First Posted 04-Jan-2015
It is a rainy, sleepy Saturday as I type this. I’m halfway through the usual chores. I’ll punctuate the day with another nap. Then, to finish what I started–laundry being next. This thought, though, wouldn’t leave me alone: my frame of reference is as the black swan who was called the ugly duck most of his life. My Dad began saying he came from a dysfunctional family some years ago. A regular feature of my young adult life was some hours in the office of one therapist/ counselor/ social worker or another. I’ve not seen myself as a regular guy with the usual ‘merican, first world problems. I’ve always thought of myself as an outlier who has had to work out a life at the edges while keeping a warm roof over my head.
My normal is perhaps a level of crazy most folk from my hometown would find disturbing. I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life a few weeks away from another go in a shelter, life trashed, having to rebuild again. The last thirteen years have been a climb from the bottom for the fourth time. So, the folk who have always had the bills paid, the mortgage current, the heat working, with typical worries about which preschool or whether the daughter can wear a skirt “that short” to school, are sort of foreign to me.
My son and I had our challenges. I was a father from afar, never in much of a position to have him live with me until recently. He’s watched me climb out of a hole, out of a down cycle, since he was six. He and I have not known “boring” for many years. This is why, as we are days into 2015, I am repeating myself. I have achieved boring. My bills are current, there is food in the fridge, gas in the car, and I’ll have enough extra that I can plan a weekend at my sister’s place in the spring.
And why, when I met my coworker, we had kind of a moment as he realized I’d survived something that never happened to him. Jail was something that happened to bad people and here he is, talking to me, who has been to jail more than once. Living on the street is something that happens to people who can’t get it together. It means something is wrong with them and yet, here I am, formerly of the street, his coworker. It is also why my Dad, and his rather archaic, Greek idea of man being mostly nature and largely immutable, is something of a sad figure.
It is not what Paul taught. Paul himself was an accomplished rabbi, a Roman Jew among Jews, educated and disciplined in his following of the law. He persecuted early Christians until God struck him blind and changed his life. We are not only our past. We are more than that. Some of my anarchist friends are fond of throwing, “check your prejudice” at those who disagree with them. Ok. Yeah, a little humility, a willingness to take on an initially charitable view of someone, probably a good thing. I think for me, in working with my coworker, and wondering how to build our professional relationship, it’s maybe unnecessary that he understands what I’ve come to believe as understood as one redeemed. Maybe it’s the other way, that I, having little contact with an uneventful life, should attempt to understand what he holds as simply understood.