Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Awful Grace of God

It is past mid night. A candle is burning and a flicker of light dances along the wall. It is quiet. It is a time to hear my heartbeat. It is a time to feel what is inside of me.

Memorial Day compelled me to revisit the past. I was home on Sunday. I am getting used to having my mom ask me questions like "Am I older than you".
This is my mother asking me that. It is a stark reminder what the disease of dimentia/Alzheimer's does to a person. She asked me about my wife but I do not have one. I wonder if I should correct her or let it go. To correct her would make her feel self conscious. It is a balancing act to figure out what is the right thing to say. Or should I say nothing. I find that I just enjoy the being around my mother.

I helped my sister do some work but at the end I did something that drew criticism.
I was upset at her comments for a good while until I let it go. That is the one thing you learn while building a new, healthy life. It is important to let things go.

Last year I was in a guard shack and sleeping in a dormitory of 100 men. At least I thought I was sleeping. I did not realize I was not sleeping until I came here.
I was scared to leave the place where I lived as I told you. I thought the world was so cruel.

I wanted a chance to study and learn to fulfill an insatiable need for intellectual stimulation and nourishment. It was not something I was fortunate enough to receive where I lived last year. However, I must admit. I was challenged intellectually to understand what people were telling me about being patient, about believing in a higher power, about the future getting better.

Recently, I was given a tool by some people to help me learn, to help me develop myself. Each morning I wake up and marvel at the fact that I have this machine and I wasted no time in researching things. Anything. I just wanted to grow.

Two days ago I met someone, on the net, in a recovery room. She mentioned that she blogged and a conversation began. As it turned out, she teaches literature and english and was so gracious as to begin to mentor me on the art of writing.

All of a sudden, I am receiving direction on a discipline of which I have had an interest for some time. After writing for some years on paper, I began this blog. The blog has led to the desire to grow more in the art of expression and I have invested money in books that will help me learn and hopefully improve my craft.

My new mentor asked me to write a essay, using imagery, to describe the beauty of Skid Row. I thought about it for quite some time. Sure there is beauty in Skid Row. I have mentioned that. However, when one must paint a picture then it becomes more challenging. It is like writing a business plan versus telling someone about your plans for a business. Suddenly, trying to put something on paper is not as clear as you thought it was.

Does she want to hear about people, places, experiences? She said take my pick.
I still do not know where to start and I will not endeavor to do it now.
But it has me thinking about and remembering the past and envisioning the future.

Skid Row is a funny place. It builds character. Perhaps that is the beauty of it.
I know it is creating something in me. It is teaching me how to let go. It is purging sickness out of me and every day more leaves me. I surround myself with things that induce me to think about the future instead of dwelling or obsessing on the past.

I have been given a chance by people to develop. When they gave me this machine they gave me access to knowledge and along with everyone else I have met someone who can assist me in the pursuit of knowledge.

It is not unsual to receive help in Skid Row. It is unsual to be in an environment where you can contrast so vividly the different qualities of life. That is the beauty in many ways of this environment. It presents to you a glaring contasts in quality of life, direction of life, and choices we make.

It may not be beautiful in the traditonal sense of the word but it is reality. Stark reality and in that sense, reality is beautiful because it is honest. Honesty is what you see against the backdrop of the invisible lies that hover around the community. Don't ask me what they are, the examples of dishonesty. Just know that they are there. I do not know but I feel it like I feel the wind blow against my face or the heat of the sun on a hot day.

I see people like Connie grow and become healthy while I see Sue destroy herself.
Connie did not know if she would ever learn how to work with the computer and she left creating masterful presentations on Powerpoint. That kind of accomplishment provides me with the strength to endure and grow in this writing craft. Yet, she calls me the roll model.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is an experience. It is a very personal thing. I came here a man who was filled with anger and fear. Sometimes it scared me. I wrote about fear. I wrote abou anger. I wrote about despair. That is all I could see. It was all I could feel. That is how I felt about my station in life and my future. When I walked around the area, it did not help to see people lying in the street, defecating in the street, and urinating in the street. I cried myself to sleep at night.

Today I saw someone. If you did not know it you would think that this man has been on the streets for years. He had no shoes on. He was filthy. He was dazed. he had cuts and bruises. He smelled of urine when you walked past him.

Last week that man was in a computer lab on Main St. He looked at me with confession in his eyes. "YES, I made the wrong decision". That was printed all over him.

Robert Kennedy once said that he learned alot from his brother John's death. He said it was the awful grace of God. He got that quote from a quote from Camus.

"the awful grace of God." Profound.

Seeing that man, barefoot and a skeleton of what he was just one week ago, was an honest depiction of the frailty of life. In all of its ugliness, the truth had a certain amount of beauty to it.

At this point in my tenure here on Skid Row I marvel at these types of revelations. I marvel at the fact that I rose from the ashes and am recreating myself.

I am astounded that people take an interest in me.

Everyday I let go some more. Many times I wonder if that real estate license was a security blanket that would hold me back from diving head long into the world of creative expression, whatever the form.

I am building and I am learning and I strive to be more honest with myself and I think that is what growth is about.

People say that I will not be around here long. They never used to say that. Maybe they see something in me that is happening that they have seen before in others. I just know that I am breathing new air. It is a beautiful thing.

Skid Row teaches you to focus. It teaches you that you have to move forward even if others fall. Understand why they fall but keep going.

There is beauty in these lessons and anyone here will recite the same lessons learned. It is inescapable.

I know I am going someplace. Skid Row has prepared me in the cruelest of ways to be ready. It is teaching me to be focused. It is teaching me to pay attention. It taught me this through the endurance of pain. To overcome the feeling of despair to live to see the light of the present as well as the future.

There is beauty in that. And yes I am talking about the beauty of the experience in the cruel way it comes to you, but there is beauty in that.

I have not explained the beauty of Skid Row in the imagery that she wants. I am preparing to do that.

To create such imagery demands honesty. Honesty that I may not be read to accept in many ways. To accept something is to understand the dynamics of the phenomenon and there is so much phenomenon in Skid Row.

I am in my study lab. Where I go I do not know. But I am here as Robert Kennedy said " by the awful grace of God"

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