Bless all who hearken to these words and who sense their impact
“Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom”: Richie Havens Wailing at Woodstock, 1968 -
“Free At Last, Thank God - I’m Free At Last” Dr. King
We are able when we have a mental illness most people cannot fathom the depth and scope of the pain, cannot accept that we have a deficit, reject our presence because we are deemed to be miserable, dangerous, better off to be in an asylum or removed from the ordinary social context of society. For millennia we have been exiled. Yet, all of us have immeasurable gifts to offer.
All of us are connected and influence the lives of those who we touch irrevocably inextricably we are at the center of the lives of all sentient beings. Van Gogh offered his gifts as a master painter to all of us. His beloved brother Theo cared for him, his guardian angel. He was a model of unabashed abiding love that permeated not only this relationship but also in Tennessee Williams‘ loving abiding relationship to his sister, as evidenced in the play, “The Glass Menagerie.“
Throughout the world there have been caretakers who threw open the window inviting the stranger to come in and take a place at the hearth, and remain as a guest for as long as necessary. I saw a place like the Catholic Worker House in Quebec City, Canada a woman had started for single adults over fifty years ago. In Geel, in the Netherlands, a woman had been dismissed abused thrown out from her father’s home and she decided that she would start a practice of caring for every wounded spirit who came to the town. Her life is chronicled. She was made a saint and to this day everyone with developmental disabilities or who is lost and fragile is welcomed as a citizen. Everyone expects this life sharing and when a person dies who is a care giver who has opened their home, another person comes forward and gives shelter to the weary, fragile, vulnerable citizen until death. These relationships are known as “life sharing.” When someone steps forward or a group of people to ensure that a person lives independently.
There are countless examples of this generosity and gift that underscores that we are all connected, all asked to wash the feet of one another and embrace the darkness that we perceive in another’s spirit. We are here for a purpose and everyone needs to know that they belong are counted and have a place of refuge during their lifespan. Shared Living Arrangements is a model of aggregate living that makes it possible for people to live together in community and look after one another for good.
The last time that I was living in a place where I belonged, was welcomed, had a study, was a part of a family was in 1998 about 15 years ago. I remember the day that I moved into a garage and basement in Park Hill and was sleeping on couches or in the basement, sneaking in after everyone went to sleep, or in the Gove Community Garden underneath the butterfly bush next to the display for gardeners. I was tending the garden and it was close enough to use and then go over to Clarence’s when I was too cold and needed to use a bathroom. I lived in the church where I had moved all of my things often coming in when no one was around to wash, to have a moment of peace. The ministers at thee time offered me sanctuary. I would rest because there is seldom a place that you can lie down and you are always exhausted, scared, anxious someone will report you or that you’ll be discovered, arrested, harmed, or lose your life. You count every day as a miracle because you survived.
When you go to the bathroom in the cold darkness you have to be careful. You have to have a dita, a place to keep your piss. You have to be cunning planning everything. It is not a skill that is naturally learned but is cultivated with trails of tears, trials and great risk. Hygiene for feet, crotch, head, ears, nose, anywhere that is exposed is essential to survive. These are skills one never expects to hone.
I’d have many places to hide away. I snuck into the garage in the top where my things were for a time in the middle of the night. I had a place from time to time but could never keep it and slowly lost everything. It was a disturbing time culminating with the year I was living at the Catholic Worker House and then the Anchor I program of St. Francis Center next to CHARG Resource Center at 12th and Washington Ave. It was in this place that I nearly lost my life.
I remember the last night that I was in Edgewater and striking out with a feeling that there was nowhere to go. I walked for hours across the city crying as I came across City Park and trudged up the hill to Colorado Blvd. The night was clear and eerie unsettling. I came to the top of the hill and wished upon a star. There was nowhere to go and it was cold, early Spring.
The book that is going to come out by May is a disturbing account of all of this and even when it is released there will be many who will not wish to hear that I have spoken about my life. Most people do not want to be reminded of their troubles or vulnerability. It is threatening to consider what is at stake in a person’s life that reminds them that they could be one of those who are without a place to stay and are unwelcome anywhere.
As I start out this day at the church I feel this way here. I have no part to play, no purpose, I have no task, no work, no gainful employment. People have written me off as a champion of anything because of the declivities, saying I’m subject to drama and live egocentrically.
My precious body my spirit my being are inextricably intertwined with the rest of you whether one does or does not acknowledge my presence. Essentially, we are one. We have an impact on all that we touch.
For all of these years, since I was a baby I have been clinging on, surprised that I could live and go on making it through the night. I always felt that if I could make it through this torment and sustain my spirit through adversity that I would be alright. I kept on being surprised that I made it to 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years of age. I realized that being here was a precious gift that I was given to protect and cherish.
What will I do now? I do not know. I know that these struggles and torments have to be quelled, be calmed, that the samsara must dissolve as much as my ego. I hold out hope that someday I can be free.
To Life – L’Hayim