainstream society.  But impoverished people with identical diagnoses are thrust into disability culture, made to subsist on minimal income, classified as “legally incompetent,” and threatened with loss of their cost-of-living income if they even try to go out and get a job.  This clearly amounts to class discrimination, when it comes to treatment of the mentally ill.

To understand why such discrimination is directed toward those thought to be “mentally ill” but not toward those considered to be “recovering alcoholics,” I think we need to examine the grounds on which mental illness is determined.    My theory is that one is considered to be “mentally ill” as soon as one displays an inability to function healthfully within the “box” of the status quo.   Those who flourish within normal expectations based on the work ethic and success model are considered to be mentally healthy.  Those who are focused on “climbing the ladder” are considered to be “successful,” and as role models for others.   But a person who thinks outside the box is somehow seen as a threat to society, and therefore limited to confinement within the realms of those labeled “incompetent’ and “unemployable.”

I would not doubt it if well over half of those who have mental health diagnoses are actually quite eminently sane, even perhaps brilliant, perhaps luminous visionaries.  Such people often focus, not on scaling the ladder of “success,” but on actualizing their own true selves, to make the most out of their own innate design and potential.  They often develop ideas and visions that would truly benefit society if given a chance to bloom.  But how can one be in orchid in a petunia patch?  The Powers That Be will continue to uphold the status quo, despite classism and social stigma on the grandest scale.  How sad it is that those who have vision are seen as pariahs by those who do not!

different drummer

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Piano Album & Recently Published Pieces

This will be brief.

I’ve been posting samples of my piano playing every Friday for a few months now.   Jan and I have now finished preparing an LP of the most popular of these tunes.  We’re going to sell CD’s, and have also posted the album on  BandCamp, where it is far sale for only $10.  Also, individual songs can be purchased for only one dollar.    We will apply the proceeds toward the production of my musical Eden in Babylon, which explores the effects of homelessness on the youth of today’s America.

If anyone is interested in obtaining a CD and assisting me toward this cause, please drop $10 into the pool by clicking on the donate button below.   Then leave me info as to how to get the album to you in my Contact Form.   The online version of the album may be found here.  

Other news is that I have now been published 25 times in Street Spirit and twice on Classism Exposed, after having escaped twelve years of grueling, demeaning homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area — and after never having been published before in my life!  The most recent such articles may be found on the link below:

STORIES ABOUT HOMELESSNESS, CLASSISM AND CHRISTIANITY

Although I try to post something substantial here every Thursday along the lines of the causes about which I am passionate, the “Thursday Blog of Substance” will have to wait another week or so.  I’m trying to prepare a detailed post examining the effects of classism in the behavioral health industry, and hopefully it will be ready soon.

Thank you all for your love and support.   May the Force be with you — and by all means, be a Jedi, and not a Sith.  ;)

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!