Monday, April 1, 2013

The Eleventh Hour

Tangled, torn humans / in all these notes, I once wrote, haunted by deep grief and watching over the lives in the piles of paper in the silent office late at night. It was absence that drove me to write then, and which still does. My life calling cloaks my reaction to absence, and fills me with plenty to distract. I am trained to silence: do not break client confidences, never discuss things which would identify a person to the outside world, not even things which are known publicly. Twenty-five years and two generations of other people's burdens; I carry these like a pack animal, where no one else can. I see a second generation, juvenile offenders (or victims) whose parents I knew as juvenile clients.

Mostly, it is easy to keep quiet: sometimes people interested in a tale will ask, and sometimes I polish a funny anecdote and plop it cheerfully before them. But get into the reality of the struggles and heartbreak and yes, stupidity, of real people's real lives in my world, and the more usual reaction is flight. Before I am halfway through a story, they don't want to know. Sometimes it's because the empath in them wakes up, and they don't want that. Other people think "crime" and "child protection" and recoil from the concept of Dealing With Those People.

Herself, a compassionate woman who takes on a lot by virtue of being a school bus driver for special needs children (which can mean kids with autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and "behavior problems"), was channel surfing tonight, and after only a few minutes she shut off a program following the life of a Native American woman dealing with separation, family struggles with alcoholism,child custody issues and all the cultural baggage thrown at her by our world of privilege. She couldn't watch. Welcome to my world, I said. I carry the weight of what I blurted out was "six of these, every DAY." And I reach for more, in what is apparently a hope that my caring can accomplish SOMETHING to make their lives easier, but my little piece seems so insignificant compared to the overwhelming crush of everything these humans are dealing with -- some things like poverty, depression, family turmoil, that it seems nothing can fix.

Pushing paper? Being the pilot who helps navigate people through the treacherous and frightening waters of criminal and child abuse or neglect-related court? Damage control when I didn't cause the problems and there are so few resources to fix some of them?

I consider a client, barely fifteen, and pregnant. Mom's doubletalk on what to do keeps me up at night. Father a former juvenile client, in prison. I can tell these new children who their parent's juvenile probation officers were. New client has substance abuse and mental health issues, issues with abandonment, and got mixed up with what The System calls "Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking." So do we punish her for holding drugs some john gave her, because she cannot maintain in "the real world" and parents are unable or unwilling to get her long term care instead of being locked up? How long is long enough? Six weeks? Six months? How about the seventeen-year-old who shares a battered pair of $2 reading glasses with his mother every time they come to court, because they have no money to go to a doctor or to buy glasses? What do we do with the arrogant just-thirteen-year old who steals a credit card from Mom and won't go to school or respect her, whose dad trained him not to respect women? Or the mentally challenged teen who goes on a dramatic crime spree but can't read or understand how court works after he is arrested? How to cope with parents who spend months attacking each other(often with good reason) instead of working out a plan for their child? Or the kid who hits court as a teen, whose father you last saw in a casket after a suicide at the same age?

It is a darn good way to focus so much on other people's heartbreaks that my own seem insignificant by comparison. Grief? Just get too busy for it to catch me. Drown in coffee or too many nighttime snacks. Do laundry. Crack jokes. (How can I be a superhero if my cape and tights are at the bottom of the clothes hamper?) Let other people see this? Heavens, no. Why would they possibly be interested? Take it all to the Divine? Great idea. There's a thought. Just do it in secret, which was also drilled into me as a youngster in Sunday School. And wonder if it will be taken as "all very well but does that really DO anything to help? or just give the person with the spiritual practice the illusion of having Done Something so they can pat themselves on the back?"

I would hate to be God. It would be way too frustrating. I already want to Fix It All as it is. And I would want to share. Who does God share it all with? Who on earth or in the heavenly spheres could do all that listening?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Waking up

Greetings all, I am taking the blog back from the cats -- call it a guest column since they've been the ones posting over the past few years. I've struggled with finding things to say. Everyone duck. I found something after a dream I had last night. This is the dream: Some other people and I were giving a class or presentation to jail inmates, both men and women. Some of it had to do with Plato, whom I read way way back in college about forty years ago. The people were very interested in what we were there to do. We were in a cluster of small cities at a location about three hours' drive from where I live. The custody staff/supervisors were courteous but one of them, a tall stocky man with light hair, got right up to me and questioned me about the fact that I was staying in the area by putting my family's white tent up in the middle of a park. He said it was dangerous out there. I told him I was very comfortable and felt perfectly safe and knew it was a good place. I remember the face of one of the women. All the jailed people were interested in varying degrees in what we were doing. She stood out. She was slight, frazzled, and shaky, looking strung out, scars of struggles with addiction and being a victim, and needy. We were partly there to teach them life skills for when they got out, or to provide them somehow with a way to help themselves move on. The dream gets harder to recall here. We finished up, I went somewhere to eat, and then drove the three hours' drive home. When I got home I realized I'd left the tent and all my camping stuff behind in the park instead of going back to get it and pick it up and pack it back with me. I thought hard about what I should do: Go back right away and spend another six hours on the road? Wait till the next day? Or give it up and replace the items? That the gear might be stolen was simply not much of a worry; it still felt "safe". I work with incarcerated youth and some adults for a living, being a criminal defense lawyer. I have done this for 25 years. So it is not surprising that a dream took on this setting. What's different -- including being able to see through this clearly to a meaning -- is that elements from my recently intensified interest in Western Mystery Traditions and their schools came into play. It came to me that some involved in teaching traditions see their programs as liberating others who are imprisoned by their self limiting mindsets, who think they are stuck because of outer circumstances and their own screwups, and want to help free people and give them tools to open into a more joyous and full life with expanded abilities. That was the picture presented to me. Then I thought: People could easily see this as condescending. And I also thought: Perhaps that is a trap some teachers fall into; it would be easy to do. But also, assuming that's the only mindset of a teacher would be a trap a student could easily fall into. Both teacher and student need to work around these traps. And teaching and learning should never be a two way street. Plato's cave comes to mind, too. For brevity's sake I commit the offense of quoting Wikipedia: "Plato lets Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato's Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners." So what about the tent? I can only conclude that message is the oh-so-basic one that when you set up a safe place as a base (camp) -- such as in magical working within circle or astral temple -- duh! remember to take it down and take it with you after you get done. Ordinarily my dreams are not as clear. This one kept unfolding in layers. Eventually I will return the blog to the cats, who probably know all this already but wink and keep silent.